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Old 23-06-2015, 23:05   #1
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Downeaster 38

I don't hear much talk of this particular yacht, and I'm not sure why. I've read that they have are tried and true offshore vessels, they have very heavy displacement and a DLR > 350, and they seem like they're wellish-built.

Why are they so affordable? The ones here on the west coast are selling between 35-45K and look (from photos) like they're in good condition.

1977 Down East 38 Sail Boat For Sale -
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Old 23-06-2015, 23:36   #2
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Re: Downeaster 38

Edit (after 30 min): I guess I should say they're relatively affordable and not alone in their class. I guess in this price range there's a decent number of offshore capable 38s in decent condition.

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Old 23-06-2015, 23:59   #3
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Re: Downeaster 38

A friend of mine had one many years ago and I sailed on it often. I liked it. Sure, you are not going to race it, but it performed well for a cruiser, it is roomy, well-built and sea-worthy. If you are in the market, have it surveyed of course, I am betting if they are on the cheaper side it is due to engine issues (like needing a new one.) I am not sure about the blistering issues on that boat, might be something to check of course too.
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Old 24-06-2015, 01:28   #4
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Re: Downeaster 38

They are a good deal . A friend of mine was looking at one , it was schooner rigged . It was really cool , my buddy wanted it so bad . Only problem was the termites got there years before we did .
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Old 24-06-2015, 05:50   #5
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Re: Downeaster 38

I used to deliver one from City Island, N.Y. to Jacksonville, Fl. and back. Not light air rocketships, but still fun to sail. In heavy weather she was great. One trip we got pasted for about 18 hours, wind sustaining 40 with a brief period in the 50s and 60s. Fortunately it was from astern, but it still made for an "interesting" ride.
Well built boats, this one never had any blister issues that I heard about. Would be on my short list if I wanted a monohull.
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Old 24-06-2015, 06:09   #6
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Re: Downeaster 38
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Old 24-06-2015, 07:40   #7
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Re: Downeaster 38

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:

Compression post. The mast is deck 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.

Bowsprit 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.

Engine. 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 cooled engine.

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.

Good luck,

S/V Argyle
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Old 24-06-2015, 10:40   #8
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Re: Downeaster 38

What excellent feedback! I'll also check out the Downeasters owners page.

The list of "to watch out for" items is very useful as well. Regardless of what boat I buy, I'll be having a good surveyor inspect it before forking over any cash.

Most repair work I want to do myself. I have general questions about this kind of stuff, not so much how to do it, but where to do it. If I need to cut/sand some wood, or fabricate a new hatch, and I'm a liveaboard at a marina, what are my options as far as facilities go? Find someone with a shop/garage/space and buy him beer? I'm just curious as to what other people do.

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