Freshwater vs Saltwater boat; ASA courses
I see what you mean by an inverted pyramid of questions. Here is a stab as best that I can answer:
What is meant by "dry sailed" in some of the ads?
Dry sailing is different than hauling out for the winter. Dry sailing literally means that the boat is only put in the water to go sailing and then hauled out again. The boat lives out of the water. It is mainly a racing boat or a small boat thing.
This is a double edged sword situation. The good news is that these boats do not have the day to day, bouncing that comes from being in the water and which does contribute to wear and tear over time. The downside is that unless very carefully designed, the storage cradles or trailers place a lot of concentrated load on the hull which is harder on a boat than being supported by water. Often these boats don''t have barrier coats or bottom paint. This is ok for short exposures of a day or two. But you don''t know whether that boat will develop blisters if left in the water for prolonged periods of time. Launching and hauling is pretty hard on a boat.
1. As to the sailing courses, is there any substantive difference between ASA and US Sailing schools?
I have not had all that much contact with these course curriculas and so I really don''t know how they differ. I have a friend who in trying to learn to sail and cruise took a combination of both curriculas. (I believe she ended up ASA certified.) What I think both she and I agree on is that when you finish the certification process you end up with the absolute minimum knowledge that is required to sail a charter boat in moderate conditions. It is no where near enough knowledge to go off cruising or to really know how to sail a boat well.
2. Would you advise using a buyer''s broker when I begin seriously shopping in another month or so? I''ve heard both sides of the argument.
I am a strong proponent of using a broker. I have enough connections that I could probably track down and buy a boat without working with a broker, but over the years I have found that a good broker is worth every penny of thier commission and then some. I have actually gotten many of my best deals when a broker was involved. Often owners have an unrealistic view of what their boat is worth and tend to discount an explanation from the buyer as a negotiations ploy. A good broker is able to talk to the seller and adjust their expectations aand by the same token tell you when you are off-base as well.
I don''t think that it makes much of a difference whether you use a ''buyer''s broker'' or not. If you stick with one good broker, that broker will try hard to learn your goals, will provide useful insights, and will fight for you during negotiations. A bad broker (buyers or not) won''t try to understand your specific needs and tastes and worse yet will try to sell only what is in their best interest or only boats which meets thier prejudices. Of course a good broker can be a little difficult to find.
3. How do I find out for sure if a boat I''m looking at has been in charter service? I''m not saying I wouldn''t buy one that had been -- just that I would want to look at it differently than one owned by a knowledgeable private owner for a reasonable period.
That is a difficult question. You can often tell simply by asking. Most owners are pretty candid about that. You may require that the owner fill out a disclosure form (You will have to make one up since I have not seen one published) that asks the owner to certify in writing to the best of thier knowledge such items as whether the boat was ever damaged in a colision or grounding, was the boat ever in charter, are there any leins or outstanding debts against the boat, does the owner know of any known defects, etc. Some sellers will refuse to sign something like this but most if will fill out and sign such a form if it is presented as a requirement as part of the offer to purchase. The offer agreement should require that the form be filled out prior to survey since it may affect those areas of the boat that get surveyed more intensely. While the disclosure form may not provide a real answer (and I am not a lawyer) but it is my undertanding that if it includes language that requires that the form be notarized and that deliberate misinformantion will be deemed to constitute fraud, you at least have some leg to stand on should the owner delibrately mislead you.
If you are concerned enough about a particular boat and the boat has been documented there should be a continuous record with the Coast Guard of the owners going back to the original builder''s certificate.
4. West coast prices (especially Calif) seem to be lower for comparable boats. Is this just a function of supply/demand for used boats there or is the Pacific environment tougher on boats for some reason?
I generally find that California built boats are cheaper in California and that East Coast built boats are cheaper in Florida and the Gulf. On the other hand these boats generally do have more wear and tear as they are used year round and exposed to a lot of sun and salt.
5. Finally, do you have an opinion of 70''s -80''s vintage Pearsons?
I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but during the period in question Pearsons (or Odays for that mater) were the Hunters of thier day. In fact if you look at a 1979/1980 Hunter 30 and compare it to a 1980 Pearson 30, 31, Flyer, or Peason 10M, the Hunter was a better design and in my experience with both, the Hunter was better built.
That said, individual model lines within Pearson seemed to vary greatly in build quality and design. In the late 70''s and early 1980''s, Pearson produced a series of cruising oriented designs that seem to be pretty good boats for more extensive cruising. In your size range that series included the 303, 323 and 365. The 323 in particular has always struck me as a nice design. That said, I do not think of any of these as being truely "offshore" designs. I agree with your friend that this series are sturdy enough for blue water use such as cruising to the Bahamas or jumping around the Atlantic or Gulf coasts where safe refuge is usually pretty close at hand, but I think that they lack the robust engineering, interior layout, storage, cockpit drainage, linerless construction and the like that are so important for a boat that will spend substantial amounts of time making offshore passages.