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Old 31-01-2024, 19:19   #1
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1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

Iím looking at a couple of boats and am having a hard time deciding between the two. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of each boat and the tradeoffs between them. I could use some feedback on what I might not be considering, and heck, just opinions from the peanut gallery.

The boat will be in SoCal. Iíve been sailing for 15 years, and this is going to be my third boat (Ericson 27 and Cal 34). My usage would be weekend trips to the Channel Islands for the next 1-2 years, then coastal cruising down to Mexico, etc. After that, who knows? Iím looking at something in the 40í range as Iíd like to live aboard for a whileÖ I like having a cabin thatís not the v-berth. Iím not into racing and donít hesitate to fire up the engine when itís calm. My total budget is ~$50k.

The 1971 Whitby 42 (ketch) has been very well restored and is turnkey. New standing rigging, tanks, autopilot, repainted decks, generator, davits, solar, etc. Low hours on a rebuilt Perkins 65HP engine.

The 1981 Mariner 39 Sloop (the one made in the US) is about half the price but needs a fair amount of work; she has great bones though. Engine is a Universal M40 with ~2200 hours. It was well-maintained, but everything on it is old and needs to get replaced in the next few years-- thru-hulls, tanks, plumbing, electronics, rigging, hatches, nonskid, paint, etc. Itís a long list but itís mostly stuff I can tackle bit by bit over time. Iím pretty handy and love working on boats though, so Iím actually a bit excited for it. Iíve priced out everything I want to do and it ends up being at about the same price as the Whitby.

Since price is similar, I think it comes down to which boat is a better fit for meÖ and thatís where it gets a little tricky. When I make a list, the pros/cons balance each other out! A sloop is probably the ďbestĒ rig for me, but I think ketches are really rad so maybe itís time to just get it out of my system. The Whitby will likely be slower, but the extra beam does appeal to me as a liveaboardÖ in general, I like the interior layout better on the Whitby. The Mariner will likely be a bit faster and have better maneuverability, but I dig it less as a liveaboard: smaller galley, mast cuts through the middle of the salon. That said, I don't hate the interior either. The Whitby is turn key so I can get out faster, but the Mariner would be a really fun project (and I can spread the cost out over a couple of years).

I like that the Mariner is 10 years newer, but both are so old that Iím not sure it makes much of a difference in practice. Having a boat under 40í seems like a good perk, but I think thatís just in my head? It might just come down to which one I vibe with more.

I'm not too concerned with the price differences in terms of slip fees, haul outs, etc. Likewise with "10-year" items like sails/rigging. I'm not loaded, but I can absorb a couple thousand extra a year (amortized).

Iím guessing a few people have been in similar situationsÖ what advice do you have? Is there anything I might not be considering?

PS. Iím going to crawl around the boats a lot, get good surveys, verify what the owners say, and all that good stuff. I know I can also get a newer boat for the price, but I really like the look of the older boats!

Thanks for putting up with the long post! Itís always helpful for me to think out loud.
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Old 01-02-2024, 07:26   #2
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

I've had a Mariner 36 of same vintage for almost 15 years. Was otiginally looking at 30ish boats but this one came up in the same price range so I bit. Am very happy since then. M39 is basically the same hull extended 3 ft so they are more similar than distinct.

The pluses

1. The "bones" as you mentioned.
2. Robust rigging. Mine may be original or at least was 10-15 years old when I got it. All pro marine people who looked at it said it was in good shape. Not just for its age but in general.
3. The cabin layout. Small galley is a plus IMO, especially when sailing, easy to brace yourself, etc. Huge fridge.
4. Ergonomic head where you are more stable in a headway. Also easy to clean or to replace the hardware. 5. Split head and basin allow crew to use each separately.
6. Easier then average access to engine.
7. Large storage capacity at the aft area of the hull under the cockpit.
8. VERY easy access to all tanks, easy enough for DIY replacement, provided you get similar size and shape tanks. Also easy for handy owner to fiberglass built-in tanks.
9. Easy to replace deck hardware, easy access to most nooks and crannies, may need to detach teak veneer, etc but just routine stuff no fiberglass cutting neccessary.
10. Easy to replace chainplates if needed.

The minuses:

1. Cramp quarter berth. Some owners combined nav station area with quarter berth into an aft cabin but IMO still not very comfortable.
2. Lack of pilot berths. Easy to fox for a handy DIY owner but not for others.
3. Not an ergonomic seat behind the steering wheel. I had to install raised seat off of a 29footer. Fits perfectly. Hinges on one side and has storage space undeneath.
4. Cockpit drains are at front of cockpit. Weird and not convenient during winter storage as the boat cant be leveled with aft end lower for full drainage but was not really an issue so far.
5. No swim platform. I had to DIY a platform with ladder.
6. Traveller at threshhold level right next to cabin entry. Very inconvenient as it interfered both with going down to the cabin as well as preventing full dodger enclosure. Fixed it by changing to "German main sheet control" and installing full length hardtop from over above the cabin sliding hatch all the way to the stern. Also acts as a base for 4 good size solar panels. Highly recommend it instead of cloth dodger and bimini. Aluminum 2"-2.5" tubing keeps it relatively light and durable.
7. Chainplates on deck not in a good place - in the middle of deck passage. Thinking for a long time of moving them outward to hull since I don't race but to lazy to start the process.
8. Keel stepped mast prevents dry bilge but IMO that's the price for security and peace of mind vs. deck stepped one.
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Old 01-02-2024, 14:00   #3
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

Thanks so much for the info Island Time! Really helpful data points to consider. It sounds like the 39 had some of those issues solved. The large storage under the cockpit in the back is turned into an aft cabin.. I'm guessing that's what they used the extra 3' for. Which actually makes a lot of sense, but the salon is on the smaller side.

