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Old 14-06-2012, 18:53   #1
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Pearson 30 advice - considering purchase of 1973 boat with an Atomic 4

I am considering the purchase of a Pearson 30, which appears to be in basically sound condition. I will be having her surveyed prior to purchase, but prior to that I would like some pointers as to possible trouble areas on these boats.

The boat will be used for weekend sailing with occasional overnights in the Marblehead area and cruising in the New England waters from Boston to Bar Harbor, ME. I have experience on a number of yachts and I have participated in one Trans Atlantic, but I have always had a Typhoon Weekender. So this is kind of a big step!

Looking forward to any advice you can give.

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Old 14-06-2012, 19:18   #2
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Re: Pearson 30 advice - considering purchase of 1973 boat with an Atomic 4

I assume you already found this, but in case you didn't, Jack Horner reviews the Pearson 30 and mentions several things to look out for: Boat Reviews by Jack Hornor, N.A. - Pearson 30

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Old 14-06-2012, 19:42   #3
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Re: Pearson 30 advice - considering purchase of 1973 boat with an Atomic 4

Hey Donald,

The Pearson 30 is apparently a good sailor and fairly solid boat built to coastal cruising standards. It's similar to the 1975 Pearson 28-1 that I'm restoring in many ways so I'll share some observations, though they will be fairly generic and somewhat obvious.

The boat is old so with improper maintenance it could have a ton of expensive problems and not be worth buying/saving/owning. That's true of any boat new or old from what I've seen and all need to be carefully reviewed. Boats of this size/age are a dime a dozen though at this point, the trick is finding ones that are in good condition which are much more rare.

The P30 has balsa cored decks and unless they have been properly re-sealed a few times over the boats life most of the deck hardware will leak or will have leaked at some point. Stanchions are the most likely source for leaks that could lead to soggy/rotten core but anything bolted through the cored segments of the deck (or above) could lead to soft core issues. The external deck skin on these Pearsons is pretty thick which may lead you to thinking that the deck is solid when in fact it is soft/wet. Tap testing with a screw driver handle or similar can help determine soft/delaminated areas. Heavy stepping can help you find flexible areas and keep in mind that the decks may be fairly stiff overall even with soft decks but that soft areas will be noticeable vs. dry/non-rotten ones.

On an older boat like this a recent re-power is a plus. Many P30s came with Atomic Fours which aren't necessarily bad if properly maintained but they are old and need to have perfect fuel and ventilation systems (gas leaks can be dangerous on a boat).

Old electronics and wiring can be a problem. I don't think that the P30 wiring was tinned from the factory and I imagine that some hacks/changes have been made to the boat you are looking at. If it all works, that may be good enough, but expect to become good at troubleshooting old wire/connections and to need to replace some circuits/connections over time.

I think that the keel on this boat is externally mounted so check for a gap between keel and keel stub. A small crack along this joint is normal, though not really desirable. A large gap/crack can mean structural issues/grounding damage etc.

Look all over the boat for cracked/delaminated bulkhead tabbing etc. My P28 looked good at first but had a gap between keel/hull. After tap testing them I found that all of the structural members (floors) in the bilge were delaminated. They had looked fine under the bilge coat and filth.

If original a lot of the systems on these boats will either be worn out or insufficient in their original form for much more than simple weekending/day sailing. Make sure that the head, fresh water, cooking and other domestic systems are up to a useable standard and in good repair. Look in out of the way places and smell closely for mold/mildew etc. You can still clean up a moldy boat but if the spots that you find that haven't been cleaned are not covered in mold/mildew that's great. If the boat is moldy/mildewy then it's been wet and there may be rot,, the cushions may smell,, you may get allergy issues etc. Check for signs of leaks/water drips in out of the way places. You can often find leaks by simply noticing streaks/stains below deck hardware/windows etc.. They may have been fixed but are worth checking/tracking down and looking around for rot/mildew/etc.etc.

Standing rigging is another area that is important and that can be expensive if poor. Chainplates, swage fittings, etc. need to be inspected closely for crevice corrosion etc. Pearsons were rigged pretty well from what I've seen so no boat specific issues, mostly just the generic areas that need to be reviewed on any old boat.

etc. etc.

She'll have some problems but if she is useable and suitable for your needs as is that is great. I'd avoid getting into a project if you can, or unless you really want one. I'm well into the restoration of my P28 and am strongly feeling that I'll never do it again. Of course, only time will tell.

There are a lot of P30's out there so hopefully you will hear some good responses from owners. I'm sure folks can weigh in on the P30 specific issues better than I can but I imagine those may include mast support structure (it is a deck stepped mast I think) and perhaps rudder bushing (spade) tolerances etc. that may need to be checked.

Good luck with it,

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Old 14-06-2012, 21:22   #4
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Re: Pearson 30 advice - considering purchase of 1973 boat with an Atomic 4

P30 keel is NOT bolt on. It is laid up fiberglass with internal ballast, probably lead. This is a major advantage vs comparable boats IMO... No keelbolts to worry about.

There is plenty of info on the internet about the construction, maintenance, etc. Of these boats and there are a lot of them in New England, so you might be able to locate a current owner who can give you the lowdown and show you the ropes.

The P30 might be the best performer of the 70's era major 30 footers, including the Catalina, Hunter and Tartan. But it's probably also the most tender, and has less interior room, especially compared to the Catalina.

Have you checked ebay? I believe there is at least one for sale in New England on Ebay and that is often a source for real bargains. Craigslist too. Be aware that Atomic 4 powered boats sell at a pretty good discount vs. Diesels, and I think one reason for that might be more difficult accesss for maintenance and minor repairs vs. Most diesels.
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Old 14-06-2012, 21:55   #5
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Re: Pearson 30 advice - considering purchase of 1973 boat with an Atomic 4

we (our sailing club) have a pearson 30 that we race offshore. with a proper handicap it's still competitive in not-so-serious racing, and we regularly beat, boat for boat, some modern 'cruising' boats. it is a bit tender but that's part of the fun.

it's a pretty sturdy boat and i would have no problem taking her coastal cruising. accomodations are sparse but about what you would expect in a boat of that era. construction is pretty good, better than some and worse than others. ours has a 15hp yanmar which has enough power to get us through the inlets against the tide and still be pretty cheap on fuel - maybe a quart of diesel an hour. i would not buy it if it had a gasoline engine but that's my personal preference.

our only major repair was rudder replacement. the rudder hangs out there with no protection of any kind. we managed to bend the rudder shaft and split the rudder open - replacement was about $1500, if i remember right. we have the tiller version; some were converted to wheels. the tiller occupies a good piece of the cockpit. it can be hard to control for long periods of time or in rough conditions or by the weaker sex.

if you're buying it through a broker, they will recommend a surveyor. write down their name, then get someone else. surveyors depend on brokers for business and in my experience 'overlook' serious faults that might kill a sale in order to get repeat recommendations from the broker.

all in all i think they're pretty good boats. they're big enough to go cruising in if you're willing to leave a lot of 'stuff' at home and small enough to be able to afford to keep her in the style she would like to be kept. old friends of mine cruised the bahamas for six months in a pearson 30, making their way down as far as cat island.

good luck!
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pearson, pearson 30, purchase

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