Old Boat Nightmares: 2011

One of the unwritten laws of project-boat hunting is “pick your battles wisely.” Most project boats come with their fair share of flaws—otherwise they wouldn’t be project boats, would they? The trick is to know which flaws can be dealt with relatively easily, and which will involve countless hours of hard work and heartbreak. In other words, what kind of flaw is a deal-breaker.

Consider a boat whose cosmetic problems were all easily dealt with, except for one: the white paint on the mast was in awful condition. No big deal, you might think; how hard could it be to sand and paint a mast?

A little research revealed the awful truth. The mast was 60 feet long, and the paint on it was a super-hard enamel that shrugged off chemical strippers and laughed at sandpaper. It did not take the prospective buyer long to calculate that merely preparing the mast for painting would take a full week’s work.

All fittings would have to be removed, and most of them would not want to come off, their stainless fasteners having welded themselves to the surrounding aluminum; after laboriously sanding off the old paint coating, which was about 80 percent intact, the spar would need to be painted with zinc chromate to make the new paint adhere, followed by undercoat, sanding, another undercoat, more sanding, the first topcoat, more sanding, and, finally, the second topcoat. Then the fittings would have to be replaced.

At yard rates, the job would have come to several thousand dollars; even a DIY job would amount to several hundred dollars in materials, plus up to 10 days of tedious work.

Unless you are getting the boat so cheaply that you don’t mind the work and expense of stripping and refinishing a mast, or unless you don’t care what your mast looks like, this is a time to remember another unwritten law of project-boat hunting; there is always another bargain just around the corner.

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