All posts by contrarian

How to shovel $300,000 into the sea

This is a feat that can be accomplished quite easily in a ‘boat for sale’ transaction; you’d better believe it!

And the losses go way beyond the fiscal hit. Along the way you can be assured that one’s will to live will have taken a few blows; then there’s the emotional attachment factor; the shattering of life dreams, not to mention the damage to one’s self- esteem.

The ‘SV Lucy’ story is a case in point.

Gerwin & Kristal are a couple of geniuses that decided to build a beautiful cruising yacht. They set out to do it the right way; by attending the Wooden Boat School in Franklin Tasmania, in order to learn the traditional craft.

Thereafter they set about manifesting their dream into three-dimensional physical reality.

The result: ‘Lucy’ is a 37’ verifiable piece of furniture.

After a Pacific cruise they decided upon a trip to Japan and across the Northern Pacific to Alaska. But Covid intervened and they decided reluctantly to sell ‘Lucy’ and chart another life course.

We always assure Vendors that anyone can apply the principles of Over-Boated DIY.

You can do it yourself. It’s not rocket science. All that is required is an understanding of the principles and some application.

And Krystal assured me that they followed the Over-Boated formula ‘to the letter’ with the result that they sold ‘SV Lucy’ for $600,000.

But that’s NOT the kicker!

Barely twelve months later, the buyer has a change of mind and places Lucy back on the market.

Had he even used the boat? Probably not, because the engine hours were identical to engine hours when Gerwin & Krystal sold the boat.

SV Lucy sold this second time for $295,000 less brokerage commission via a conventional brokerage transaction.

A $300,000 + loss in 12 months: that’s the kicker!

How to get a bright work finish that romances the buyer

003Just as flowers may melt the heart of a lady, so too can beautiful bright work move the buyer’s heart.

On a boat there is nothing quite so alluring as beautiful bright work reflecting warmth and color; revealing the wood grain and texture.

It’s the soul of a beautiful boat.

If any single factor is going to make or break your boat presentation, it is most likely to be the quality of your boat varnish.

Great bright work moves the spirit. Scrappy vanish work on the other hand, casts a pall over the entire boat presentation. In an unhelpful manner, it reminds the boat buyer that this boat is going to require maintenance…gasp!

As followers of the “Over-boated Formula” will verify, this oversight has the effect of shattering  a buyer’s  maintenance delusion, thereby leaving you the vendor, short changed and minus a sale.

Great bright work is not difficult to achieve, but it does require a degree of commitment. Anyone who tells you that there’s a magic bullet for boat brightwork that doesn’t require work and commitment is a fool.

I proffer this observation as one who has traveled in hope, down many a rabbit hole in search of the ultimate bright work technology fix. Like Alice, following encounters with the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter et al, my conclusion is that sales hype around these products is full of ‘it’… the bovine excrement that is.

The ultimate technology fix for beautiful bright work has yet to be invented.

That said, there are indeed high tech finishes available that can be applied wet on wet without sanding between coats. This feature dramatically reduces the time and work involved in application of the finish.

However the work saving at the front end of the process is more than offset by the additional work that arises at the other end of the time-line; when due to the inevitable weathering and deterioration of the old finish, you must strip and begin again.

High tech and two pack bright work finishes are a ‘dog’ to strip.

Don’t imagine for a moment that any finish exposed to the elements on God’s Green Earth will last in perpetuity. All bright work deteriorates with exposure to sun and weather. Salt crystals left to dry on bright work accelerate the process by way of amplifying the sun’s destructive force.wooden boat show 050

Between varnish products the differences definitely exist but they are marginal. Modern varnishes are largely composed of modified phenolic resins. I personally like Werdol made by Epifanes which is a dedicated marine spar varnish. Epifanes also make Bristol Finish which is a high tech product.

Depending upon a number of factors relating to weather, exposure, the timber and the varnish itself, your vanish job will have a certain life over which it may be periodically resurrected with minimal effort.

Varnish depth (number of coats) is a big factor determining longevity of the finish; meaning, the interval between the end points of stripping back to bare wood and starting again.

