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Old 09-02-2013
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Used sunfish / purchase guidance

I'm relatively new to Sunfish sailing but have got the bug and am LOVING it, thinking its time to buy a used boat! After browsing local Craig's list and newspapers ads all Summer, I've come across a 2003 Sunfish that I'm excited about and considering buying, but have a few concerns.

For starters, the boat I'm looking at does not feel "heavy" and at first glance looks like its in "near mint" condition with just a few typical "bump" dings on the sides along the top of the deck (which have been epoxied over). BUT, on closer inspection I'm wondering whether or not the following issues should be "deal killers":

1) MAST STEP: Looks like there is a vertical 1" - 2" surface crack in the mast step. Not an obvious hole or gouge by any account, but definitely a break in the otherwsie completely smooth surface. Should this be repaired or just leave it? If not repaired, is this an area that will likely let water get into the hull overtime or is this no big deal (i.e. something that many 10+ year old boats face from normal wear and tear in the delicate mast step)? If repaired, is it a big expensive job (worth doing) or a simple gel coating or other epoxy type filling that could clean it up (something that even a novice like myself could do)?

2: DAGGERBOARD SLOT: It looks like there is a faint 1" - 2" surface line near the to of the opening about 1" into the slot. Same issue and questions as with the Mast Step above (i.e. Big issue?, simple repair? or just leave it and not b concerned?).

3. STRESS CRACK. There is what appears to be a "stress crack" and some "spidering" coming off one end of the crack just behind the right side of th cockpit on the top of the deck. As I understand it, "stress cracks" like this are fairly common as boats get older. Is this true or is there something I should be more concerned about here? If its just a cosmetic issue, is there something I can do to get rid of these lines and/or keep them from getting worse? Or, do I just leave them "as is" and not be concerned at all?

MANY THANKS to all of you who share your experience and guidance. So GREATLY appreciated as I begin to take my sailing skills to the next step (hopefully)!

As an aside, I have pictures I can include that shows each of the above noted issues, but since I'm new to this forum I don't know how to attach photos (or if they are even allowed). Any guidance for adding Pix is also appreciated.

Best,

Rob
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Old 09-02-2013
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Used sunfish / purchase guidance

Hi Rob,
Welcome to sailnet from a satisfied sunfish owner! It was my first sailboat as a kid and I've had one ever since in the family, many moons later.

Of the three issues you listed, the mast step sounds like the one to pay the most attention to, but this is where pictures would come in handy. I'd put the mast into the mast step hole and see if there is any movement in the crack when you put a side load on the mast. Also, fill the mast step with water and see if it drains into the hull.

Even if the boat fails those two tests, a 2003 sunfish is still a baby (mine is a mid '70s model) and it would have some major damage before one might decide it's beyond repair.

Fiberglass cracks are a relatively easy fix - perhaps you could use them as a negotiating point for an otherwise sound boat. Does the owner have all the rest of the gear - sail in good shape, daggerboard, rudder/tiller/tiller extension, spars/mast/halyard, main sheet... maybe a trailer?

With respect to uploading pics, check out the sailnet FAQs - about 4 posts down is a recent thread on the subject. Myself, I find photobucket easy to use. I upload the photo there, copy the "img" link from photobucket and paste that into my sailnet post.

Good luck with the boat shopping (and sailing!)
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

THANKS for your reply, Bill. As a newbie out here I can't believe how generous and kind people like you are to share your insight and knowledge. As for me, I'm first coming to sailing as a man in my early 50's, hoping to share the fun with my 12 year old daughter.

I've now included some pix below. As for the mast step, I did fill it with water as a test when looking at boat, waited a while and was glad to see that the water lever stayed the same without any of it seeping into the hull. The pix of it attached show the shot I took from above looking down the hole and then an extremely zoomed in shot to greatly magnify the crack. In the photo of the daggerboard slot the stress cracks appear just below the blue gel coat as a couple of faint arcs (not as obvious to see as the crack in the mast step). The pix of the stress crack on the deck is clear to see (but doesn't form a 90 degree angle, more like stem with a bouquet of flowers!). Curious to hear your follow-up prognosis on all of these issues after viewing the pix. Thanks again for all of your help.
Attached Thumbnails
Used sunfish / purchase guidance-sf-2003-first-impression.jpg   Used sunfish / purchase guidance-sf-mast-step.jpg   Used sunfish / purchase guidance-sf-mast-step-zoomed-.jpg   Used sunfish / purchase guidance-sf-daggerboard-well.jpg   Used sunfish / purchase guidance-sf-stress-crack-deck-top-behind-cockpit.jpg  

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Old 09-02-2013
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

That Sunfish hull is still in near mint condition.
Those "cracks" in the mast step & center board trunk could just be spots where the gel coat did not adhere or was scraped off.