I'll def keep all this in mind when I'm checking it out!
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Old 01-02-2024, 15:08   #4
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

The cost of refitting the mariner will rapidly eat up the money you saved on purchase and will result in a very, very modest increase in value well under what you spent.

If you have not done a refit on this scale before I'd suggest you meet up with a few people that have done it and ask their opinion. What you think will take 6 months will often take 2 years and cost an order of magnitude more than you think.

I've done it three times, someone should have stopped me after the first
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Old 01-02-2024, 16:51   #5
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39


I've done it three times, someone should have stopped me after the first
I know the short sailing season problem for your location. But boatpoker's really understated the gap between time and $$ difficulties. This will read funny, and you might be tempted to laugh, but for just the time involved, to make an estimate of how long a job will take once you have all you need to do it (deliveries may be slow, etc.), then say you think reasonably it will take one week of 8 hr. days. Now, you change the weeks to two, and the days to months, and use that for your estimate. You might come in under it, and that is well and good if it happens, but all sorts of unanticipated things can happen to slow it.

The Whitby 42 may have some hull-to-deck joint issues, be sure to ask if there have been repairs already done to it (I know 2 who did). It's nice to not have to worry about water coming in sailing on the wind.

If you want to sail, the boat that's in the closest to sailable right now today condition may well be the better deal.

Personally, Jim and I have always had sloops, although this one is Solent rigged and fractional, with swept back spreaders. My opinion is that cutters are the best rig for long distance cruising, and ease of sail handling, with in-line spreaders, too; and I really like aft cockpits better than center. To me, it's easier to keep track of everything from astern. Ymmv, perhaps it will help you to know we've over 178,000 nautical miles in three boats.

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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Old 02-02-2024, 08:19   #6
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

Great advice, thanks all! I'm taking your warning of the refit to heart. I've done a fair number of the jobs the boat needs individually, but not when they all need to get done. There's a saying in software development "projects cost twice as much and take twice as long... even if you account for them costing twice as much and twice as long." Sounds like similar advice!

I probably could have been a bit more clear... I don't think I'll be saving any money on the cheaper Mariner in the long run. What I was trying to say was I think they'll end up being about the same price, so it's down to which boat will better suit me. I think it'll just come down to which one I like being on more when I'm there.

I asked about the deck/hull fitting and it's been sorted. Thanks for pointing that out.

Appreciate everyone's feedback... this "thinking out loud" is helping me figure it all out!
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Old 02-02-2024, 09:43   #7
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

FWIW, I'd vote Whitby.
Most/all the refit/repair work is done. Do you want to sail; or spend more money and a buncha time refitting BEFORE you even splash.
IMHO, for the style of sailing you describe , the Whitby would be a better choice.
Your $$ , your call
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Old 02-02-2024, 10:16   #8
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

I'd vote for the Whitby even if both were the same condition. But any boat from the early 70's gives me pause. Fiberglass does get brittle over time. When and how much is too much? I dont know. Technology in glassing improved quite a bit by the mid 80's.
Deck coring in the early 70's was either not there or a turkey shoot. May be ply in there.

Do intensive investigation on past blisters on both boats as best you can. You can even ask the owner right out front if the boat has had any blisters. I saw one thick hulled boat with glass so saturated it had blisters INSIDE the hull in the bilge where it was over an inch thick!

Watch out for buried tanks and if they can be removed. Look to see if any of them are currently empty, that may mean it leaks, but is not mentioned.

You may be better off getting a slightly smaller boat that is mid 80's or later for what you describe your use to be.
I find a boat with no big obvious faults to still be a "project boat". Be careful what you try to do.
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Old 02-02-2024, 12:58   #9
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

From memory, we had two friends with W-42s. They both had rudder issues that required removal to repair. I don't remember the details, but it was a significant hassle for them, so some enquiry on that subject might be wise.

The hull to deck problem was significant: one was on a rough, windward passage from Qld to New Cal and not making good progress when the joint opened up near the bow. It began taking on water rapidly and caused them to abort from nearly at the destination in order to turn downwind to stop the flooding. They were not amused...

Hopefully the repair on your subject boat was well done.

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II, lying Port Cygnet Tasmania once again.
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Old 02-02-2024, 15:42   #10
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

Hi, Andrew,
We have an '83 Mariner 39 (Mariner of NH, B&W design). If you end up with any specific questions about the one you are considering, feel free to drop me a PM.
The large aft cabin is great.
I replaced ALL the wiring related to the engine. The original wiring was poorly designed in a number of ways.
I also replaced the rudder out of concern over crevice corrosion.
I've got shareable docs with notes on all the issues I've found and upgrades I've done (and the long list of planned future improvements). I'd be happy to share anything you are interested in.
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Old 05-02-2024, 08:37   #11
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

Thanks again everyone for all the great info. It was really helpful for me figuring out priorities and what I wanted. I ended up getting the Mariner 39... the Whitby was a really great boat, but for whatever reason the Mariner just felt right to me!

Looking forward to getting her going and polished up. I need to do thru hulls and running rigging ASAP, but the rest of the projects I can do over while I'm using her.

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Old 05-02-2024, 09:08   #12
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Re: 1971 Whitby 42 vs. 1981 Mariner 39

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