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Old 26-07-2004, 10:18   #1
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'79 Formosa Ketch: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

A friend is looking at a 1979 Formosa 51 here in Florida and I am the middleman.

The boat is extremely well maintained-upgraded-refurbished by the manager of a local boat yard and the price seems reasonable.

Wonder if anybody else have any background info, or facts/rumors on the Formosa,s?

(All I know is that they are built in Taiwan, is big and fat and full of teak)
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Old 26-07-2004, 11:25   #2
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The essense of these boats is that they were built in a manner that meant that they had a very limited lifespan (teak decks over construction grade plywood, wooden spars with casian adhesives, and iron ballast cast in concrete, poor quality wiring, switches, deck hardware. When my mother was in the oriental boat importing business, other Taiwanese boat builders used to go on at length about how Formosa's shoddy build quality was giving all of them a bad name. It is the poster child for what most people think of when they talk about poor oriental boat building.

Then there is the sailing ability which is notoriously poor as well.

These boats are sold cheap for a reason. They make reasonable cheap initial cost/ high maintenance cost liveaboards, unless someone has poured a fortune into one at which point they become cheap initial cost/ moderately high maintenance cost liveaboards.

So what is that you want to know?
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Old 26-07-2004, 12:58   #3
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He-hw...Thanks Jeff...I guess.

Well, that is about all I wanted to know.

The boat I am dealing with does not have wooden spars or teak decks any more.

Somebody has really put a fortune into it, both in terms of money and elbow grease.

Wireing and switches, etc is also new..So is engine mounts, steering, shaft, tranny and mucho other stuff.

Did a search on the web and found them (1979, 51s) ranging from $134K $371K..
This one should be in the middle at about $200K

Then of course there is the surveyor and his microspcope...

Thanks again for good info Mr. Jeff.

(Ya still have not told me the truth about my CSY 33, don't be shy, let it rip..... )
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Old 26-07-2004, 18:48   #4
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As an owner of a Formosa , I find Jeff's statments to be anything but true. At least in our case. We have lead ballast ,teak over a glass deck with no ,and I repeat no leaks or rotton core, Tinned wireing with Marinetics panels and switches ,Aluminum fuel tanks ,SS water tanks , Aluminum Spars ,and all SS appears to be 316L.and as an added bonus all the joinery in tight and solid. Now this is first hand observations of our Formosa, not business salesman friends of my mom's.
Now with that off my chest. I will say all boats are a compremise (sp)and are individuals unto themselves. Both in performance and build. Past ownership maintanance plays a major roll also . If the boat matches the buyer , make the sale
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Old 29-07-2004, 10:38   #5
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Formosa's may not all be created equal. They built Peterson 44 and 46's; well-respected blue water boats. The fellow a few slips from me is re-fitting his 44; they do tend to have problems with leaks, like many older boats. Take a look at Sue and Larry's articles at Sailnet.com: they chose a Formosa Peterson after living aboard a new Beneteau and doing much research.
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Old 29-07-2004, 20:11   #6
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As I understand it the Kelly Peterson 44's and 46's were built at another yard under contract. Formosa produced a pirated design, that they called a Peterson until Peterson took action against Formosa after which the name was changed to a Formosa 44. As I understand it the Formosa version had some of the sailing characteristics of the Kelly Petersons but were substanially heavier and rift with build quality issues.

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Old 30-07-2004, 06:10   #7
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I travelled for a while in Mexico in company with friends that had a Formosa 51. It seems like there were many issues with the boat, and they spent a lot of time in port fixing things (more than most) but they liked it. The things that stand out in my mind was the size of the large engine room, the easy motion at anchor and the overall size of the thing which, in the end was too much for a couple and one child and, made me feel uncomfortable. I never saw them sail the boat - they always motored.
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Old 07-08-2004, 09:02   #8
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Dolce Vita

Just to clarify my comments, my mother (with my stepfather) started and owned a business that developed boat designs, had them built in Taiwan, they imported and sold these boats in the States. In the course of developing a design, picking a yard to build that design, and supervising the construction of the boats that she also sold, she spent a lot of time in the yards in Taiwan. The boat building community is quite small and close knit and so designers, yard owners and managers would frequently hang out together during which there was very open conversations about the issues that each yard was living with. Within that circle of builders, the industry was a something of an open book. There were no salesmen involved. One of the frequent topics of conversation was how many of the yards had worked to improve the quality of the Taiwanese boats and yet they were getting branded as leaky teakies because of the poor quality boats coming out of a comparatively few yards at that time. Formosa was frequently cited as one of the poster children for use of poor materials, shoddy workmanship where it counted and poor construction practices. This matched my mother and stepfather's opinion while touring the yard in the course of trying to sellect a yard to build a line of boats that they were developing at the time.


It sounds like someone has taken the time, and spent the money to upgrade your boat and that is all well and good, but within the Taiwanese boat building community Formosa's were seen as the kind of boats that give Oriental boats a bad name.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 07-08-2004, 12:57   #9
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Old 07-08-2004, 18:51   #10
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Our Formosa was a Custom Build for an airline ceo . I suspect he was there all the time . We are the third owners . I believe the boat was built right the first time . And Jeff , I still enjoy reading your "Take " of the differant vessels . Keep up the good work .

