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Thread: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

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    Default Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Hello,

    I have a 55 carvel Honduras mahogany planked on white oak frames ketch that is need of a major refit. I would like to locate a port somewhere in the Caribbean where there are skilled wooden boat guys/yards, where I can expect to have quality work done at a labor rate lower than in the USA. If you have any leads on this please share. Thanks

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Antigua has" Woodstock Boatbuilders"..They can do highly skilled work. Two English fellows who have evolved a good shop and good reputation.
    Go down to Carriacou, The guys down there are skilled at cobbling something from nothing.
    Doing things in the Caribbean,especially the Eastern Caribbean, may not be cheaper in thge long run.
    How old is your boat? How buggered up is she? Have those oak frames been festering in the tropics for long?
    Define "major refit", cuz many want a minor tune up that turns into a "major". So...when you ask for a "major" from the git go...wow.
    There is an advantage to doing up a boat down there in that you can avoid many of the environmental /legal/red tape costs and labor seems cheaper, but every single screw,gallon of epoxy,piece of sandpaper ,timber,electricity,will cost quite a bit more.
    bruce
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 11-29-2020 at 08:15 AM.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    I agree with wizbang on this; having run a boatyard in the EC, labour cost is quite low, but materials & supplies are hard to find, slow to get there, and very expensive. Also (and no insult intended to anybody), boat builders in the region come from a tradition of improvisation, making-do, and precious little knowledge of the traditions of "classic" yacht construction, imposed by the regional history of low income, lack of formal training opportunities, and paucity of tools and supplies. They will get the job done, and it will be seaworthy, but it may not match the methods, style, and finish that you are expecting.

    The mantra that was drilled into me while I lived there is truth - when you are there "you gotta stop t'inking like a Nor't American, mon!"
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    My wife , Jan Hein, wrote this .https://www.allatsea.net/if-woodstock-would/
    Leo worked here for awhile when he had his Folkboat.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    There was some fine work done in Belize a generation ago.They have the lumber, but you'd probably be your own contractor. Then there are thse guys in Costa rica https://www.sailcargo.org/.

    Depending on your needs Sint Maarten has good airfares, great parts availability and a skilled workforce.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    How old is she? 61 this year.

    Yes she has been in the Caribbean for significant chunks of time over the last couple decades...
    But upon inspection, she is not entirely worm ridden. There are a few planks that need to be replaced, and a section of the deadwood has been pretty nibbled.

    When you say "Have those oak frames been festering in the tropics for long?" What is it about the tropics that is bad for oak frames? Since they are inside the boat?

    But the answer is yes, and there are a few broken frames and a few more that are beginning to crack.

    The stem is also cracked.

    She also leaks from the topsides in a number of places and needs the deck house roofs replaced and some of the carlings are rotten.

    And then there is the deck, a beautiful teak deck, that had another layer of teak lain down overtop of it in the 80's. Not sure if this is a positive, as this top layer does not have cotton calking in the seams, just the black goo. and its failing in many places, so water gets under layer one and then is getting in under layer two.

    And then of course, it could use some systems upgrades and some refastening and new thru hulls...

    Ive spent some months evaluating the scale of the project and I can say "MAJOR" for sure.


    I have been debating how deep to go into her myself before taking her out of the USA.


    From what I gather, a good plan would be to take much of what I would need to complete the project down with me. Some benefits Ive heard about places on the coast of Central and South America would be access to tropical woods and supplies at lower prices than on the islands.



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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Quote Originally Posted by mmd View Post
    I agree with wizbang on this; having run a boatyard in the EC, labour cost is quite low, but materials & supplies are hard to find, slow to get there, and very expensive. Also (and no insult intended to anybody), boat builders in the region come from a tradition of improvisation, making-do, and precious little knowledge of the traditions of "classic" yacht construction, imposed by the regional history of low income, lack of formal training opportunities, and paucity of tools and supplies. They will get the job done, and it will be seaworthy, but it may not match the methods, style, and finish that you are expecting.

    The mantra that was drilled into me while I lived there is truth - when you are there "you gotta stop t'inking like a Nor't American, mon!"

