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Old 06-30-2010, 09:28 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 6

Hi all,

since I'm still a newbie sailor, have been plowing the seas for the past 2 years, I am still not yet asking the right questions. I am going to invest money on my 2nd boat now, the first one being a 27 ft light racing design from the 80s. I know quite well what I'm looking for - a durable, stable, perhaps heavy design that still is a good compromise between sailing capabilities and stability and internal capacity. A boat that is able to take a circumnavigation properly fitted, if I choose to go that path. I have been looking at 2nd hand boats now for a while, I think I have went out to see already 10 different boats.

What should I look for when I go and visit a boat and its owner? I've asked questions about how the boat has been used, where, has it been in salt water, has it been sailing in the Mediterranean, etc. I've asked questions on how it was maintained, does the hull have osmosis etc. As you might imagine, the owners always wiggle a bit, and then reply that they know of no problems to their boat.

Once I saw a boat with its keel tilted 5 degrees or even more, and the owner just said that oh, it was tilted during the manufacturing and welding of the keel and pouring in the hot lead. I responded to him that it's going to affect the sailing characteristics a lot, and also affect the resale value. How much should I "get off" of that kind of a boat?

I think most private boat sellers are willing to accept a straight cash payment (or rather, put money on their bank account). Is this anything that I should ask a discount for? What kind of items should I anyway start haggling the price down from?


P.S. JeanneP, one thing that you could answer me: I'm going to see one Sun Fizz here, what should I look for? Any particular issues with that model?

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Old 06-30-2010, 01:08 PM   #2
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Hi, looking at a Sun Fizz, eh? Ours was one of the first, and was built in 1981, so you're looking at a boat that's close to 30 years old. Unless they changed the build over the years it was offered, it's a solid GRP hull, cored deck. I would say that a boat of that age is going to have had any material defects show up long before now. So in general, you probably should be looking for signs of accident, excessive trauma, or inadequate maintenance. Also, I'm sure that the owners made some modifications of their own, so those might need to be looked at more closely.

The keel is cast iron. That would be something to look very closely at, as well as the keel bolts. We had a lot of problems with rust from the keel until we had it completely sandblasted and primed with a 2-part epoxy. If there's rust, you might notice it under water, but possibly not, but if it hasn't been finished properly you'll see it when it's hauled. I'd say, though, that except for the keel bolts, I can't imagine any problem with the keel that would not have occurred long before this.

Keel bolts were not a problem with our boat, but it's always something to look at carefully on an older boat.

We had a minor problem with a leak in the deck quite near the nav station - finding an overhead leak is a challenge, be it in a boat or the roof of a house. With the head liner removed one can see any compromised core because it will look black under the resin. This is an issue with all balsa-cored GRB, not simply a Jeanneau's, and would be found by a competent surveyor, since they look for that problem.

Otherwise, I would look over the deck to see if there are any stress cracks in the gelcoat (radiating spider-web cracks, for example). Since the non-skid is molded in - I loved the non-skid on the boat - any repairs to the deck might be very obvious since the waffle pattern in that area would not be there.

We were obsessive about zincs to guard against electrolysis. Because of the iron keel one must be sure the keel zincs are inspected regularly. How carefully did the owners look at, and replace the keel zincs.

What kind of engine? Salt-water cooled or fresh-water cooled?

Otherwise, you might find that the Sun Fizz has the deepest lazarettes you've ever seen (I called them the mother-in-law cabins), and good storage everywhere. We only had one of the two heads installed, the aft head was never installed and we used that as our radio room and rope locker.

If it had cork lining in the heads, look for rot behind that - the only other issue we had, and partly (mostly) our fault.

In general for any boat, some comments.

All boats of that age might have hidden rot someplace - hull stringers, support for windlasses, winches, etc. How old is the rigging? Ours was a tall fractional rig with running backstays - a bit more work than a masthead forestay and shorter mast with proportionately smaller mainsail. The age of the sails might be a concern, again a surveyor would be most helpful there.

I loved our boat. I thought that the aft quarter berths were the most comfortable berth in any kind of weather, any angle of heel. And only a shout away from the person on watch.

Keep us informed of your progress. We all love to talk about boats, even when they're not ours.

You can look at some of our pictures of the gear, changes, work on the boat Watermelon Gear

In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

MV WATERMELON (New) | Cruiser's Dictionary, free ebook

= Cruiser's Dictionary, North America,
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:42 PM   #3
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Hi Topi,...

Good question, but one that to give you a full answer would take several books...

for my part the one things I always take with me when looking at a boat is a sounding hammer... I ask about the general condition and any specific trouble areas but the best thing you can do is a good sounding... go around and beat on the boat with the rubber hammer (not a rubber mallet)... even if you've never done this before it will be pretty apparent when you go from a solid area to a delaminated or water-logged area. Even better get a moisture meter, while you're sounding randomly touch down the moisture meter, particularly in spots that sound a bit "thuddy", you can get ones that have wood and glass settings and they are pretty self explanatory.. just make sure there isn't a dew on when using it or it throws it off... if the boats in the water sounding out the decks is a good place to start and will give you a good idea of the level of tlc that she's gotten over the years.

... I wouldn't even mess with a boat with a crooked keel... personally though I wouldn't even mess with a boat with a bolt on keel... for a circumnav (or any deep blue sailing) I want an encapsulated keel (just me, there are plenty of boats out there with bolt-on and swing keels that have done plenty of deep blue sailing) ... my limited experience on them however has not been favorable. (After weather Hurricane Gustav in a Jeaneau 43 the keel bolts where so loose [fine when we set out] that we were taking on about 60 liters of water per day, and then of course the bilge pump broke... so we were hand bailing all the way to Sweden [it was a delivery]).

As for what to ask off for certain things... all I can recommend is that you look the boat over thoroughly, think about what it will cost to get her in the condition that you want her in, and make an offer based on that... like anything a boat is worth what someone is willing to pay for it... or maybe more precisely it's worth what someone is willing to accept for it... asking price just gives you an idea of what the owner wants to get... not necessarily what he will accept or what the boat is actually worth.

good luck.
“The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” (Epictetus 55 - 135 AD)

"To see new things, and live day to day, is better than wine or poppy, and fitter for a man." (Theseus)
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