After reading on a sailing forum about a lead encapsulated keel... and while deciding about rebuilding versus replacing my boat's old Perkins 4108, I got to thinking about something which all boat owners probably have pondered... or so I would assume most have at least
When does it become way beyond reason to either purchase an older boat in need of lots of work or continue to maintain one that needs a lot of work?
If one had to do the ultimate no-no of selling our own boat for scrap...yikes!
I am just...speculating, I start first with thinking about about the keel. It's a lot of small pieces of lead surrounded and bonded by resin and marble dust and then glassed. Hmmm. But it has 6000 pounds of lead! Suppose the scrap price is $1.00 per pound (minus the potentially high costs of extracting, removing and hauling it--assuming the boat is not on the bottom...) and ask if that is really worth $6000?
All the steel and the iron might collect a few hundred more as I learned that the old Perkins might fetch seven cents a pound for scrap. When I re-rigged my boat I sold all the old shrouds and stays for all of about $15.00, barely beer money, but then you could remove and part out the hardware, winches etc, maybe the sails))???, and then the spars with scrap aluminum at maybe $.80 per pound. I guess the mast, spreaders and boom might be 150 pounds??? But it all takes work and time and money to remove, transport, dispose etc.
Well, this is just an exercise in mental futility I suppose, but according to my careful calculations I have reached the inescapable conclusion that every boat is a lost cause financially! I do not mean that in an economic or cost-benefit sense or in the classic definition of utility or rent, but only in terms of dollars spent here versus dollars invested there, i.e. the opportunity cost.
It seems that the most my boat, a 1980 Morgan 38' in very nice shape might fetch is around $40k. I have definitely put a lot more than that into the boat..a lot more. So while buying and installing an electric windlass, autopilot, air conditioning, new propane and oven, refrigeration etc. is desirable, these will enhance the sailing pleasure and comfort but it will not likely raise the value of the boat much at all. So the very old and hackneyed adage about throwing money in a hole in the water clearly does seem to be a maxim, however such additions may increase one's desire to sail and to sail more comfortably. But the best we can do is sail and enjoy and then rinse, lather and repeat and not fret too much one way or the other about the costs but be happy that we can spend our bucks on these things. It's what I call a first world problem. All boats, especially wooden boats, return to compost, and fiberglass boats do the same although much slower. Many of these are doing this before our eyes as they have been blocked up on land for year after year after year in the yards where boats go to die. As for we the sailors, it's a similar proposition. So it must be best to spend the money where it helps to enjoy the sailing and not wait to get blocked up on land, or six feet under. I am speaking of the boat only of course...yes?
We got a big storm last night and I am glad I was not out in it, but safe and sound in my home. Funny how my roof is leaking and needing repair as are the skylights too, and the basement got pretty wet as well. The sump kept pumping and the dehumidifer was working. So today I am going to "tend my garden", with apologies to Voltaire, who created the fictional character Candide, which by the way, would make a good name for a boat. One could have wordplay fun using "volt" and "air"!.
Thank you for allowing me to pontificate as I tend my garden and contemplate spending money on a new roof whose architectural shingles were supposed to last 30 years but I got 16. The sump pump needs replacing as did the furnace last year. My boat's bilge may be drier than the basement but my home comes with land. Too often when a boat is on land for too long, something is wrong with one or the other, but when a house comes with too much water, well then what? My boat is already 41 years old and only leaks at one tiny portlight that needs caulking. The bilge pump never goes on. I guess I could tend to the portlight today. Maybe. Or tend my garden.
Actually I am supposed to meet with my mechanic this afternoon to find out why my recently rebuilt engine is still burning oil and smoking a bit. So yes, I did rebuild it to the tune of nearly $9000., about what the roof will cost. You know the one over my head that sheds water away from the foundation.
Captain Paul Foer is a Seasoned Professional Mariner With A Lifetime of Boating and Teaching Experience. He also runs a sailing charter service based in Annapolis Md. Paul is also an experienced journalist.