Between these end points there will be an intervening period, generally years rather than months, during which a periodic light sand with #240 will be sufficient to key a refresher coat and a restoration of beautiful bright work.

Varnish quality is obviously a factor. I have found however that the difference between a good quality conventional exterior varnish and the marine equivalent of the same brand, is 99% price.

wooden boat show 053If you believe the hype, marine varnish contains specialist additives to better combat sun, salt and weather, above and beyond those additives that exist in the exterior version of the same product. I have worked professionally with both variants of branded vanish products and I don’t buy it.

In Australia for example, Wattle make an exterior varnish that is every bit as good as any specialist marine product on the market, including their own.

Paint finishes generally, are an area where the DIY boating customer is routinely scammed into spending 30% more for any product with ‘marine’ appended to the label. With varnish as with marine paint generally, you don’t necessarily need to buy into that proposition. International are the worst offenders.

The varnish brush on the other hand, is an area where you definitely get what you pay for. Top line brushes cost money and they’re invariably worth it. There is nothing worse than trying to execute a perfect varnish job with a rubbish Chinese brush that drops hairs faster than a dog with mange.

Always store your varnish brushes hanging by the handle. Varnish brushes should never to be stored any other way or used for any finish other than varnish.

Secondly, clean your brushes religiously after use. I generally use turpentine, followed by detergent and hot water after each use. Never allow the varnish to dry on the brush. A good quality brush can never be resurrected from the dead, by resorting to paint stripper. Don’t be tempted!

Stripper will destroy your varnish brushes every time.

After each use and following cleaning, I leave brushes suspended in kerosene for a couple of days before hanging by the handle on a hook to dry. Kerosene is an excellent preservation medium that will keep brush fibers supple and maximizes longevity.

There are a couple of bits of essential gear that you will also need. I buy a certain brand of locally produced peanut butter, firstly because I quite like the product and secondly because the 375g screw top clear plastic jars are perfect for decanting and storing varnish.

A second eclectic item of kit that will prove to be of inestimable use, is a supply of panti-hose stockings. When I say ‘supply’, a single pack will last for years and the used variety are even better. Stretched over the top of the plastic storage jar, a section of panti-hose is perfect for straining varnish that has acquired a few lumps and hard bits after a time on the shelf.Of course you can shell out for specialist paint filters if you insist.

Always decant vanish from the storage jar for use and only so much as you will use. This keeps the storage varnish perfectly clean.

Thirdly, I keep a supply of the empty food tins that come with ring pull tops. The ring pull type leave a small inside lip in the top of the tin which is ideal for graduating the varnish on your brush.

With your gear essentials on hand, the first step is that of stripping off the old vanish.

I generally use a gel based chemical stripper. One coat might suffice but generally you will need two or three coats applied at intervals. Avoid heat and direct sun if possible.

You will need a decent quality scraper with a tungsten blade.

Allowing the chemical stripper to do the business, no great pressure is required on the scraper blade. The old varnish should come away with minimal effort. If fact you don’t want to be removing a wood shaving during this process.

Different timbers respond differently to chemical stripper. The best and most forgiving timber for stripping and re-finishing is probably teak. The worst is probably Tasmania’s huon pine. As beautiful and treasured as huon pine is for bright work, it tends to stain with the application of stripper. For this reason, huon pine is a pain in the butt to re-finish.

After application of the scraper, I generally clean up the surface with 80/120#, being careful to sand with the grain.

I then apply one or more coats of oxalic acid. Oxalic is a weak acid derived from rhubarb. It is very effective in removing traces of grey or black mildew residual in the grain of the timber.

If you find oxalic too thin to use on vertical surfaces, your hardware store will stock a gel based deck cleaner that is more forgiving, if somewhat more expensive.

Allowing the oxalic half an hour or so to do it’s work, you may need to apply two or three coats to get the result, but the end product is a full restoration of the golden glow of the original timber grain.

This is most spectacularly evident with teak.

Next step is to neutralize residual oxalic with fresh water.

When the timber is dry you’re ready to roll.

Cut your first varnish coat 30-50% with turpentine.

Never attempt to apply conventional varnish wet on wet. You will stuff the drying process and create a mess that will be difficult to fix.

