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Old 09-25-2006
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Can Age Trump Design?

Can Age Trump Design? Also, as one moves forward in time, are there fewer and fewer blue water boats to choose from?

In a year or two, we're considering a career break and some ocean cruising. We’d have two kids with us, but we’ve heard that others have survived this.

At the moment, we like boats like the Valiant 40, the Pearson 424 and the Pacific Seacraft 37. The Tartan 37 isn’t bad, either, as well as other boats in the 37 to 42 foot range. We’ve been looking in the “around $100k” range in price, and thinking we’d need a year or two to improve and cruise the boat locally with some offshore hops to Puget Sound.

One common thing is that most of the boats we’ve considered have fallen into the late seventies, early eighties age range. We already own a small ’67 and ’73 sailboat, so we know what it’s like to own and maintain an older boat—we really like both of them. However, for an extended cruise, I’m concerned about age for a lot of reasons:

1) Hull blistering, even on hulls that were epoxy coated.
2) Hull weakening, even on non-blister older hulls.
3) General weakening of joints and systems from age.
4) Serious system rebuilds in the first 1-2 years of ownership, “with surprises.”
5) Resale value later, especially if we own for a decade. (A ’79 boat for sale in 2017?)
6) More issues with handling, due to older hardware or control designs.

We've done some short, fair weather cruising on newer production boats, and I liked the handling and easy sail management. (Even if I wouldn’t own one for a long cruise.) Additionally, I’ve heard too many stories lately about older cruising boats being restored for years, but in the end the owners don’t cruise because they waited too long. I’d be interested in a “fast track” if the boat was good enough to safely get going in a few months instead of years.

So, I plugged some numbers into Yachtworld. Type of sailboat: cruiser. Age range: 1988 to 2000. Price range: $90k to $175k (thinking of a max purchase price of $150k). Length: 37 to 42 feet. Country: US and Canada. Result: 292 hits.

Unfortunately, my biases toss out the most common hits: Beneteau, Catalina, Hunter, Bavaria, and Jenneaus (but I heard that some of the Jenneaus may be appropriate).

Of the less common hits, there are more I toss out: C&Cs (cored hulls) Freedom Yachts, Tayanas, Morgans, Endeavors, Irwins.

There is only one or two Cabo Ricos, Calibers, Bristols, and Moodys, and my sense is that having only one or two means that finding a decent one could take time.

There are zero Valiants or Pearsons or Pacific Seacrafts from this age and price range. If I change the criteria to racer/cruiser, there are fewer but similar results.

What’s left are Island Packets and Sabres. I know the Sabres are more performance-oriented (too much for a family of four?). I’ve also been reading about Island Packets. Obviously, there’s strong arguments made for and against them (especially on design points), but there are also relatively passionate defenses of them by owners. The Practical Sailor review I have of the 350 (I’d be considering an IP 38) is surprisingly positive (compared to some online posts about IPs). It acknowledges issues with light winds and windward capability, but finds the boats well made and stable platforms. The shoal draft seems less than perfect for ocean crossings, but that seems to be commonly done with IPs.

Anyway, there’s always compromises to be made. If I only consider the factors above, I wonder if having a 1990 IP 38 with around 1000 hours on the engine and generally good condition systems wouldn’t be a wise investment when considering the age issues above. (Vs. a “blister period” Valiant 40 or 27 year-old Pearson 424.) There is also fair range of them to consider, given their popularity.

Just ideas—but it seems that as one moves forward in time, there are fewer cruising sailboats to choose from unless one has a serious war chest of funds. There's lots of older sailboats to be had in the price range, some with excellent system rebuilds, but again there are always compromises and risks.


Jim H

Last edited by Jim H; 09-25-2006 at 10:33 PM.
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