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Old 02-04-2013, 17:08   #1
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Avoiding a Hidden Project Boat

Some years ago, my plan to go long-term cruising was burned by buying a boat that I thought was good to go, but turned out to be a "project", and more of a project than I could realistically get done at that time. Anyone who spent any time in a boatyard have seen multiple variations of the same story.

Any boat you buy is likely to take two months of work before you are ready to cruise it, but some of them will need years. Even with a "professional survey", you will have various unnoticed problems popping up.

Question is, how to manage this risk when buying a ~32-35ft sailboat of 1970s-80s vintage.

Here are a few examples of wisdom I'm looking for:

* stay away from wooden or metal hulls, teak decks, cored laminates, especially cored laminates below waterline
* be very careful about wooden bulkheads, stringers or anything else structural; at that age, it's virtually guaranteed to be rotten in some hard to see spot
* prefer boats that were used as weekenders in fresh water in a cold climate
* carefully study the previous owner, and his motivation to sell; retired craftsman/engineer/merchant mariner who is now too old or to sick to be sailing is the ideal
* stay away from boats that don't have a decent maintenance record for the last few years;
* stay away from boats that spent more than the last season on the hard
* if the engine or standing rigging is old (15 and 5 years, respectively), don't wait for either to fail (at the worst possible time), simply plan to replace them right away
* stay away from boats with original (30+ year old) chainplates - unless they are easy to replace
* a boat should either be from a manufacturer/year that has a track record of no blisters, or have a barrier coat already applied
* look for a boat with an interior plan that works for you; interior redesign is guaranteed to be a long story

If you know any more, or disagree with any of the above, please share.
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Old 02-04-2013, 17:21   #2
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Re: Avoding a hidden project boat

A great example of the risk I'm talking about: The Boat Notebook: Nightmare in the marine industry

Note that this person did all the surveys imaginable.
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Old 03-04-2013, 07:12   #3
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Re: Avoding a hidden project boat

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Originally Posted by RedHerring View Post
Note that this person did all the surveys imaginable.
Did he? He claims that he used a reputable broker and a reputable surveyor, but how do we know? Did he, perhaps, make the mistake of using a surveyor recommended by the broker? That is a "Boat Buying 101" sort of mistake. Never, EVER use a surveyor recommended by the broker or seller. But it is a mistake that a very large number of boat-newbies make.

Then, too, we don't know if he fell in love with, and bought, the very first boat that he looked at. Some of the problems he talks about are ones that anyone who has crawled around in a number of boats ought to have noticed for themselves, without the need for a surveyor to point it out to them. And that, too, is a "Boat Buying 101" sort of mistake. Don't ever buy the very first boat that you look at. You need to look at a number of boats before you will really know what it is that you're looking at.

That sort of leads to what I would call "Boat Buying 101" rule number three: don't become slave to a schedule. Too many people (we see them here pretty regularly) announce that they are going to buy a boat next month, fix it up the month after that, and head out into the big blue ocean the month after that. They get into a hurry because of their schedule and buy a boat without looking around enough. Then they try to rush the preparations. Then one of two things happens--either they finally get a clue and are annoyed at realizing how long it's really going to take, or they actually do head out, ill-prepared themselves and in an ill-prepared boat.

Honestly, to me the link you provided sounds like a lot of whining by someone who went into boat buying without doing the sort of research that he should have done.

Now, having said that, kudos to you for taking the time and thinking this through. As to your list, mostly good. I would not worry too much about cored decks, but do learn how to recognize delamination or a wet core. How, where, and by whom the boat was used is less important than how well it was cared for. Learn to recognize the signs of abuse and/or poor upkeep and you will be able to recognize a good value no matter where or how it was used.

Good luck to you.
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Old 03-04-2013, 14:34   #4
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Re: Avoding a hidden project boat

> Never, EVER use a surveyor recommended by the broker or seller
Looks like I cannot edit the original post, otherwise I'd add your points #1 and #2 to the list.

As for your #3 (no schedules), that's the rub. It's okay that an initial outfitting phase may take three or four months of one's life rather than one or two, and cost another 10 grand on top of what one saw when making an offer. These are acceptable risks (to me, anyway). What I'm not okay with is an all too often scenario where you buy a boat and then discover a string of problems that eat right through your entire cruising kitty and chain you to wherever you are for a year or more. At that point, you'd be better off ordering a new Bene.
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Old 03-04-2013, 14:38   #5
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Re: Avoding a hidden project boat

If the running rigging failed the first time they put pressure on it, it seems like a sea trial would have revealed that problem.
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Old 03-04-2013, 14:41   #6
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Re: Avoding a hidden project boat

It seems that some of the problems he mentions should have been noticed on his own cursory pre-survey inspection.

