Working Up a Business Plan for Your Next Boatyard Visit
GETTING READY FOR MAJOR SERVICE OR A COMPLETE REFIT? THESE TIPS CAN SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY.
The day comes in the life of a cruising yacht, when there is a need to engage in major service or even a full refit. Leaving aside the dollars you inevitably have to shell out, such an occasion can be painless, even enjoyable — provided it is properly planned and managed.
Undertaking a major refurb or refit can be a gratifying event in your boating life. Not only does the completion of major work occasion pretty much the same feelings of gratification as when you take delivery of an entirely new yacht, it can also be accompanied by the euphoria of being free of all the niggling annoyances that have tended to interfere with your peaceful enjoyment of what’s likely your number one prized possession.
Or — spoiler alert! — the visit can be the occasion of immense aggravation and disappointment, fueled by the emergence of unexpected work and by unanticipated, escalating costs in time and money.
Most of the time, what constitutes the difference between the two scenarios is how well you’ve prepared for the refit. Here are some tips to help you avoid most, if not all of the potential problems.
First and foremost, come to terms with the fact that the work needed is the work needed. The boatyard, in most cases, did not create the problems. So, don’t blame the yard manager for pointing out problems that need corrections with the condition of your yacht.
Once you’re mentally ready, take at least a couple of months to develop your list of work to be performed, i.e., the scope of work (SOW). By the time your yacht is hauled and blocked on the hard (or rolled out of the storage building to one of the yard’s workstations), you should already have decided on what you want to refurbish and what you want to replace, and what materials and items of equipment will be purchased and incorporated into the refitted vessel. And any associated engineering should have been completed, at least in respect of major tasks. Do you want to rebuild an engine? Add more tankage? Refinish the interior? Put in a new generating plant? Install solar power to supplement mechanical charging? And so on. Making such decisions on the fly while the refit is in process is a formula for disaster.
Well before work actually begins, your, by now, clearly defined scope-of-work should be memorialized in a written agreement with the yard, including a projected timeline for completion and delivery and, if at all possible, a firm, fixed price for the work as defined in the SOW. Understand that an estimate is not the same as a firm, fixed price quotation. Do not assume that the yard will hold to its estimate or upcharge you no more than, say, 10 percent — unless you have such provision in writing. And having a firm, fixed-price quote puts you in a position to prioritize your needs and desires to fit your budget.
Of course, even if you’ve planned ahead, there is always the possibility of additional work emerging after the yard has started the job. If that work is critical, then you want a way to ensure that it is handled by the yard at the same effective rates as the originally contracted work. No “low-ball ‘em on the quote and kill ‘em on the changes”. Instead, establish an understanding with the boatyard from the get-go how emergent work will be handled, including the yard’s hourly labor rates for various skills that might be required and what mark-up on necessary materials will be charged.
To be sure, you can’t anticipate every contingency, but you can avoid disputes by establishing fair and reasonable procedures for dealing with emergent issues. Don’t be lulled into a sense of false security by the clause on the back of the work that ties the boatyard and the customer to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute. Arbitration is relatively costly, often more so than litigation. And it will often see your boat or yacht being held (and the refit delayed) until the disputes are resolved.
The good news is that most major refits go pretty well, when you deal with an established, experienced and active boatyard that has a good reputation. Early planning and reasonable expectations on your part will go a long way in most circumstances, as does scheduling the refit to allow some reasonable flexibility on the completion and delivery dates.
Best advice is to follow the same organized, businesslike approaches that you use in the rest of your life — and which served you well in earning the dollars you’re spending on the refit. If you can exercise the personal discipline to do that, you’ll knock out most of the potential problems. So, do what you need to do, and then (try to) relax.
— Phil Friedman
Copyright © 2024 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Note: An earlier version of this article originally appeared on Passagemaker.com.
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