In Focus: Refitting a £1 eBay Sunseeker

Is a Sunseeker for a pound a bargain? According to Kara Gladman, group marketing executive at Avon Marina and Hypro Marine, her boss, Steve Clarke (commercial director), thought so. He bought one from eBay in November 2023, sight unseen.

Hypro Marine is a designer and manufacturer of power-assisted steering systems and a sister company to Avon Marina, in the British county of Dorset. So it’s not like the skills aren’t there to undertake the project. The team previously renovated a Monza, which is now for sale (see video below). Gladman describes the site as a one-stop shop with an engine workshop and service centre. Refit and refurb is undertaken, and there’s a chandlery and cafe.

“Steve was literally browsing eBay and came across this Sunseeker and thought ‘if it’s on for a pound, I’ll place a bid’,” Gladman says. “It was spur of the moment. This isn’t entirely out of character, but it certainly wasn’t expected. Usually he buys the normal stuff, little trinkets, he’s never bought anything of this magnitude before. There was no thought to it whatsoever, we’d never even discussed getting a renovation project.”

Gladman calls the 1990s Thunder Hawk 43 (built to a very high spec when new) “a bit of a precarious finding”, but reports that work is underway to take it from an “absolutely disgusting” boat to one of beauty.

The Sunseeker, previously thought to have been called KayKay and/or Maldon, with the original cutlery still in the drawer of the galley, was collected from a boat graveyard near Gatwick Airport.

“It was foul,” Gladman says. “The man from the transport company said they had to wait to empty it because it was completely bogged down with water – flooded. It was completely filthy.”

But work has started to transform it back into its beauty days of the early 1990s.

“Once we polished it, it came up a treat, and it already looks better. We were a bit shocked because it was an off-putting find. It was absolutely disgusting. But now they’ve given the boat a bit of a clean and a polish, the colours are showing beautifully.”

Refit and refurb of Sunseeker bought for a pound

According to the refit and refurbishment department — that’s Pip (Philip) Riley and Dave Arnold — one of the main challenges will be keeping the project within a sensible budget. Splurging would be incredibly easy, they say. Then there are the technical challenges to overcome. Like repairing the windscreen, which is original. The frame is fine. However, the team describe the Perspex as ‘knackered’. They can’t buy a replacement as it’s 30 years old, so the windscreen frame has to survive because it’s impossible to replace (or very expensive).

Like Gladman, the refit team was relieved that under all of the dirt, grime and mould, the boat wasn’t as bad as they’d originally expected. Despite needing a lot of work done, they say it’s actually in quite good condition – jet washing the vessel really proved that.

The team’s only just started the project and consequently won’t be pinned down as to what’s saveable. But, they’re cautiously optimistic that some of the interior panel work may survive and that all the stainless steel fittings will survive. The ancillary mouldings (wet bar and stuff) will survive. Other items will be inspected and used if in a good and serviceable condition.

“It’s great to be involved in an early classic Sunseeker restoration, and we hope that Robert Braithwaite would have been impressed and proud of our endeavour,” says Riley. He used to work closely with Braithwaite (one of the founders of Sunseeker International, who died in 2019).

Restoration of end-of-life boats

“It’s good to see a boat yard taking the opportunity to save a boat that might be destined for scrap,” says Luke Edney, communications manager at Boatbreakers. “It’s probably easier for a yard to take on this kind of challenge instead of an individual. Mainly because the yard technically can give itself storage space for free and their team are experienced marina professionals.

“An individual would instantly have the sand timer of storage fees putting pressure on their new project. Anyone who takes on such a project has our respect, but always make sure you have the budget and time free to cover the work and storage. Because ultimately, it could cost a lot more than a pound to scrap if you give up on it.”

Gladman says that there are months and months of work to go.

“With all the bits and pieces we’ve done to get it to a bare shell, we’ve done a few days work, if that. We’re looking to complete the project potentially by the end of this year, it may be 2025. There is a view to potentially selling it. We’d love to crack on and do it, but at the same time, we are running a boat yard, and we’ve got a lot of other work to do.”

The Sunseeker is yet to receive its new name. “We’re waiting for its personality to shine through.”

“Over the years, we have scrapped a number of Sunseekers, but these are usually the earlier models,” says Edney. He believes finding a more modern Sunseeker for such a bargain is a good find. “We’ve seen some really nice boats change hands for as little as a pound. We see thousands of lonely boats sat in yards across the country. It’s an even split between motorboats and yachts. With an old motorboat you always get the feeling it was a boat show impulse buy from way back when, which probably wasn’t ever used as much as it should before becoming a fixture at the back of a yard.”

Sunseeker has been asked to comment about its current end-of-life policy for boats.

Read more about end of life vessels.

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