After we purchased Seraphina and took her sailing a few times, I knew there were things I wanted to upgrade with the running rigging. The reefing system was only partially intact. The two mainsail leech reef points were rigged with reef lines but the luff reef points did not have any line for reefing. The halyards and sheets were in various conditions, so I wanted to see which ones were in need of replacement. All of the blocks appeared to be original – 30 some odd years old. I’ve read about plenty of horror stories about standing rigging failure, so I wanted to make sure the standing rigging was in good shape. It was time for a rigging survey.
What is a rigging survey?
A rigging survey is basically an inspection of everything related to handling the sails, mast lines and sheets, but can also include inspection of life lines, pulpits, mast head equipment and lights. It essentially covers all of the items not covered during the hull survey (though the hull survey should include inspection of chainplates and standing rigging at the deck level). The riggers will check the chain plates, the standing rigging, all of the blocks, sheets, halyards, mast, boom, gooseneck, turnbuckles, etc. The cost is not insignificant and will cost more than the hull survey. However, a good rigging survey provides the owner with the condition of all the mentioned equipment as well as help the owner prepare a road map to fix and upgrade the various systems. The rigger will send a formal written report with photos for documentation purposes.
I chose Stix-N-Rig’n based on recommendations from fellow TMCA members. 3 riggers came and they spent about 4 hours pouring over Seraphina from the top of the mast head to the chain plates and everything in between. I sat with them and asked a lot of questions and even discussed the different types of reefing options. The guys were very knowledgeable and I was happy with the results. Besides normal wear and tear and age, the biggest issue discovered was the gooseneck joint bolt was not properly sized and the boom bracket had actually cut into the bolt leaving a potentially serious failure point if we were out sailing. So this is an immediate required repair.
I received the full report a few weeks later. The standing rigging was in good shape (whew!!), chainplates and lifelines all in good shape. The running rigging was in various states of conditions from “good” to “needs replacement”. The blocks were serviceable even for their age. Seraphina also came with the original Hood continuous furler, which was showing its age but was found to be in decent condition considering that. I knew the steaming light was not working, but we also found that the electronic equipment at the masthead was probably original. The anchor light, VHF antenna and windvane were pitiful. I had planned on putting new LED anchor and steaming lights on the boat, so this wasn’t so bad.
So the next day I stopped by their office and talked with Brian for about an hour and a half about the report and planning out a series of upgrades. He showed me all of the latest gear used in the industry and he had a bunch of cool stuff to look at in the shop, including LED light systems and furlers. Within a few days, I had several quotes for the blocks, clutches and mainsheet system that I’ll install myself. I’ll also replace the main halyard, topping lift, lazy jacks and have an all new slab reefing system installed. I decided not to run all the line aft to the cockpit because it would require a lot of modifications. However, running up to the mast to snap shackle a reef into the mainsail luff and tensioning the leech reef line didn’t sound too bad. Can’t wait to see it installed and test it out! I’ll also install new LED anchor light, steaming light, VHF antenna and windvane at the mast head. I’ll probably hold off on a wind instrument and stick to the must-haves.
A rigging survey can run $600+ depending on the size of the boat. I read the advice to have a rigging survey completed before purchasing a boat. When you consider it can run $1000 to do a hull and rigging survey before you even finalize the transaction, you realize how much money you can have invested in a boat you don’t own. Now, I’m sure you could work with the rigging company to do an abbreviated pre-purchase survey to save a few hundred bucks. But even then, it’s a big cost. Would the rigging survey have changed my mind about buying our boat? Maybe not. I probably would have negotiated a little harder considering all of the items that were worn out. But, she is a 30 year old boat. If I were buying a $100,000+ 10 year old boat? You bet! After I looked at it myself with my new-found rigging knowledge, I’d decide whether it was worth it to risk $600+ on a pre-purchase rigging survey. And that is the key…I sat with the riggers on the boat during the survey just as I did during the hull survey. I learned a ton about how to look for the signs of corrosion on stainless steel rigging, checking the function of blocks and what decent halyards and lines look like. The rigging survey was a great investment, in my opinion.
The more I think about it, the more I like the decision to buy a smaller older boat for my first. The price of boat stuff is exponential based on length. I can make all the rookie mistakes on a smaller vessel without breaking the bank. It will make me a better boat owner and future prospective buyer. I’ve watched several YouTube channels with newbie sailors purchasing brand new yachts. Sure, you get the warranty and if anything breaks, its taken care of. I’ve been lusting after a Catalina 425 ever since seeing it at the boat show (more on that later). But I’d would argue that I’ve learned more by taking care of my old Catalina 30 than I would have on a new boat. And when I do buy a new(er) boat, I’ll be a much more informed buyer.