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Old 07-07-2007
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Older Boats-How Long will they Last?

I was just wondering about buying a well built, but much older boat.... lets use a well cared for Alberg 30 for example. The boat is already 40 years old. How long realistically can she continue to sail? 20 years? 30 years? more?
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Old 07-08-2007
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With proper care and maintainace, indefinetly. There are a few wood boats still sailing at 100 years +.
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Fiberglass boats have a life between 25 and 40 years depending on how well they've been cared for and how many waves they've pounded through. Wooden boats can last longer but usually don't because they require more mantience and once they start sliping they are more expensive to catch up with.

All boats start to get harder and more expensive to keep up as they age. Everything from the mounting bolts for the rudder, to the sheaves in the mast head have a life span. As all the parts start failing it gets expensive to keep replacing them.

If the boat is currently 40 years old, you need to be asking how much time and money do you want to be spending refitting and repairing your boat, as compared to sailing.
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Old 07-08-2007
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One of mine is 38 yrs old and I see no reason why I can't get another 38 out of it
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I think that some of the Albergs will still be sailing in 40 years. A lot of them will not. There are two primary determinants that afffect the longevity of the fibreglass - mechanical force and chemical degradation.

The glass in the boats is actually pretty weak stuff, but when it is encased in the plastic resin, it becomes quite stiff. Once bent though, the crystalline structure of the glass is compromised and the perfect little cells become misshapen and weakened. They are not elastic in the sense that rubbers and some plastics are, so when damage occurs - it is permanent. This happens on a microscopic level every time the boat flexes as it sails through waves, and on a larger scale when the boat is subjected to trauma, such as running aground or banging into docks. Eventually, if all of the glass fibres become damaged, the boat will become so brittle that (in theory) any traumatic event will be enough to make it shatter, as the resin by itself has little structural integrity.

The second factor - chemical degradation, most familiar to boaters as osmosis, happens because polyester resin (all resins actually, including epoxy) are not really "waterproof". They dissolve in water.

The gel-coats used in the sixties and seventies were particularly prone to dissolving like this, with the result that they became porous enough for water to enter. The water then encountered the secondary layer of resin, less solvent than the gel-coat, hence it could not penetrate as quickly, so it accumulated and formed "blisters".

When a blister is "popped" close attention is paid to the colour of the liquid that comes out, as the darker it is, the more styrene is suspended in it, and the worse the degradation of the structure is.

The boats that are being built today, sometimes use materials that are less soluble than the resins used forty years ago, but they tend to use less quantities of both glass and resin, hence while it may take longer for them to start to break down, when they do start, they go more quickly, as there is simply less material to be destroyed.

So - to answer your question, the Albergs, being built with (by today's standards) an excess of both glass and resin, can handle a lot of banging around and sitting in water before they fall apart. If you find one that has been barrier-coated with epoxy, which, while still soluble is much more stable than polyester resin, and where bilges have been kept fairly dry, and that has not been rammed into the dock or run up on the rocks, then it's probably going to last quite a while longer.

If you are looking at one that has not been taken care of well, and has been banged around a lot, I wouldn't expect an awful lot from it. It would be quite difficult to determine exactly how badly a bot has deteriorated, but I think it would be safe to say that if you notice a lot of flexing when it sails, and if things start going out of alignment in the cabin (but don't confuse this with the normal swelling and contracting of wood), then the boat is on its last legs.

Probably a bit longer than you wanted to read but - WTH - I am feeling pedantic in the wee hours...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailormann
Probably a bit longer than you wanted to read but - WTH - I am feeling pedantic in the wee hours...
Not at all longer than I wanted to read, I like it when someone takes the time to really write out a long detailed post to explain why they are saying something. Thanks.
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Well...since FG boat building came into its own about 40 years ago...we should be seeing reports of hulls failing due to age...yet I've never seen anything posted here or elsewhere about that. Blisters yeah...but that affects younger boats as well.
I am of the opinion that speculation on the longevity of FG boats is just that at this point and we really don't know how long they will last. A well built boat from the 70's like Pappy's may indeed have another 30 years or more of life and I would not hesitate to buy a boat of that era that surveys well.
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Cam, The debate about the longevity of fiberglass is not in question. It basically boils down to whether the vessel was " rode hard and put away wet " so to speak. As to hearing about hulls cracking up, a trip through your local boat yard will show you that a lot of 60s and 70s fiberglass boats are under going major refits or meeting with the chainsaw.

The biggest example of drastic material fatigue was probably the Honolulu flight that had it's cabin ripped open due to metal fatigue. Most older sail boats die of far less famous death. They are usually on their forth or fifth owner when they bounce off the dock one time to many, or the cleats let lose in a thunderstorm and they pound onto the shore. It follows the same rule as used cars, the new owner purchases the boat because he doesn't have enough money to buy something newer. He also doesn't usually have the money for the best materials to up keep the vessel.

Still the biggest reason older boats die, is not that their glass fails, but other cascading equipment failures. On a ten to fifteen year old boat, the new owner will probably look at replacing the sails, some if not all the lines, and giving the engine a good tune up. On a thirty year old boat you'll have all that plus; Resealing all the ports, replacing all the through hulls, replacing the sheaves and standing rigging, replacing the engine or transmission, and resealing all the deck connections. Of coarse most of these and other problems will dealt with as they acur, which means fixing the collateral damage that has been caused. Such as replacing cabinetry because a leak sprung in the shrouds and de-laminated your cabinets.

There will always be exceptions to the above. A mechanics boat per say, or the boat equivalent of a little old ladies car, one the has been stored inside for a long time and maintained reasonably well. This argument can go on forever, but unless you have an outside influence that forces you to continue using old boats, most people are going to opt for newer less maintenance intrusive vessel.

Just look at all the old Packard and studebakers driving around Cuba. You can keep anything going if you really want. We still have collectors who buy and maintain classic cars in this country, but few if anybody drives these old cars on their daily commute.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustMeUC
I was just wondering about buying a well built, but much older boat.... lets use a well cared for Alberg 30 for example. The boat is already 40 years old. How long realistically can she continue to sail? 20 years? 30 years? more?
You stated "a well cared for" vessel. If it continues to be "well cared for", I stand by my original, albeit short and to the point, answer. ALL boats require periodic and expensive maintenance to remain seaworthy. My 36 year old Morgan is structurely sound with many years left in the old gal.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danjarch
Fiberglass boats have a life between 25 and 40 years depending on how well they've been cared for and how many waves they've pounded through. Wooden boats can last longer but usually don't because they require more mantience and once they start sliping they are more expensive to catch up with.

All boats start to get harder and more expensive to keep up as they age. Everything from the mounting bolts for the rudder, to the sheaves in the mast head have a life span. As all the parts start failing it gets expensive to keep replacing them.

If the boat is currently 40 years old, you need to be asking how much time and money do you want to be spending refitting and repairing your boat, as compared to sailing.
What A load of crap, with a capital C, in reality no one knows, no boat has been sunk because of osmosis, no boat has been given an expiration date. We just donít know, there are enough 40 year old boats out there that are still in their prime. They would be a joy to own and sail many being over built as it has only been recently that due to cost restraints have the builders built to a minimum. To say that from 25yrs on they have had it or are about to fall apart, is just plain stupid.
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