Now I won't ask why you are researching mast replacement - the story behind it is probably tragic and I don't wanna cry as I do whenever I see an injured sailboat. But it is what it is and you simply need a new mast. Let's have a look at how much this will cost, how much of that price is negotiable, and what you need to pay attention to - so that you don't need the services of this article anytime soon.
Replacing a mast costs between $15,000 - $30,000 for an average sailboat. Out of that, $4,000 - $6,000 is the cost of labor. The mast itself costs between $10,000 - $25,000. The total cost of a sailboat mast replacement raises exponentially as you go up in boat size.
But since there are many variables in this, let's have a look at it in more detail to make sure you only pay for what you need.
Replacing Only The Mast
Replacing a mast rarely happens without replacing the standing rigging as a whole - which are the wires that hold the mast in place. So for the sake of simplicity and useability, this will be mentioned in the article. But in case you came here to find out what replacing only the mast will cost, let's have a look. In short, this will cost you around $7,000 - $15,000 for an average-sized sailboat.
But since there are a lot of variables at play here, please take the above figure with a grain of salt - the price is very much dependent on the size and age. As for the size, I am talking about 30-something-footers, and as for the age, I am talking about new masts.
Thus if your boat is bigger, the figure won't apply to you anymore. Similarly, if you just bought an older, $20,000 sailboat and you don't exactly fancy spending half of its price on a new mast, chances are you will pick something used, and then you can find a mast in a reasonable condition for around $2,000.
Buying a second-hand mast is possible, but do make sure it is in a condition worth the money you are paying for it. We will talk about what that condition is later too.
That's it for just the mast, but even if you only came for this figure, don't leave us yet. We will talk about various other costs associated with this operation. After all, it doesn't end with just purchasing the spare parts.
Replacing The Standing Rigging
Realistically speaking, chances are that if your mast needs replacement, so does your standing rigging. If the mast is too old, the standing rigging is likely aged too. If the mast got damaged, the standing rigging probably did too. So most of the time, it has to be factored in the cost.
Don't worry though, it is not a significant addition to the overall sum, at least proportionally speaking.
So how much will this set you back? On an average boat with a 30 or so foot length, the standing rigging is likely to cost around $1,500 and upwards. Don't go too far up though, if the quotes you are receiving from riggers in your area go over $2,000, start being suspicious. Not that there is no good reason for the higher price, but do ask questions.
Now, if your boat is bigger than the 30-or-so-footers that we take as the averagely sized boat and you are doing the math in your head now to see what figure applies to you, hold on a second - the price here goes up exponentially, not in a linear fashion. So going up ten feet from the above estimation can easily mean doubling the price, not just adding fifty percent to it.
There is no conspiracy behind this. It is so mostly because the rigging's length goes up, but so does its width. Bigger boats need stronger rigging, and thus your price is growing twice as fast.
The Cost Of Work (DIY To Save Money?)
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, quite a large chunk of the whole deal is the cost of the work that's gotta be done to put the rigging up. So some might be inclined to do this themselves to save some dollars. Whether this will be worth the time is a question.
Such an endeavor requires a lot of research, not just when it comes to attaching everything that's gotta be attached, but also choosing the right kinds of wires. Not any old wire is up to the job; sailboat rigging has to withstand much more than what the usual manufacturing norm offers.
It will also cost a lot of time, so unless you are prepared to spend it on the repair, don't do it. You might end up hating your boat, and that isn't worth it.
That all being said, if you do want to go at it yourself, you might be saving something over $100 per foot of sailboat length - that is the approximate cost of work required for re-rigging a sailboat. So a 30 something sailboat would set you back some $4,000.
Things don't end here though. There is the cost associated with unstepping the mast, for which you are likely to need a crane. You might want to do this whole thing on dry land, so when calculating, factor in taking the boat out of the water, moving it around, perhaps towing it somewhere, all of which requires time, equipment, and manpower that, if outsourced, might cost around $2,000. And since even if you do this yourself, you will probably have to rent the crane and the trailer, not much is to be saved here.
How Not To Have To Replace A Mast
Replacement of the rigging has to be done every now and then, but to make sure you don't do it more often than necessary, here are a few tips on how to have your boat rigging live as long as possible.
First of all, if you are currently unsure about whether your rigging needs replacing, you can hire a rigger for around $80 to inspect your boat and tell you the state of it. Make sure they are an honest person; it's their job to replace rigging, so telling them yours has a few good years ahead of it still is not exactly in their business interest.
There is a way to check things yourself. Make sure to visually inspect the mast foot, which will be either on the deck or below, if it is connected to the keel. If you see any sign of corrosion, that's bad news. So if you are buying a boat and this is what you find, either don't go for it or expect repairs.
Visual inspection of the rigging works the same way. Visible signs of corrosion are a bad sign, things looking out of order too, luckily consulting the internet can give you a good idea of how what should look even if you are doing this for the first time in your life.
As for the body of the mast, it is okay to have a few scratches on it, but make sure you repair them - the mast is usually coated to protect against corrosion, and scratches tend to go through this coating. The same applies to dings that might have been created because of metal components attached to the lines smacking against the mast. While these won't likely impact the structural integrity of the mast, they can damage the coating. Make sure your lines are in a position where the dings won't happen or that the metal components are wrapped in something to protect the mast.
Speaking of the mast, check whether it is straight. If it bends slightly back, that is considered okay, but any other direction means the rigging isn't holding it in place properly.
And unless this inspection happens after taking the mast down, it is time to go up - hoist yourself all the way up to inspect the mast in its entirety. Check for scratches but also inspect the spreaders. These should be straight and all angled the same way.
Replacing the mast as well as the standing rigging can be a costly endeavor, but one that is a necessary part of a boat owner's life. It will very likely set you back thousands of dollars, but if you take care of your boat well, inspect it regularly and do small maintenance repairs when needed, you will avoid the replacements for as long as possible.
It is also a good idea to pay attention to the rigging when buying a used boat. Because of how much this costs and because much of the rigging tends to be up and thus out of sight, it pays off to have a look at it closely - every now and then some eager sailor buys a second-hand sailboat only to find they have to pay half the cost of the whole vessel for repairs. And that just doesn't make sense.
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