Before you read this blog, please refer quickly to deciding on a new or used boat. The main takeaway is you have to remember that even a new boat is a process of making perfect. It doesn't come out perfect and you have to think of it like building a custom home, not buying a car. My advice to anyone on this journey is to not worry about their being problems, worry about being able to have a productive relationship and good communication with your broker and commissioner so problems can be solved.
This is also a series on inspection handovers, I'll put the links to related posts at the end.
When the boat comes from the factory, the mast of course isn’t up yet. They do this at the marina. The mast is put together by a separate company, in our case Zspar and then it is lifted on to the boat by Fountaine Pajot. Zspar feeds the lines inside the mast, most importantly the halyard, and attaches all the cars and gear for the mainsail. There’s other things to feed up the mast like electrical lines for the nav lights, antenna lines, etc.
If you are there before the mast goes up it would be good to double check that the lines are fed up the right quadrant inside the mast to create the right shape. There have been reports that this hasn’t always been done properly and they have to be redone later so just good to double check. If you can, this would also be a good time to ask if a second halyard and spinnaker line can be fed so you won’t have to do that later. It might be wishful thinking, but doesn’t hurt to ask.
Remember, during this time everything is moving really quickly. The factory wants the mast up and done so they can get on with it and the boat is being staged but really needs to be put in the water. Unless you're us and it sits on the hard for three months and gets broken into during COVID but I digress. There’s typically this tiny window of time when the mast is down where you can look at it, then it goes up and the boat goes in the water. Make sure you have a list organized of everything you want to check.
There’s a few other items to look for. The mainsail on this boat takes work to get down. This was a major concern for us because our plan is to double-hand the boat (unless we win the lottery and then I would hire Loic Kerbrat or Shai Tillenger full time and relax on the Lido Deck reading books and working on my tan).
Two main things to think about is the size of the halyard line and the ball bearings in the cars. This is explained in way better detail on S/Y Eight’s blog so make sure you read that. Inspect all the jammers and make sure all the shackles are there for the reefing lines. Inspect that the travelers move well and the pins in all the hardware are secure. If you can, double check everything at the top of the mast like the backstay or for anything chafing or rubbing immediately and get this addressed if you can at handover.
We did end up changing the halyard line but didn’t change the cars and so far so good. The one thing we didn’t anticipate were the pulleys. The pulley blocks (see picture) have a little tiny seam where the two pieces were probably molded together. This seam over time creates line chafe which you don’t want on your halyard. Loic helped us shave all of those down when we installed the new halyard but if I had a choice, I would have brought this up before the mast went up and tried to see if Incidence could have addressed this up front.
As an aside, when the mast is up, and you do plan to double-hand the boat, have both people go try to stand on top and do a little practice putting the sail in the lazy bag and imagine doing that in rough water...at night. It’s honestly treacherous in real life. Stephane has an easier time because he’s a foot taller than me but there’s no way I could do that myself. Make sure all the zippers work really well, make long tethers that are brightly colored and easy to grab and make sure the mast steps work well and the short person has good things to hold on to.
Once the mast is on, spray water at the base where it connects to the boat and make sure there are no leaks or weird cracks. There have been other owners who found leaks later which wouldn’t be awesome.
So I realize this post might be a little scary but we are sharing the information because it’s better to have it and know what to look for than be surprised later. You have to go in with the right frame of mind and remember that FP and the commissioning agents have been doing this for years, more than anyone and have seen it all. While these are manufactured boats, every one of them is still custom and put together by a human workforce that may have proper training but were having a bad day when they were working on your particular boat. Visit my blog on the factory tour if you haven’t seen that yet.
There’s more detail in the podcasts and also don’t forget to join the owners groups on Facebook, it’s the only reason I’m still allowing myself to be held hostage by Zuckerberg. Here's the one we belong to. The groups are a goldmine of information. Get yourself a ‘squad’ or a ‘team’ to help get more eyes on the problem and the best way to solve it. And, remember that every boat problem has a solution that gets you one step closer to your dream.
See blogs on related topics in this handover series:
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