Michael:
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Old 22-08-2004, 18:20   #11
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FWIT, keeping in mind that each boat has many characteristics unto itself, and that the maintenance history of older boats, especially with regard to upgrades, is crucial, the comments which Jeff makes about this builder and their products is spot on! As a generality, they are not a good investment ... BUT, that said, there are exceptions to every rule. Suggestion: Hire a GOOD surveyor, let him do his thing THOROUGHLY, and abide by his findings. (Not a bad idea for buying any boat!)
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Old 05-01-2005, 02:12   #12
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Formosa 51 was not only made by formosa

The garden design was used by 4 different boat yards in taiwan. Formosa was one, Overseas 51 was another boat from the same mode. There where some that did do shoddy work and others that didn't. The older pre 1980's were much thicker and stronger built using some of the better materials if you find a Overseas 51.
The boat is large and roomy, sails better than expected if you know how to sail it on the angle that Mr. garden intended it to sail. Upwind the bow angle pushes the bow back to windward thus giving the design a special shallow draft way ahead of her time. They are very easy to overpower thus the popular ketch rigg which keeps the sails small.
Formosa did make a lot of cheap boats over the years and I have even seen the sunday comics inside hulls instead of fiberglass cloth.
You just have to look for the right yard in Taiwan that built it back then. The best way to tell is the "eyebrow" on the pilothouse version. some have a large eyebrow and some have a little dinky one. The large one is a overseas.
I have sailed over 20,000 miles on an overseas without problems,though some upgrading in the rigging was done.
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Old 05-01-2005, 02:51   #13
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Should this earlier post be read later by others...

...perhaps it would be helpful to offer an explanation about how Jeff's summary comments - quite accurate in my experience - could co-exist with DOLCE VITA's obviously accurate description of their own boat.

The yard building these Formosa products was what it was, but the 'builders' - meaning the couple who owned the rights to the design, sold the boat at the boat shows, and oversaw (or not) the production, were very agreeable to partial building and custom orders. As one example, the couple who first mentored us in Santa Barbara, CA bought a Formosa 41 because it was a traditional, Garden design but they had a totally different layout built up, got lead ballast but the ply/cloth decks (which they had to replace while on a mooring in New Zealand), and otherwise got an empty boat: no steering system, no electrics, no tanks, no engine, no masts or sails, no cushions, etc. They were on a tight budget, were drawing on the experience of three prior circumnavigations between the husband & wife, and spec'd out or did the rest of the work themselves. NATASHA was a real seagoing boat when they finished, and the family of 5 did a 5-year Circle in her without any structural or other problems beyond the lousy decks.

Now...having said all that, she was l-o-n-g and she was HEAVY. She was unfit for crews that were small and/or inexperienced. Her passage times were not impressive for her length and crew size, and of course she was a ketch - with all the assets and liabilities of a ketch. She was probably an ideal boat to be sailing in the Trades across the Pacific, Indian and up the South Atlantic, and to be taking around South Africa. But the cockpit was horribly unergonomic, the upkeep required was relentless, and the slip fees today would be breathtaking. None of these issues are mitigated by her unique, far better than most construction details.

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Old 03-09-2006, 19:11   #14
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Was the CT41 also a Formosa boat? What do you think of a rear berth, center cockpit, ketch version with aluminum masts and a Perkins 4_108?
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Old 25-09-2006, 10:56   #15
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Wow the replies cover the whole spectrum here. Some is pure bull by those who have either never owned or never sailed a Formosa. I own operate and live on a Formosa 51. She sails wonderfully but tacking must be a full comitment. I.E. Tack with determination hold the head sail backwinded untill the bow is pushed around by the wind. Let fly the sheet and haul in on opposit tack. At 52,000 lbs she steers and sails like a large boat. What would you expect. Never dock with the wind and use the mid ship cleat before all others. I can provide lots more info on handling if need be. Angelique will sail in light or heavy air at half od the wind speed up to hull speed. 10Kts of wind = 5 Kts sailing speed. My boatwas built in 1978 and is very heavy. Built like a tank. All of the boats built years ago need overhaul and upgrade so why say Formosa is any worse than any other. The boat / any boat will only be as good as the care that has been taken of her. The boat you find or purchase will only be as good as the work you do finding and surveying her. Go into a deal on any boat with your eyes open and not blinded by initial desire.

Angelique has had aprox $95,000 to $100,000 spent on upgrades and refurbishments. She isn,t done. Initial purchase price for an older boat in need of work may be $65,000 to $85,000 depending on condition. When in sail away condition they will sell for $160,000 and up. I would be glad to help you with any information or questions you have . I recomend though that you do your homework. Here are the boats I can recomend you look at. Formosa, Hardin, Hudson, and Vagabond. All fall into the China Clipper realm. www.yachtworld.com

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