How I bought and refurbished a 1960s Baglietto Elba.

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M/Y ELBA Class (12 m).
M/Y ELBA Class (12 m).

Buying a new 11-meter cabin boat is a major expense. Better to go second-hand. All boats are not equally beautiful, that much is clear. The wooden ones, however, have something special. This is especially true if the name of the shipyard is Baglietto. Today Fabio Ratti, who reads, writes, but mostly sails about boats, tells us how (as a sailor) he converted to motoring by buying an abandoned Baglietto Elba to refurbish it. How did he do it? How much did you spend? It is all in his narrative. Happy reading!


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My first motor boat: a ’61 Baglietto Elba

As a vintage sailor, owner of a 1960s boat much younger than me, I have well learned to choose my course depending on the weather forecast. So when my very personal weather prompted me to switch to a motor, I set out in search of a good used one on 12 meters, with a minimum of habitability, fast, but without overdoing it. Modern, I said to myself. The experience of an old boat, for better or worse, I have already had.

The Baglietto Elba of the article being transferred
The Baglietto Elba of the article being transferred

The budget

To the budget of 150,000 I would even be willing to add to it, but the many boats to choose from all look the same to me. Some are perfect, for goodness sake, but without that spark that makes you go crazy (because that’s what it is).

Wheelhouse of the Baglietto Elba

I realize that I am ready to switch from sailing to motor, but not to give up the allure of a beautiful boat.

I type “vintage” into Google: …

“…something that is at least 20 years old, which has become a cult favorite because it is of such high quality or because it has made such a mark on custom that it is still considered valuable.”

Here it is, my boat. I am well aware of what is in store for me, the final price will be a multiple of the purchase price, and there will be at least two years of work on top of the boat. However, even from an economic point of view, as you will see, it can be a bargain. Then you throw in chance.

How I found the Baglietto Elba

A friend, Stefano Faggioni, a famous naval architect who specializes in restorations, points out to me a boat, which the President of a distinguished Foundation does not want to be lost and therefore would like it to be taken over by a prestigious Yacht Club. Which is my own and rejecting the offer. But I don’t.

Interior of Elba

So here I am in Santo Stefano, Argentario, in front of a
Baglietto Elba
that has been stationary for a few years. Pietro Baglietto, a genius forerunner of the times, decided to follow the example of
Carlo Riva
, who went to America to see how Chris Craft could produce and sell so many boats. But he had a bigger boat in mind: “a cabin cruiser inspired by campers, with interiors of that style and quality,” as he puts it. Thus was born the Elba in 1958, Italy’s first production motoryacht.

In less than 12 meters it has a separate crew cabin complete with a toilet (a locum, but sailors back then adapted), galley, bathroom, convertible dinette and forward cabin that closes with a sliding door. Perfect. I go to see her with Nino Aprea of Antico Cantiere del Legno, which-among many others-has already restored two Baglietto Ischia boats: he reassures me, the boat is sound.

The purchase price is symbolic. Transfer of ownership, some work, new batteries, … in short, with 30,000 euros I’m at sea. The 1961 Baglietto Elba No. 29 (out of 42 built in 5 years) is mine, or rather ours: in the meantime, a dear friend became enthusiastic about the idea and joined the company.

I turn the key and with my brother, Andrea (Ratti ed.) – better to have a former powerboat champion on board because you never know – and a bit of recklessness, we fill up and then head for Naples. A halfway stop and the next day we are in Procida, where another fill-up certifies our consumption of 43 liters per hour at an average of 18 knots. The maximum speed, with flat seas, was 24 knots.

Wheelhouse with digital and analog instrumentation

After a week of rehearsals, we are on site at Aprea’s, for a job I decide to split into two years: first security, then we’ll make ourselves pretty.

How much does it cost to fix up a Baglietto Elba

Engines

The Elba mounts two 195hp GM 6-V-53, indestructible engines mounted on American tanks even before boats. Once they start they never stop, they tell me, and indeed in the transfer they were running like clockwork, albeit noisy. I decide to land them anyway, along with the tanks, to thoroughly check the bottom, sea intakes, pumps, and paint the bilge. And once disassembled, it’s worth changing anything that can break: $4,000 worth of pipes, fittings, gaskets and more that come from Florida thanks to the very efficient Diesel Pro Power.

Engines rebuilt and assembled

Electricity and electronics

I rely on an experienced friend, Mauro Tosolini, who restores the windshield wiper motors, the windlass, even fixes the old VHF, but above all brilliantly solves the instrument problem. The original ones are nice, but it costs a fortune to overhaul them; however, a tachometer is a bit of a baller, and there are no alarms, while the parameters of two engines that are half a century old need to be kept under close control.

The new plotter

Mauro discovers on the Internet an analog-to-digital conversion unit that suits our purpose. We mount new sensors in addition to the existing mechanical ones, to keep the analog reading on the original instruments, while adding a dedicated digital data plotter. Transfer of 900 euros and the EMU-1-BAS Monitoring Unit arrives with accessories to interface it to the PC and NMEA 2000 network.

Mauro takes a couple of nights to learn how to converse with it, assembles everything, and everything works perfectly. Caught up in the excitement, we also add sensors for water and fuel tank levels (first measured empirically with a small tube using the law of communicating vessels).

Construction site

We did a meticulous inspection of the living work, painted the bilge, replaced the solid mahogany frames of the deckhouse windows, rebuilt the sunroof hatch, and restored and repainted all the deteriorated wooden parts. Including dismantling and reassembling the engines, plus cleaning and repainting the tanks, the bill is 15,000 euros. For the beauty work still in progress, polishing the steels, painting the hull, deckhouse and deck, we will spend as much this year.

Is it worth buying a used boat?

 

In total it is 80,000 euros; is the boat worth it? I don’t see what equivalent could be bought with this amount. Of course, there is the maintenance issue, but I did the math: I will spend about 5,000 more per year than an equal-sized fiber. Even adding some extraordinary interventions seems absolutely worth it to me.

Besides, do you want to put the satisfaction of seeing the sparse people turn around at your entrance?

Fabio Ratti

PS – This work would not have been possible without the invaluable help of the Baglietto Foundation and in particular Alex Mazzoni, the top expert and curator of the Shipyard archives, who provided me with a large amount of very useful documents.


 

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