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Old 07-09-2012, 10:55   #1
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Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

I am looking to purchase my first sailboat soon. I am going to look at a 1983 Seafarer 26 tomorrow and would like to know what I should be looking for. The seller said that it has been longer than 4 years since the last bottom job but he intentionally grounded the boat, heeled it heavy, and painted the first foot or so of the waterline on both sides earlier this year. He keeps it clean with a brush once a month or so, and there is no fouling on the bottom. Thanks for any input.

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Old 07-09-2012, 11:13   #2
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Re: Looking to purchase first sailboat

I know nothing about that particular boat, so nothing specific.

The first thing I look at on ANY boat is the bilge...

Is there water in there (a little is not a big deal), a lot is. Is the water salt (assuming the boat sits in salt water) or is it fresh (from deck leaks). Salt is a greater alarm because while it only rains once in awhile (dis-regard if in the PNW), the salt water it sits in may be coming in 24/7.. Think leaking seacocks, stuffing box or any other underwater penetrations. Is there debris? Is it clean? Does it Smell?

The condition of the bilge often is a direct reflection on the amount of time and energy the owner has spent on the boat...

More sailboats sink at the dock than at sea..

The above assume the boat has a REAL bilge... Too many of the modern sailboats have what I call a dust bin bilge. About 4-6" deep. Then it's easy. look for water all over the saloon floor...


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Old 08-09-2012, 13:45   #3
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

I think you should first decide what you'd like to do with the boat, then decide if that particular boat will fit those expectations.
For instance; if you are only day sailing, you don't need to worry about how comfortable the beds are or if you can cook in the galley, but a usable head (toilet) is definitely a serious consideration.
If you want to go away for some weekends and a couple of weeks a year, then the above become MUCH more important as well as ventilation. If your eventually goal is to live aboard a boat and this is the first of several then add storage space, head room and honestly, a comfortable place to hang out, (you'd be surprised how few boats actually have a comfortable place to sit and relax) to the list above.
As to all the other stuff, if this is your first boat, frankly you do not have enough knowledge to look at any of the important stuff, so if she fits your needs then you MUST hire a surveyor, prior to purchase.
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Old 08-09-2012, 14:02   #4
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

Go small and go now was the best advice I've received.

Second best was buy the smallest boat that will suit your immediate needs. Logic being that the smallest boat in your price range should correspondingly be the newest and in the best condition for the money.

Good luck with your purchase. We are a few weeks away from hoisting laundry for the first time on our boat.

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Old 08-09-2012, 14:42   #5
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

Are you are asking for a pre-marine survey checklist? Recently I made one up, I think it will give you a good start as to what to look at.

As far as some of the advice above, well everyone has an opinion. Having saltwater in the bilge is normal in a boat with a packing gland, it is supposed to drip a little to keep the shaft cool and that water goes into the bilge. My bilge always had salt water in it as my packing gland was redone two years ago and wasn't dripping excessively when I inspected it because the boat hadn't been used much. After I put a number of hours on it, it needed to be slightly tightened with a spanner wrench- again normal.

Before going through the list, research the boat you are looking at. Know as much about that specific model and year as you can, every boat has particular strengths and flaws such as weak hull-to-deck joints or tendency toward cracked beams under a deck stepped mast. You can also look to see if someone has blogged about a restoration they have done on a similar model, reading about the restoration can make you more knowledgeable about not just that model but about sailboat restoration in general. Sometimes the owner has posted information about his own boat that you might want to know, look under the name of the boat the same as checking out a girlfriend. If an engine is involved and a mechanic is available pay him for an hour or two to check on the engine, this is difficult to do by yourself. Don't assume that a surveyor is going to do a fantastically complete survey of your boat, especially if you are from out of town or the boat isn't worth a lot of money. They almost never climb the mast for example, and they are not mechanics. Do a thorough inspection yourself and you may discover enough things wrong to void the deal, find stuff a surveyor won't bother to look at, or may find enough right (excess equipment or spare parts you can use or sell is nice) that no matter what is hiding you are comfortable the boat is worth spending more money on.

As far as figuring out what an old boat is worth, this is difficult. One way is to find a specimen that is in beautiful shape, and figure out roughly what it is going to cost you to get the one you want to buy in that shape. It's usually cheapest to buy one that someone has already put into great shape, not to mention less time consuming.

Ideally, if you aren't aware how to check on one of the items just look it up on CF. The more knowledgeable you become and the more patient you are the more likely you will find a great value. One more thing, don't travel a long way to see a boat without looking at lots of high resolution recent pictures, it may save you lots of time. Good luck in your search!

Boat Owner:

Contact info:

Boat location and storage: moored, on the hard

Boat Type, Name, Designer

Year built

Price, how arrived, why selling, bottom line

Overall summary and condition:

Last survey:


Recent updates:

Work needed:


Sailing plus and minus: to windward? wet? comfort? motion? stability? speed? light wind?

Hull: blisters, damage, epoxy, bottom paint, through hulls

Deck: condition, coring, soft spots, paint, nonskid

Deck/hull joint updated, leaking, repaired?

Cruising equipment: windvane, autopilot, SSB, chart plotter, spinnaker, storm jib, drogue, bimini, dodger, diesel, cockpit drains enlarged, last refit, radar

Electronics: depth, speed, GPS, chartplotter, VHF/DSC, antenna

Standing rigging: stalock or swage, age, how examined, salt water or fresh, forestay mods

Mast and boom corrosion? Change in rigging? Mast step reinforced?


Running rigging: age, condition, traveler, sheeting, lines to cockpit, single hand?


