Unfortunately, many boats are cleaned up for the photos, but then allowed to slide... I'm not familiar with the CS36 Merlin, but wish you luck with the trip to go see it. If Merlins are typically raced, then you should see what the PHRF rating on it is. That would give you some idea of how it compares to the boats you are more familiar with.
When you go to the boat, bring a pen, pad of paper and a digital camera as a minimum. Human memory is notoriously poor at detail for the most part and having the above will allow you to review the boat at a later time.
While you're on the boat, poke around and look behind the cushions, in cabinets and lockers, and see how those spaces look. Often, if a boat is in bad shape, the owners will clean it up, but will forget to clean up the nooks and crannies that can reveal more of the boat's true normal conditions. This can often tell you if the boat was sunk at any point, or had any significant leaks—since waterlines and marks may be present.
While you're at the marina, walk around a bit and talk to the people there as well. Often, they can tell you about the boat in question and the owner of the boat. They can tell you if the boat has sat for long periods of time without the owner or anyone coming down to sail it or maintain it. They can tell you if the owner puts in long hours inspecting and maintaining the boat. These are often overlooked important clues to the condition of the boat.
A boat that sits neglected for long periods of time is often in far worse shape than one that is sailed every week. A good owner will be down to check on his boat at least every two weeks.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.