In the conclusion to our series of articles about SY Esper’s complete refit in Thailand for Sailing Today, we set out the costs for the whole project.

Suspended in a cradle in the narrow slip at PSS Boatyard, Esper had little protection from the midday broiling sun. The smiles on the faces of our dockside friends and workers melted as we all waited for Jamie to work out how to make Esper’s new depth sounder talk to the newly-installed B&G navigation system.

“RTFM!” some wag shouted.

No-one was quite sure how much of the river lay under our keel. It was high tide, and we only had half an hour left of slack water to safely navigate out of the jagged slipway. We had seen a few yachts try to reverse out when the current ran fast and most came a cropper, occasionally doing some nasty damage to their shiny new topsides.

Just one year and one month ago we began what felt like the longest refit in history. Our original intention had been to remove the leaking teak deck, tend to the osmosis problem and do a little tidy-up below decks. A three month project, we were advised. Despite eight years of cruising from Turkey to Malaysia, we knew we were novices when it comes to this level of technical work. We had no idea how long it would take to grind the hull by hand for osmosis treatment, or build a cabinet, or the huge amount of work it takes to prepare a recently denuded teak deck for paint. So we believed what we were told. After the first month Jamie revised the deadline to six months, and pretty soon after that he reckoned it would be a year.

Unpacking all our belongings

To be fair, we did keep adding extra jobs, like new guard rails, a swimming platform, davits, new teak cockpit and rear boxes, rubbing strake, toe rail, new saloon table, new teak floor, new headlining etc. And, of course, remodelling the interior.

A few weeks before launching, over two hundred deck fittings were aligned and replaced, and the masts and rigging were fitted back. It was a long and fiddly process overseen by Jamie who had painstakingly taken photographs and made notes on every square foot of the deck before anything was removed.

The depth sounder’s reading flared into view.

“OK, let’s go!” said Jamie.

As the cradle slid further along its track into the water, SY Esper floated free. Lines were thrown and cameras on land and in the water winked at each other. Someone set off some firecrackers as a sign of good luck. Everyone waved and cheered.

We were back.


Working in Thailand can have its complications. Apart from the obvious language barrier (our Thai is restricted to ordering food and drink) we were there during the military coup and curfew.

“Don’t worry about that,” said Jia, the yard manager, “it’s only when the banks close that we’ll know there is a real problem.”

The banks didn’t close, and apart from a stronger police and military presence in nearby Satun, things carried on as usual in this backwater of southern Thailand.

Putting up the tent

Then there were the days when we would turn up at the yard to discover everything closed.

“Makha Bucha Day!” someone would explain. Thailand has an abundance of public holidays, both religious and secular, most of which the yard ignored. Workers were free to decide if they wanted to observe them, but often only made that decision on the day.

The biggest complication was coming to grips with a very different culture from our own. In Thailand the most shameful thing you can do is lose your temper. Once you raise your voice the game is over and no-one will respect you again. The default setting when things go wrong in the land of a thousand smiles is to laugh. Many yachties come from fast-paced backgrounds, where they have worked hard to make the leap to living full time on a boat. Most of us have been used to giving orders in the workplace and when things go wrong we get irritated, venting our frustration with harsh words. We certainly expect some kind of compensation for late and inferior work. In Thailand time moves slower and deadlines can be more elastic. If something goes wrong, instead of hunting for a culprit to blame they just go ahead and fix the fault. And charge you for it.

Click links for previous articles:

Before arriving here we had spent a few years in countries which do not share the ‘western’ concept of time management. In India, when someone was hours or even days late we stopped getting annoyed and learned to accept it as normal practice. Our Indian friends explained it happens to everyone. During the refit we saw many yachts come and go, and it was usually possible to work out who would have a bad time of it. Those who had been sailing for years and spent a lot of time in similar places, got on with the workers. They made no unattainable demands and when things didn’t quite go to plan, explained how to put it right. Then there were new boat owners, perhaps they had just set out from somewhere like Australia. Angry red faces would appear from their boats as workers walked off the job.

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  • The biggest lesson we learned is that if you are going to have work done on your boat, the best project manager is you. This is certainly true of Thailand where sometimes even the simplest instruction can get misinterpreted. Unless you are on site minor problems can grow into something much worse. We witnessed boats which had been left by the owner for work which were left unattended for days or even weeks at a time.


