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  #1  
Old 09-12-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Hello all,

I am in the market for a sailboat. My sailing experience has been limited to small lakes and rivers as a youngster (many moons ago). I live near the Chesapeake Bay and would prefer to sail in the bay (days/weekends/vacations) and occassionally up/down the coast. I have a budget of approx $25000 and I am looking at boats in the 30 foot range. My goal is to purchase a boat to gain proficiency, then step up to a larger boat (40-44'') in the 5 year timeframe for cruising. My problem is, besides my lack of experience, so many boats so little time. I have been looking at many boats for weeks. I have narrowed my search to a few builders, mostly because of what I have seen and what I have been told by brokers, to the following;
Pearson 30 & 323
O''Day 30 (w/drop keel)
Mariner 28
S2

My question(s) is/are.
Do all these boats provide good dollar/Value ratios?
Are these boats of good(relative quality)?
Are these good builders (all boat are around 20 years old)?
Can I go wrong with any of these boats (provided they pass survey and are deemed to be in seaworthy condition)?
Are these good boats to learn on?
Any know "stay-away" from issues with any of these boats?
Can these boats be handled with two rookies, safetly? (all proper care/respect given to the water)
Is one boat better than the other?
Am I neglecting other good boat builders? What else should I consider?

All responses are appreciated. Thank You.
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  #2  
Old 09-12-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Hi, Rookie...

There are lots of ways to comment on your boat choices and, indeed, on the sticky challenge of picking a first boat. First off, don''t fret too much - you''ll never see, hear about or understand the nature of all the boats out there for sale, nor is there such a thing as ''the best boat'' for you & your partner. Your goal is to get one of the ''right boats'' for you, which means none of us commenting on your post can give you more than peripheral info. Just because it''s Boat #1, don''t be reluctant to put your own stake in the ground, look closely at the details and decide what appeals to you two(aestheically, functionally, in any other way), not while ignoring others'' advice but certainly while putting your preferences first.

You probably are not zeroed in sufficiently yet on the type of boat you really want. E.g. you may have been shown a Pearson 30 because there are so many that any broker can access, but it''s a very different boat than the Pearson 323. The former was very popular as a racing design but adaptable enough to be cruised for short periods. The 323, part of a family of designs (I own one of her bigger sisters) is a design that was cruising oriented from the ground up (and which I think is a great starter boat with an active owners group), if that''s how you plan to spend your time on the water (vs. racing, e.g.).

Pearsons (R.I. built) are known as being solidly if simply built and have held up well over the years. The 323 was designed by their 2nd in-house designer, who later became the President of the company and ultimately one of its principles. Mariners were built in Maine for some years and also have a solid build reputation. Oday 30''s do not enjoy quite the same build rep, but they may be adequate for Bay sailing you''ll be doing. S2''s were designed by S&S in the waning days of S&S involvement in production boat design; they were adequately built and some think they sail better than most production boats, tho'' I find their interior finish quality a bit cheesy.

You''re on the right track. IMO none of your choices are dogs, any of them would be good learner boats for two people, nor would they be hard to sell at a later date (never lose sight, when buying and modifying, of the resell issue). If you really do expect to be day sailing, weekending and want to leave open the option of adding to the boat''s inventory a bit and doing some coastal cruising, seek out a few more choices (which will add perspective to what you think about the ones you''ve already seen), and don''t be hesitant when a clear choice emerges. Consider buying on-line the Practical Sailor boat reviews for any of your finalists, too.

Good luck; it''s a panicky, exciting adventure!

Jack
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Old 09-12-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Jack-
Thank you for insightful reply. We have looked at quite a few boats so far and have our fair share of boats, we know we do not want. I have seen boats in various states of neglect and poor maintenance. Others appear to be in good condition but have questionable reputations. You bring up a great point; build quality. Quality seems to vary amoung builders and even within builders. You mention boats built is specific yard, which leads me to suspect lesser quality from the same builder in a different yard.

What are some (if any) are signs of good quality in a boat within my budget. I have heard on nearly every occassion that I am looking at ''production boats'' - which is said in a tone that implies a lesser quality then something else. I look at Quality and Value as the scale I am attempting to use to gauge a good purchase (as subjective as it is). My intention is to sail, not constantly put money into a boat that is a commodity in the marketplace.

