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Old 07-09-2008, 19:52   #1
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Does boat age really matter?

Does the age of a boat matter if it seems to be in good condition? I was looking at a 1965 Columbia online and it looked really nice. I was just wondering what you should look for in an old boat to make sure it is seaworthy? I can live with an interior that needs fixing up, but I am more concerned about the safety issue.
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Old 07-09-2008, 20:40   #2
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In general if stuff is on the edge of its working life span, you'll want to replace stuff prior to it packing up. If the boat was not sailed often, all the running rigging probably needs replacing. No fun when you lose a shackle and have a sail go crashing down (or up... as it were.)

Stainless steel corrodes and cracks in the rig. Working life of chain plates, wire shrouds and terminals ranges between 10-15 years. After which things are on borrowed time. Good idea to go through and find out what you have. It is disconcerting to have a hairline crack in a nicopress fitting, it is more so when you realize it has been there a long time!

Corroded masts need a pair of educated eyes to say whether they are safe or not. Worn out, corroded or electrolysis eaten rudder parts are also something you have to look out for. The actual condition of the rudder and tiller/tillerhead is important. Sort of stuck without it. (Bring a bucket and some rope...)

Boom goosenecks that are worn out, or rivets that are breaking... screws that have corroded away, or worked loose are all safety hazards. Chafed through, way undersized topping lifts are something else that can ruin your day. So can worn out clam cleats on travellers, and most anywhere else!

Through hulls that are eaten up by electrolysis, and hoses that are shot need attention. Get a bag of wooden plugs before going exploring. Basically if the hoses doesn't look new... replace. Pay attention to your shaft log hose too. Hard to replace that one! If the shaft packing doesn't stay in for very long, look into the engine mounts and bolts. Mine only had two loose bolts holding it in... fun!

Deck leaks lead to rotten core in the decks, and bulkheads. If your chain plates bolt to your bulkheads, they need to be in tip top shape. If your interior has water damage from the top down... you'll want to do a lot of looking and digging around the bulkheads. Compression posts and beams need to be in good shape to carry the load of the mast. Mast steps need to be strong. (both the ones you climb, and the ones the mast sits on!)

The rest is pretty much cosmetic, so long as the hull is sound the basic mechanicals are there.

Work out and service any maintenance item, and check over the engine and electrical system.

The worst parts, will be those that are hardest to reach and maintain. If it is hard to do, most folks don't do what is required and wait until whatever it is breaks. If it wasn't used often, and it has the original engine... it is probably a rusty contancorous beast. If it has been repowered, you'll need to look at the quality of the installation. Particularly the engine bed stringers, and the engineering of the exhaust.

Really though, get a SAMS or NAMS certified surveyor to look over the boat when she is out of the water. You'll probably need one to get insurance anyway... may as well find out what you are getting into ahead of time.

I didn't (on this boat... surveyed the one I didn't buy... !) and have a much bigger project than I thought I was getting into. Here are a few pictures and words that show what you can end up getting into. I consider myself pretty good with mechanical stuff, had not really thought through the scale and time involved to bring one back. It's been a year of working weekends, and a year since I've been sailing. Pearson Triton - Pylasteki

Zach
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Old 07-09-2008, 21:03   #3
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Does the end justify the means...

I'm sure you are familiar with the old axe. Still in perfect condition, having had numerous heads and handles replaced.

Old boats are going to be like that legendary axe. Sure they can be made good, but it will probably cost more than buying a boat in good condition to start with.

Do not assume that old fibreglass will be in good condition.

A newer, smaller boat in good condition is going to be heaps cheaper.
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Old 07-09-2008, 21:06   #4
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Old can be a relative term when talking about boats. My boat is 30 years old and I bet it will go 30 more. The plumbing and electrical systems are brand new this year and we have been trying to systematically replace every piece of wire, hose and hardware that was on the boat when we got it.
When looking at older boats I feel it has a lot to do with how much disposable income you have to repair, replace or sometimes re-engineer equipment on the boat.
Depending on how old of a boat you are talking about some equipment essential to operation of the craft might be worn out or damaged beyond repair and long out of production and nothing on the shelf will take its place. Replacing things like that can get expensive in a real hurry.

Can you live with 20,30 or 40 year old plumbing and electrical fixtures? Maybe you can if the systems work but there are still other considerations. Environmental laws relating to holding tanks and other boat plumbing issues have changed over the years and the system might have to be modernized even if it still functions as installed.

Has the boat been upgraded by previous owners? If so you might find a great bargain that you can start using immediately. This would be ideal as you could spend your time working on cosmetic repairs.

I agree with getting a surveyor. Make sure they are qualified to survey the type of craft you are looking at. Don't be afraid to ask for references.

Whether a 65 Colombia might be seaworthy or not depends on the condition of its parts. A surveyor can answer that question for you.

Good luck with your search. There is nothing more exciting than searching for the next boat except maybe sailing it home for the first time.
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Old 07-09-2008, 22:19   #5
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An old boat that's been well maintaned is fine. When we sell our boat (can't even imagine that day, but I suppose it's out there somewhere), she'll be in better condition than when we bought her, even though it's older.
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Old 07-09-2008, 23:05   #6
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What Aspect Do You Mean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabesailing View Post
Does the age of a boat matter if it seems to be in good condition? I was looking at a 1965 Columbia online and it looked really nice.
I think it depends on what aspect of the boat you are talking about.

Time moves on and technology changes. Computers have fundamentally changed the world including yacht design. From structural calculations to calculating drag and wetted area to custom designing interiors, the potential for a modern boat to be better is significant.

However if you are simply talking about, "Is an old bat realible." It depends on the maintnenance.

I personally am careful of about early 80s boats. The resins used in fiberglass construction were oil based and then the oil embargo and then blisters. I have a conspiracy buddy who insists that these period of boat is going to be more prone to osmosis blisters. I have no data one way or another but why chance it?

The choice of boat is a personal one. Other than the early-80's boats I would not be influenced one way or another by the year as long as the boat significantly met all me needs.

BTW - Our boat is an early 80's boat and, yes it has slight blisters topsides.
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Old 08-09-2008, 18:06   #7
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I think it generally goes something like this;

Buying used but in well-maintained (like new) condition, is most cost effective.

Buying used, and in need of (like new) restoration is less cost effective than above, but still more cost effective than buying new.

As for whether 'age matters', I'd probably say, under ~15 years, yes. Over ~15 years, no.
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Old 08-09-2008, 20:55   #8
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Condition matters not age. What I mean by this is that the bottom line is condition. It is age along with many many other factors that determine condition. Age alone is not a determinant of condition. Time only matters in things that have a fixed rate of decay or deterioration...like nuclear materials.
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Old 08-09-2008, 23:01   #9
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Perfect storage...

If a boat is placed into perfect storage (dry, no sunlight, protected from insects etc.) then it's condition will deteriorate slowly.

Unfortunately the marine environment is hostile, causing electrolysis, osmosis, corrosion, degradation, physical damage etc. of all components. This loss of condition is uneven, some components lasting almost forever while others go within months.

If a boat is properly maintained then that loss of condition will still occur, but at a much lower rate.
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Old 09-09-2008, 08:59   #10
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Present Condition is an important consideration but original build quality is probably more important when your looking at boats older than say 15 years. Some things just can't effectively be fixed.
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Old 09-09-2008, 12:48   #11
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Thanks for all of the detailed advice Zach! Good advice on the plumbing and electric SilentOption. I guess no matter what boat I end up with, I will have to work on it--it's just a matter of how much restoration do I want to do and how much money will I have to sink into it? Thanks everyone!
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