Black Fin in the Rough

Neglected boats seem to find me. People call to see if I’m interested in buying or can help to resurrect old wrecks. I try to give advice or direct them to the help they need.  So it wasn’t a big surprise to get a call from a friend a couple of weeks ago.

Black Fin 32

They had to use a chainsaw to cut away the woods growing over this boat, just to get onboard and start the process of evaluating what they had.

“Know anyone interested in a 32-foot Black Fin Sportfish?” asks my buddy Bucky, “I know a guy whose brother died and he’s stuck trying to get rid of his old boat to settle the estate.”

No one I’m familiar with is looking to buy right now, especially for that size boat, but I’m curious enough to ask a few questions. What year is it, what’s it got for engines, how long has it been sitting, was it winterized when it was put away, does he have a title, and how much?

Bucky couldn’t answer any of the questions up front so we take a trip to see the boat. It is sitting uncovered in a yard, under a tree, of course. It is filthy, covered in dirt and green mold. The blocking under the keel is crumbling and the boat is hanging on the jackstands. We meet the new owner, Bob, a retiree, and get the particulars.

The cabin is wide open and filled with trash like someone was using the boat as a clubhouse for drinking parties—it has a lot of mold on every surface. A quick look at the head and I’m ready to gag.  All the seat cushions on the fly bridge and bolsters in the cockpit are ruined. The engine hour meter reads 704. I open the engine boxes to look at the engines—the rust, corrosion, cracked hoses, and mice nests date the neglect.  I don’t bother to tap the hull or survey further but climb down to talk with the owner.

black fin cockpit

the cockpit covered in dirt, mold, and mildew

He’s pretty sure that he can pay someone to clean it up for only a $100 and get the engines started himself—thinks his brother paid 100K for the boat, but doesn’t want to put any time or money into the boat. Asks me if I want to take it off his hands, as is, for that much, and I laugh!

“I’m sure your brother paid good money for the boat, these were great boats in their day,” I say, “but boats don’t appreciate, they depreciate and ones in this condition without any usable equipment, won’t find much interest in this tough market unless you are willing to sell very low.” I start to silently estimate the costs of restoring the boat to serviceable condition in my head and tell the owner I need to do some research before saying anymore. I can tell from his attitude however that he is overvaluing the boat and underestimating the rehab work and costs significantly. On the ride home I talk to my buddy Bucky about the owner’s unrealistic expectations.

black fin stern

The teak swim platform not withstanding, the name of this boat may be prophetic.

I get home and call a broker friend of mine who looks up some recently sold boats of the same vintage and configuration, but also in great condition.  To my surprise, they sold in the 50k range and the same boat with gas engines sold for 30K. Next I call a certified Caterpillar mechanic who worked for me some years back to ask what it would cost to get the engines going and give me an honest assessment of their condition. Armed with this estimate of $9-20k per engine I start to guess at the countless hours of rehab and think about all the other things likely to need replacing, like a new head and plumbing, just to take it back to good, let alone great condition.

catepillar 3208

twin diesel cat 3208s

The engines in this boat are the big unknown and the big risk. If you could bar them over and prove they aren’t frozen, then start them from an alternative fuel source (the fuel tanks on this boat should be emptied and inspected), then you could assess the engines’ conditions. My mechanic contact suggested it could hypothetically be as much as $23-25k per engine for a complete overhaul, eating up the potential $50k value of the boat.

With the owner still thinking he could clean this up for a few hundred bucks, add a new battery to fire those low hour engines, and be tuna fishing tomorrow, I don’t see a way forward. My own estimate is that anybody buying this boat would have to invest $20k at minimum above the purchase price even if they did their own work. And they’d be taking on a big risk of finding other problems once they got the engines running. So this Black Fin may remain a diamond in the rough, until the current owner is either willing to invest time and money to prove the value himself, or lowers the price enough to make the risk/reward worth the effort.

It may be a diamond, but right now it looks more like coal.



  1. R.T.OLDENBURG says:


    • James Gram says:

      Boy are you full of your self and full of BS. You realy don’t know what the hell your talking about when it come to boats that have been setting around. Specially a BlackFin. A boat that is one of the best built to hit the water in long time. Caterpiller 3208′ are work a hores type engine and the cost to get one up and running can be done for couple hunder a side not $9000. If they are in need of work you can buy a complet eng for alot less than you are spouting off about. I have been doing salvage boats for over 20 yrs and this 32′ BlackFin could be up and in the water and running for $10,000 or less if engines can be turned over. Get over your self.

      • Peter d'Anjou says:

        Dear Mr.. Gram

        I like these boats too and as I told the owner, they were great boats in their day, which is why I even bothered to go see it. My BS aside, the issue with this boat came down to the cost to bring it back versus what the owner was asking and whether it was worth the risk. For help, I asked some experts I knew in the industry–certified cat trained mechanics at Windward Power. If you think you can restore it for short money and make a profit , I’d be happy to put you directly in touch with the owner–he’s anxious to sell. In the meantime I’d suggest you talk to the owner at windward power, Nathan Tynan via and get his take. Remember, he has not seen the boat either and was speculating from afar. We’d all like to see old boats float again at a reasonable price..

  2. Let the current owner scrub for a while……!!!!
    At best this thing will go for a couple thousand dollars , if he’s lucky.
    Those engines are not goin to purrrrrr.
    Nobody in their right mind would trust them to.
    So there you re-build them for how many thousand???15-20k each?
    right there its not worth it.

    I’m looking for a 30′ + vessel right now, in the 40K range…
    There are alot of boats out there in mint condition, ready to fish at that price.
    Why be stuck with two re-built engines, that might not even float.

    Realistically take this to the landfill and junk it…..
    It’ll cost the owner a thousand or two to tow it away after a wasted saturday of scrubbing!

  3. Don Kerley says:

    Happens entirely too often. What a shame. It might lose money at free.

  4. Its to bad, seems like a nice boat, but the owner is willing to loose it due to his greed, He is definatly not a boater or he would want to see it restored and fishing. Just like the rest of the ones sitting there roting away.

  5. tkish kape says:

    I would come and haul it away for FREE if it’s not too far to haul it.

  6. henry fulton says:

    sir, what does the owner expecting real dollars?
    is there easy trailer access to load out the boat?
    any help or lifting equip available to load
    is boat documented or what type of titlen will be tendered??


    • Peter d'Anjou says:


      I believe the owner is seeking in the 20 to 30k range and 30k is his belief of what the boat is currently worth. Access to the boat with a hydraulic boat trailer is straight forward. I did not see the title but I would expect one if I were buying this boat.

      Regards, Peter

  7. Capt Bill says:

    What part of the country is this located? Is it available still?

    Knowing of ALL the boats available to buy, of all sizes and condition, and a very limited number of buyers, there is negative market for this boat.

    Either the present owner wants to invest for his own use only, or give it away.

    That is reality.

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