There is a corny saying that if you ask two sailor the same question you will get three opinions. I must say that my opinion basically disagrees with almost everything being said above. That said, I don't think that any of these opinions are universally incorrect but we each come at questions like these from a diffenent perspective. I'll try to include commenst that will help provide the basis of my perspective on why I disagree.
How much does hull strength degrade with hull age? How much of the strength can be determined in a survey?
According to the data that I have seen, depending on when, where and how the boat was built, fiberglass can decrease in strength pretty dramatically over time due to fatigue and the natural chemical reactions within the resins. Boats like the Tayana 37 which has been in production for a very long time, will actually have different durability depending on when it was manufactured.
To explain further, during the period of 1970's and well into the 1980's (a period during which my my mother was building and importing boats from Taiwan) Taiwanese yards (and many U.S.yards) generally used a style of fiberglass with comparatively short fibers and routinely folded the fabrics after they were cut but before they were laid in the boat. They tended to use a large proportion of non-directional fabrics. They tended to use resin rich lay-ups and a polyester resin that was comparatively brittle once cured. At least as compared to more modern resins, fabrics and laminating schedules and techniques, this produces a boat that is comparatively prone to work hardening and fatigue. Over time, these boats while quite robust originally, will lose a fairly large amount of their original strength. How much strength is lost will vary greatly. Whether it is too much, is, of course, a product of what you plan to do with the boat, what has been done with her in the past and the specific construction of the boat in question.
Short of cutting a swatch out of the hull at a high stress area, no surveying method that I know of can really tell how much strength has been lost and how much remains.
All that said, there are boats out there cruising of all ages, and all construction types. We each make decisions about what we consider safe and adequate. I personally own a 25-year-old boat that has been offshore for some of her life, and I expect to take offshore again, and she is by no means as robust as the boats that you are considering, but by the same token she is wildly lighter, and so the stresses are much less as well. The point here being, while it is true that some boats lose a lot of strength over their life, it is really up to to you to make the evaluation about what you are comfortable with.
How much of a no-no are teak decks? We've seen articles on removing them - is this possible to do and should one plan to do it?
This is as easy a question to answer as, 'which is inherrently better, vanilla or strawberry ice cream?'. It is all about your philosohical bent in life. To me, if I were thinking of spending years off cruising, teak decks would unequivocally be a deal breaker. To me, (and this may only be my opinion) a proper offshore cruiser should be robust, simple, and easy to maintain. In my opinion, it should be easy to inspect the key structural elements of the boat and to monitor the health of these elements.
The loads and repetative motion of offshore sailing sorely work the various parts of the boat, stresses constantly passing from one part of the boat to the other. In any given year, an offshore boat that is making long distance passages routinely are exposed to the kind of wear and tear that a coastal cruiser might experience in decades of use. In that environment I believe that simplicity of maintenance becomes crucial.
Teak decks come in basically one of three varieties, traditionally laid and caulked decks, teak decks mechanically fastened to a structural deck membrane below, and glued down decks.
Traditionally laid decks have been around for centuries. Sooner or later they leak, and sooner or later they need to be recaulked and refastened. Decks built this way can be robust, and they can be monitored for condition. But if I were off voyaging for a limited period of time, having owned and maintained a boat with laid teak decks, I would not want to add the extra maintenance to the comparatively large maintenance that extended offshore cruising implies.
Mechanically fastened decks, in my opinion represent the worst, but the most common option. The problem with mechanically fastened teak decks is that inevitably, they will leak. Its not an if but a when. And when they leak, there are thousands of small fastening holes penetrating into the structural deck below with gravity and osmosis on the side of the water. Most of these mechanically fastened decks have wood cores either in the form of plywood or balsa because a glass deck thick enough to properly hold fastenings would add excessively to the rather large weight and stability penalty that you are already paying by having teak decks. In the orient, the plywood was often not a marine grade material, and when wet the crossed grain of the plywood would conduct the rot in multiple directions. Balsa core, properly laid up, is actually more resistent to the spread of rot than plywood, but it is more expensive and laying it up properly takes a lot more care and skill than was generally applied.
