Replacing Your Wind- or Flood-Damaged Boat

Considering the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” you could conclude that the reverse could also be true. For consumers, buying and selling a damaged boat, especially one that requires significant repairs from surviving a storm, brings its own set of challenges.

One major hurdle involves simply transporting a damaged boat.  For an individual who purchases a damaged boat at an auction, the individual only has a certain amount of time to transport the boat from the storage yard, in addition to needing to store the boat while it’s being repaired.  Adding the costs of transporting the boat and repairing the boat together, then this might not be a worthwhile investment.

One of the most damaging things that can happen to a boat is sinking in saltwater.  In the aftermath of a storm, boat engines are too often not flushed properly, because boatyards are forced to dig the boat out of mud or a body of water, which can take days, before any bit of the boat is able to be repaired.  A boat’s engine will often amount to almost half of the boat’s value and is very susceptible to corrosion.  

In addition to saltwater damaging the boat’s electrical devices, it can also seep into the boat’s wiring, which requires a full rewiring of the boat.  Luxury items, such as cushions, bedding, and carpeting will more than likely need to be trashed.  Wooden bulkheads will be waterlogged, which will lead to rotting and will likely require replacing.  Because the boat’s controls and the engine will be damaged, it is wise to assume the worst from a saltwater induced boat.

However, despite this bleak outlook, some boat owners will be up for the challenge of repairing their vessel.  For example, some time ago, a man named Dave Netting bought a 35-foot O’Day sailboat, which had previously been badly wrecked when, during a hurricane off the coast of Maine, the vessel crashed through breaking waves and ended up on Maine’s rocky coast.  

Despite Netting knowing that the sailboat would need some serious repairs, he did not have a surveyor inspect the boat before he purchased it.  When Netting finally examined his purchase, he described it as “a seaweed-filled hole with a boat around it.”  Luckily for Netting, the boat was a bargain. Because Netting’s experience with fiberglass and woodworking was limited, he originally envisioned the project taking an entire year to complete.  Repairs took two years and cost, not including labor, significantly less than what a new boat would cost.  When asked if he’d do it all again, Netting responded, “Looking back on it, no.  We did a lot of work and took some pretty big chances.”

Paying someone to repair your boat is rarely cost-effective.  For one thing, boatyards charge at least $85 per hour, with labor running sometimes up to 100 hours.  Rewiring a 35-foot boat can cost thousands of dollars.  Even boatyards and boat owners that buy damaged boats with the intent of repairing them sometimes regret it.  As one boatyard owner remarked, “How do you make a million dollars repairing storm-damaged boats? Start with $2 million.”

Still, hope that damage boats can be repaired emerges. Post-storm auctions often have pages and pages of boats for sale at a much less cost than a new boat.  Before purchasing one of these boats, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the boat still going to be a bargain after transportation and storage costs are factored in?
  • Am I undaunted by large, time-consuming tasks?
  • Do I have the skill, time, tools, and storage space that this project will require?
  • Would zoning or subdivision rules prevent me from storing the boat on your property?
  • If not, how would my neighbors respond to seeing a damaged boat on your property for a sizeable amount of time?
  • Should I hire a surveyor to inspect the boat before purchasing it?

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