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Visiting the Sailboat Wrecking Yard (long and windy)


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Finally got a chance to visit a business I'd heard about a few times over the years here in Washington - the Sailboat Wrecking Yard - and thought I would share a basic review, as well as (down below) some half-baked ruminations.

The place is exactly what it says in the name.

When I showed up to their yard out in Lynden it was pissing rain, and a guy was using a forklift to skid a sloop across the asphalt in front of the shop. Another boat nearby had been cut in half crosswise, right about amidships.

I appreciated the scene because I was immediately able to deploy several choice dad jokes, including indicating to a bystander that the boat being dragged was getting 'a bit scratched up,' and asking if they had security footage to find out who stole the front half of the other one.

Like all my jokes, these were heartily appreciated.

The guy on the fork turned out to be Jeff, and he was very friendly and generous with his time as he showed me a trailer (I'm in the market for one), and pointed out where to find the stack of booms.

Although they recently consolidated, the place is big - one main lot filled with boats, and then FIVE shipping containers and a singlewide out back filled with yanked parts, including one container for teak trim and cabinetry, one for sails, and two others for deck hardware, along with booms, masts, and a bunch of other stuff I didn't get a chance to get a look at.

By the sounds of it, one of their main lines of incoming inventory is derelicts, mostly around 30', which they truck back from marinas and boatyards (I'm guessing for a disposal fee), part out and chop up.

I had a short visit, but what I saw was about what you'd expect. Some of it was manifestly junk - a bargain 40 year-old deadlight, for example, is really only fit for inclusion in one of those accent walls that Instagram users like so much, and an open-box propane alarm from the 90's seems like a ticket to the Darwin awards. But someone looking to replace some solid-if-dated production hardware could score.

A few other things I noticed, in no particular order:
- Boxes of solid-looking DC wiring components, including fuse/switch panels, bus bars, battery switches, battery lugs, etc,
- A box of battery boxes
- A box of anchor rodes, many looking like they'd never seen a day of service
- What must have been 80 or so small-to-medium sized sheet winches out back, in addition to a few sets of self-tailers.
- Boxes of sheet blocks, cheek blocks, and batt-cars, spin-cars, and track-mounted hardware of all sorts
- A Honda Goldwing
- A fine selection of running lights, none LED that I could see, many still mounted to a sawed-out slice of deck
- A stack of mainsail covers that looked to be in pretty good shape
- A stack of rudders! Marked for the boats they came from!

Jeff also has some stories - apparently they have found some interesting things in derelict liveaboards over the years.

Honestly though - and here's where the rumination starts - as a sailor and a guy with a moderate case of 'boat weirdo,' it all just made me a bit sad. Bargains aside, what I felt hanging over the bins and shelves like a ghost was a reminder of how transitory are the joys of our short lives, and how ephemeral are our dreams.

Our lives are represented in our boats. The exotic wood varnished to a gleam, the block or clutch selected and purchased and mounted with hours of care, the sail cut just so. If we're lucky, everything pulls together, the rig comes tight, and it takes off to sail.

But walking through the stacks, I couldn't help but meditate on the other end of it. Water-stained teak; hardware removed from its careful bed by a reciprocating saw; half a dozen Origo stoves that had steamed up a cabin window at anchor for the last time.

The life of a man - or a boat - is a flight of starlings, launched from their hundreds of individual resting places and for a moment moving together as one, before coming to rest separately again. There in the stacks, the parts were just that: Parts. Parts that started from dreary boxes rolling off a factory floor, and ended up in boxes much the same, if grimier, in shipping containers on a back lot.

Looking at them lying disassembled from their moment of joyful flight, it was hard not to think of the few hours those parts spent straining happily under taught lines, and weigh that against a decade of rust, and wonder what's the point of it all.

I do, of course, believe there is a point. But while sometimes the knowledge of being just a tiny speck in the universe feels like a beautiful thing, other times it's a bitter reminder that life is too god-damned short.

The one thing I don't know about is the prices. I was more interested in jawing with Jeff, honestly. I did ask about a pair of Lewmar 16 self tailers, which were $900 for the pair. Seemed fair, if not a screaming deal. 

At some point I will probably go back. Some of the spars (Jeff said they have ~175 or so) looked pretty good, and they had a stack of booms that came with them, and melancholy or not, a bargain's a bargain. 

Still, after I left, I hugged my kid extra tight. Life is short.

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Your reaction was identical to mine - I love hunting the place but at the same time hate what allows it to exist.

Melancholy is a good word for it.

Funny how it differs psychologically from auto wreckers.

It's a great place if you like restoring neglected boats - after 18 months I'm really Jonesing for the place.

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1 hour ago, SloopJonB said:

Funny how it differs psychologically from auto wreckers.

Right?
 

1 hour ago, SloopJonB said:

It's a great place if you like restoring neglected boats - after 18 months I'm really Jonesing for the place.

Sounds like they've been going hot and heavy straight on through, so when you make it back there ought to be plenty of new bits.

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Interesting post. 

One benefit of the current covid / van life / influencer people running around buying boats is at least some will be saved from such a fate for another few years. 

Here is a street view (click)

In the UK there are a couple of companies doing similar. One being boatbreakers, who play a good social media game and have some interesting stories on their site

https://www.boatbreakers.com

Frustrating in general to see decent boats rot away in yards or on moorings. Especially with unclear ownership etc, so you can't even buy them. Oh well, sticking with my 3ksb for a few more seasons.. I'm guessing van lifers / instagrammers will get sick of boats after 1-3 years of "living the dream".

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13 hours ago, Breamerly said:

Sounds like they've been going hot and heavy straight on through, so when you make it back there ought to be plenty of new bits.

Sounds like it - for example, I've never seen a single self tailing winch on any of my many visits.

Re: the comment on pricing, he doesn't dicker but I've found his prices generally to be fair if not screaming bargains. Similar prices to most consignment shops I've been in. I have gotten a few screaming bargains though.

Also, if you are a regular you get  some small stuff for free - winch pockets, fender hangers, like that.

 

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2 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

Re: the comment on pricing, he doesn't dicker but I've found his prices generally to be fair if not screaming bargains.

$900 for a pair of used Lewmar 16 self tailers is far from a screaming bargain.  These are $650ea new (which means they are $650/pair twice a year from West Marine).

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3 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

I've found his prices generally to be fair if not screaming bargains.

Yeah this was my impression overall, as well. 

He did have a decent selection of self tailers in the front office this time. There were the two sixteens, then I think two pairs of the next size up (I didn't register the number b/c Im not in the market for them, but it's the size that is common for sheet winches on boats ~32-34 feet and under - about 6" across the top). He did also have at least one pair of worth-more-than-your-car beasts - the ones that come of actual boats (maybe 9" across the top?) as well as some newer-looking purchase/traveler setups.

After looking, one thing I came away realizing was that it's really only a few pretty specific things I'd be after there. Nominally my visit this week was for the trailer and the boom parts, in the case of the latter trying to save the $250 for a nice new gooseneck bracket, and maybe the day to fabricate a new gooseneck, too. But when I was looking at the boom stack - all of which had seen a fair bit of use, and probably had the beginnings of the same failure-mode that mine experienced - I realized that for a lot of the structural parts, I'd rather just spend the money and have a new (often better-than-stock) component.

But winches, blocks, fenders + hangers, etc - or a new rudder to template and then steal the shaft from - I'd pick those up used for sure.

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