    Well mmd, Ultimately the goal is to get out of the USA and stop "t'inkin like a Nor't American.."
    But it is just a matter of how to do it, what is feasible.. I don't have an unlimited budget and I do have a rather enormous project.

    As far as methods and finish, I do not expect or need highest level of yacht finish, but I would like a structurally sound vessel.

    If the EC has the limitations you mention, does anyone have experience with skills and supplies on the coast of places like Colombia or Guatemala?

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    My wife , Jan Hein, wrote this .https://www.allatsea.net/if-woodstock-would/
    Leo worked here for awhile when he had his Folkboat.

    Thanks for this article, I will keep those guys in mind, though the talk of the client roster they work with, I think they sound a little out of my league...

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwyl View Post
    There was some fine work done in Belize a generation ago.They have the lumber, but you'd probably be your own contractor. Then there are thse guys in Costa rica https://www.sailcargo.org/.

    Depending on your needs Sint Maarten has good airfares, great parts availability and a skilled workforce.


    I plan to be my own contractor, so that would be just fine as long as the area affords guys who are skilled at things like planking and calking traditional boats.

    I know, from reefing some of the seams on my boat, that guys sometimes cut corners and use things like old towels or other materials, but Id like to locate some guys who know how to do these in the proper way...

    Ive heard about these guys Sail Cargo in CR... but it looks like they are pretty busy with that giant freighter they are building... and Costa Rica is not all that cheap in general and has huge taxes on imported goods.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    "When you say "Have those oak frames been festering in the tropics for long?" What is it about the tropics that is bad for oak frames? Since they are inside the boat?"

    Yer kidding maybe?
    The inside of a carvel boat is often as wet as the outside,especially with those leaky double layer decks...which are almost never a good idea.

    I think the BEST way and place to refit a vessel is to bring it home on a boatmover.AWAY from boatyards,AWAY from distractions.
    Home being away from neighbors but in the USA. The infrastructure (materials,roads,electricity ) available far outweigh cheap labor,in my experience.
    In fact, I'd say bringing a tired boat TO the Caribbean for fixin is about the worst idea.
    Take the very popular and well loved Carriacou Sloop. A new 42 footer will coat about 150 grand,(U.S.) and will another 50 grand when 10 years old.
    The romance is constantly rekindled through magazines and now videos, but so many people have lost their shirts making the mistake of thinking they can do exactly what you seek.

    Here is my brother, over 2 years on the hard in Honduras..he always mentions the great price on Honduran Pine planking.


    A boatyard chock a block with fried boats and broken dreams.
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 12-05-2020 at 11:44 AM.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    More than once, when I lived on St. Vincent, did I hear the line, "Boatyards in the Caribbean are where boats from America come to die."
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    not kidding. my understanding of the problem with the tropical waters is that they are rife with ship worms, that get into planking, but that they tend to stay in the piece of wood they enter into, not jump over to the next or inside to the frames.. am I mistaken?

    when you say that the insides of the boat are as wet as the outside, are you implying that the frames would be rotten from fresh water coming from above? or from the hot humid environment, or what?

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    Default Re: Caribbean Ports with Skilled Shipwrights?

    Quote Originally Posted by WhiteRabbet View Post
    not kidding. my understanding of the problem with the tropical waters is that they are rife with ship worms, that get into planking, but that they tend to stay in the piece of wood they enter into, not jump over to the next or inside to the frames.. am I mistaken?

    when you say that the insides of the boat are as wet as the outside, are you implying that the frames would be rotten from fresh water coming from above? or from the hot humid environment, or what?
    Your first sentence above describes a certain species of shipworm; there are many species, and their styles and scope of attack varies. And they are not confined to tropical waters, either. Google 'gribble'...

    Rot loves fresh water; much, much more than salt water. This is why it is so imperative to keep decks leak-free. Back in "the olden days" salt was often packed into the bilges and remote places of commercial ships so that any fresh water that leaked into the hull would be turned salty and thereby not provide a good environment for rot to grow in. Copper sheathing was applied to the exterior below the waterline to keep sea-borne worms out.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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