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Old 11-01-2012, 15:54   #1
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Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

Hello everyone!

This is my first post on the forums. I am new to sailing, I have my first lessons on a dinghy planned for the weekend two weeks from now, and I am planning on taking lessons a keel boat shortly afterwards. I am also looking at buying a cruiser for travelling (eventually) from San Francisco, where I currently reside, to Ithaca, New York via the Panama canal and the Erie canal way, I'm not sure if the entire journey is possible, but that is another question I need to answer... I may just end up in Boston. Anyways, I have been looking at the Contessa 26 because it has proven itself capable of offshore passage making, it's small, and within my budget, of about 40,000.

The listing is here: http://www.yachtworld.com/core/listi..._id=14024&url=

I have spoken with the broker and I am setting up a time to take a look at the boat sometime in the near future. I have a few questions, the first being...

1. Assuming that the condition is very good, as is claimed by the broker I spoke with, does this seem like a good deal to some of you who have owned your own boats before? Looking at the boat and list of upgrades/care that has been taken, this looks like a fine deal to me, but I am very inexperienced when it comes to buying a boat.

2. If I were to buy this boat, I have been told that the standing rigging would probably need to be replaced... How much can I expect to spend on this?

3. My budget looks like this (I don't need to move the boat or launch because I am planning on sailing it to it's resting spot in the bay)

I also realize that slip space is probably cheaper than 300 dollars a month, but overestimating adds some padding for other costs:

Monthly Payments X 12 = 20,000
Registration Fees = 1,250
Insurance = 191
Charts and Books = 500
Slip Space X 12 = 4,000
Maintenance/Repairs = 4,000
Fuel = 1,000
Total = 30,940

Standing Rigging = 4,000 (not needed immediately)

I am wondering if I am estimating too much/too little for maintenance/repairs. If the boat is in as good a condition as is claimed, I think I am overestimating, as all I can think of that I will need to do for maintenance will be to clean the underside and empty the holding tanks (if needed). Am I missing other maintenance costs?

5. Any thoughts on going from San Francisco to Cayuga Lake? I think the lochs still run in the Erie canal way, but perhaps there are regulations to keep salt water vessels out of the lakes? Or some procedures that I must go through to do this?

Thank you all for taking a look at this!
- Hollin
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Old 11-01-2012, 17:56   #2
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Re: Thinking of buying a 1981 Contessa 26

Couple of things. You need to hire a surveyor, a good surveyor. Do not take the broker's word for the condition of the boat and do not use a surveyor he recommends. Get advice on a good surveyor from some local YC members who are unbiased. The surveyor can better advise you on whether the standing rigging is rough or not and how much work the boat needs. You're missing all kinds of maintenance costs, it's a boat, everything will break on it sooner or later and everything will have to be replaced on it sooner or later. Have a diesel guy check out the engine, the surveyor likely won't be qualified. Your fuel cost guess is pretty high, that's a 10 HP diesel, it will probably use .25 to .33 gallons per hour maximum. How much motoring do you plan on doing? There are no restrictions to prevent salt water boats going into the Great Lakes or Erie Canal. That's a long haul in a 26' boat for a person who has no experience, you have a steep learning curve ahead. You could probably ship it cheaper than sail it. Or not, if you can live cheap. But where's the adventure in that?
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Old 11-01-2012, 18:08   #3
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Re: Thinking of buying a 1981 Contessa 26

jdoe - thanks for the advice. i figure a lot of money will go into maintaining the boat... hopefully my estimate is somewhere on the mark. and yeah, i guess i won't need to spend as much on gasoline as i thought, so maybe that will even out my underestimate of maintenance/repair. as for my trip to get my boat home, it is in santa barbara and i would be taking it to sf, probably around june. i want to eventually go from SF to Cayuga lake, but not for at least a year of experience first! I know I have a steep learning curve too, but it's a lot of fun sailing.
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Old 09-02-2012, 17:29   #4
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

Chromaticbum, I just noticed a Contessa 26 on San Franciscos Craigslist. It appears to be in good shape with a good selection of cruising gear, and much less money than the one you mentioned. It doesnt have an inboard which might be a deal breaker, but I put 8 or 9 thousand miles on a C 26 without a motor, and had a great time.____Good Luck___Grant.
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Old 09-02-2012, 18:55   #5
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

$20k seems a bit much for a 30 year old 26 ft boat, even in great condition. You should research prices of similar boats (Albin vega, cape dory 27, etc) and consider making a lower offer (contingent on a survey, of course).
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Old 09-02-2012, 19:22   #6
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

Remember that there is an asking price and there is a selling price. The two don't usually equal out. it's a buyer's market right now. There are many bargains to be had. Especially in the bay area.
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Old 09-02-2012, 21:30   #7
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

It's good you ask these questions before you buy the boat. It is hard to say that this is the boat for you since you really are new to sailing as you say. Our club has two IF 26 boats and they are great sailers and almost identical to the Contessa. The other side of the coin is that they are very very cramped and you can't pack much gear or provisions in them. There are many boats that will do what you intend for that kind of money and have much more room. My advice is that you look at way more boats before making a choice.
The Contessa does sound like it is very good shape but it is always best to hire a surveyor as has been recommended to make certain there isn't some issue that might be a deal breaker. For the price asked it should be in absolutely perfect shape and already have new rigging in my opinion.
Good luck in whatever you choose to do.
Hope you have some great classes.
Was it your plan to make payments?
kind regards,
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Old 10-02-2012, 21:31   #8
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

gjordan - thanks for the post, I am taking a look at her tomorrow with the owner! i'll post something after I see the boat and take her out.

