Planning and budgeting for sail boat refits

We just bought a St. Francis 50 catamaran, SV Aphrodite, and are arranging to have some refits done in Bradenton, Florida. We are relatively new to sailing and live in Ottawa, Canada.

Fortunately, we have Pat Reischmann of Hy-Tech Marine to advise us during the refit process. Pat has over 30 years’ experience in the marine industry. He was one of partners, executives, and visionaries behind Manta catamarans.

Here is the process we are using to plan and budget this project:

1. Listing what needs to be done
To start, our list was very high-level, and included things like “upgrade sail handling”. My husband was in Bradenton, Florida last week, following his passage from Fort Lauderdale.

Thanks to Pat’s guidance and the input of contractors, all aspects of our boat were explored – from the cosmetic to the electrical components. Our list started to take shape and gain details. Here is a photo taken from a portion of one of my husband’s notebooks.

Brainstorming list of possible refits - photo from my husband's notebook
Early, brainstorming list of possible refits

2. Creating an Excel spreadsheet to capture the details
My husband put his brainstorming list into Excel and fleshed-out details to contain categories, estimates, and contractor names. He put this information into the “Details tab” of our spreadsheet.

For the “Details tab” we were fortunate to receive a spreadsheet from another St Francis 50 owner that identified the criteria they used to make their purchase decision.Their criteria helped to add even more detail to our list of possible refits. For example, we are considering putting in another child berth to allow more sleeping room for our family and guests.

The “Details tab” of our early spreadsheet looked something like this. 

Planning refits: DRAFT spreadsheet, budgeting column is intentionally blacked out
DRAFT refits spreadsheet, budgeting information is intentionally blacked out

The screenshot contains just a sample of the categories that are part of this refit project. The full spreadsheet includes the following categories:

  • canvas
  • cosmetics
  • dinghy
  • electric
  • electronics
  • general
  • haul-out
  • mechanical
  • plumbing
  • propane
  • refrigeration
  • rigging
  • safety
  • solar
  • trampoline
  • wood

3. Prioritizing our needs and wants
We use the Excel spreadsheet to prioritize and separate our needs from our wants. In the Priority column, we have assigned colour coding to better visualize the high, medium and low-priority items.

Revised planning spreadsheet, with colour coding - budgeting information is intentionally blacked out
Revised planning spreadsheet, with colour coding – budgeting information is intentionally blacked out

As you can see in the Priority column:

  • high-priority items are assigned a “1”
  • medium-priority items a “2”, and
  • low-priority items a “3”.

Safety-related items, for example, that must be fixed, were assigned priority 1. Whereas, new saloon cushion covers were assigned priority 3 as they would be lower priority.

4. Using the “Summary tab” to determine what fits within our budget

The “Summary tab” of our Excel spreadsheet consolidates the information from the “Details tab” so that we can better understand total costs for:

  • all items, separating out the costs for priority 1, 2 and 3 items
  • each category, separating out costs for labour and capital expenditure.
  • each contractor

With so many factors at play, and a budget to adhere to, the “Summary tab” allows us to make purchasing decisions without getting bogged down by the weeds.

5. Researching items
Being relative newbies, refit planning is taking a lot of time. We have many items on our list, and most require consideration. For example:

  • do we want black dock lines or white lines – is there a benefit?
  • colour of bumpers – does it matter?
  • lightning diffusers – bottle brush type or fans?
  • type of dinghy

We are looking at all sorts of product information as well as reviews and forum feedback for each of these items to help us make a decision. Really, we could drive ourselves crazy researching all of these components, or we can save ourselves hours of research and rely on the expert opinion of Pat Reischmann – who knows boats. Incidentally, Pat is steering us towards the bottle brush type of lightning diffusers.

6. Being involved during the refit stage
Pat says that we should plan on being at the boat at least every week. Being a hands-on owner allows us to meet with the experts – the contractors that are doing the work – and, will help us to better understand the components that are being installed. Living in Ottawa, and managing four young children complicates visits to the boat, but we’re excited about this project and we’re going to do our best to be on our boat as much possible.


  1. We originally had blue fenders. Then we started getting blue marks on the side of our hull. Now we only buy white fenders.

    I don’t know that the color of docklines really matters, but if you get something bright in an odd color, it makes it harder for people to get them confused and sail off with them after a raft-up or something.


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