I don''t have a good idea of what to look for in a boat, i.e. if I find a decent boat with new sails, decent hull/deck, and rigging vs. a higher quality build, but needs improvements in all these areas, which is the better choice? I do not want to put 5-10K into a boat to enjoy ''next year'' I want something that is a quality boat that is versitle. Performance should be adequate and docile (forgiving) yet fun enough to be a challenge once my skill level increases. I don''t care about appearance or manufacture as much as I do about functionality and seaworthiness.

I don''t need a BMW or Mercedes, though I certainly wouldn''t mind. Rather I need something that will get there and back safetly (Ford, Chevy). I believe the boats I am looking at should retain a fair resell value, provided reasonable care and maintenace.

Next thing is surveys, are these usually comprehensive or are they only so if requested and at additional cost? What is a fair expectation of a survey for 20 year old boat? Does a rule of thumb exist? If I buy a 20 year old car and it leaks a quart of oil every 3000 miles that''s ok, but if it is buring a quart of oil I might be concerned? Is the same true of boats? Are some leaks to be expected? If so, what are the ones to look out for? What is serious vs annoying?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-13-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Have you considered an Islander or a Tartan?

Never listen to a broker. They''re evil. Like used car salesmen, only less honest.

As for buying a rough looking boat, there''s gray area in my opinion. In too nice condition you pay too much(when it comes to buying, you pay for every wipe of the sellers sponge). Too rough condition and it may not be worthing bringing up to par.

Ummm, your expectations seem a little high. Almost any 20 year old boat is going to need some work. Once people begin to either get out of boating or look to move up in boats, they begin to relax on the upkeep of the boat that they''re going to sell, the one you''re looking at. There are exceptions though. I never trusted a boat that was in too good condition. .

Appearence is a huge part of boat ownership. You may not think it now, but after owneing the boat for a few months, you''ll start to know whether she''s attractive or not. Then it will either please you, or bug you. Nobody likes to be seen in an ugly boat.

Surveys are needed. Your surveyor. Not a brokers, not the sellers. But yours. You need your own surveyor. He''s you best friend in the trenches down there.

While taking the boat out for its first spin and having it burn into the ocean: that''s serious. Taking it out for its first spin and having your engine die on you: that''s annoying.

Having the hull split in two: that''s serious. Having the keel fall off and sink into the depths, that''s annoying.

If 25k is your total budget, you may want to spend 20k on the purchase of the boat and put the five away for future repairs. You''re going to need it.

I don''t mean to be negative, just realistic.
The world of boat ownershp is road full of heartbreak, financial stress, and ultimately, sunny days spent out on the water.
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Old 09-13-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Rookie, my second boat was a Mariner 28 and I loved it. I''d say that it was a perfect "learning boat." Plus, you should be able to get one for well within your budget last time I look, there were a few available in the bay area for mid-high teens. Main thing to look out for is a soft cabin sole. I had mine redone, and I''d guess that most left on the market at this time from the late 70''s and 80''s have probably had this problem addressed. Once a year or so, I come across the couple I sold her to and they still love the boat.
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Old 09-13-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Thank you for the great feedback. I became gaurded with the brokers when one of them showed me a 30'' Catalina that was in less than perfect shape. When I asked him about the gas motor (Atomic IV) he told me it was a great motor. The next time I saw him and told him I was not interested in the Catalina I over heard him describing it to a co-worker as the boat with the "Atomic Bomb". I appreciate the caution on older boats, I expect to have some problems with a boat of that age. However I am cautiously optimistic that I can find one that has been well maintained and in overall good shape. I hope a boat exists out there that can be sailed the majority of the time vs fixing something all the time.

I like what I see of this mariner so far, it is reasonably priced and if sound, should still have a few good years left in her. I am hoping to gain some, much needed experience before stepping up to a bigger boat in about 5 years.

Can anyone provide information about a 1981 28'' Mariner with a Universal engine (11hp)? Is this a quality builder? Is 11 HP enough motor for a 28'' boat? I know little about this builder.

Tarmand - You mentioned you once owned a Mariner. What was your experience with this builder? Anything else to look out for?

