Picture of Buying a boat online: Adventures of Lil Putt Restoration

Step 1: Lesson 1: Too Good to be True?

Picture of Lesson 1: Too Good to be True?
A friend of mine found this boat online for $1500, so we went to have a look.  Initially, it was going to be a flip, but upon laying eyes on her, all entrepreneurial ideas went out the window.  My girlfriend and I fell in love with her and after some discussion about her present condition, purchased her on the spot for $1200.   The previous owner, Frank, stated that the 'Vessel ran great before he replaced the injectors'.  At the time, reality was no where to be found as our minds were envisioning hours of pleasure cruising up and down the Gulf Islands.  In hindsight, the appropriate question to ask should have been, "if the engine ran so great, why replace the injectors?"  But alas this was not to be, so we gave him a wad of cash,  hooked her up to the truck, and took her to her new home.  Remember, always find out all you can about the boat BEFORE you buy it!!

The vessel's name is 'Lil Putt' and was built on Vancouver Island.  There were 5 similar vessels built but I have only managed to track down 2 that are still operational. She is 14ft long, has a Volvo Penta MD4b Diesel Engine, and was built in the early 60's across from Mill Bay in a fellow's garage. 
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stormy03144 years ago
I love this, but... It is a wonder you were able to get any help at all serving that kind of beer. Shudder, shudder.

This is just the type of boat I would like to have. What was your total cost to get her in the water? What did you have to do to the engine? Really nice boat. Thanks for the 'ible.
i don't know if its that bad i get bought off with pbr for everything from engine work to installing radio gear

I didn't know they still made that stuff!! I used to use that to bribe the kids with! LOL got a lot of work done that way. Personally, I think PBR is some nasty stuff, but if you're happy with it, then so be it.

I love that boat BTW, just the kind I would like to have. 8=D
PBR gave me my worst hangovers in all my years. And, station420 being from Canada has some of the best beers in the world close at hand.
station420 (author)  stormy03144 years ago
Not sure of the exact total, perhaps $1600 including paint, electrical wiring components, and the motor. Plus transportation costs to get her on the ferry ($100). Basically we took a whole bunch of parts from the 2nd engine and installed them on the first, mainly all the gears and the fuel pump and a couple other parts that we in poor condition.
This is a really nice boat. I have built and repaired a total of three boats from 12 to 20 feet. I think a little light weight portable cabin end to catch heat from an aftermarket heater would make this boat just about ideal. You could fish and travel in comfort in winter. Are you from Canada?
SIRJAMES094 years ago
sounds like somebody had a lot of fun....BEFORE it made it to the water. LOL

Wish I was so lucky to get a boat like that....but I'd want one that's a wee bit bigger so I had some place to live besides this suburban apartment....I hate city life.

I wish you & the family the best with your new toy! LOL
dla8884 years ago
A color depth sounder from the dump???!!! I need to start visiting my local dump!
bpfh dla8884 years ago
My thoughts exactly :)
nasd94 years ago
I have an rc boat that kinda looks like that
JCoffey4 years ago
May I ask what style of boat thats called? I would LOVE to have a small vessel just like that one!
station420 (author)  JCoffey4 years ago
Not too sure! Haven't seen any others like it.
cbjjbc4 years ago
Your instructable is the only one I've commented on. Some one's prayers where
answered. Good luck.
juicymoose4 years ago
wish i had one like it but im 3.5 hours away from the nearest lake or the sea grrrrrr. anyway fab boat
I love your boat! Whats the cruise speed?
station420 (author)  SpecializedRabbit4 years ago
about 6 knots with a clean bottom
I always make a point of keeping my bottom clean...
good man.
One of my favorite Instructibles.

I'd like to build a battery-op toy version for my website...
station420 (author)  playfulplans4 years ago
let me know when you do!
SinAmos4 years ago
'Vessel ran great before he replaced the injectors' - so, what was the problem, if there was one?
station420 (author)  SinAmos4 years ago
Some of the teeth on the gears had broken off and locked the gears so she wouldn't turn.
Ty for answering and sharing. Take care.
lucek4 years ago
"Convert Diesel to Bio Diesel (idea from Tbonestone instructables member)"
I know you probably already know this but be ready to replace or clean everything that can get clogged. An old fuel tank will have a ton of crud on it. The kind of crud that biodiesel is a perfect solvent for.

That said it's a nice little vessel. Hope she lasts you many a good year.
kought4 years ago
Awesome project, those little old diesels will literally go forever. Most diesels will, especially a Volvo. Running biodiesel is probably the best thing you can do for it too, it's basically like 2-stroke mix, the bio is super lubricating (compared to diesel) and will make your cylinders and pistons last for forever x2. Sweet boat too, I dig it.

