• Alex Rathbun

How we renovated our 1971 sailboat (before/after)


After buying our boat, we quickly realized there are two types of boat owners: 1. The type with money who pays for any repairs or renovations they need 2. The type that cannot afford to throw endless money at a hobby and likes to get their hands dirty and DIY everything.

As I'm sure you can guess, we fall into the second category.


Being a designer who has never owned more than the furniture inside our apartment, I couldn't WAIT to get started on completely redecorating the cabin (the interior) and cleaning up the deck and cockpit (the exterior). We bought the boat at the end of the winter, so we spent the next few months fixing it up before it was scheduled to go into the water for the summer. Eric replaced the head (toilet), much of the electrical wiring, installed solar panels, resealed a crack in the the keel, fixed a few leaks on the deck, and more.


We cleaned the cushions in our bath tub and dried them in our living room... not a process I would wish to repeat. We also learned to sew so we could reupholster the cushions:


We bleached the whole cabin to get rid of the mold and must. I sanded and stained all the wood, painted the walls, and painted a faux marble onto the tabletop and countertops:


Meanwhile, Lincoln napped:



It was a lot of work, especially with a baby, but we are so happy and proud of how the boat turned out!


Here are the before/after photos! Unfortunately the only before photos I took were before we removed all of the previous owners' belongings from inside the cabin, but I think you can get the general idea. Click the arrow on the photo to see the "before" on each picture.










We changed the water line strip to be this pretty teal color, an upgrade from black. Also, every year or two, boats need their hull (the bottom) to be repainted. Antifouling paint is used to keep away unwanted growth. It works by slowly releasing copper while the boat is in the water, which in my opinion, makes for a really nice metallic paint color:


I created a logo for the Grey Heron and painted it on one side of the boat. I got too tired and worried I wouldn't be able to replicate it on the second side... maybe next year?


Boats are basically money suckers, we are not expecting the renovations we did to add any monetary value should we chose to resell her. But, we have, already in one season, thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of having a clean and pretty boat to sail and to have as our second little home on the water. Now Grey is back on land, and we are already scheming how we want to update her for next summer!


I hope you enjoyed this post, I had a lot of fun sharing this with you. Comment below to tell me what your favorite update we made was!

Brightly Alex