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Old 18-08-2015, 16:00   #1
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Tips on buying an older sailboat

Folks this site is the other side of my coin listing tips on selling an older sailboat. Here is where you can pile on with tips to get the right boat for you. Here are some startup suggestions

If you want to check out a candidate boat not geographically convenient , screen the boat ahead of time by buying say two hours of time with a local surveyor asking for a general walkthru and a telephone report. You will be delighted at how much you learn at a reasonable price. And look at the time you saved. Boat US has a listing of recommended surveyors around almost all US sailing venues.

If a broker is involved, confirm that the broker actually knows the boat, has actually been aboard recently ,

Lots of experience on this site-- pile on!
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Old 18-08-2015, 17:56   #2
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Just scrolling through the site and I saw this post. I purchased an old boat, 1979 to be exact and this is what I learned:

Rule: (there is only one)
#1. Don't buy an old boat

Of course there are exceptions to buying older boats, and typically they will rival the prices of newer boats because all the systems have been changed out. My boat just happened to not be in this category. So if you choose not to follow rule #1, then I suggest you take some of these guide lines into play:

Guidelines (in order of cost):

1. Lack of Patience will cost you the most. I strongly agree to have a surveyor walk through the boat to perform some assessment on if its what you are looking. I believe I paid an extra 20K more for my boat because I was the first person to walk through before the surveyor so I was already convinced I had to have it.

2. Engine (diesel): Ensure the surveyor takes a lot of pictures of the engine room. Inspect engine mounts for rust, look for oil absorbent rags, have the surveyor start then engine cold (without priming the fuel lines) and see if the engine turns over in less than 3 seconds. If more than you got a problem. Ensure engine gauges are new and there is a oil pressure and temperature alarm installed. A bad gauge may cover up something that the owner is hiding and that could cost you a lot. Ensure there is not oil coming out of the air intake area or around the PCV. If no oil is observed and the engine starts up quick, its a good sign that the cylinder compression is acceptable.

3. Standing Rigging: Ask if the standing rigging AND chain plates have been replaced in the past 10 years. If its anywhere on the salt water, you will want to replace them (as per expert recommendations). This can be pricy if you have someone do it for you. If you do it yourself it will be around 2K. I wouldn't trust a visual inspections, but if its original and its not made out of bronze, then you have to address it. Try to see if it would be easy to access these chain plates or if you will have to destroy your interior (like me).

4. Deck: Any experienced surveyor should already do this, but its your responsibility to hold them accountable. Have them take their shoes off and walk (bounce) foot by foot every square foot of the deck. Ask him directly, did you feel ANY soft spots around the deck? You don't want soft spongy decks. Its an indication of how well its been taken care of

5. Leaks: You are probably gonna have some leaks around the hatches, etc. and that's normal stuff you can get to eventually. What you want to know is if there is a secret leak you don't know about that makes you have to take expensive immediate action. One tip you can request from the surveyor is to immediately drain the bilge as soon as they get there. Then they leak ask them to drain it again. If the survey is able to drain the boat more, then you got a leak you have to address. Also, have them take a picture of the bilge and give it a good smell test. If its black and smells interesting, then it may be troubling.

6. Smells: It doesn't matter how great the boat has been maintained, smells can easily drive you insane. Head smells are probably typical and may cause you to roll up your sleeves one weekend to take care of that, but what you should be more worried about is any signs of Diesel leaks. My boat was secretly chaffing one of the fuel tank fill lines. The first time I filled it up, fuel silently traversed through the floor boards and got to everything. It took me a year to fix that and I tried everything. Google had to purchase an extra server to hold my search history for "how to remove diesel smells". The only thing that worked was to rip up the floor board and backing plywood (definitely could open up a new form). Not the most expensive fix compared to others, BUT it was the emotional toll that taxed my motivation to the point of tears (mostly from diesel fumes)