ziggy - agreed, she would have had to be in PERFECT condition to consider paying that much.

dofthesea - i'll keep this in mind when i do decide to buy a boat

skiprjohn - I would like a boat that will take me anywhere in the world in safety. I know that most safety comes with learning to be a good captain, which is why I won't even consider making a trip like this until I am well experienced and have weathered at least one strong gale with another captain. My first extended journey will be going back to Cayuga Lake, but after that I do not know where I will want to go, but I want a boat that can take me there. The only thing that I am concerned with is headroom, but there is only one boat I have read about that is small, seaworthy, and has enough headroom for me to stand in: the bristol 27. Any larger than that and they get too expensive for my taste. I was originally planning on making payments, but realized if I found the right boat I could probably just buy it out of pocket. So I am looking for boats underneath 10k now that fit my needs and I won't be owned by a loan agency at the end. Also, what is an IF 26? I searched for it but couldn't find it.

Thank you all for the responses!
- Hollin
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Old 11-02-2012, 02:19   #9
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

The IF 26 International Folkboat which is the boat that the Contessa 26 is designed after.
Actually a boat that I have as well. I love it. The only thing I wish is that I could just have the exact boat only 4ft longer.
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Old 11-02-2012, 02:21   #10
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

You should seriously get the book by John Vigor " Twenty small sailboats to take you anywhere" . A great read and study on small boats. I agonized over which one for months. Ended up with Blue Moon a perfect first boat. Good Luck
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Old 11-02-2012, 03:13   #11
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

I love the Contessa and was looking for one myself at one time. Since you said you may end up in Boston, why not take a look at this right here on CF...

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...0-a-71729.html

Now down to $19,900.
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Old 11-02-2012, 12:44   #12
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

If headroom is an issue then the Contessa 26 is not the boat for you. I'm 6 foot and have to be hunched over all the time while below in the International Folkboat.

Don't get me wrong. I love the design but they do have disadvantages.

Yes to the book recommendation. You might want to check out the links after my signature if they still work.

kind regards,
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Old 11-02-2012, 13:01   #13
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

check out the thread below which pertains to what you might be looking for.

Which 28' Boat Is the Best Option ?
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Old 11-02-2012, 13:09   #14
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

I looked hard at a Contessa 26 a year or so ago in Bellingham, for 7K. They often go for 14K or so. Check the Contessa 26 owners website. I am 5'7" and could barely stand beneath the entry swelling [no sliding hatch] and the layout was okay for long distance hard voyaging, but definitely NOT for live aboard or distance cruising. that being said, I almost bought the boat anyway because it is one hell of a fine boat. That coming from a guy who builds and owns gaff and sprit rigged boats.
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Old 11-02-2012, 21:23   #15
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Re: Thinking of Buying a 1981 Contessa 26

Went and looked at a 1973 Contessa today. The owner is selling the boat himself and not through a broker, her also was very honest about the condition of various parts on the boat which will make it easier for me to think of an initial offering price (I'm still getting a surveyor to find out if there are issues that we both missed). There are some repairs that need to be made before she is seaworthy:

1. Reinforce the beam underneath the mast (was damaged by previous owner) - this could be a dealbreaker depending on how extensive the damage is
2. Install an inboard motor (currently has an outboard, he has a ferryman engine from another boat and the original transmission that he will throw in with the boat, the first inboard engine seized from rust apparently)
3. Needs a new bottom coat of paint

Overall condition of the boat was decent, I did find water in the bilge pump area which I'm not sure if this is normal or not and I think could be due to rain water getting into two holes that were uncovered topside to mount a wind vane on. There wasn't water in the fresh water tank, so I wasn't able to test the head and sink. One of the cabin windows leaks and needs repairs.

The engine looks fairly new and ran fine, generating some white smoke on startup and then not producting any afterwards.

The standing rigging is 8 years old and when I inspected it there was a very small amount of rust on some of the lines, I could not see any fractures or anything else wrong with the rigging though. Ran my fingers along the lines and they were smooth and unfrayed.

I have two main concerns with the boat:
1. The mast damage caused breaks in the fiberglass inside the cabin. The current owner got a quote on how much it was to reinforce the area and it was ~2,000 to fabricate and install a custom metal piece to reinforce the mast. Can this be good enough to not have to worry about the mast after getting the work done? Or is this type of damage irreparable? The current owner has sailed her for 8 years without fixing the damage (didn't go into the ocean), so maybe some reinforcement really is all it needs.

2. The previous owner has drilled ~20 of his own bolts through the deck to place various blocks topside. 1973 Contessa's have pure fiberglass decks, no cores, so I don't think it is as much of a concern, but I still thought I would ask if this could have any repercussions.

The asking price is $8,000.
Price of installing the engine/transmission (needs some new glass in the housing): ~4,000
Price of reinforcing mast: ~2,000
Price of bottom paint: ~2,000

I am thinking that $8,000 asking price is a bit high considering the work that needs to be put into her to get her ready for some real sea work, but that is my opinion, I am interested to hear what some more experienced sailors have to say!

Thank everyone for your feedback in this process, you have helped me out tremendously!
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