Hope you can get this one for a good price. Seems to me a fair price for a hull in this condition is around 1500 +/- (mostly plus). If I'm not mistaken they cost about 3500 new. I see loads of older Sunfish listed on CL/eBay in the 500 - 1000+ range.
There are some real advantages to getting a newer Sunfish. Like BillSull I have sailed mostly on "ancient" hulls from the 70's. Many of them readily take on water and must be drained after a few hours use. A newer hull should hopefully be air tight and can be safely sailed longer and harder.

Great boat for a 12 year old too. If your daughter takes to it she could soon be sailing it by herself or with friends (and you too, of course!).
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Last edited by CalebD; 09-02-2013 at 09:45 PM.
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

THANKS CALEBD for the encouraging words. Someone else on another forum thought the placement of the crack in the mast step was not a big deal; particularly since it was not near the opening of the hole which apparently absorbs most of the movement/stress from the mast. He suggested I apply Marinetex, sand and not think about it any further (unless and until it becomes a real issue).

As for the other components, after a very careful inspection the hull appears to be blemish free. The Daggerboard is the new composite style, the rudder and tiller are wood with the newer aluminum extension . . . all of which are in excellent condition. The mast and spares also appear to be in excellent condition, but curious to hear your thoughts as to what I should be looking out for other than making sure everything is straight. The sail is a white racing sail and appears to be in fine shape, but a little stained in places and with some sticky adhesive residue where numbers had been applied. I actually spoke to the service people at North Sail and they said it would come off easily with acetone and not do any damage to the sail. . . confirming that acetone is what they use all the time to get duct tape-like adhesive reside off of sails sent in for repair.

The only thing that seems to be missing is the bungee retainer cord and so-called brummel hooks (?) that wrap around the hole in the board and front pull handle. I assume I can get these items for just a few bucks when I pick up the Marinetex. Do you know the length of bungee that I will need for this? And, is it customary to attach it to the front pull handle or somewhere else? I seem to recall reading where some people wrap it around the mast, but not sure what works best.

But wait . . . there's more! It is being sold with a Seitech dolly (also is excellent condition)! The whole package is being offered for $850 (not on LC, but from someone at a local "yacht club" in my area). I am aware that a package like this on CL goes typically in the $1500 +/- range as you've noted (and ALOT more from local boat/sail shops in my area). Looks like I'm buying me a boat tomorrow!!!

Will keep you posted. Again, thank you SO MUCH for your reply. Hopefully this exchange will help others as well when things at first blush seem a bit too good to be true!
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Old 09-03-2013
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

That looks like a great deal Robert. Go for it!

Caleb's comment about sailing with your daughter made me smile and recall sailing on the sunfish with my daughter. At first, it was just us on the boat, then a friend or two was invited and eventually I was relegated to being in charge of boat transport only and waiving goodbye as they sailed away from the boat ramp! Just be prepared - you may have to buy another boat if you want to go sailing to. :^)
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

Hi Bill. As mentioned, my daughter is 12. I'll cherish these days with her on the water (even if I'm left on shore to watch as she sails off with a friend), since before I know it she'll be old enough where she'll be asking me for the keys to the car!

Yes, I'm psyched about getting this boat after spending the better part of the Summer looking for one. I guess patience (coupled with "end of season" timing) pays off!

Thanks again for your guidance and support.
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

Sailing is a great way to connect with kids. Buying the Sunfish is great idea. Looks like you've found a good one at a great price.

As for using Marinetex for small repairs? At a race a dozen years ago a friend accidentally rammed my Hobie 16, holing the port hull about 5 or 6 feet from the bow. This was between races. Once off the water we did a temp repair with Marinetex just to get the boat thru the next day of racing. That repair was never redone. The Marinetex holds today. Good stuff!!!
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Old 09-05-2013
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

THANKS so much to everyone who joined in on this forum to lend support to my issues. I'm please to say that I now own the boat and took it out for a first sail this afternoon. It handled great . . . and the truth is that this boat is significantly better than my sailing skills!!! But, I felt confident even though conditions were not optimal. I sail in a moderate size creek that empties out to a bay that empties out to the Ocean. Wind speed (approx. 13MPH) was a little much for my very basic skills, but when I "caught it" and wasn't too paranoid about how fast I was going (or felt like I was going) it was INCREDIBLY EXHILARATING and SO MUCH FUN!!!