7. Electrical Wiring: Ask for the surveyor to take a picture of the back of the Panel. If its neat and organized, there is a good chance the boat was properly upgraded over the years. My experience has been that owners would upgrade their old boat with a new autopilot, or AC unit, etc. and just shove the wiring around making a mess. Look for every wire to land on their own terminal location and labeled properly. If the boat is wired with 120V AC, something you can have the surveyor do is take a 1000W Space Heater and test it out on every outlet. If you blow a fuse, you gotta do some rewiring, or receptacle replacement. If they feel a lot of heat around the outlet, you will need to replace the receptacle. These aren't that expensive, but they can give you an idea on the level of corrosion on the wires. Have the surveyor turn on all Lights, etc. Every light should work, including running lights, mast lights, and interior cabin lights. If they don't work, ensure that the broker, owner of the boat gets the lights to work before you come down there. Again what you don't want to find is you assume a light bulb has blown, but in reality the mast wires have corroded so bad that the strands are now in two pieces. Just imagine how many hours in the chair you would spend trying to troubleshoot the issue in the air just to find out you gotta rewire your mast.

Ok, I think I wrote enough opinions here. Again, they may be wrong, they may be right, but I will tell you that I wish I had known to do all of those things because I would have saved 20K.
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Old 19-08-2015, 05:35   #3
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

I have a 79, didn't have a survey when I bought her. She's a pretty good old boat.

If I had advice about buying an old boat, it would be to stay away from racing designs, every fast old boat I've ever looked at the glass has been mush on. C&C's have been an exception to this rule, but they're really more of a racer cruiser.

A lot of the signs of badness are obvious if you look through critical eyes, don't let emotion get too heavily involved in the assessment.

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Old 19-08-2015, 05:50   #4
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Is it clean, decluttered and does it have manuals and maintenance records? These are the general signs that it has been well used and maintained. Half of this is common sense...is there a lot of stuff lying around? Is it dirty and greasy? Are there old parts rusting away in drawers? 20 year old chartbooks and cruisiing guides? Anchor locker dry and clean? Homes have to have "curb appeal" to attract buyers--sort of the same for a boat...look through the bilge...grease? oil? dirt? was it repainted? Are wires and rope stiff or clean and ductile? As crucial and important as rigging is--it is generally ignored, even by surveyors--get a full rigging inspections..most folks never know if the boat has been rerigged...I just did mine and am keeping all records and photos...same with motormounts, prop and shaft...it will make it more desirable when the time comes to move on--and will make me safer! All good points above--just thought I'd add a few.....
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Old 19-08-2015, 07:02   #5
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpmccros View Post
I purchased an old boat, 1979 to be exact..
I though the OP asked about old boats.
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Old 19-08-2015, 07:34   #6
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Annapolis View Post
Is it clean, decluttered and does it have manuals and maintenance records? These are the general signs that it has been well used and maintained. Half of this is common sense...is there a lot of stuff lying around? Is it dirty and greasy? Are there old parts rusting away in drawers? 20 year old chartbooks and cruisiing guides? Anchor locker dry and clean? Homes have to have "curb appeal" to attract buyers--sort of the same for a boat...look through the bilge...grease? oil? dirt? was it repainted? Are wires and rope stiff or clean and ductile? As crucial and important as rigging is--it is generally ignored, even by surveyors--get a full rigging inspections..most folks never know if the boat has been rerigged...I just did mine and am keeping all records and photos...same with motormounts, prop and shaft...it will make it more desirable when the time comes to move on--and will make me safer! All good points above--just thought I'd add a few.....
Sometimes you have to be able to see through the lack of curb appeal. You have to dig deep below all the junk to find the relatively new sails, the anchors, extra chain and 300' of extra rode, the GPS units, the autopilot.

You have to get rid of all the rusted cans, wash all the running rigging which was caked with dirt from 5 years on the hard without use. Remove the diesel and dig out the three inches of sludge in the bilge. Remove the old rusty fuel tank, remove the copper fuel line, rip out unneeded electrical wiring, repaint the bottom, repaint the topside hull, etc.

Then sail it hard locally and see if it will hold up ............
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Old 19-08-2015, 08:36   #7
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

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Originally Posted by thomm225 View Post
Sometimes you have to be able to see through the lack of curb appeal. You have to dig deep below all the junk to find the relatively new sails, the anchors, extra chain and 300' of extra rode, the GPS units, the autopilot.
I think there are two types of people, those who expect an old boat to be just like a new boat, and those that don't. An old boat is old because it is old. OTOH an old boat is cheap(er) because it is old.

