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post #11 of 16 Old 09-22-2007
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Originally Posted by therapy23 View Post
I will work longer and get a better/newer boat so I can just fix things as they come up and not all at once.
Strangely, that was part of the logic of our getting a 90% finished custom boat (which never do get to the 100% mark, but that's another story). The boat had a 2005 upgrade of top-end refrigeration, redone interior, A/C-heat pump, minty fresh circuit installations, and various other nice touches. What it didn't have is any kind of a shower facility, no autopilot, no outside throttle shifter, no windlass (plenty of ground tackle, though), and some roughed in outlets.

The electronics are minimal: a 1989 video depthsounder that can be chucked, and a Raymarine 420 plotter from '99 that's maybe good to keep as a helm backup.

What this means is that I have a free hand to install what I want where I want without ripping out old stuff. There is no old stuff, because the previous customizers never put it in.

This is a positive. Sometimes you encounter the "museum piece" boat that ISN'T horrible, because the owners, while keeping the original stuff in good working order, never "modernized" because a two-burner alcohol stove, a 10-channel VHF, an icebox and three 12 VDC incadescents did the trick in 1975 and still do. Nothing may be dangerous (I've seen such boats brought up to code, but not "improved"), but it's easy enough to complicate a boat with gear.

Ever see a wire tail open frame winch for a main halyard? I have on an otherwise quite modernized mid-'70s C&C 35. It's still there because it works and hasn't broken.
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post #12 of 16 Old 09-22-2007
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I was shopping in that era due to my cost constaints. What I figured out was the key is finding a boat that was designed without all the usual big ticket items for a 30 year old boat. I bought a boat without any wood coring (except for a small area under the shrouds), an encapsulated lead keel so no keelbolt problems, no real electronics, etc. I don't think that I'm gonna have to do much maintenance and I haven't really done any unreasonable boat work, been sailing instead. I did get the original rigging and lifelines replaced, but that was figured into the purchase price.

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post #13 of 16 Old 09-23-2007
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I suspect that the answers you'll get here will be somewhat biased. My sense is that the majority of us are do-it-yourselfer's to the maximum extent of our abilities, and that's one of the reasons we're inhabiting sailnet. "What, let some stranger strip my bottom paint, I'd sooner..."

Val's thoughts seem quite solid to me. You have nothing to fear, as a rule, from buying an older boat after careful research of the particular boat's build quality. What you are confronted with is the choice between a true project boat and the prospect of earning your boat building merit badge, an immaculately kept and upgraded specimen with attendent price tag, and the somewhere in between we mostly end up buying. What you'll never find is a boat that needs nothing done. They start needing work the minute you purchase her. That is, if you want to keep her at current condition.

The real trick may be on deciding what you are willing to tackle and what you just feel you must have professionally done. Some guys do make their own sails. Others, who purchase their sails, think nothing of tackling a bottom job or painting her. While some of us may not know too much about sweat equity as it applies to our house, most of us rely on it to defray what otherwise might be a prohibitively expensive passtime.

My particular boat has never been painted, and if I wanted a showpiece I'd have painted her already. Instead, I sail her and keep up on the stuff that, left untended, will cause her to deterioate. The nicks and such in the gel coat are filled, the colour doesn't match as well as it might, and she doesn't look too bad. But then I know that once I paint her, it will be paint for life, and I'll feel a whole lot different about rubbing the dock than I do now. And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't gotten around to trimming the excess sealant from around a couple of cleats I rebedded this spring. I bought a 1973 boat that I could upgrade and maintain in a manner than allowed me to sail every summer and not pay through the nose for what needed doing. Each year I tackle another project or upgrade, weighing it's completion against lost time on the water. Appearance, while decent, is way down on my list from functional upgrades and being on the water.

I heartily recommend Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenace Manual. The first "book" in it is, "Inspecting the Aging Sailboat". It will give you valuable information on what to look for prior to deciding to survey a boat. The rest of the book will tell you how to fix things and, better yet, give you an idea of what things you can reasonably expect to do yourself. All in all, a good investment.

“Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it.”
Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.
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post #14 of 16 Old 09-23-2007
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I bought a "75" Catalina 27 with a poor interior arrangement - the "dinette model." It was one of those bare boats that the previous 3 or 4 owners apparently couldn't or wouldn't spend a dime on it.

Getting a bare boat and fixing it up isn't all bad. I enclosed the pathetic transom rectangle to hold the outboard and instead had a power bracket installed to raise and lower the motor. The motor is new; the electrical will be new - very little existed as you will discover on an old boat. Through the hull levers were replaced, as recommended in Don Casey's book. New electronics are in the process of being added - already bought but waiting for batteries, inverter, etc to be added, along with the already installed new electrical panels.

Working with a bare boat is like working with a clean slate; the basic boat is older, but everything added, improved upon, re-bedded, etc gives you a newer modern boat. I don't have to worry about a new engine, crappy old electronics, poor rigging, etc. I know what I have because either I installed it or had it done professionally.

The nice thing about getting an older "over spec'd" boat is that popular (such as my Catalina) is that there are a number of good forums to help you out. Often if you want to do a repair, like re-install the old windows, I can find a few who have done it, tell you how, and have pictures to back up the text.

Here's one link as an example of text and pics on how to repair items for my Catalina 27:


Or you can go over the top with modifications and improvements as this guy has done:


So if you get an old bare boat, you'll end up with a strange concoction of brand new and older, but you'll know about boating repair and maintenance, and know exactly what you own.

Last edited by rsn48; 09-23-2007 at 02:42 AM.
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post #15 of 16 Old 09-23-2007
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There are two schools of thought in getting an older boat. One is to look for one that has been constantly upgraded and needs minimal work, but may not be setup the way you would like it. The other is to look at a boat that has been well-maintained but not upgraded, and then spend the money on setting it up the way you want it. A lot of this depends on your time frame—how long are you going to keep the boat. If it is for the long-haul, the second route is probably better than the first.

As Don Casey points out in This Old Boat, many boat owners buy a first boat, keep it for a relatively short time period, and after learning what they like, dislike, what they want and need, they go out and buy a second boat—which they may keep for decades. If that is the scenario you're looking at...by all means get a boat with a good basic skeleton, and then kit it out the way you want.


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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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post #16 of 16 Old 09-24-2007
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Older Boats

I just bought a 79 Pearson 10M. The boat is in great shape and was well maintained and cared for. The surveyor absolutely loved the boat and said he has done a lot of boats and said a lot of even newer boats looked worse. He said he had done boats even a few years old that were in very bad shape, so age isn't the only factor.

The bottom line is that if you find a good boat from a brand that is known for solid boat construction in those years and the boat is well maintained, there should be no reason to be concerned. Get a good surveyor that knows the type of boats that you are interested in move forward with them.

All boats need some work, nothing in that vintage year is going to be perfect, so as long as you know that and the price reflects the condition, I say trust your survey and proceed from there.

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