So add: Don't let your enthusiasm make you overlook basic issues.
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Old 03-04-2013, 14:47   #7
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

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Originally Posted by RedHerring View Post
* if the engine or standing rigging is old (15 and 5 years, respectively), don't wait for either to fail (at the worst possible time), simply plan to replace them right away
I question the numbers here. A 15-year-old engine may not be anywhere near the end of its service life, especially if it's been well maintained and it has low hours.

Five-year-old standing rigging is still relatively new. I wouldn't worry about standing rigging less than 10 years old, although I'd certainly inspect it.
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Old 03-04-2013, 14:51   #8
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

Maybe there is too much emphasis on getting a "bluewater" boat, and not enough emphasis on getting a boat in good condition.
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:21   #9
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

i got this awesome boat for 10,000 sd.
i replaced engine for 2500usd
i fixed deck problems for under 500 usd
i went sailing in her almost immediately upon repair of deck backing plate, so i could anchor and motor...the rest is being repaired as i go for much less than i would have spent had i remained in usa.
so what if i have repetitive packing gland issues-the amount of potential ingress is known, as that is monitored hourly as i sail.
there is nothing that an older boat can have done in usa that can not be done cheaper elsewhere and if you know a little bit about the way boats work.

btw--ALL boats are project boats. do not fool yourself.


oooops i fergot to say hay --welcome.....!!!!!!
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:41   #10
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

Speaking of #1 (don't use a surveyor recommended by a broker). I'm having a hard time trusting any surveyor. If my own profession is anything to go by, for one good surveyor out there there must be two total hacks and one old rhino with some very strong, but completely wrong opinion on something important. And it's almost impossible to tell the difference before you pay them.

Not to mention that I'm an out of towner with a funny accent (Russian from Canada), and any surveyor from the area is probably dealing with that same broker every other week for the last 10 years.
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:46   #11
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

When I get frustrated with the progress of my "Project" my better half reminds me of what it said on the Brokers Ad...."Ready for the Islands"
I can honestly say i have never seen a "Marine Survey" worth the paper it is printed on.
Not to sound too "profiling" ...... Yacht Brokers & Marine Surveyors...THE Modern Pirates, what a Motley Crew :-(
The Bright Side is when the Project make progress You feel great and You REALLY know Your Boat
Keep the faith
Cheers
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:52   #12
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

A surprise project boat - ouch! The worst kind to get.......

For any boat, but especially those in the older category I would add:-

If you can't personally verify whether something works or is good to go on (for quite a few more years!) then assume it doesn't. Whether the lightbulb in the head or the bulkhead tabbing. and everything inbetween......if you buy the boat yer gonna find out everything anyway, so why not try and save some heartache and bills by checking everything humanly possible first? Broker / Vendor don't want you to spend the time? Move on, as they saved you wasting your time finding what they don't want you to find.

A Surveyor can be very useful - just don't rely on him being right. and if yer need to use a Surveyor to tell you the obvious stuff then you probably should be buying newer.

I agree 100% on the PO angle.

One of the easiest way to judge how well a PO has cared for the boat is to look at the engine compartment - at "older" likely won't be able to eat dinner off the engine, but will soon be able to tell the difference between cared for and not (even when you have NFI what everything does!, let alone fix it!).....and if someone has taken care of the engine then a very good chance they have understood the most important thing about maintanence for the rest of the boat - that it needs to be done! (after something breaks or wears out it is called "fixing" not "maintanence").

Obviously exceptions to all rules!
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:55   #13
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

After being burnt by a surveyor , I could never recommend one to anyone. Unfortunately, I think you must consider any 25+ year old boat a project boat. Yes, that is unfair to owners who maintain their boats.
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Old 03-04-2013, 15:55   #14
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

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i went sailing in her almost immediately upon repair of deck backing plate, so i could anchor and motor...the rest is being repaired as i go
On a 40-footer that you've got for $10k, it sounds like you got lucky with the purchase, have taken a risk of sailing an iffy boat, and either daysailed her or just got lucky again by avoiding really bad weather until you've completed some safety-critical work. Correct me if I'm wrong.

If I was on my own, I'd basically do the same thing as you did, except I would get a smaller boat. For a family of three, there is not as much risk tolerance.
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Old 03-04-2013, 16:05   #15
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Re: Avoding a Hidden Project Boat

> ALL boats are project boats. do not fool yourself
There are projects and projects. "Can keep it up while cruising" and "before you can take her out of harbour, need to spend so much time and money that a new boat would be cheaper". I'm obviously talking about the latter. Not every boat older than 25 is like that, but many are.
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