Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New England USA
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How Old is too Old?
As you had said, old is realitive to use.
You can burn out a diesel in under 1,000 hours if it is run for very sort periods at low rpm, without regular maintenance. But one that has had constant upkeep, regular fluid changes, and run properly can last for tens of thousands of hours. But in buying a used boat, caveat emptor, and think that 3,000 hours and up should be gone over very carefully.
Sails can last for years, but only with proper care. Sunlight takes it''s toll, along with wind above a sails intended range. You will find that as look at a former racer/cruiser. It will come with TONS of sails, most blown out or mishapen beyond use. Racers are notorious for keeping a sail up a little longer than practical, and they are constantly getting them blown out.
The standing rigging will become suspect at that age as well. Wire more so than rod. You can check rod for cracks at the heads, and even have them re-headed. Wire will be suspect at the terminals, especially the lower terminals at the turnbuckles. And even more so for a boat sailed in salt water, and even MORE so for a boat sailed in the tropics of any length of time. You may also find that your insurance company will require new standing rigging on an older boat before they will issue a policy.
Older boat wiring is suspect as well. The use of tinned wire was not the requirement that it is today, and much of the wiring on older boats will be corroded.
Your tankage will probably have settlement that needs to be purged. Especially in diesel, where sediment pick-up causes starvation and clogged filters.
Hoses are starting to show their age as well. They become brittle and subject to leaking. I would also want to look at the through hulls, replacing the mushrooms and seacocks without question.
This is also assuming the hull, deck, and topsides have passed sounding and moisture testing with flying colors! When was the boat last barrier coated? It should be renewed every 10 years or so.
If a boat has had a documented history of regular maintenance and upgrades, you can just pick up where the previous owner left off. If no documentation is available, assume the worst, and start your own regimen of replacement and upgrades.