No one really knows how tough the fiberglass boats really are....it's still being figured out. On my pier there is a little Sprite 21? sloop that is, according to owners, over 50 years old. The boat has been maintained and still looks sharp today.
There are certain high stress areas that do need special attention, in my opinion, and most of the other areas will be fine, even if they look like the devil. When the boat is heeled over under sail, the mast puts tremendous loads on the the shrouds and especially the tie points to the hull/bulkheads. Also, for deck stepped masts, there are usually some sort of compression post under the mast. The tie points, tangs on the mast, chainplates at the bottom, turnbuckles, and compression posts are the areas that you need to closely watch. Wood in particular tends to rot, so bulkheads that take loading need to be checked at chain plates, and where connected to hull. If you check these places and repair them properly, and don't try to sail in storms, you'll be fine in my opinion with a boat of any age. Also, fore stays and back stays and their attachment points need to be checked, but these are usually more secure in that most don't attach to wood where rot can occur.
I'm also convinced that lots of people with project boats run out and change out all the standing rigging (shrouds/stays), etc. without the least idea whether they need it. It's easy to do and sounds impressive. I believe in most cases, for the way most of us sail, they're wasting their time and money. Most boats live at a pier most of their lives with only occasional sailing trips in moderate conditions. If you are going blue water sailing on an extended cruise, that is another matter altogether and the extra caution is surely needed. But don't over do it on the inshore, occasional boats. Just my thoughts.
Keel bolts probably are another area that needs checking, but you don't really hear of many boats loosing their keels...it happens, but not all that often. Kind of like the front wheel falling off your car.
When questions such as yours come, there often come extensive answers on how it should be to be the best. And if it were the best, most of us wouldn't be able to afford it. Does a used $100 suit work as well as a new $10,000 suit? Well no, the used one looks shabby, but in truth it does the basics, cover your body, reasonably well. Same with the production boats, the older ones, the cheap ones. Not anywhere as good as the best, but we can afford them and they do what we want. Check those areas, I mentioned above, and enjoy your boat without too much mental stress.
Last edited by NCC320; 12-11-2009 at 04:17 PM.