With my own boat almost sold and loads of projects for the future in my mind the search for a new boat goes on, albeit the Covid-19 crisis does not seem to slacken its grip on us all (well, I am sure it will go by and hopefully will leave nothing more than a profound shock). Anyway, my project of acquiring a bigger aluminium yacht came to an abrupt hold some weeks ago, partially due to the virus, partially due to the fact that the project planned to re-finance the boat has been cancelled. Nevertheless, my search for a new boat continues, as does the constant development of funding-projects. Knowing that the quarantine is not very healthy for my brain, I played around with a crazy idea last week of which I want to tell you, dearest reader, the story today. The idea was: Why not try to acquire a bargain hull and finish it?

What a great boat she is! Berckemeyer 39C German TIN LIZZY – sistership of “my” hull

The Dutch yard KM Yachtbuilders who are most famous for their rugged Bestevaer and Bestwind aluminium yachts have a great offer on the website: The hull of a Berckemeyer 39C German sailing yacht, catalog price 98.000 Euros ex VAT – now under offer for a fantastic price of 75.000 Euros. A bargain! The hull has been built in the year 2014 and I guess there is an interesting story why the original customer bailed out of the deal, anyway, the hull is for sale since then. So, instead of investing a budget of some quarter million Euros in a used boat, like the fantastic Allures 44 or my beloved Cigale 14. I thought, let´s play around with a possible project of having this particular Berckemeyer 39C German finished.

Bargain on an already finished hull

Price-wise the offer of KM Yachtbuilders is really great. Since the hull is for sale in the sixth year now I would figure that the yard would be happy to have this boat sold at last and I would assume that from the 75.000 Euros some more saving is possible – probably not much, but at least some. I asked for a quote and I received an attractive offer. For me, it seemed an idea worth playing around with: With my own “big” project cancelled I do not have the need for a +44 feet yacht anymore, scaling down boat size fits neatly. It would reduce running costs sufficiently and – of course – a boat with a length of 12.70 metres is absolutely adequate for sure.

Here she is: TIN LIZZY´s sister ship – the Tonger 39C hull at KM Yachtbuilders

This Tonger 39 is originally a Berckemeyer 39C-design done by Martin Menzner. As I am an absolute admirer of his boat designs and Berckemeyer sailing yachts are in my opinion the most beautifully designed boats to date, ageless and modern at the same time, blessed with stunning performance … it would be a dream come true owning one. Looking at the bare data of a sister ship, as well built by KM Yachtbuilders, called TIN LIZZY, the figures are more than promising: 40 feet length, 8.5 tons is her displacement (a Hanse 415 displaces 9 tons). She is built monolithic, very strong and should be a fast boat indeed. I grab my phone and call Martin Menzner, her designer.

Sleek, sexy and fast hull. Perfectly crafted. Shall I buy her?

“Yes, the 39C-design is a quick and robust boat, she will sail very well”, he says: “Personally I do not quite like her big superstructure mimicking a raised saloon very much but the clients wanted this, but in the end she offers a load of internal volume, natural light and of course a superior performance.” Well, that sounds quite nice, I thought and in my mind ticking a check-box for this new project. Martin continues: “But have you considered all items connected with such a project?” Nope, I haven´t.

Calculating the Project

Although I would describe myself as a fairly educated insider to boating business and prices when it comes to purchasing new boats or refitting old boats, I admittedly never calculated finishing a built hull. Martin gives me some hints: “In times with overall low price level the ratio in terms of budget needed to build an aluminium hull and having her interior finished would be 1:3. In times of raised prices the ration would soar to 1:4, even 1:5. Now, considering your 39C-project, I would assume you´d need at least a budget of 150.000 to 200.000 Euros, probably much more, because, strange enough, we seem to have entered a high-price-period” Martin explains that during the last months prices for custom built yachts have skyrocketed due to increased demand, waiting times of 2 years are common practice and thus the price level for “real” ships are through the roof. No good news though …

40 feet – perfectly sized interior volume, more than enough.

