First of all, both are boats that I like a lot as well rounded good sailing designs. Both are good boats for the Chesapeake, but of the two, if the prices are close together, I would definitely buy the Tartan 30 which is a very superior boat all around.
Of course, that is dependent on the keel situation. Without a careful examination there is no way for anyone, let alone us on the forum to tell you what is going on with the keel. As speculated, the gap may only be an issue with the fairing material. On the other hand, it could be something far more serious. I would seriously doubt that the owner would know whether this is a more serious problem. And just because this only visible on the Tartan does not mean that a similar problem does not exist on the Paceship.
Both boats are old enough that thier keel boats could be shot. They are both of an age, where it is prudent to lower the keel away from the keel stub, clean out the joint, inspect the keel bolts carefully and rebed the joint. If prior owners have not done this already you need to think of this as standard long term maintenance on a boat this age. Its not all that expensive to do but it is critical to the safety of the boat.
As to the Atomic 4, I have had great luck with these engines. Properly maintained they are very reliable and easier and cheaper to work on than most diesels. But they do require some mechanical skills. If you are reasonably knowledgable about how engines work and reasonably good at working on engines, then these are a great engine for a first time boat owner. But if you do not trust your mechanical skills, then perhaps it would be better to look for a boat with a diesel instead.
There are a lot of very good marine surveyors in the Annapolis area. Given the potential structural issues with the keel I would suggest someone like Jack Hornor (Marine Survey & Design Co) , Steven Uhthoff, or Peter Hartoff, who are all very experienced surveryors and understand structural issues on boats this age.
If you do proceed with the Tartan you will need to include as a part of your offer permission to remove fairing and caulking materials at the keel joint as a part of the survey. Contracts for purchase typically are conditional on being able to survey the boat but limit surveys to non-destructive examinations. Removing caulk or fairing material would be considered destructive examination. Since you can't tell much aboput what is going on without removing these materials then you will need permission to do so. Your offer will also have to stipulate that you will be responsible for recaulking or fairing those areas where you have removed materials, whether or not you buy the boat. If the owner balks then walk away and keep looking.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay
Last edited by Jeff_H; 12-07-2009 at 12:37 PM.