Hard to find small boats with Diesels, The MD5 is a
Tough little Diesel.
Working with a Charity I have come across a few donations that where.....Donated.... Now I am working on Selling
2 Lifeboats for them, With an Instructable on how (or not) to
do it
station420 (author)  sodiumcanine4 years ago
cool lifeboats, where are they at and how much?
They are Lying Wilmington,Cali

30 ft Loa 10ft Beam

7500lbs Left one, 2 Cyl Lister Aircooled Diesel

6000lbs Right one, Oars, and Manual push pull

Heavy Fiberglass, Sink-resistant,Stable.

Could be Converted into Houseboat,Sailboat,HotTub,Pool,Planter Or?................
Reasonable Offer.
Historical Note: Pembina WasOllie North's Iran Contra Ship.

TX, MikeMcV
I am sitting here in my living room about 9:00 at night yelling "oooh" "OUCH" "AAHHH" as I click through each picture. I have so many painful lessons learned this way it is hard to count.

I have some cold beverages over here if you want to help me pull a block out of an old VW.....it shouldn't take long at all. ;-)
station420 (author)  mattbesquare4 years ago
I'll be over in 5
certos4 years ago
man I would LOVE a project like this. I wish I could find a boat in Ontario to work on.
Perhaps we should ask the company who made the blue bumper to take a look at your rockin' Instructable and hope that they will donate a set of brand new ones for the upcoming season. West Marine also has contests :0)
station420 (author)  porcupinemamma4 years ago
Which company are you refering too?
lol ;0) The company who made the blue bumpers on your cool boat. My husband has blue bumpers for his boat. They look quite spiffy ;0)
bpfh4 years ago
So what was the main problem with the engine in the end (or did I miss somthing?)

If you are concerned with fuel economy, you may be interested in attempting to add an air swirler (like a fan but flxed so the air is whirled around it) just before the air intake into the injection chamber:
Modern diesels are designed so this happens as standard (it breaks up the injected diesel spray into smaller droplets and you get more bang for your buck).
Biodiesel is a good idea, as mentionned above, but you could also add cooking oil to the fuel (just filter any food lumps out of it!!). You could probably run it on pure cooking oil (I love the older diesel engines, you can do a lot of DIY with them!), but you may need to add a tad of white spirit to fluidify the oil, but if you are not using a lot of fuel, mix with diesel and you are good to go...


awesome.just awesome.

That little thing can tow a 20 ton sailboat?

where did you find the ad for the sale?
mcgary9114 years ago
I think you could have titled this one "How NOT to go about Buying a Boat Online".

Ideally, you'd want to have the vessel surveyed by a qualified marine surveyor. In the US, the 2 main surveyor societies are SAMS and NAMS.



If you're looking to get your boat insured at a later date, the insurer will likely insist the vessel is surveyed.

Even if you don't go the survey route, insist on a sea trial, or at least make sure you see\hear the motor run. IF you know you're buying a non-runner, guess this wouldn't matter as much. Also test all the systems and controls. Check for rot and water damage as well. You can find rot by lightly tapping on the hull with a non marring hammer.

All of these things will let you know whether you're buying a runner, or a project that may be beyond your financial or mechanical capabilities.

Thankfully, you seem to be pretty handy, and had the support of some helpful friends. Most importantly, you're now enjoying your boat. Heck, it even looked like you and your friends had tons of fun getting her sea worthy.

I'd suggest not skimping on the safety stuff. If you broke a running light, fix it asap. It's a quick, easy and essential fix. Make sure you carry things like flares and the proper lines. Find some new lifejackets on sale. Something that floated in may not be the best route there.

You didn't mention it, but make sure you have a working bilge pump. Your worst day boating will be showing up at the dock on a nice day only to find your Putt on the bottom. Another thing that can fail on an older boat, is the stuffing box. New packing is pretty cheap (it's basically waxy rope), and you can repack your stuffing box in less than an hour. Great insurance.

Make sure your sacrificial anodes are in good order (zinc or aluminum, depending on salt or fresh water). They'll save the metal bits all over your boat.

Wow. Guess this is a long reply, but just want to share a few thing I've learned during years of boating.

That thing sips diesel, you'll really appreciate that with the price of fuel these days.

Enjoy your boat.......sounds like you have that part nailed already. ;)

agreed. Instructable projects tend to be a bit more on the "flight of fantasy" side. I was horrified when they stated the life jackets used were found floating in on the tide. That water is cold and you wouldn't last long treading water.
menahunie4 years ago
Cool; but if your going to keep the boat and it looks like it I would consider looking around for an outboard to hang off the back for backup engine; just in case..
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