owerful storms that pounded the northern Caribbean, Florida and Texas last fall were potent reminders that severe weather causes severe damage. Still, every dark cloud has a silver lining. As insurance claims are paid out and piles of vessels are untangled, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of handyman skippers are going to end up with amazing boats, literally for pennies on the dollar. I know of which I speak. My wife, Carolyn, and I purchased the salvage rights to a Hughes 38 found sunk on the beach after Hurricane Hugo struck the Virgin Islands in 1989 for $3,000 — then fixed her up and sailed her twice around the world. Wild Card certainly wasn’t the most pristine yacht we saw in the 100,000 ocean miles we sailed her over the course of 23 wonderful years, but at an initial cost of 3 cents per mile, she was certainly among the cheapest. The problem with buying a hurricane-damaged fiberglass sailboat is that a good buy can look like it is practically worthless, and a worthless vessel can look like a good buy. So the first concept you need to understand is that you’re not only buying a boat, you’re buying a tremendous liability as well. And once you buy it, the only way out involves either a pile of cash or a lot of blood, sweat and tears, sustained over a long period of time.