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post #20 of Old 01-31-2013
Asleep at the wheel
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Re: I think I have found what I want

She looks like a great boat! When will you be looking at her? Is she your first?

My first boat was a 1984 Catalina 25 with a swing keel, which I bought it in October of 2011. The O'Day's are supposed to be a bit better made than the comparable Catalinas, so she certainly has a lot of potential.

If you haven't gone to see her yet, here is the process I use when looking at/for a boat. Take it for what it is - free advice from someone who has owned a boat for all of a year - but hopefully it will be helpful:

1) If she's a swing keel, inspect the lifting cable on the keel, if you can. Check for signs of wear in the cable itself. Look at how the winch is mounted. Does the winch move freely in both directions? Are all of the other mechanisms associated with the swing keel working properly, and not showing significant signs of wear? If you're new and she's your first boat, you may not think you know what signs of wear are. If you THINK you see wear, you probably do - take a picture and ask here about it.

2) Check the chainplates - chainplates are notorious for leaks. If you're not sure what the chainplates are, they are the things to which the shrouds (the stainless steel cables on the sides of the mast that keep it upright) are attached. On most boats, the chainplates pass through the deck, and are attached to the hull, or to a bulkhead or knee, inside the cabin. I'm shopping for a new boat (long story) and between my last round of shopping and this time, I've been aboard quite a few older boats. The problem with the chain plates is that when they leak, the water runs down the chainplate. The chainplates are typically attached to a piece of wood (typically fairly thick plywood that is, in turn, attached to the hull). If the wood gets wet frequently (it doesn't rain in that part of Florida, right?), it will deteriorate. What can happen, is the forces on the mast can cause the chain plate to pull free from the wood, and in some cases, rip up through the deck. Even if that doesn't happen, you still have a chance of the mast being bent, or even broken. So, inspect the bulkhead or other area where the chainplates attach. I was aboard a boat recently that was quite pretty, and the interior looked to have been well maintained. However, upon close inspection, I saw that a good bit of the forward bulkhead was delaminating, warped, and rotten. That stuff can be fixed, but it will set you back a lot of hours (if you're a DIY'er) and/or a good chunk of cash.

3) Inspect the standing rigging and lifelines - look for places where the stainless steel wires are starting to rust/corrode, especially where some of the strands have broken. In my very limited experience, this seems more prevalent around higher stress areas, like near fittings, but a careful glance over the rigging is a good idea. The rigging is an important structural and safety feature, so be sure to look at it carefully.

4) Walk around on the deck, looking/feeling for soft spots - I had been aboard 2 or 3 boats early in my search, and grew up around power boats. I had heard about soft spots, but didn't understand what that meant, or how I might find it. Then I was aboard a boat that had some serious soft spots. Most of the cockpit felt like I was walking on a sponge, as did parts of the cabin. It's hard to describe, but you'll know it when you feel it. Check any areas where anything penetrates or is attached to the deck, especially horizontal surfaces. That includes the area around the chainplates. Step on either side of the chainplate and bounce a bit. Tap the area with your fingers, or a key or other object. Does it feel/sound different than the area a few inches away? If so, there may be leakage. Leakage/wet core doesn't have to be a deal killer, but you need to understand where the leaks are, their scope, and what they mean to the boat. Also wiggle the pulpit and stanchions - if the bases seem loose, they MAY just need to be rebedded and tightened. But there may be water penetration there, too. If it seems like the core is soft in that area, be sure to check inside the boat for corresponding leaks.

5) Look for other signs of leaks - look at any woodwork or metal around the windows and companionway; is there staining or unusual oxidation? If so, that could be a sign that there is, or was, a leak. In my opinion, all boats leak a bit (some here swear their boats are bone dry, but I haven't seen a boat yet that didn't have a LITTLE water in the bilge). Leaky windows can lead to rot in the core around the windows, and it can be a lot of work to fix everything. Would that stop me from buying? No.

6) Check the engine - is it clean? If so, that's either a sign that the seller is trying to hide something and cleaned it, or the seller is meticulous. If you see lots of rust or corrosion, to me that's a sign that the engine may be in worse shape than you might expect. Have the seller start it for you, and let it run for a while, then inspect it again. Is there a lot of soot in the engine compartment? Is there any oil, grease, or fuel in the bilge in that part of the boat?

7) Check the sails - are the main and jib in good shape? Replacing them can be a significant expense. You may be able to have them recut if they are stretched out, and can be sent to someone like SailCare to be "stiffened", but if they have holes, or have been repaired numerous times, you'll need to note this. Also, check the thread near the head of the main. That area frequently "peeks" out of any cover, and sees the most UV light. UV can degrade the thread that holds the sail together. If you pick at the thread a bit (gently, the boat isn't yours yet) and see that it frays or comes unstitched, you can expect to at least have to touch up the thread in that area. If you aren't a seamstress/tailor, and don't want to learn, be sure to take that cost into account.

8) Check all the winches and the furler - does everything turn properly and easily (or, in the case of the winch, does it NOT turn when it shouldn't)?

9) Check the electronics - do the lights all work, especially the ones in the mast? Does the radio work? How about the depth sounder and GPS (if there is one)?

10) If its important to you, test the fresh water system - how hard/easy is it to get the water to pump?

I'm sure I missed a few things, but these are all easy things that you can check out yourself. If, after all that's done, you are still comfortable with the boat - you're buying a 33 year old boat, after all, so there WILL be issues - then that's great, and its time to bring in a professional surveyor. But if you hit big soft spots, holes in the fiberglass (we're seeing a lot of that because of Hurricane Sandy), delaminating bulkeads, or other, serious problems, unless you are willing to invest in their repair, you might want to consider saving the surveyor's fees and simply looking at another boat.

- Jim
Home: Western Philly 'burbs
1980 Allmand 31
1975 Albacore 15

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Last edited by jimgo; 01-31-2013 at 11:01 AM.
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