If I want to buy an old boat I have to expect to use some of the savings to make repairs that wouldn't necessarily be immediately required on a new boat.

Or I can be irritated because my old boat isn't just like a new boat.

So yea, try your best to find an old boat that has been well maintained. And then expect to still have to immediately spend some money somewhere.

Then enjoy your boat.
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:16   #8
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

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20 year old chartbooks and cruisiing guides? .....
Yep, I use one of the PO's foldout charts of the Chesapeake Bay regularly. It still has his markings on it from when he made his trip in 2004-2006. I believe it's an early 90's chart.

I keep it within reach below while in the cockpit. Then he had the large charts of the Bahamas, Florida, Cape Cod etc.
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:18   #9
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Ok I'm going to say it.
IMO I believe in many many instances replacing threw hulls and standing rigging, chain plates is just not needed. Inspected for sure. Ten years on rigging then replace? What a waste! I believe it's just one of those things that has been said so many times it's now just another factoid. There are good reasons to replace stuff but just because a certain number of years have passed does not have to be one. Pre sailing inspections of critical systems will expose most issues before a failure occurs.


Old boats are a insane value, penny's on the dollar. A good portion of them will do what the new owner ends up using it for with a little work.


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Old 19-08-2015, 10:11   #10
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

My 1974 (40 years young) boat doesn't seem to have substantial mechanical or structural issues. Repairs to date (over 5 years) have been regular maintenance and "nice to haves". The Nav electronics are pretty much outdated but I think anything over 5 years old would be considered outdated by many. Ok, and I replaced the potable water lines and the water heater.

My advice... Look locally, look at lots of boats, make a list of pros and cons and research until you have a short list of makes/designers, then if you find a remote boat have a friend or the selling broker take detailed pics/video. Then if it looks perfect, fly down and/or pay a surveyor.
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Old 19-08-2015, 10:22   #11
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

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Originally Posted by brantleychuck View Post
Old boats are a insane value, penny's on the dollar. A good portion of them will do what the new owner ends up using it for with a little work.
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Old 19-08-2015, 11:11   #12
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Get somebody to look through the boat, no matter what.

I bought a boat from my father. He had been 'trying' to sell it for some time. It had sat on the hard, under a canvas cover, for about 2 years, with very little attention paid to it. I had sailed on it previously, considered my father a good sailor (Navy background and heavily involved with USCGA), and the boat met my needs (also was a freshwater, northern boat, so the 30-year age was not the same as a Florida boat). I anticipated a few (3-4) months of learning systems, changing oil, painting the bottom, and off sailing the Chesapeake.

Instead, there was a significant rain leak that caused extensive rotting in some port-side bulkheads, including some that are critical with chainplates attached. Also the rudder was split from water ingress and freezing. I have had the boat for nearly a year, am pretty close to completing the replacement of the bulkheads, fixing the water leaks, adding a float switch to the bilge pump, and then looking at painting the bottom, inspecting the rigging, stepping the mast, fixing the rudder, etc., etc.

While the boat ended up being 'free', I haven't once gotten out on the Chesapeake and started enjoying myself. I like the work, and am learning a lot. But I'd rather be sailing.

Bottom line, have someone assess the boat!

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Old 19-08-2015, 11:39   #13
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

JPM, thanks for the effort mate. Felt your pain. Thanks for sharing what can happen in a moment of boat lust.
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Old 19-08-2015, 14:35   #14
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

I have no boat ..... and this helps allot in the researching stage I'm in. There is no way my first will be anywhere near new.
KEEP IT COMING !!!!
and thanks for all the info !!!
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Old 19-08-2015, 15:01   #15
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Re: Tips on buying an older sailboat

Great topic. Old boats are definitely a money hole (in the water) BUT.... they have some charm that many new boats lack. I looked for 2 years before buying my boat. Be PREPARED to walk away even after paying for a survey. I had to walk away from two after spending a good deal of $$$. A friend once put it: Pay for a boat up front (newer) or pay as you go (older boat in need).
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