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Old 08-01-2015, 13:48   #1
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Question How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

For the sake of this thread, let's say you are looking for a new boat. And let's say you don't want to rely just on your personal experience but want to do some good research before you buy. You have already established your needs and price point - one that doesn't make eyes pop out. Now you're focusing on build quality, earned reputation, how much the boat can take based on what you expect you'll put her through.

You really can't take the opinions of others with anything more than a grain of salt, unless you know them well and know they will be completely objective and honest.

You can't use the single boat accomplishments as a good example for the entire fleet. In other words, if a Yugo 33 did a solo circumnavigation, that doesn't make all Yugo 33s ocean-going beasts.

There's no database I know of that's accessible to the average sailor that details breakdowns, failures, etc of all the boats in the new or used market today. Nice facts if you can get them, but you can't.

So I thought, what about looking into participants in the tougher sailboat races, the ones where there is some open bluewater you have to traverse, but also ones where "the common man" boats participated? Sidney-Hobart, Fastnet and Newport-Bermuda came to mind. Why races? Because you have to go when the gun goes off. No waiting for a nice weather window.

Looking at boats you would normally see in the local harbor, in the 2014 S-H there were 117 boats in the fleet. Included in that were 11 Beneteau, 2 Hanse, 1 Jeanneau. There were also 2 Moody & 1 C&C in the fleet. In the infamous 1998 race, a Bene 53 came in 11th in line honors. No small feat that year.

The 2013 Fastnet had 33 Benes, 15 Jennes, 7 Grand Soleil, 6 Bavaria and 3 Dufour. And if I counted right, the 2014 Newport to Bermuda race had 8 Benes, 1 Jenne and 2 Grand Soleil. There was also 7 C&Cs.

None of this is to suggest these results are proof positive these boats are seaworthy in the toughest waters and others aren't. But it does tell me the owners of these boats felt confident they could put their boat through whatever conditions may be out there waiting for them. That speaks volumes about the owner's confidence in his or her boat. IMHO...

Within the parameters of this thread, what criteria would you use?
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Old 08-01-2015, 13:49   #2
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

A good survey.

Mark
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:00   #3
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

A good survey makes sense. And second a good set of shake down cruises.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:05   #4
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

If money was there, say up to $500K for a 35-40 footer (my personal choice at this time for a liveaboard or cruising size wise) and I had a choice of any new boat within that price range I would drag my two marine pro friends, ply them with food drink presents and some cash, and have them go over each boat like their life depended on it. One is a boat builder with 40+ years of experience but not much offshore experience, mostly in inland seas. The other has a long list of sailing, skippering and offshoring accomplishments, also of 40+ years, too long to list here, with probably 100s of thousands of nms behind him incl. 2 circumnavs in a 38footer. To their expertise and opinion I would of course add my own aestethic and personal preferences but would definitely adjust/temper these to lesser value than quality build or sailing characteristics. I would also trust my friends' (and my own) hunches enough to get a pretty good idea of each boat's sailing abilities even before any sea trials as they already have proven their expertise and knowledge on many previous occasions.

PS And yes after I narrowed my choice say to 3 boats I would have an independent survey done on each. That goes without saying on such an expensive buy.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:20   #5
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

Julie,
Well of course you pose an excellent question of which there are few good answers. You cold hire an "expert" be it a John Neal type or Bob Perry and while they would give you sound advise you would have to expect that they would have their personal bias's. John Neal has never even mentioned a French production boat in his list of suitable boats for offshore so unless it was coastal cruising you would know that many on your list are not on his list. Facts are no matter how many miles you have sailed offshore or how many boats you have looked at you could never have looked at all the boats on his list so many of his ideas have to be information he has gathered from sources other than by personal experience so second hand if you will. I know nothing about Bob Perry other than he is a fine NA and spends lots of time on SA and has a wide following although sailors like Polux on this forum consider him yesterday's man with dated ideas. So there is a good look at expert help and it may be as good as any as a place to start. The prices that these fellows charge seems to be reasonable.
Seems to me that you should dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can about boats that catch your eye and fit your budget. It is a wonderful way to spend time if you are into that sort of thing. Good luck! R
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:23   #6
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

You can't afford to survey every boat. Nor can you go see every boat that sparks an interest. The idea is to use available facts to whittle down the potential candidates to a manageable, and affordable, size.

There seems to be no shortage of Beneteau owners who are willing to take their boats out onto open water, without the benefit of being able to wait for a good weather window. Tartan is also out there time and again.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:36   #7
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

If you are talking the usual cruising grounds, pick pretty much any boat manufacturer and model that strikes your fancy and you will be OK in general.

Specifics is where the devil lies. The problem is every single boat is unique. The only way you can know it is suitable for your usage (in other words, without any structural problems) is to either have enough expertise yourself in evaluating it, or hire someone to help. Any individual Oyster can be just as unsuited as any individual Hunter.

I don't think looking at racing boats tells much because they spend a lot of time on specific aspects of those boats, and only need them to stand up for short periods of time between periods of husbanding. They also have full crew and known weather windows - even if the latter are bad ones.

