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Old 19-09-2018, 09:39   #1
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Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Hi All,

Great forum and thanks in advance for any advice you might have!

I’m in Michigan and am thinking about purchasing my first sailboat – likely a 36-38’ range in the late 1990s vintage. Purchase price could be in the mid $70Ks.

Obviously, I’m going to find the best surveyor I can (any recommendations in West Michigan are appreciated!).

Question about sea trials though..

The boat that I’m looking at has been on the hard since Fall of 2017. This late in the season, do you think I should have the expense of having the boat put in and a sea trial? Or would an excellent survey on the hard, along w/ maybe hiring a diesel mechanic to look over diesel the best he can be the way to go.

I want to do this right and with minimal risk. But the expense to put the boat in, put sails on etc. just to take it out for winter seems wrong too. Any thoughts?

Appreciate your opinion. I’ve sailed dingys my whole life but this is my first “big” boat so I’m a total newbie here..

Thank you,

Eric
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Old 19-09-2018, 09:48   #2
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Mechanical survey is mandatory. If that checks out, sea trials. Would you buy a $70K without driving it first?
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Old 19-09-2018, 11:10   #3
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

If you know the boat is mechanically and structurally sound in all respects chances are the sea trial won't tell you much, even about how that design sails, unless you are lucky enough to have some really good wind. But you probably already have some idea of her handling characteristics without sailing her. What a sea trial may show, and be of value for, is some hidden flaw/weakness in rig or hull, or electronics and/or autopilot that aren't working, or an engine with hidden issues like poor cooling, or prop shaft out of alignment, need for new packing gland or loose strut... all the propulsion items, which are not trivial. If you can find a mechanic who can satisfy you that all those things are good to go without it getting wet to check them, then you could forego the sea trial IMO. But how much would it be to just have the yard drop it in the water, still in the slings to check engine and other items for an hour or so? I'd certainly opt for that if it is not going to break the bank. On the positive side, it is a lot better to evaluate a boat when it is OUT of the water for the prop/shaft/strut issues and keel check and blister check etc. If it is a highly regarded well-built boat that has been maintained well, the chances of a major surprise in the rig or hull is very low. I've only owned two boats and didn't have a sea trial for either but they are smaller, simpler boats, which I already knew well. I know folks who swear that no one should ever buy a boat without a sea trial but in your case the expense could be significant and the owner may not be agreeable to it also. If it were ME, and I was satisfied by the survey and mechanic I'd probably forego the sea trial, but that's just me.
What kind of boat is it BTW?
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Old 19-09-2018, 11:35   #4
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

For all the reasons mentioned by Don CL I would insist on a sea trial. Examples

1. Engine might crank and run fine on the hard with cooling water piped in but you have to run it a while under load to confirm: it will produce full power, cooling system works, no vibration from shaft or prop. No way you can do all that out of the water and in a worst case scenario, might involve thousands to fix.

2. Even if it's a well known design doesn't mean it sails or handles well. Unless you have solid advise or recommendations from owners of the same boat you may want to see how it rides.

3. Certain bits of gear like an autopilot you really can't test at all except on a sea trial and again these could be thousands to replace or repair.

For a smaller, cheaper boat I would forego the sea trial. Spending $70k I would not. Besides, isn't the seller bearing the cost of the sea trial? That is the usual procedure.
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Old 19-09-2018, 11:57   #5
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Some risks in no sea trial for sure. Run the engine on the hard at least. You can stick a hose in the sea water strainer to do that.
-you wont know the condition of the transmission or the shaft/coupling.
-you wont know if the fuel has gone bad but if it only sat a year it should be ok.
If it's a known design you don't really need to sail the boat, although it helps to give an idea of sail condition. You can generally assess the sails on grass.
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Old 19-09-2018, 12:48   #6
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

I'm not as experienced a sailor as the previous four people that answered, but I'll give you a little budgeting and buying advice. People focus on the purchase price of the boat ($70 K is a lot of money) and forget about the after-purchase expenses which over 10 years can easily be that much. You should add these up, and know what you're getting into (insurance, dockage, club memberships, maintenance, the second pair of sunglasses to keep on the boat, etc.)

For this reason alone, I would hire a good quality surveyor, and perhaps a mechanical inspector that can perform a diesel compression test. If you attend the survey with the surveyor, you will get all sorts of pointers regarding expected repairs. I would look for a surveyor with accreditation, such as SAMS, as it indicates some basic level of knowledge. Asking around (not to the broker) for a quality person is your best bet. Personally, I used Morman Marine in the Detroit area, but I don't know if he will travel that far west. I was very pleased by his work, and he had an excellent reputation. I did not learn that much from any of my sea trials that I did not already know from a survey, except that the engine cooling could handle an hour of steaming without overheating. I learned nothing from seeing any boat sail, except to confirm that I wanted to buy new sails immediately!

Considering how difficult to sell a twenty-year-old mid-30-foot sailboat in Michigan, you are in a very strong position if you have cash. This late in the season, the seller is going to pay at least $800 for storage, and you should expect to get this winter included in your purchase.
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Old 19-09-2018, 12:57   #7
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
What kind of boat is it BTW?
36' Catalina 1999

Don - thank you for taking your time to share your thoughts, I really appreciate it!

SkipMac, Cheechako, John Trusty - thank you all for sharing your information too!! John maybe someday we can meet up at Mackinaw Island!
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Old 19-09-2018, 13:15   #8
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Yes, As John Trusty said, many boats can be purchased for well below asking price, especially this time of year. I have bought, and had to sell, at 40% off what brokers said to list them for.
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Old 19-09-2018, 13:40   #9
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Hello, Eric,

Everyone has just about covered everything, so I'll just add my 2 cents: 1) look at the engine while it is running, to see if there is any leakage (oil, coolant, raw water) and for excessive vibration, if it is a shaft drive, not a saildrive, you can eyeball runout to some extent; and 2) take a look at "Marine Survey 101" (CF Google Custom Search, a ways down the search menu).

Good luck with it all.

Ann
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Old 20-09-2018, 09:59   #10
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

The seller is not usually responsible for the cost of a sea trial other than the fuel and any cost of getting the boat ready, if any.

The buyer pays for all other costs related to the sea trial and survey.

At least that is the standard in Florida.

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Old 20-09-2018, 10:09   #11
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Given what the boat is, there are 1000's of them out there. That boat will sail fine. At that age it might have tired sails. You did not tell us. I agree great time to buy a boat but for all the reasons of the other posters put it in the water and try it out to make sure. I am biased towards Catalinas though as I own one. Love it.
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Old 20-09-2018, 10:22   #12
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

At that price point, I would do all of the above.
  1. It could get you a $10-$30k discount if something needs attending to and thus leave you more room for negotiation.
  2. It could cause you to back away if something is found you are not comfortable with.
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Old 20-09-2018, 10:25   #13
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

here’s from one who didn’t do a sea trial: Do it! Money well spent. Luckly we didn’t have any issue, but it could have been a desaster!!! A sea trial is your assurance that the boat sail well and smoothly under sails as well as in the engine. That you will not know for sure on the hard!
Good luck!
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Old 20-09-2018, 10:32   #14
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Since there is considerable expense and effort required to do the sea trial, you should expect/demand a substantial reduction in price to reflect this.

At this time of year, there are bargains. Price sells.
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Old 20-09-2018, 10:43   #15
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Re: Buying Used 36’ Sailboat –first boat; purchase questions

Good point! The owner should assume at least part of the sea trial costs!
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