Rebuilding a Cape Dory 36

Published on October 31st, 2022

The fiberglass era of boat building has led to a significant inventory of used keelboats, providing an affordable option for boat ownership. While there are still plenty of costs with owning a boat, this report by John Stone for Practical Sailors offers how to take the plunge:


This is Part 1 in a multi-part series detailing the rebuilding of our then 35 year old Cape Dory 36 sailboat. The purpose of this series is not to provide step-by-step instructions, but rather provide useful insights and general knowledge should the reader want to undertake a similar project.

My choices and methodology reflect my experience, philosophy, and vision. While there is more than one way to accomplish such an extensive project, our approach worked well for us and the result exceeded our expectations. I had no previous boat building or woodworking experience. While it is undeniably true most boat rebuilds are not successfully completed, there are steps you can take to put the odds in your favor. Part I describes what might be called “best practices” to ensure the rebuild has the highest chance for a successful outcome. It covers important topics that framed our project from beginning to end.

Let’s address up-front the biggest criticisms I hear from the naysayers about boat rebuilds. “It will take you longer than you think; it’s cheaper to buy a boat ready to go than rebuild one; and my favorite—you will fail because it’s harder than you think and your boat will be relegated to the boatyard of broken dreams.” All three statements are true…for “some people.”

My observation is those who vociferously oppose the idea failed in their own attempt. But, for me, and many others, a rebuild was the only affordable way to get the boat I wanted. Starting with the right boat, establishing a budget you can afford, showing restraint in outfitting her, and remaining committed to the end will get you across the finish line. – Full report

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