Introduction: Buying a Boat Online: Adventures of Lil Putt Restoration

Step 1: 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. 

Step 2: Lesson 2: Diagnosing the Isses... the Fun Begins

When we returned home, we launched her in the water, got out the tools, and began the battle.  After hooking up a battery, putting some diesel in the tank, and checking the oil, it was go time... or not.  While we knew she wasn't operating properly, our first thoughts were she just needed a little TLC and we'd be off and running... putting rather.  While Frank couldn't say exactly what the issue was, he was kind enough to leave sticky notes all over the vessel to identify fuel shut off valves, master switches, and odds and ends that might come in useful... if she ever started.

She sounded as if she just might turn over, laboured as it was, hope was in sight... until she preasure locked... or so we thought.  Hand cranking it seemed to unlock the little Volvo and we employed this method multiple times until the hand crank joint snapped off.  We still had the battery so for the next two days we tweaked everything from the timing of the fuel pump to the alternator but it was a no go.  She just wouldn't start, and then she locked up completely. 

Faced with the reality of this situation (ie.  We wouldn't be sipping cocktails Putting through the Gulf Islands anytime soon), it was time to pull out the Volvo and identify the issues... we still had no idea what was wrong. 

Step 3: Lesson 3: Have Lots of Friends

When buying a used boat, it is important to have lots of friends to help with towing, lifting, troubleshooting, and sharing a case of Lucky Beer when you just can't figure out what the hell is wrong.

On a sunny spring afternoon, we finally lifted all 400 pounds of the 'little' Volvo Penta onto the dock and loaded her up.  Again, the key point in this lesson is friends and beer... (lots of both).

Step 4: Lesson 4: Be Prepared to Be Frustrated

Step 5: Lesson 5: Carefully Examine the Vessel Before Operating

We were now ready to fire her up... but we couldn't seem to find neutral on the stick. While playing around with the 'gear stick', another friend, standing behind the vessel on the dock, and having the sun light shine down at just the right angle, discovered that the blades of the prop rotate as we move the stick up and down. Eureka! We have a feathering prop, what luck!

VOLVO Penta MD5 Marine Diesel

Side note on the feathering prop:  One can come into the marina at full speed, drop the feathering prop into reverse, spin Lil Putt on a dime and dock her like Capain Ron.  For more information on this very appropriate and acceptable manouver, please see below!

Step 6: Lesson 6: You Don't Need Alot of Money

Being on a shoe string budget, it was time to clean her up and add a few gadgets:

- Old Color Depth Sounder (found at the local dump)
- Old VHF radio and antenna (traded to Grant for other old electrical equipment)
- Salvaged Fenders and life jackets (floated in on the tide)
- Flood lights, electrical panel, wiring bits and pieces (discount bin at the local Marine supply store)
- Paint (some donated, others not so cheap)
- Battery Charging regulator (not so cheap at all, but somewhat mission critical)
- Salvaged paddles (came in handy too many times before battery charger installed)
- Salvaged Captain's Chair

Here's a few links to some boat wiring diagram:

With a fresh coat of paint and all electronics installed it was time for Sea Trials:

Step 7: Lesson 7: Enjoying the Finished Project

After all the effort, Lil Putt was a sucess!  Since the restoration, she has been put to work as a towing vessel, salvage vessel, delivery vessel, and pleasure vessel.

While the diesel tank is only 70 litres, I can honestly say that this is enough to run her for weeks.  We had a great summer Putting all up and down the Islands and in hind sight couldn't have had a better project.  Of course non of this would have been possible if it wasn't for Dan, Hal, Mr. Futs, and countless others who contributed knowledge, parts, and labour along the way.  THANKS!

As for spring 2011, a new list of repairs grows in the back of my mind,
- Replace running light that got ripped off towing a 20 ton sailboat
- Repair hull scuffs acquired practising Captain Ron Manouvers
- Install air intake pipe through roof to reduce noise
- New Casing gasket to prevent diesel fumes from filling cabin
- Install towing cleat so Dan doesn't have to sweat so much
- New bottom paint
- Convert Diesel to Bio Diesel (idea from Tbonestone  instructables member)

Until the spring... and perhaps another project vessel.