A few things I learned from may maiden adventure:

1) I can't be afraid to hike back. That said it would definitely help if I had a hiking strap!!! Will probably pick one up tomorrow. Hardware is already mounted on boat. Just need strap. Any recommendations (or are they all fairly the same for my basic non-competitive day-sailing needs)?

2) The life vest (PFD) I had on was horrible. Not that I needed it (I didn't flip!), but the main sheet kept getting caught on the back of it when "coming about". Its the PFD I use when Kayacking . . . a very good one which feels like it has foam blocks sewn into pockets of an outer shell. I think the mainsheet kept getting wedged between the foam blocks on the back. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it happened more time that I would have cared for!! Is there a better/smoother/less cumbersome PFD you can recommend for sailing?

3) As I said, winds were approx. 13mph. (maybe a bit more). I realize it is all relative to ones personal taste, but what is considered light, mild, strong, etc.? I'm sure many of you live for strong wind, but for now, for me, I think something in the 5 - 10 mph range would be ideal. Curious to hear whatever "wind stories" you folks have.

4) AsI noted, I sailing in a creek (not a small body of water by any means) surrounded by land, marinas, houses, trees, etc. (kind of like swimming in a fish bowl). As a result, it felt like the direction of the wind kept changing way too often (I assume depending what obstacles I happened to be passing by at the time that blocked or let wind pass through). Control and handling was definitely better when further away from shore and out in more open water. Once I get my confidence up a bit I will need to get out into the open bay (something that may need to happen sooner rather than latter due to issue #5 below!).

5) I went out at low tide and the dagger board was hitting bottom WAY TO OFTEN! This meant that I had to raise and lower it frequently in order to move. Problem is that I couldn't get it to stay up when I needed it to. That made it cumbersome to hold the tiller with one hand, the main sheet with the other and the daggerboard with . . . .! Exactly, it felt like I needed at least three hands to even move at all at times. I understand that you're supposed to tie a bungee through the daggerboard hole and then around the bow handle with with so-called brummel hooks or sister clips. Is the idea there that the tension form the stretched bungee will act as a grip that holds the daggerboard in the position you want? Any explanation/guidance would be most appreciated here (including length of bungee cord needed and where/how to place it.

6) Good news is that any of the stress cracks (including the one down in the mast step) held up perfectly without getting any worse. I have a feeling that the advice I got out previously was right . . . not a major issues. Nonetheless, I will take the advise of many and use Marine Tex, the "go-to" wonder product to address the crack issues I had as precaution, if nothing else. (again, particularly in the mast step). That said, any suggestions for applying it (especially in hard to reach areas) or other advice from those that have worked with it is GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Wishing you all the very best and safe sailing!
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Old 09-06-2013
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Re: Used sunfish / purchase guidance

Hi Robert,

With respect to hiking straps, I played around with them, but had a hard time find a location that did put the strap in the way when coming about (when I used one strap down the centerline of the footwell) or left me hiking out too far by the time I got my foot in the strap. I prefer to just hook my toes under the edge of the deck around the footwell. Hiking out is my favorite part of sunfish sailing, but these days, I need some serious wind to counteract the substantial moment arm that I present when I move my rear end off the boat!

Speaking of wind speeds, my feeling is that you don't want to turn off your daughter to sailing with a "BFS" right out of the box. If you haven't been exposed to that acronym yet on this site, google it. You'll see many entertaining sailnet posts listed in the google results, with the granddaddy of them all titled the "Big Freakin' Sails" thread.

Early on with my kids, I rigged the sail a little higher on the mast than I normally would to avoid close encounters with the boom when it came across the deck. This meant that I had to pick my sailing conditions more carefully because a high sail makes the sunfish much more tender. After awhile, when everyone was comfortable with how they had to bend over to avoid the boom while tacking, I could gradually move the sail down.

When everyone is ready for a "BFS" there's nothing better than rigging the sail low and going out in 15 - 20 kts. You can easily get a sunfish up on a plane while broad reaching and it's a blast! The daggerboard bungee will be handy then - you want to the board up to really get planing (but not so high that the boom could catch on it).

I don't bother with brummel / sister hooks - the standard hooks that come on bungee cords work fine. I hook one end of a 24" bungee in an eye screw on the forward end of the top of my wooden daggerboard and wrap the other end around the mast and back on itself. That gives enough tension to keep the board at whatever height I want. Since you have a nice composite board, you may have to come up with a different connection to the board because to avoid drilling holes.

Glad you had a good sail - now I'm going out for a sail of my own!
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