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Words of Warning on Rigging / Up-the-Mast Surveys

One thing we discovered interviewing surveyors to inspect the Antares catamaran we were thinking of buying was how few still go up the mast. And how can you buy a boat without knowing the condition of your rigging!?!
     Jonathan Sands in South Florida is one surveyor who still goes up the mast, which is probably why he’s so in demand (thus he was booked too far out to be able to survey the boat we were looking at buying).
     In the end, we did find a local company that would go up the mast and give us a full rigging survey. The only problem turned out to be that this company also sells rigging products and services, creating an inherent conflict of interest between these dual roles. Can they give the prospective purchaser as unbiased advice about what is wrong with the rigging or what needs fixing if they also sell rig repairs?  
     If we let the facts speak for themselves, they show how this conflict of interest reared its ugly head in our situation. Here’s what happened, including how it resolved.
     I should also mention, the rigging company sends one person to the boat to actually climb the mast, inspect the rigging and take pictures, and then another (the head of the company) to review the pictures and give the report.
     So, the inspector went up the mast, took his notes and photos, and brought them back to the owner of the company, who called us to discuss them. We expected a good report since the boat had splashed in 2011, only three years ago. The rig surveyor reported some normal wear and tear such as chafing of wires where they cross, but imagine our surprise when he started to say he thought the steel might have been “compromised beyond its useful life” and that he saw “galvanic transfer happening” and that the “rigging could fail.”
The owner of the rigging company referred to seeing blue haze and bleeders, indicating crevice corrosion failure.  He asked if the boat had been struck by lightening. The owner/seller was sitting with us as we all listened over my cell phone to the rig inspection report. He immediately refuted the statement about a lightening strike, and we believed him; you would know if you’d been struck by lightening, even if it occurred when you weren’t on the boat (your electronics would show signs and probably be fried).

     I’ll cut to the chase. We brought the owner of the rigging company out to the boat the next morning (and all lived with stress and worry until then, wondering if we’d have to walk away from the boat!). When the owner got to the boat, his tune changed. He didn’t go up the mast himself, but he went around at deck level and he started to back off his statements. He did point out the barber poling on some wires, and where he’d seen discoloration (blue haze) in photos, but he acknowledged that these could have been caused by cleaning the stainless and not unusual electrolysis that occurs without there being a lightening strike. He talked about some inferior stainless with less chromium coming from China and being used by some boat builders, but he acknowledged this has never been seen on an Antares. 
     As the owner talked, he also volunteered the most important comment, saying himself without prompting that there is some conflict when the company giving the report also sells services to fix the problems reported. 
     Ya think? You may wonder why we went with them. The rigging company was the “only game in town” as the broker pointed out, and we didn’t want to buy a boat without a rigging inspection.     
     The owner then said he’d been doing this work since he was 14 years old (25+ years) and sees 500 boats a year. Well, that’s still no justification for scaring us and the seller with such strong words  – without having even been on the boat himself.
     In the end, all was good. The owner backed off all his grave statements of likely metal/rigging failure and gave the boat’s rigging a clean bill of health. Sorry, no sale of the rigging company’s rig-replacement services this time. Oh my, what a learning experience, which is why we wanted to share it with all of you.

1 Comment on Words of Warning on Rigging / Up-the-Mast Surveys

  1. HiYa – from “Crooked Sticks” Dean … It was GREAT meeting you yesterday at the Muir Rock! And I will email the 4 photos I captured of you. So, “Stay Tuned” … Dean

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