Buying a new or used boat is difficult for any prospective owner who already has an old boat. The presence and backlog of used boats is actually hindering the sale of new boats. In this tight buyers’ market, selling or donating the old boat first would make room for new boats to be sold. But, what do you do about boats that no one will take—the dead boats that should be scrapped?
Fiberglass is a wonderful material for building boats—tough, durable, and long lasting. Many boats built in the 60’s and 70’s are still with us. In fact, I have one in my driveway. The hull carries on where the systems need replacing, and due to the design or styling it isn’t really worth the time, effort, or money to refit them.
Most owners who can’t sell turn first to boat donation programs in order to take tax benefits. Some schools and organizations that clean up and flip boats can be quite picky about what they’ll accept. Charitable organizations such as Helping Hands of America, will take most anything they can sell, but there is a limit. I spoke to Michael Dunne, Helping Hands local “boat guy,” who said, “We go out and look at boats and if we don’t think we can sell them as is, we suggest three courses of action.”
- Contact your local vocational school and see if they are open to a donation for restoration—you can still get a tax break.
- Call your local town hall and the board of health to see if they can help. They will often have a local contact and maybe even a budget for abandoned boats.
- Call a boat salvage yard.
Dunne actually gave me the name of a boat salvager in my area, Continental Marine, whose owner is in the boat transportation business and will come and take the boat away—sometimes for free or a small charge depending on the parts on the boat that could be resold.
When I contacted the owner, Paul Griffiths, a full-time firefighter and part-time boat salvager at Continental Marine, he opened my eyes to the boat salvage business in my area. “It is busier in the last 5 years than it was ten years ago,” said Paul. “I get calls from boatyards and towns about old boats all the time now.” Griffiths salvages about 100 boats per year at his 4-acre site, with help from his son and two employees. Over the winter they strip parts, remove hazardous wastes and crush boats. The fiberglass usually ends up in landfills and Griffiths bemoaned the lack of a ready way to recycle it. He takes some of the parts to a local marine consignment store and eventually wants to put them all online and sell direct. “I have a website, massmarineparts.com, but it takes a lot to organize and get the parts inventoried online. I probably only have 10% of my inventory online,” says Griffiths, “and reselling big parts like masts has high transportation costs.” The profit from parts covers the expense of hazmat and fiberglass disposal, which is why Continental can afford to charge very little to remove most local boats.
The boat salvage business is nothing like automotive salvage. If it exists in your area, it is likely run as a side business by folks like Griffiths. When I contacted the Bourne, MA landfill, one of the few places that would take whole boats, provided they had all the metal and hazmats removed, they quoted me a price of $90/ton—and of course you have to get it to them. Harbormasters, boards of health, and donation programs can usually recommend someone in your area who will take an old boat for a nominal fee. The space you free up will make the neighbors happy and, who knows, eventually become home to a new boat.