But what does finishing a hull mean in detail? First of all, there is the engine and connected machinery, like saildrive, prop, tanks and auxiliary equipment with a minimum price of 30.000 Euros. Next up would be the complete electric circuit with lighting, electronic equipment and alike, surely mounting for another 30 to 40.000 Euros, if not more. The fresh-, grey- and blackwater-circuits with valves, piping, tanks and instruments. The hull needs to be insulated, all electric wiring and installations must be done in a mass-free configuration (raising as well the price for the Diesel engine). And we haven´t even talked furniture …

Berckemeyer boats, as well as most of the other well-known aluminium brands out there, come up with variable keels. With “my” Berckemeyer 39C German it´s the same: The boat has a drop keel which is operated by a hydraulic system. Definitely not cheap equipment. “And you shouldn´t expect to be able to acquire the lead for the keel bomb to a bargain price”, Martin continues: “Right now it´s 4 Euros per kilogram.” For the 39C´s drop keel lead bomb of 1.9 tons that would be that the price tag for the raw price of the lead alone mounting to a staggering 8.000 Euros-budget plus working hours to cast the lead. Gulp.

Look at the quality of the interior fittings; Surely not a bargain

And all this with not a single piece of wood sanded. The biggest portion of the budget needed for finishing a hull is the interior furniture, the woodworks. I absolutely know what I am talking about since I did this for the past 3 years in my own boat. Things as simple as making a roofing panel are very complicated projects calling for very skilled craftsmen spending lots of time working on these pieces. Part by part. A painstakingly slow process, 100 per cent hand-crafted. And I just have experience in making the nice upfront pieces: For a raw hull like the 39C the full substruction needs to be made in the first place. Oh boy. Sounds like a load of work. Remember: Ratio 1 to 5, like Martin said. “You will probably end with a budget around 400.000 Euros, if you want to make it right”, Martin finishes.

Really a bargain?

So, is that really a bargain? Is this really an alternative plan? I´d say no. Maybe KM Yachtbuilders might give away the hull for a very good price. As an aluminium hull I am sure it is done in a perfect way and knowing that Martin Menzer did the design I am sure that the boat is a perfectly capable, seaworthy sailing yacht for sure. But investing another 200 to 300 K in getting her ready? We haven’t even talked rigging and sails yet … For sure, she won´t be cheaper than the 250 to 300 K aluminium yachts under offer I took a look at two months ago in France, but considering that price – nope, definitely not a bargain. At least not for me. I am a bit sad: I thought this might be the chance to finally become a Berckemeyer-sailor myself and I am sure KM Yachtbuilders will do a wonderful job in finishing the hull …

Would be a dream boat for sure: KM Yachtbuilder´s Berckemeyer 39C German

„It is a good idea”, says Michael Krämer, owner of a Luebeck-based yard to which I am talking later about this project: “We can do this for sure, just bring her on!” But he also tells me about the mounting costs of executing such a project: “Your idea of stretching the cost over two to three years may be attractive for a re-financing plan but on the other hand I can assure you that prolonging a project makes it even more expensive. It´s a s simple as that.” I can understand this to the fullest. So, any alternatives? Well, as it turns out, there are of course.

Not quite a dream boat, but most certainly cheap to purchase

Just some days later, I join my company to help get the boats out of winter storage and into the water, I spot another aluminium hull on the area next to our marina. A 34 foot hull. Hard-chined, very voluptuous, probably for sale (as it is parked there for years as well) and surely purchasable for a really low price, probably as low as 15 to 20.000 Euros. But apart from the fact that this hull is not a Berckemeyer nor a seemingly performance-oriented boat, all other points I talked about with Martin apply just as well to this hull as they did to the 39C German, except for the hydraulic keel. Not an option either, I would assume. And I remember very vividly my own experiences with building a boat, mounting to a “never again investing in a Black Hole like this!”-résumé.

Well, not really an alternative, I shall say

So, what to do? My tendency towards acquiring a much, much smaller boat is the right way to go. The old saying “Go small – go now!” is certainly true. Smaller budget means much smaller invest in the first place as well as much smaller maintenance and running costs-budget needed after purchase. Maybe I should force myself to give up the dreams of having an aluminium boat and return to the good old GRP-made boats which in turn are much more affordable. Besides, talking of bargain: Other than custom-made yachts these plastic boats could experience a price-drop because of the crisis, which applies at least for stock boats of the dealers. Thanks Martin, thanks Michael for your expertise but I think I will dive deeper now in the research to find a suitable, small, sexy, performance-oriented and affordable new GRP-boat. I do have some on my list …

Copyright all pictures of German 39C hull and TIN LIZZY sailing yacht by KM Yachtbuilders


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Looking for a new boat, part 1

3 Aluminium Yachts I´d like to buy

Steel is real: A Berckemeyer 36