That said, there is generally no need to sand between the first couple of coats. But a light hand sand with #240/#320 will key subsequent coats. At this point you may carefully use an orbital with a #240 disc.

It is possible to use an orbital on bare timber, but ONLY if you know what your doing. You must avoid cross grain score marks that the orbital will leave on soft wood, using too heavy a disc. Once the timber is scored like this, it is difficult to fix.

For this reason the safest course is to hand sand bare timber and always with the grain.

For latter coats I always cut the vanish 20% or so with an extender. Penetrol manufactured by the Flood Company is best.

Paint manufacturers decry the use of paint extenders. But the fact is that Penetrol makes the varnish flow better resulting in a better finish. That is why professionals use it.

I also use Pentrol on the dust rag, after sanding and between coats.

The point is your bright work is an important contributor to the look and overall feel of your boat for sale presentation. It is worthy of your commitment.


“I’ll eat my boat-shoes!”

So you want a web-site URL that incorporates your boat name…but the domain is already taken. What do you do?

It happens!

For instance, cruising the Australian coast, it’s amazing to see the number of cruising yachts with the boat name ‘Capricorn Dancer’. Having a boat with a common name is a non-issue except, when perhaps it comes time to sell your boat and choose a URL.

The URL www.capricorn …if it’s not taken already, I’ll eat my boat-shoes!

The point is: what do you do in this predicament?

You need a boat for sale web-site and you really want it to incorporate the name of your vessel. But what about so called search engine optimisation (SEO); what would work best?

The point here is that SEO while potentially a powerful tool by way of digging up a likely vendor prospect, is always going to be secondary to the main game which is advertising in a place where buyers go to look at boats.

That said, the solution  is both simple and potentially quite powerful.

In fact there are two solutions.

The first is relevant to production vessels of known provenance.

For example, should your boat for sale be an Ericson 41, it is possible if not probable that the buyer will be looking for an Ericson 41, meaning that this is the search term likely entered into Google right off the bat.

Therefore the most ‘SEO productive’ URL solution, would be something like This broadcasts the genre of the vessel in addition to the name and location in a long string URL.

Alternatively should your vessel be a one-off and even if your vessel’s monika is Capricorn Dancer, you might incorporate elements from your headline in the URL, like forinstance;

And I’ll leave the boat-shoes for another day.

Easy huh?

How to write a killer ‘boat for sale’ headline

There are two fundamentals in advertising a boat for sale.

The first is to be clear that you’re advertising a destination not the airplane. Confusion on this point is the first man-hole trap that many vendors step into.

It’s perfectly obvious that no-one in their right mind these days, travels for the experience of cramped airplane seats, muscle mangling leg-room, ghastly food and the horrors of jet-lag. If the travel experience is worth it at all, it’s due to the pleasures of the destination.

However, it is easy to forget that this principle applies equally to copywriting, particularly in the emotional turmoil that often accompanies the selling of a boat.

The second vendor man-hole, no less critical to buyer response is the need for clarity about ‘the problem’. What you might say has ‘a problem’ to do with writing a killer headline?

Clarity on the distinction between your problem as vendor and the buyer’s problem is critical to the success of your boat for sale headline; as it is indeed to the entire exercise of marketing your boat.

The thing is, in the business of buying and selling, everyone has what might loosely be called for want of a better description, ‘a problem’.

If you’re unlucky enough to be a desperate boat vendor, struggling to stave of bankruptcy, your problem is immediate and in your face.

But so too does the boat buyer have a problem. Sure, it’s more subtle; not the great stinking wildebeest of a problem that confronts the cash-strapped boat vendor. Indeed, the buyer’s problem might better be described as a ‘need’ or ‘itch to be’, ‘to experience’ or ‘to manifest’ something ill-defined within the buyer’s psyche. But the urge is just as real in driving the impulse to action.

The point is that as a vendor advertising a boat for sale, the man-hole trap that many vendors unconsciously step into, is that of writing a headline that reflects their problem not the buyer’s problem.

It is important not to make this mistake because such a ‘back-the- front’ headline never succeeds! A boat for sale headline that describes the vendor’s problem is back-the-front.

The fact is that no-one on God’s green Earth is interested in your problem as vendor, however urgent and pressing it may be to you.

