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Old 07-07-2012, 14:48   #1
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Some advice on buying a used sailboat please

Hi everyone, looking for some advice from all you experienced sailors out there. I have never owned a boat, but have been threatening for years now to buy a second hand cruiser sailboat just for family cruising around the Puget Sound / San Juans, and this year we are going to make that move. I am on a USD 30K - 40K budget, so I cannot go too extravagantly. We are looking for a 30 to 32 foot sailboat, with the main criteria being easy to operate and sail. Me and the rest of the family (we are 3) are planning on taking sailing lessons, but for now, if someone can advise me on which make/model of boat I should target, that is relatively easy to learn sailing on? Something simple and reliable that could make a good weekend cruiser for a novice (hopefully not for too long!).

Thank you very much.

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Old 07-07-2012, 15:41   #2
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Re: Some advice on buying a used sailboat please


I think you will find many good boats in this price/size range. Take it slow and have a good look at what other people are sailing in the area - this may give you some indication of what type of boat works in specific local conditions best. The good news is most designs are pretty universal in this respect.

Do not limit yourselves to 30'-32' as each side of this range you will find boats that might work for you; LOA is a very poor indication of how 'big' the boat is. There are some 'short' boats that are very voluminous and then there are some 'long' boats that are not too roomy at all. Look at everything that floats around, then decide which of them is right for you.

Try to follow your heart and look for a boat that will inspire you (this is the plural 'you'); value for money, LOA and resale value are all very fine notions, but it is the emotion that a boat creates in you that sends you sailing.

Buy smart and follow your heart, then you can't go wrong.


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Old 07-07-2012, 22:23   #3
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Re: Some advice on buying a used sailboat please

My advice is to go aboard as many boats as you can talk your way aboard to give you an idea of what you might want to buy. Most all boats in the 30-32 foot range will be sloops and its the easiest to rig and learn to sail aboard.
There are a bunch on craigslist and at each boat brokerage that might meet your needs. Don't get in a hurry and see if you can join a club that will get you out on the water on a few boats.
kind regards,
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Old 07-07-2012, 22:40   #4
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Re: Some advice on buying a used sailboat please

Hi ... a good discussion topic. I am currently boat hunting too, so I will be interested in the replies. A couple of things I have already picked up.

- Just because the engine starts easily still make sure the seals look ok and there are no leaks and no funny bearing noises.
- Look for blisters in the fiberglass hull, this is of course only possible if it is on a hard stand.
- I've also seen a few keel bolts that looked suspiciously rusty, even worse are the ones that are covered in a thick layer of paint/resing

Thats just a few, I hope you get many replies so I can learn too. ....

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Old 08-07-2012, 06:52   #5
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Look at condition more than age or make. Standing rigging has a 20 year more/less life span. Running rigging is 1/2 that. Aset of new sails on a 30 footer will run 4k and up. Read Don Casey's Good Old Boat. Remember its a buyer's market. Good luck.
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:00   #6
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Re: Some advice on buying a used sailboat please

Take your lessons before you buy a boat. Then maybe charter a boat in the size range you want, and spend a weekend on it, preferably away from the dock. You will start to learn what you like and dont like before you write the check for a boat. Even more important is to let the family learn, becouse we all know the old saying,"When Mom is unhappy, everbody is unhappy"._______ My 2 cents worth____Grant.
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:26   #7
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Re: Some advice on buying a used sailboat please

First, heed all the advise in previous posts. All spot on.

I would add, if you want to avoid costly repairs or maintain resale value in case you decide to trade up/down in the future here are some things to look out for that could make what looks like a good deal into a bad one.

1. Bad engine. In a 30-32' boat could be $10,000 to pay a boat yard to install a new engine. Used and DIY you could get by with much less but at the expense of a lot of time.

2. Standing rigging (the wires that hold up the mast). 30-32' sloop would could be $3000-$5000 to pay a rigger to replace all the wires and associated fittings.

3. Blisters on the bottom. Usually cosmetic but can be serious and structural. Even cosmetic blisters can scare away buyers and reduce resale value. Cost to repair varies a lot depending on the method and material. Paying a yard figure $2000-$3000 for a simple basic repair or double that for a more elaborate job.

4. Soft decks. Could be a deal killer. Many or most boats the deck is built in a sandwich, fiberglass inside and out with plywood, balsa or other material in between. Anywhere you attach things to the deck like winches, blocks, stanchions, etc that drill through the fiberglass layer into the core are areas where you might get leaks and overtime rot the core. If serious it would cost more than the boat is worth to repair properly.

5. Bulkheads. Inside the boat the walls between the cabins are structural bulkheads. They will be attached to the hull of the boat with strips of fiberglass. These could separate or if the bulkheads were wewt due to leaks, the wood itself could be rotten. Another potential deal breaker.

6. Hull to deck joint. Most boats are made in two pieces, hull and deck, then joined together. Lots of different ways to join the two, some better than others. Over time some tend to leak and even separate and, depending on how the boat was put together, may be difficult to repair.

If you find a boat you like and the seller will allow (should not be a problem if the seller is serious), go through the boat and look in all the nooks and crannies. If you can fit climb inside all the lockers and closets look for stains that show water leaks, look for loose wood or glass parts, tap on stuff like decks, wood bulkheads, etc to see if it is soft (a dull thud or thunk) or solid (like the sound of tapping a piece of good hardwood, almost a ring).

Then before you buy get a good surveyor (inspector).

Good luck and welcome to the forum.


The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.
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