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Old 08-01-2015, 14:46   #8
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

I would talk to yacht brokers in the largest boating areas in the U.S and ask for surveyor recommendations. The same 4 or 5 names will pop to the top of the list. Then call these surveyors and ask their opinions of the make and models you are comparing. You will not find a better unbiased opinion of how well a boat is constructed and handles than from talking to a GOOD surveyor. They have crawled through almost every boat from every era out there. And they have spent their lives looking for the faults that occur from use over time. I can not think of a better way to find the information.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:53   #9
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

Also, AFAIK, most common racing boats (i.e. specifically fitted for racing production boats) are poor indicators of the quality of their cruising brethren as each model specifically fitted out for a race is often rigged to very narrow tolerances since weight and speed are most important factors. So a carbon rig on such a boat is even thinner than it would be on its cruising version and often is made in a hurry with deadlines looming etc. So the % of rig failure among racing versions is much higher, especially considering on a per mile sailed basis, than would be in regular cruising versions.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:57   #10
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

I agree, it's a tough question with no easy answer. What easily available information can you use to judge? Not like a car where you want to be the fastest on the block so look at the HP of the engine, wt of the car, etc.

In years past a rule of thumb was how much a boat weighed. One 40' boat might weigh 20% more than another so one would know that one boat was more heavily built than another which usually meant a stronger boat.

Now with high tech materials and improved construction methods a lighter boat could be much stronger than a heavy one.

Going by reputation is a bust because you will run into so many different opinions that your head will spin.

I only see two possible answers. Educate yourself on the technology and learn the boats. Based on your previous posts it seems you already have a very solid background in a lot of the technology so mainly a matter of learning boats; how and where to apply that knowledge to evaluating the quality of a boat, what to look for, what's critical, what is cosmetic and then look at a lot of boats. OR, find someone that already has the knowledge, hopefully someone with minimal prejudices and preconceptions of their own and pay them.

The former I think is the better and certainly most satisfying, the later if you're needing more immediate gratification.
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Old 08-01-2015, 14:57   #11
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

Its only seaworthy is its very small, has multiple masts, bilge keels and pointy stern.

.... And designed by an old fart.

Oh, and hasn't been built in the last quarter century.
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Old 08-01-2015, 15:02   #12
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
Its only seaworthy is its very small, has multiple masts, bilge keels and pointy stern.

.... And designed by an old fart.

Oh, and hasn't been built in the last quarter century.
And with a forest of teak on the outside with another forest of teak on the inside. Mahogany on the inside if one needs to live on the bleeding edge and willing to defend it to the real BWC's.

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Old 08-01-2015, 15:10   #13
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
A good survey.

Mark
Mark, with all respect to you, and to the surveyors of this world, a good survey will tell you about the condition of a given boat, but nothing about its inherent seaworthyness... at least, this has been true of the surveys that I have commissioned myself, and those that I have been privy to that others have had done.

If I wanted that sort of information, I think I would hire a naval architect as a consultant. I know that Bob Perry offers that service, and I bet that others do as well. These are folks who have made a life study of the facets of seaworthyness, and whose opinion is worth studying.

As to the race entries as a data base... well, Julie do remember that those races require that all entrants meet cat one or even cat zero criteria. I am sure that none of the production Benies etc will do so as delivered by the builder. Hence, it means that every one of them has had at least some equipment upgrades to be allowed to race, and that unless you knew the extent of these modifications and improvements their inclusion on the entry list doesn't mean much to you as a prospective buyer. Yet, the fact that they successfully complete the races means that the basic platform is "good enough", and that is useful info (and puts to shame the "not fit to go to sea" statements that appear here on CF from time to time). Remember too that folks who contemplate entry into major races will usually have selected the specific model from the product line that best suits a racing career, usually with a large crew. These factors don't always correspond to those that make a good short handed cruising vessel.

It is most interesting that so many common production boats do enter and complete tough ocean races, and I thank you for compiling the data. It would be even more useful to know, somehow, in what condition the boats reached the finish line! Some of the custom race boats seem to be falling apart, or have had to withdraw prior to the finish... isn't that interesting to contemplate!

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Old 08-01-2015, 15:13   #14
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

I'm going to assume you mean an older, less expensive boat? Not a new or nearly new expensive one?
Seaworthiness on any older boat assuming a good design and build quality is more than anything a measure of it's care and up-keep. I looked at maybe 75 or so boats when looking for mine, maybe 10 real hard and paid for two surveys. In almost all cases I could tell from looking at the boat sitting in its slip how hard a life it had led and how well it had been cared for, I never saw a clean well kept boat that had not had it's maintenance well kept up and I never saw a dirty, un-kept boat that had.
I am sure that is not always the case, but it sure seemed to be.
First boat I made an offer for and had surveyed, was exceptionally well cared for, it's pictures on Yachtworld had been very well staged, with wine glasses, napkins and plates and a center piece etc on the Salon table, wine glasses on the cockpit table etc., but it was a poorly constructed boat with wet decks and a "soft spot" in the hull.
Hence my caveat about well designed and built. I learned to first eliminate certain brands from my quest


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Old 08-01-2015, 16:19   #15
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Re: How Do You Determine If A Boat Is "Seaworthy"?

This wasn't intended to help me decide on a boat but rather a general question on how each one of us would go about trying to determine what "production boat", or whatever you might call it, is most seaworthy, reliable and something that gives you peace of mind when the weather gets up.

I focused on races but the boats I picked out are not flat out racers. In fact I'll bet most are used 90% or more entertaining, day sailing and coastal cruising. Yet their owners felt confident to enter them in races some sailors never returned from.

If this trend continued, it would be hard to ignore. Those big name manufacturer's who aren't on the participant's list would be easier to remove from the to-buy list
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