Our Mast Repair Decision

Our bimini frame blew apart, all antennas were broken, and the solar panels were ripped off by the 200 mph winds.

Radeen and I are soon heading back to Puerto Rico to begin the process of launching and working on mast repair of our Island Packet 35, Island Spirit. In May 2017, we stored the boat at Marina Puerto Del Rey, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. This location on the eastern end of the island was only about 20 miles from where Hurricane Marina came ashore. We were first told that we had minor damages to the bimini frame, the solar panels and all antennas. We felt very lucky.

Looks like a small issue, but the spar company says it can not be repaired and it cannot be sailed due to the dent and damages!

When talking with Colin Mack at the Annapolis Boat Show, he wisely advised that we have a full rig inspection. On October 20, we received the report of mast damage at the port spreader, a crack in the mast at the masthead port side, and damaged standing rigging. Evidently, when the building behind us blew apart during the storm, the temporary sheet metal roofing flew off which hit our port side rigging and spreader so hard that it separated and broke the welded-on spreader base. The force pushed on the port side rigging enough to flex the upper shroud into the masthead slot, causing a crack the top of the mast.

Post-hurricane photo. The sheet metal roofing blew into our mast and did all the damage. This roof mentioned as a concern of mine before Hurricane Irma, but…

The estimate to repair these damages, along with the bimini, antennas, and rigging was estimated at $29,136. In any named storm, our deductible is raised to 10% so with our policy of $125,000 value that means the company subtracts $12,500 from the damage estimate. This left an insurance settlement of $16,636 to fix our boat. Now the challenges are how and where do we fix the boat? Hurricane Maria will cost us a minimum of this deductible and most likely much more.

As shown in our previous video, we looked at 4 options:

#1. Pull the mast, patch it, replace the standing rigging in Puerto Rico, and sail to Florida or to Antigua and replace the mast there.
#2. Order a new mast and rigging and ship it in to Puerto Rico.
#3. Launch the boat “as is” and motor it 1,000 nm NW to Florida or 238 nm ESE to Antigua to replace the mast.
#4. Ship the boat to Florida and have it repaired at Mack Sails in Stuart, Florida.

Each of these options was fully explored and evaluated.
Here are the numbers and the facts.

#1. Patching the mast and sailing under jury rig would NOT be covered by our insurance for any rig failure if a failure occurred. The cost to patch $2,000, the cost of new rigging $3,000, shipping rigging $500, total $5,500 to sail to a new location and then start over and rebuild. Because our mast is not made anymore, we would have the need to order NEW standing rigging again to match the new mast. We finally decided we will not sail uninsured.

#2. Shipping a mast into Puerto Rico costs $7,500 plus trucking of another $1,000, making this option $8,500. Shipping new OEM Seco South rigging into Puerto Rico was a cost of $500. So, just the shipping in of the parts needed equaled $9,000.  The timeframe would be 12 to 14 weeks due to FEMA using all the shipping capacity. No one could give us a definite timeframe to receive a mast. This option would have us repaired and sailing, at best, in mid March/April. And, the ultimate “what if?” is…. what if June 1 comes and we are still without a mast? We would have wasted a winter of sailing and be facing another hurricane season in Puerto Rico! Add in the cost of dockage at $1,200/month, plus a rental car, and this option was not looking good.

#3. Launch the boat and motor NW 1,000 nm to Florida or SE 238 nm to Antigua. (Note: Motoring without sails is not comfortable.) If we went to Antigua, we still have the shipping issue of getting a mast and rigging in a timely way, so motoring to Florida seemed to be the only choice. Our fuel range is 500 nm, so we would pull in and fuel up.   Fuel cost to Florida would be 1,000 nm at 5.5 knots equals 182 hours motoring. Our burn rate is 0.75 gal/hr, so 182 x 0.75 equals  135.75 gallons. Diesel fuel costs about $4.00/gal, so 135.75 x $4 equals $543 dollars of fuel. This is by far the most cost-effective way to go. However, we still did not want to risk an uninsured rig failure, so we eliminated this option.

#4 Shipping the boat back to Florida is a cost of $10,800! YIKES, that sounds crazy and we did not seriously consider it at first. However, when we compared this option to shipping the new mast and rigging to Puerto Rico at a cost of $9,000, we realized that $1,800 is the true net cost to put Island Spirit on a ship and send her back to Florida.

Since we do not want to have an uninsured rig failure, going to sea really was not a choice. This left us with two options. Stay in Puerto Rico and wait 12 to 14 weeks or longer for a mast OR spend $1,800 more and ship the boat to Florida.

This is the type of ship used by Sevenstar Yacht Transportation. Boats are lifted up with a crane and placed on the deck of the ship. Transit time between St. Thomas and  Florida is only3 days! Click the image to see the Sevenstar company website.

Our Decision to Ship

After much deliberation, we have decided to ship the boat and to work with our trusted friends and the quality team at Mack Sails. We know their work, we know they know the job. We have zero concerns about the quality of the materials and the work, so to us, this was the best option. Yes, it will cost us $1,800 more, but the extra cost is worth it to us. The only downside is that after the mast is replaced, we have to bash our way back down The Thorny Path 1,000 nm into the wind AGAIN. We did it once and we were not planning on doing it ever again. We figure that by the first of February Mack Sails will have  Island Spirit ready to sail. This is the fastest way to repair our boat, with the least amount of uncertainty and potential frustration.

So, stay tuned, we hope to take drone photos of Island Spirit on the ship! We will motor 44 miles to St. Thomas where we will meet the ship between December 10-20, the timeframe given by the shipping company. Once off-loaded in West Palm Beach, we will motor north to our favorite town in the USA, Stuart, Florida. We are looking forward to seeing many friends while at Sunset Bay Marina. And that will be the silver lining to our cloud!

Island Spirit’s wild ride will continue….

If all goes as planned, we should be repaired by February 1 at the latest. We hope to blast back to USVI and BVIs ASAP. There we will resume our planned project to help those in need. We hope to help at Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke and at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola and in Virgin Gorda in March. Then we will move south as we plan to store in Grenada by the end of May.

Note 2:
Dec 2, 2017: Mack Sails HAS OUR MAST! See what I am talking about. Colin Mack placed out order immediately with Spar Craft, Charleston, SC as he wanted to get ahead of all the spar orders coming in from the Caribbean hurricane damages. These spar companies are backed up. Here we are, Colin Mack, has it, and now all we need to do is GET THERE, and we WILL.