I'm a big fan of classic yachts. But one man's classic is another man's derelict dumpster-fill, because some boats simply are too far gone to be worth saving. So how do you know when it's time to let go?

This has been a significant problem for boat owners, especially since fiberglass came along as a wonder hull material, which is why so many of you read "How to Get Rid of that Old Boat" and "Old Boat Disposal: Crumble or Mince?" But both of those posts assume you have already declared the hull junk. That can be a hard call, especially if your father/mother/uncle Harry taught you to fish/sail/row in the thing.

tree growing in the cockpit

This boat might be salvageable with a good stiff cleaning, but trees growing in the cockpit are never a good sign. Photo: Matt Jamison

So here are three signs that it might be time to bite the bullet and cut her up, no matter how emotionally attached you are:

1. Significant rot in hull or deck

Rotted wood or water-damaged core... either way, unless you're into a major repair project, it's going to be hard to make the boat safe again.

2. Suspected keelbolt damage

Sailboats need their keels to keep them upright. Grounding can easily damage the attachment between hull and keel. Making keelbolts reliable again is also a really big job, one that is probably left to the pros—which will require a significant investment.

3. Trees growing in any part of the hull

Neglect will shorten a boat's life, and if any sort of plant life has taken root, you're looking at a boat that has definitely been neglected.

Last but not least, if you need an unbiased opinion consider hiring a surveyor. For more detail about that process, read

Self Survey: Looking at a Yacht Before the Professional Surveyor Arrives and 10 Things You Need to Know About a Marine Survey on YachtWorld.