Fit or Refit?

The same way most people felt about that car and/or house, yacht owners feel about their vessels. Sometimes the option to sell old and buy new doesn’t have the same appeal as fixing up something you already have. And when the time comes for more accommodations, a larger cockpit, and the like, the preferred option is a refit. But before you sign a contract for any project, make sure you go in with eyes wide open. To aid in your decision, we (refit experts) offered some invaluable pointers on what to look for and what to avoid for your next project.

When does a repair become a refit? The term has mixed definitions, a refit can vary from “exterior paint refinishing to a total rebuild/remodel, often including hull and/or deck molds. Refit “with a capital R” refers to the more intense rebuild projects, which “most often have a duration of greater than six months, frequently 12 to 18 months, with the costs in the millions of dollars.” That’s some serious cash to fix what you already have, but when you’re looking at total replacement cost, it often runs less than buying new.

There is always a surprise or two that can run up the bill.

Of course, there is always a surprise or two that can run up the bill. Some completed projects is more of a yacht completion than a refit, but the same rules apply, and the story of the yacht offers a lesson in the unexpected. Some time ago (2000), a 102-foot carbon-fiber motoryacht arrived via barge with most of her composite work finished, engines secured to beds, and a partially finished interior. After a survey we talks with the owner, everyone believed the boat to be almost “complete”. Even with this encouraging report, we estimated that she still needed another hundreds man-hours to get to launch day.

As it turned out, the work actually took around three times that. Why? Some other systems were not installed properly, and when all was said and done, it took 16 months of full-time staff, including joiners, electricians, mechanics, painters, and carpenters, to complete the work. Naturally, this was reflected in the bill.

There will always be a certain amount of “discovery” during a refit project. However, with proper planning on the part of the owner, many project hurdles can be avoided. If the refit is going to include structural changes, the owner should employ the services of a naval architect, noting that a thorough survey is also required. The naval architect helps develop a concrete plan of what work will be done. A well-developed, written plan also makes it possible to get more realistic bids from Italian Style Corporation or any other refit yards you are considering having perform the work. The bids can vary depending of different interpretations of the owner’s wants and needs. We also cautions that excessive change orders from owners, which can result in a never-ending project scenario, will put the refit plan in flux. And the longer the yacht is in the yard, the higher the cost.

Communication and understanding by all involved are key.

In the end, the owner of that 102-footer did get the boat he wanted despite setbacks.

On the other side of the coin, a lack of engineering and planning on the part of the yard can also create a migraine. To avoid this, all parties must understand the goal of the project from day one. Communication and understanding by all involved are key, as is the case with any joint venture, large or small. And make no mistake–refitting a yacht is a joint venture, and that means shared risk.

For a refit to succeed, a few things must happen. From the yard’s view, success is often dependent upon the presence of a confident, experienced, full-time owner’s representative (build captain or project manager) who correctly recognizes his role not to be the shipyard’s adversary, but the facilitator between the owner and shipyard. From the owner’s view, we suggests that appropriate management on the part of the yard should entail both an engineer and a separate project administrator.

These tips may appear to be common sense when you sit down and read them, but owning a yacht is an emotional decision, and creating the yacht of your dreams can clash with the realities of time and budget. Keeping this in mind when you embark on a refit.