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Old 09-11-2018, 03:53 AM   #1
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Converting and Importing Workboats from Europe?

Hi everyone. Long time listener, first time caller...


I’m in the process of "tapping hulls" (is that the nautical version of “kicking tires?”) and looking to purchase my second motor yacht. The first was the wood hull 40’ Matthews sedan my family owned and that I grew up on. I’ve spent a few of my post-college years in the Merchant Marines, so I’ve already got my sea legs and am familiar with the process, pain, and price of ownership. That Matthews is now mulch, so I am looking at more durable steel hull boats that cruise on diesel at 7-9 knots with the intent on doing a refit, so current interior conditions aren’t as much of a concern as the quality and state of the steel and the engine. I’ve searched and read through numerous posts regarding importing steel pleasure boats from Europe, where such boats are more plentiful and often less expensive than here in the States. So I’m not going to ask about transportation costs or electrical/wiring issues as there are plenty of answers here already.


My question is much more general and really collecting thoughts on the costs and practicality of converting larger industrial vessels (crew boats, fishing trawlers, tugs etc.) I was inspired by the Wanderbird ( The Wanderbird Vessel) a former Dutch fishing vessel, which was up for sale for quite a long time. As I write this, I notice the listing on YW is down, so it may have finally sold or is headed to the scrappers. I gave her some serious consideration, but found that it would be tricky to make it profitable as a packet-cruise ship, too costly to refit for a liveaboard, and too risky maintaining or replacing a non-EPA European engine here in the US where parts/service/dealers don’t exist.


But this category of re-purposed ship does intrigue me. The canals of Europe are filled with former cargo barges turned into homes. I’ve bookmarked a few 80-120’ broker-listed work boats from the 1960s-1980s with large ocean-crossing tankage, ripe for converting to a spacious bluewater-ready LRC liveaboard. Here are a couple of examples -


https://www.yachtworld.com/boats/1967/Custom-Chantier-Ziegler-3185884/France
https://www.yachtworld.com/boats/1964/Passenger-Vessel-Cutter-2831273/Netherlands

Since they are still configured for industrial use, there is less hardware to remove or replace, so it is easier to get down to the bare hull and deal with any issues or modifications. Then, the passenger seating or cargo area can be stripped, insulated, wired and built-up for residential purposes. So I’m looking to hear what you all have to say. I’m making rough cost estimates for an economical refit plus hiring crew to transport it and am formulating a cost that roughly 2-3x the purchase price of the boat. I’m strongly considering having the work done in the EU before importing and registering. Is that a reasonable guesstimate? How tough will it be to acquire USCG registration and insurance so I don’t have to suffer Jones/Passenger Act compliance? Thanks in advance.


As an aside, I know one of my hidden challenges is finding a liveaboard-friendly marina along the lower Hudson River or northern NJ area that will allow a long LOA dark-paint work boat to dock amongst the sea of white pleasure craft (is that “boatism?” ha-ha). The northeast tends to be really snobby about boats when compared to places like Seattle, which is ironic considering how much of WW2 was fought from and supported by vessels built at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and how much commerce currently goes through the port of NY/NJ. [/rant]
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