At some point in the life of a mechanically fastened teak deck, you will be facing replacement of the teak deck and the structural deck below. Religious maintenance can greatly extend the length of time. But as I said above, I personnally do not want to be beholding to maintaining a teak deck in the tropics, done that, never again. And so for someone like me, core problems are a sooner thing.
Which brings up my main objection to mechanically fastened teak decks for distance cruising, which is the robust and easy to inspect key structural elements clauses. Mechanically fastened teak decks certainly can and generally do start out robust, but there is no really reliable way to verify the condition of the structural deck below, so that over time, as the core begins losing strength, there is no really good way to know what you are dealing with. By the time that the syptoms are glaring, you are looking at a major job to replace the decks. For me that scenario is a major deal killer. But that is just me.
I suppose if I had a bigger boat budget than you are proposing or than I personally could afford, and I was planning to go offshore and I had four years to prep the boat, and I saw the absolute uniquely perfect boat, and it was really cheap for what it was ($20-25K below an otherwise identical boat), I suppose that I might buy a boat that had mechanically fasterned teak decks, remove the teak, repair any core damage, and glass over the whole mess with epoxy and cloth and think that a reasonable solution.
Glue down teak is whole other story. Here the teak is a simple cometic overlay. In order for the glue to work it needs to be much thinner than either mechanically fastened or a laid deck. Some day the teak will need to be replaced but at least it would not be endangering the structure of the boat when it fails. If I did buy a boat with glued down decks I probably keep the teak as long as it was servicable, but again I'd personally would probably still avoid boats with a glued down teak deck because I found teak decks too hot underfoot when I had them in Florida.
And beyond all that is the weight penalty, which in my mind reduces both the carrying capacity and stability of a teak decked boat relative to an identical boat without them.
If a boat has had blister repair work (see Valiant) is this a permanent solution or would you expect to have to have it repaired again?
The current thinking seems to be that depending on the type and source of the blisters, and the type of repair that was done, the repair can be permanent in some cases but in most cases it is temporary in nature. A quality peel should be good for 10 to 15 years (or more depending on who you believe). The most durable repairs involve removing enough glass and resin to permit a continuous layup of minimally a single new layer cloth in epoxy or vinylester resin.
Are wooden masts a definite no? How much would replacing one likely be?
I have owned a number of boats with wooden masts mostly in Florida. Wooden masts are beautiful to look at and have a lot of advantages. They were used for centuries, but again they were historically seen as short lived, and by any objective standard, high maintenance. We used to get two coats of varnish on the masts perhaps 3 or 4 times a year. I could do the varnishing from a bosuns chair, sanding going up, tacking coming down, then back up top again to apply the varnish on the way down. The tops of the spreaders were epoxy saturated and painted white which greatly extended their lifespan. I had a rig that I could haul myself up, and lower myself back down again.
But with all of that said, if I really wanted to go voyaging a wooden mast would be the last thing that I would want on a boat. Properly made but not fit out new aluminum spars for a boat the size that you are considering would be something on the order of $10K without rigging and hardware and perhaps twice that fit out and in place (depending on the details of how you do it).
Is it normal for a broker to request an escrow deposit (and of what amount) while looking for boats for you?
It is normal for an offer on a boat to include good faith money (escrowed deposit), typically somewhere around 10% of the value of the boat. If you are asking for a longer than usual closing period, the buyer may request that all contingencies be met quickly and that the deposit increase after the contingencies have been waived, If I were selling a boat through a broker, I personnally do not think that I would even consider an offer that was made without a deposit. It is not typical of a broker to ask for an escrow deposit before an offer contract was made. Contracts should be made subject to survey and sea trial.
What are normal insurance costs? We heard 1% of the purchase price but haven't been able to verify that. Anyone have good experiences with an insurance company and/or know of an inexpensive one?
I have no idea what offshore insurance costs, and of course the cost is dependent on experience of the owners, and use and age of the boat, but with an experience credit for a boat in a non-hurricane location I am paying roughly 1.25% of the declared value of the boat per year.
Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-22-2006 at 08:54 AM.