    One of us was in the boatyard every day, usually both of us. We began each morning with a round up of what had happened the previous day, and a plan for each worker for that day. This didn’t take long, around 20 minutes by the time we had spoken to each team. Throughout the day we would go back to check, sometimes with an ice cream or snack for everyone. And for a lot of the time we were working on or under the boat too.

  • Paying bonuses did not work for us. When we were particularly pleased with a finished job we gave each worker a bonus in their pay packet. This usually resulted in them taking the following day off to spend it! If we did it again, we would only pay bonuses at the end of a job.

  • Armed with the knowledge we have gained, we would always try to negotiate a fixed price for job where possible. Parts of the project went on for much longer than we planned and resulted in higher labour costs than we expected. Unfortunately, no-one likes to give a job price in Thailand…

  • It’s a great way to get to know the country and its people. We embraced the opportunity and regarded it as a unique cultural and practical learning experience. We made some long-lasting local friends and learned more about Thai culture in the boatyard than in any of the prettier places we sailed to over the following years.

  • We should have overhauled the twenty-seven year old engine, instead of just cleaning and servicing it. Eighteen months later, after failing starter motors, disintegrating hoses etc, it seized. We ended up spending six months in a marina waiting for a new one. An expensive mistake.

  • All figures are in GBP
  • The refit took place from 2014-2015 so prices may have increased.
  • All PSS costs are listed on the PSS website
  • At the time labour charges varied between £6 – £12 per day
  • Hardstanding 3720
  • Tent hire 1500
  • storage 1000
  • Crane hire 240
  • Haul out 200
  • SUBTOTAL: 6660

Including topsides, masts, booms, spinnaker pole, spreaders and various deck fittings.

  • Labour: 6400 (we negotiated a labour fee for the whole job of £6000, but paid an additional £400 when the paint boss ran out of money towards the end of the project)
  • Materials: 4725 (including Awlgrip topcoat and primer, high build, jotamastic, microballoons, as well as items like masks, respirators, gloves, paint suits, sandpaper etc)
  • SUBTOTAL: 11125

  • Labour and materials: 1700
  • SUBTOTAL: 1700

Including osmosis treatment and antifouling

  • Labour: 2000
  • Materials: 3000
  • SUBTOTAL: 5000

This was the biggest part of the job, with carpenters working on the remodelling below deck as well as being a big part of the on deck team. We had between one and three carpenters working on the project most days. Includes total refit of interior including new teak floor, cockpit, toe rail and rubbing strake as well as further exterior carpentry and fitting.

Pong taught his boys their skills as soon as they could hold a chisel…and we dedicated this special video to them:

  • Labour: 11,500
  • Materials: 5000
  • SUBTOTAL:16,500
  • Labour: 1000 (negotiated fee for whole job)
  • Materials: 9000 (including all B&G products, cables, lights, switches, sockets etc.)
  • SUBTOTAL: 10000
  • Labour and materials: 4000
  • SUBTOTAL: 4000
  • project management 1300
  • varnishing 4000
  • some plumbing 50
  • general cleaning 150
  • engine and shaft 500
  • upholstery 500
  • SUBTOTAL: 6500
  • Boatyard: 6660
  • Painting: 11125
  • Deck fittings removed and replaced: 1700
  • Hull: 5000
  • Carpentry:  16,500
  • Electrics and electronics: 10000
  • Stainless work: 4000
  • Miscellaneous materials and labour: 6500

GRAND TOTAL: £61,485

There are day to day living expenses to consider over such a long period of time. We had to stay off the boat for the majority of the project, and stored most of our possessions in a container. In Satun, our one bedroom bungalow in 2014 was around £80 per month. Two scooters were around £30 per month. Food, usually cooked on the side of the road, is good and inexpensive, around £1.20 per meal. You can really save on living costs in Thailand.

