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Boats and RVs, a Commentary.

In the fall of 2013, we purchased a slightly used 2011 Four Winds Z28 Class-C motorhome. Slightly used means 5,800 miles - which means the RV looked new to us. Records also indicate the motorhome was purchased in the spring 2011 time frame, which means the rig is less than 3yrs old. While we did camp a lot when we had kids at home, we are retired now, and have not done any camping in ages.

So what brought us to this activity? We have been big-time boaters for the last 20 years, pretty much since our boys were teenagers, and especially after they became adults and went out on their own.

In all of this time, we owned 6 boats, with the last boat a Carver 325 Motoryacht. At 32ft, the boat was large enough that we permanently had a boat slip in Grand Haven, Michigan - a coastal town on Lake Michigan. And we stored the boat there in the winter as well since I did not have a semi-tractor/trailer to tow it.

We basically used that boat as a summer home during our early retirement years... that is, until it was damaged in a building fire while in winter storage. Seems another boat owner was working on his boat and somehow managed to blow up his boat and set fire to the building, damaging some 80 boats and tens of millions of dollars in damage.

As an outcome of that fire, our boat was totaled. So after 20 years of boating, we decided a change of pace was in order, so we bought our first Class C motorhome. Over the years, I did many improvement projects on that boat, and even published several articles in two boat magazines detailing some of those projects. I also have a boat project website (WWW.Boat-Project.Com) with over 100 projects. In a similar fashion, I intend on doing a few RV projects.

While I am rather new at RV projects, there are a lot of similarties between boats and RVs, and they often use many of the same parts. True, there are some differences, such as Air Conditioners, Generators, and Refrigerators, but with my base knowledge in boats, I should be able to do the projects I feel necessary on my RV without much difficulty.

When comparing boats to RVs, my first impression is that RVs tend to be built a bit more sloppy than boats. This may be partly due to USCG regulations (Federal Law) covering boat construction and building methods. Afterall, a boat fire 10 miles from shore is potentially a lot more dangerous than a RV fire at the local campground. Still, is it necessary to build RVs as cheaply as it can be done?

This comment is not intended to disrespect RVs... but let's just say there is a lot of room for improvement. Like boats, I suspect different RV manufacturers have different degrees of competency, and after visiting factory operations of both boats and RVs, I can say this is true to some degree (I live 100 miles from the South Bend, Indiana area). For example, one trailer manufacturer I saw uses Duct Tape to isolate Steel from aluminum frame members. This high-tech solution will probably prevent corrosion at least until the trailer is driven off the factory floor.

Still, a new 30ft Class-C RV can be bought for under $70k, while a 30ft cruiser is going to cost around $250K. So I guess you get what you pay for.

Even though you may not think there is much I can do project-wise on a relatively new RV, I have found about 10 projects so far to "fix" things that were as likely factory defects as from the previous owner. With less than 6,000 miles on the RV, I doubt the previous owner used it much, and there is little evidence he did any "improvements". Defects, such as crooked light fixtures, popped out Formica on the dining table, and the lack of sewed corners in the upholstery seems to be evidence of factory defects rather than from a previous owner.

And the RV's wiring is particularly a mess, literally a rat's nest. This would never be acceptable in a boat (again due to USCG regulations), as not only does stranded wiring have to be used, but twist-on connectors are illegal, and especially - all wiring needs to be supported along wiring trays and bulkheads.

In my RV at least, the wiring seems awfully haphazard. One project therefore is to completely support all of the wiring wherever possible.


RV wiring example.
  
Boat wiring materials and practices have minimum standards (USCG regulations) due to vibrations present in a boat. These vibrations can stress and break wiring, especially at the connections.

I cannot believe that RVs present less of a vibration issue to wiring as you are lumbering down the highway - but as I said before, a fire on a RV at a campground may not be as dangerous as a fire on a boat at sea.


Boat wiring example.

In addition to fixing what needs fixin', we're also looking to upgrade a few things such as LED interior lighting, a RV friendly GPS system in the cab, adding a DVD player, and so on. The intent of this website is to chronicle the improvements that we will be making over the next couple of years, so you may wish to visit a few times over the coming months and see how we are doing.

We live in Michigan, so we don't have a full 12 month season for this kind of thing. However, we plan on vacationing in Florida or other areas where it is warm in future winters. This does present a few challenges for planning and completing the various projects. However, I did this exact same thing with our boat as it was located 100 miles from home, so I had to figure out the logistics of doing the projects on-site. It can be done, it just takes a bit of planning.

So in our retirement years, we are looking forward to RVing around the country and seeing new places.

Happy RVing;

Al