Deck fittings

Ground tackle: anchors, chain length and guage, rode length, rollers aft and bow, windlass, gaskets on chain locker or smells transmitted to Vberth?

Sails: inventory, age, type: storm jib, spinnaker, pole for genoa, sailcover condition, reef points, storm tactics

Reefing system

Roller furler

Cockpit: dodger, bimini, drains, lazarettes/storage, cleaned, place for folding bikes, coamings, how wet under way

Brightwork and teak condition

Storm deck need raising or cockpit volume need reducing for offshore/pooping?

Tiller: spare, age

Rudder condition and age, linkage

Propulsion: diesel: shaft, prop, stuffing box, cutlass bearing, fuel age and stabilizer, engine mounts, cruise and top speed, maintenance, oil change record, compartment access/cleanliness/paint, cooling, filters age


Fuel tank need cleaning, replacement? Access

Storage and use history? Fresh or salt water?

Water tank size and condition

Sink: fresh, salt, pump, condition, odors?

Galley: stove, sink, location, mods

Table, dinette

Refrig, icebox

Head: lavac? age, pump, clog, sink the boat, bulkhead, privacy

Holding tank, how plumbed


Seacocks: age, type, color, condition,


Interior: cushions, bulwarks, formica, leaks, leecloths, stains, hanging locker for clothes


Bilges: dry, pumps

V berth, leaks, smells, ventilation, lighting, cushions, comfort, noise


Hatches, dorade boxes

Portlights- open, fixed, leaks, type, age

Electrical system:breakers or fuse, age, rats nest, lighting, shore power, ac/dc



Interior lighting

Running lights

Ballast, leveled at mooring, tender?

Rails, stainless, fittings- checked for water infiltration

Pushpit, stanchions, lifelines

Safety gear: Coast Guard inspection, flares, life vests, throwing ring,


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Old 09-09-2012, 16:01   #6
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

I bought my first boat this summer and i would second the advice to buy one now and buy the smallest that suits your needs.

Interview and get to know the owner as much as you inspect the boat. Knowing the owner will help you get to know how knowledgeable he/she is about sailing. A very knowledgeable sailor with a lot of experience will be more truthful and will likely have taken better care of the boat. A guy who bought the boat and tried to learn to sail and then left it for a few years until selling it to stop paying the moorage may know less about boats than you.

As your first boat you dont know jack about sailing, maintenance, sail changing, radio use, grounding, hull cleaning, tide grids, insurance and a million other things and the learning curve is steep. So try to get as simple of a boat as you can. A pressurized hot water system may sound awesome for example but if it breaks and starts leaking the whole fresh water tank into the cabin your either going to be sailing with an empty fresh water tank for a while until you can figure it out or shell out $$ for someone to fix it.

Things to look for that can ease your learning curve are a furler system on the headsail, self tailing winches and lines rigged for single handing. They add a bit of complexity to the boat but it will keep you off the foredeck when under sail and make tacking and gybing easier. A continuous furler is a dream to operate vs a drum furler but either will make your life easier.

As for interior remember a boat can have a beautiful interior and still be a peice of crap.

As said above try to deduce where you are going to go with boating. If you are daysailing only then get the smallest boat that will fit the people you plan to go with. You will save on moorage and maintenance.

If you are doing short cruising in protected waters then get the facilities on board that you need. Shoal or winged keels are handy and allow you easier access to shallower water. If you are playing in windy areas go for the full length keel it will track better.

As a learner a heavy boat is a good thing. Light racer or race-cruiser boats are less forgiving when you screw up and do something wrong. You might not go as fast but you are less likely to broach the boat.

Finally the sail complement that the boat comes with and their condition mean as much as the quality and shape of the boat itself. Get hit by a 30 kt wind in a boat with a 30 year old poorly maintained sail and you could be watching your sail rip off the boat a situation thst could be terrifying for q beginner. Or if it only comes with a genoa and a main you could get thrown around in heavy weather until you drop a grand on a smaller sail.

Hope this helps
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Old 09-09-2012, 17:02   #7
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

One thing to consider given this is your first boat is (as suggested) how you'll use it.

If you are going to day sail and maybe even over night, you could probably drop down a few feet to a 22' or so. We just bought a 22' that can be trailered, has no thru hulls and could also be slept on.

The benefits to being trailerable is that you don't have to deal with off season storage if you are in an area that you couldn't sail year round. And depending on the type of boat and how often you'd sail, you could even keep it out of the water and avoid all costs associated with storage (winter or summer).

And that's a big thing to know first - where will you keep the boat. Some areas it can be difficult or expensive to find space. So consider that as well.

Otherwise, look at a lot of different boats online and go see a few different boats in person. I don't think you would typically want to buy the first boat you see, although had my wife and I seen the boat we ended up buying first, we still would have bought it - it was in excellent condition, clean and exactly what we were looking for. If the boat doesn't meet everything you need, then keep looking at least to have some comparisons and plan on seeing a number of boats.
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Old 13-09-2012, 17:55   #8
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Re: Looking to Purchase First Sailboat

I agree, that using a small sailboat as a first sailboat is the way to go. Learn it, experiment, and have fun. Once you have mastered the smaller sailboat, in a few years move up to a bigger, nicer boat. Was glad I did it that way. The list is pretty good, however the hidden gremlins tend to hide behind places not always seen such as internal hull blistering that can be detected with a moisture meter or infrared camera. Also check the chainplates for cracks, corrosion or wear, and moisture or core damage on stringers. Loose tabbing areas are areas that are missed often.

Capt. John Banister, AMSŪ
SAMSŪ Accredited Marine Surveyor
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
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