Masts coming off

When we limped into Malaysia, SY Esper was in pretty bad shape. Equipment needed replacing and she leaked like a sieve. We had three options:

  1. Sell  her, relocate to the Med and buy another boat.
  2. Keep her, and get the work done in Thailand.
  3. Give up cruising, cut our losses and put her up for sale. That was never going to happen…

We looked into Esper’s value and realised we would not achieve anything like the price we needed for another boat. We would have to mortgage our flat for a cheaper boat that would probably never tick all our boxes in the way the Oyster 435 does. Inevitably we would have to spend a lot to get a secondhand boat to the spec we want for world cruising. Whichever way we added up the sums, option 1 did not make sense. Option 2 would be expensive, and we would still have to mortgage our flat, but we would be able to keep the boat we love. We reckoned that with cost of living, labour and haul out rates being much cheaper than Europe, we would be able to get Esper in the best condition possible.

We think she was worth it…

Had we stuck to our original budget and plan, the final cost would have been a good 30-40% lower. But since we had full access to workers capable of refitting every corner of Esper in the boatyard, we decided it would be sensible to do as much as possible there, rather than piecemeal in new yards across the world over the next few years. So we spent all the money we had, and chose the best fittings we could afford.

SY Esper is now in better condition than when we bought her in 2005. So yes, it was worth it for us. But we realise it might not be everyone’s choice.


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  1. So nice that you showed us the costs. i am in same boat 😉 i am now on the 3 year after leaving Europe and are in Fiji and looking at the refit costs :/ haven’t been abel to follow you so much because of internet you know how that is. i guess the prices have been raising since you did your extremely big refit so back to the process of planing. Luis the ship cat says hi to Millie

    hope to meet you some day 🙂

    Gaute SY Isis II

  2. Thanks for that – It would be interesting to hear what part of the time & money went to the dodger project – on the videos that seems to have taken a life of its own – however you have engineered it to the point of a possible product to sell – team up with a manufacturer, license the design & good to go!
    Fair Winds

    1. Haha, I like your thinking, but don’t think we’d want to go through all that again! It’s worked out well for Esper, but would have to be hand-designed for any new boat. Good luck to anyone who wants to take up the challenge – all we want to do now is sail. 😉 Liz

  3. Very interesting, thank you for posting the costs. It certainly looks like quite a bargain and the workmanship appears to be excellent. You cruise a great location to have this work done!

    Here in North America a deck paint job (remove/repair/repaint) with Awlgrip or equivalent is about $500 per lineal foot, topsides are about $150 ~$200 per lineal foot. To paint your hull and deck here is about $30,000. We are also currently refitting the spar, which is larger then Espers: strip to bare tube, refinish said tube, re-anodize all aluminum fittings, buff and polish all SS fittings, new standing rigging, new running rigging, new roller furlers…. quite endless, the cost is about $60,000.

    We’re like you, we really like our boat and don’t see anything on the market we would rather have at a price that is in our budget so we refit as needed. I think we need to sail to Thailand for better prices though!

    Wishing you both all the best!

    1. David Longino

      Bryan, I suspect any additional cost in US was balanced by some time savings. Yet, having worked with multiple contractors on a home build, maybe not. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Honestly – it was less than I expected. We have fallen completely in love with Esper and when I compare her to other used for sale boats on the market, I haven’t seen anything we would choose over her. Well done, the refit was an inspiration.

  5. Interesting detail on the refit , we’re currently looking to buy a bluewater cruiser and doing the “sail into the sunset “ which we’ve been planning for quite a few year, we’ve had Beneteau’s and Jenneau’s but don’t think they are solid enough for long term cruising, so Oysters , Hallbergs, Najads etc all being considered, 1995 to 2005 vintage 40-50ft so some refit expected unless they have been recently “done”. Was going to budget 25-30% of purchase price as a ballpark for refit. Would u say that is reasonable ?
    Second question, would you say you added the £60k value to the boat following refit ie would u have recovered if sold immediately after refit or was it just necessary to get back to a fit for cruising SV ?
    Loving the YouTube video blogs , not sure If I would have the dedication to produce them with the regularity, variety and obvious enthusiasm you both show … well done from me 👍☺️

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. Sounds like you’re looking in the right area for a good blue water cruiser. As for the expenditure being recouped… absolutely not! We were under no illusion that the money we’ve spent would be made back on the eventual sale of Esper. It will certainly make it a better deal than when we bought her but you have to assume those costs will not be made back. We’ve seen boats sit in marinas for years not selling because they were priced according to the amount the owner invested in it, not what they’re really worth. Good luck in the boat purchase!