In fact, the odds are pretty strong that your problem, if it is properly teased out, is actually ‘buyer repellent’. That is to say; proceed deep enough down that rabbit hole and your erstwhile buyer will be wanting to jump out of the first available window to escape your proximity.

For these reasons the first step is always to develop a mental picture of the ‘probable buyer’.

Who exactly is this likely buyer of your boat? What do they (it’s usually a couple), have in mind for their new life with your boat (the rationale by the way is invariably claptrap, because people buy boats for crazy, stupid reasons)? Where do they live? What kind of careers do they have? Do they have children? What kind of car do they drive?

Even if your left hemisphere logical brain is screaming in rebellion, don’t hold back on this; relax and allow your imagination free rein.

The question that arises is this. Behind this picture of the probable buyer that you have by now crafted out of the ether, what exactly in an emotional sense is this buyer’s problem?

You’re probably thinking: what’s the point of all of this ‘woo woo’ airy conjecture coming directly out of the field of imagination?

Surely you say, the selling process is a linear mechanistic and sequential process; the meeting of the buyer and vendor, triggered by an advertisement placed strategically in a place most likely to capture the buyer’s notice: a case of cause and effect, non?.

On the other hand, is it just possible that the process of imagining the probable buyer, ‘whispers up’ the actual buyer out of the quantum field of limitless possibility?

Believe it or not a successful sale of your boat is most likely to arise out of activating both forces in tandem.

You need all of the mechanistic steps to be fully developed and in place, including your dedicated boat web-site. And you need to cultivate as a discipline, the correct mind-set whereby with confidence and gratitude, you look back upon the (future) sale of your boat as having been achieved (past tense) to the ideal buyer and upon financial terms suitable to you.

Time appears to be linear but the cosmic truth is that it isn’t! And money always flows to where it is made welcome.

But I digress. The headline example I give in Over-Boated is the best actual case history example that I can think of, that illustrates a back-the-front headline that failed; replaced subsequently by a headline with an emotional hook into the probable buyer’s problem.

So powerful was the latter that it delivered a huge depth of response. By the vendor’s account, the vessel could have been sold many times over, merely on the strength of the headline.

Get your boat for sale headline right and you’re halfway home. It should be clear that your headline is potentially worth big money. And yes… it’s not always easy to do when it’s your own boat.

Maybe you want some help? Email me and we’ll see what we can do for you.

Your boat photographs …how to get the perfect pic

Obviously we are talking about taking boat photographs with the vessel underway in a setting conducive to the relevant illusion. As “Over-boated?” teaches; latent in the buyer’s mind are a pre-existing set of illusions as to what boating is all about.

Don’t even think about static shots of the boat under covers, parked on some marina. This is heresy!

SV Yukon is a Baltic Trader that operates charters out of Franklin Tasmania

Your boat photographs are hopefully stoking a barely smouldering heap of latent buyer emotions into a flaming conflagration.

You may need to take hundreds of boat photographs before you find one or two good enough to serve as your principle photograph. It is worth any amount of pain to get the perfect pic.

If you use a digital camera, shoot to the highest resolution possible. If you use a conventional 25mm camera use a medium length lens. A wide angle lens should only be used for the interior below decks.

Make sure that the boat is cleared of miscellaneous gear and the scene is set as per the principles laid out in “Over-boated?”.

Take your shots in the softer light of early morning or late afternoon in preference to the glare of mid-day.

The background should offer no distracting detail.

First preference for shots of sail-boats, is close-up under sail and from the leeward bow.

Second preference is close-up under sail and from the leeward stern.

If you look at the classic J Boat photographs taken by Beken of Cowes ( Beken of Cowes “The America’s Cup” Collins Harvill London 1990)  shots are taken both with the sun behind the camera and in front of the camera but behind the subject.

Even today, Beken is considered the undisputed master of boat photography. And he had a fast launch specially built for the purpose.

Generally Beken’s shots were taken from the leeward bow quarter or leeward stern quarter. Much later in his career he used helicopters.

Now we have drones equipped with digital cameras. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t forget the photographs of iconic bits of gear.

Sparrow on a boom