I probably know the DE38 about as well as anyone. I've had mine for about 9 years now and have done (and still doing!) lots of work on her.
As far as value goes, I think they are typically a good boat for the money
, especially if a PO did some specific upgrades. As with any old boat, you have to be careful though.
They are often compared with the Westsails. They are a similar type of boat and were built at the same time (and in the same town, I believe). The Westsails tend to sell for more money
, for the same quality of boat. I'm not sure why but my guess is that there are a few things that Westsail did that was a little better than Down East Yachts. The Downeasters originally came with what I consider fairly low quality opening ports
, for instance. Most owners have replaced them by now. The DE also has fairly large main cabin
windows that are pretty light weight, especially considering the build quality of the rest of the boat. If you find a Downeaster with upgraded opening ports
an reinforced/replaced windows, then that boat is well along the way to being on par with the Westsail, but it still will likely be less expensive. That's just the way it is.
If you start to look at Downeasters closely, there are a few trouble areas that you should pay attention to:
post. The mast
stepped but the opening to allow passage
of electrical wiring
is prone to leaks
. If these leaks
go unchecked, water
drips down the compression
post and collects at the cabin sole
. Some boats have had extensive rot
here. This would be a fairly large repair. A failure here under stress could lose the rig and probably punch a large hole in the deck
. Makes for an unpleasant evening.
Chain plates. They are passed through the teak
caprail by default. Some owners have moved them outboard
. Check inside for evidence of leaks. If it looks like they are leaking, expect to have to replace them before any hard use. Not a big deal, they are easy to remove and replace, but something to keep in mind.
and spreader rot
. The bowsprit
was originally mahogany laminate. It is attached to the hull
via three (I think) large bolts. These bolt holes are prone to rot. If the rot is extensive, the sprit should be replaced. (no need to replace with mahogany, I used Douglas Fir.) Semi-big job. Spreaders are spruce. Check for rot there too.
. The stock engines on these were raw water
cooled Farrymann engines of either 24 or 36 hp. If that engine is still in there you'll probably want to replace it. 35 to 40 years is a long time for a raw water
Windows/opening ports. Mentioned above. If they are stock, they are probably leaking. Will need to be re-bedded at the very least.
The caprail probably leaks in a few places unless a PO has recently re-bedded. There will also likely be some moisture in the deck around the jib
car rail. In my expirence this is not a big problem on these boats. The decks are cored construction made up of 1/4" fiberglass
on top, 5/8" foam and another 3/16"-1/4" glass at the bottom. The top layer of glass alone makes this a pretty sturdy deck.
I have only heard of one Downeaster having blisters
. For the most part, this isn't a problem with these boats. The good news is, at their age, they will either have them and they were fixed, they don't have them at all (most likely), or they will so obvious that you won't need a surveyor
to tell you that they're there.
That's about all I can think of right now. It sounds like the asking prices you are seeing are about right. As with any old boat, you are going to see a huge variation in asking prices, based on condition and how motivated the owner is to sell.
I would say boats under around $20k, be very skeptical about the condition. Could be a steal from a motivated seller, but I would look extra hard and not expect much. From $20k-$40k is about the going rate for 'pretty good' examples of the boat. Above $40k and the boat should be in fairly good shape. I would also say that a well maintained DE38, with upgraded windows/engine, newer rigging
and leak free would be worth around $80k easily but you could probably actually get such a boat for a lot less, if you can find one.