Before and After: Renovating A Boat on a Budget

You know that girl in 8th grade who everyone ignored, and then you all leave for the summer only to find out that she blossomed and came back to high school a STUNNER. Yeah, that girl is my boat, and she just got her braces off!

When I first started looking to purchase a boat, I knew that I was going to have to buy a fixer-upper, considering I wanted to stick to a very low budget. The boat I am currently living on had been located at the same marina for a few years, was sailed regularly, and it’s maintenance kept up with. That being said, the inside of the boat left something to be desired. In fact, I didn’t even tell my parents about it until I was almost completely done renovating out of fear of giving them heart attacks with the before snapshots. It was small, dark, and definitely had that boat smell. (For those of you who have never lived on a boat, it’s not “sea mist”, contrary to what Yankee Candle’s marketing team might have you believe.)


Some people will tell you that it’s a sin to paint the wood on a boat, or that it’s bad juju to rename a vessel. Those are the same people who forward the “Share this goat picture in the next five minutes or you will have bad luck” social media posts….So just do your thang. Paint, rename, make it your own space. After all, you’re the one who has to inhabit the boat. And I’m fairly confident that if you’re the type of person who has decided to make this transition in the first place, you probably don’t care all that much about what other people say!

As you know, I had never purchased a boat before. What you probably didn’t know was that I had also never done any sort of real renovation besides a simple coat of paint here and there. Even then, I HATE TAPING. I don’t know what it is, but it took everything in my being to tape up this boat before I started. That being said, a coat of paint is such a cheap and easy way to quickly transform a space. My Hunter sailboat clearly had not been updated since it was brought into this beautiful world in 1974. I don’t think it had been cleaned either, but that’s another story.

Some items on the agenda this summer included: re-painting the entire boat from top to bottom, refinishing and sealing the floors, installing air-conditioning, repurposing the couch cushions with new fabric, switching out light fixtures, updating the cabinets in the galley, installing a new sink, and removing the fold-out table from the wall. *deep breath*

I had no idea where to start. So I grabbed a paintbrush, and before I knew it, I was spending every weekend for the better part of three months in a hot boat that was slowly starting to come to life. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t start with the air-conditioning. I don’t have an intelligent answer.)

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Taking on this project was a massive learning curve, but I knew it could be done. The number one lesson I learned throughout the entire process was that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING you set your mind to. The second most important lesson I learned is that when you can’t do anything you set your mind to (lol), you can pay someone else to do it. Just kidding…sort of.

But for real, get your hands dirty and learn new skills! If it’s something that when messed up won’t damage the structure of the boat, give it a shot, but also know when to call in a little help from friends and marina neighbors. It’s easy to stick to a budget if you utilize the people around you.

The thing about living on a boat, is that everything is much smaller, making renovations far less complicated. I had two small light fixtures to change out, and the sink was easily removed, cleaned and refinished. The cabinets were painted a light green/turquoise to brighten up the space and add a pop of color.

I forced my friends to get $2 Ikea breakfasts with me (try it) and scour the store for the perfect accessories to maximize space in my new floating home, making sure to install a decent amount of shelving and hooks to take advantage of previously unused wall space. Finally, once my bigger renovations were complete, I added pillows, comfortable rugs, and blankets, bringing to life my own little oasis on the sea.





I am still in the process of finishing up some renovations, but be sure to check back for picture updates!





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