  6. Just made a small donation via the FTBMates, thanks for all your efforts, the videos keep me going .
    I also live afloat, but on a narrowboat in the UK, looking to go blue water next year.
    Question, which way do you prefer to receive donations? I know you plug patreon a lot and that they charge a fee, but do you lose money via exchange rate transactions etc?

    1. Tony, you’re a star! Thank you so much for your support, it’s really appreciated. In the longer term we’ll be looking to set up our own payment scheme in order to avoid paying commissions. We’re just so busy at the moment we’ve not had a chance to sort it out. I think Patreon is still the preferred way because it’s public-facing. This might sound mercenary but one way of attracting new sponsors is for them to see that many others are supporting us. That visibility shows credibility to potential sponsors, that we’re not fly-by-nights but are in it for the long-haul. Patreon also offers us other opportunities to communicate directly with our supporters. They get to see the video before anyone else and occasionally we send out little gifts as a thank you. Another option we’ve not yet done anything about is to offer our bank details for direct bank transfer. If it’s international that’ll also incur charges but it may be better that way than via the likes of Paypal or Stripe. We need to look into this. Once again, thank you, we’ll add your name to the roll-call (unless you don’t want us to).

  7. Thank you both for everything you have shared over the years. I have been binge watching for a couple of months now and have learned a ton. All of the other blogs/vlogs just didnt scratch our itch. What you share is invaluable to a middle aged couple that is just now looking for a boat. As with almost any boat purchase there is a refit involved before you untie from the docks and set sail to explore the world. The cost was a little painful to look at but pretty much expected. What you truely opened our eyes to was the amount of time and supersion to make a total refit happen successfully. Thank you for everything from a couple of yanks that what the life you have.

    1. Got it in one, guys. You can’t leave that boatyard for more than five minutes. You have to stay on top of things for everything to work your way, otherwise there’s the potential for shortcuts and mistakes to be made. Appreciate the feedback, thank you both.

  8. Per Jorgensen

    Hi there,
    A few input for comparison. After a Caribean season our blue X 442 was painted locally in a top professional facility. The quote we received was 5.400 Euros for Flagblue and 9.300 for metallic, both awlgrip. There is 9 layers in the metallic, which we chose.
    Before that we had the underwater part of the hull stripped to bare GRP, fixes to the keel, new Sica at the keel flange, new rudderbearings, 4 layers of epoxy barrier coat and antifoulin, 13.354 Euro, and this winter we had the teak deck replaced with Flexiteek for 19.500 Euro. Everything inclusive VAT. Germany

    1. Nice of you to put these costs out there, Per. Those figures sound quite reasonable to me. Interested to know how you’re finding your Flexiteek. We did quite a bit of research on it but didn’t go for it as it was going to be costly to import from Australia. How is it under foot in both the wet and the heat?

  9. Looking at your overall costings I was curious as to what the cut off point was for coin spent vs value of the boat. Replacement then all the B/S of getting it registered brought up to a specification you desire etc.
    Thank you for answering that very important question, oh and I think the boat looks fabulous BTW.

    I have been looking at your blog plus the youtube videos and I must admit the amount of work you pour in to keeping us informed is truly amazing. So folks if your reading this and not a patreon go spend some coin on what are two of the hardest working vloggers out there, Not forgetting the cat and her sleeping & eating ability that I am sure she will gladly show you for a few cat treats,

    1. That cut-off point approaches quite quickly, Nigel. We always say to potential liveaboards not to see their boat as an investment, you’ll never make the money back on it. Thank you for the positive feedback, it’s always nice to read comments like yours. Millie is passed out on the saloon floor right now, preparing herself to be dropped back in the water (hopefully today, weather permitting).

  10. I was shocked by how much your refit cost and how long it took to complete the job. In the end all that really matters is that you are happy with the results. Thanks for sharing videos of your experiences as I find them informative and entertaining.

  11. I respect your choice for the refit. You got everything you wanted with the money you have. Your boat is built for you and will make you happy for years to come. Awesome job.

  12. Thank you for all the information provided! After watching the whole refitting videos on YouTube, it is interesting to learn about the costs. It gives a parameter for one to decide wether refitting or buying a new(er) boat. A full refitting is not for everyone: you need a lot more than just money to do it.

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