Rookie
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Old 09-13-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

R, I''m sure you''ve beginning to appreciate that we all hold firm views on the basic issues you are raising despite some of those views being quite divergent. That should encourage you to adopt some of our own, based on what you''re seeing in the boat yards and at the docks. So here are a few more views I''ll offer as mine, not necessarily those others should hold:
1. Brokers are people. Some are more incented by today''s dollar while others see their role as a profession, know they''re in it for the long term and are more honest than some of the ministers in my home town. For first-time buyers, the right broker can be of immense help; the trick is getting the right broker. You might canvas for some recommendations, as repeated praise with the detail to back it up is a reasonable indicator in any profession. (BTW the same is true of surveyors, you definitely should contract with one once you are considering a purchase, and they often provide a basis for reducing the asking price by far more than their fee should the boat need attention in important areas). I worked with a broker when purchasing my 4th boat, he''s now in his 24th year with the same company in Annapolis, and I think we benefitted from his role despite being the listing agent. The main thing working against you using a broker is that the commission on the boat you seek will be small. A broker with a long-term perspective will hear you talk about ''the next boat'' and see his/her time with you as an investment. But again, the challenge is to find the right broker.
2. 95+% of the boats in your price range will be production boats; so what? (The other 5% will be homebuilt or finished out from a bare hull & deck and, as a group, probably suffer from greater design compromises, construction short-cuts, builder ignorance and impatience, and/or poor economies of construction than the production boats). Forget about such labels and get on with the task at hand: finding a ''right boat'' for you. Who cares what label it has?
3. You''re looking at 20-25 year old boats, given your size range and budget. You should assume that much of the original equipment in a boat of that age is approaching the end of its finite life span. The hull, deck, spars and some of the incidental items aboard will probably have many years left. Some essential components will have years of service left only depending on the previous level of use and care given them by the former owners (sails and engine are examples). Most of the other original gear (pumps, wiring, breakers, lifelines, running & standing rigging and so on) has already passed its finite life span and has seen rebuilding, repair and/or replacement before you showed up. That''s the price of owning an older boat; the benefit is that you can have the same fun, comfort level, etc. as someone who paid 5 times as much for a new one...it''s just that you have to pay as you go. Don''t begrudge this effort (and pull some money back from your initial purchase budget if that''s financially required), as this is the process of building your body of knowledge about a boat''s systems that will make it possible for you to move up to a more complex boat in the future and have the competencies such a boat will require of you. (Boats age primarily due to 3 factors: the care they''re given, the frequency with which they''re used, and their local environmental conditions. Boats on the Great Lakes or the Pacific Northwest will look fresher, show less corrosion, etc. but that''s essentially irrelevant for you. Just feel good about not shopping in e.g. Florida, were boats are worn out sooner and look it.
4. Don''t underestimate the value of an active owners group. IMO one of the benefits of making a ''pedestrian'' boat choice (e.g. Catalina, Pearson, Tartan for your location) is the large body of knowledge available to you, and the colleagueship that evolves from networking with owners of sisterships. It''s a great way to learn a lot about your boat quickly, and meet some nice folks along the way.

Supplement your boat shopping with some selective reading (e.g. Calder''s Electrical/Mechanical guide, Vigor''s book on the best small boats, Spurr''s history of fiberglass yachts). Keep up a dialogue with your partner about what you''re *really* going to do with the boat, and maintain a clear view of this when shopping and - yes - talking with brokers. None of us know what you''ll end up deciding but, given the effort and openness to views you show, it will be unlikely you''ll make a wrong choice.

Jack
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Old 09-14-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

My hats off to you, Jack. That is a great answer to this discussion.

I want to really support your point about boat brokers. I have bought and sold a lot of boats in my life, some with and some without brokers. In my experence, a good broker is not all that hard to find and is worth their weight in gold. I have gotten some of my best deals on buying boats when I have had a broker involved to explain to the seller why my offer is where it is. Brokers do this every day and a good broker really understands how the game is played, knows the marketplace and can advise you on how to handle the various situations that can come up.

I also agree with Jack''s points about production boats.

Jeff
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Old 09-14-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Jack,

THANK YOU! You are a gentleman, my hats off to you.

Well this is the beginning of my n''th weekend in Annapolis boat shopping. Each visit I learn something new and feel I am the better for it. I agree on your assessment of brokers, the ones I have spoken with have been great so far, they provide good information about the boats I looked at and are usually more than eager to share their own experiences and give advance - not always ''biased''. In fact, one of the boats I was interested in, the broker discovered the deck was ''soft'' and proceeded to point things out and explain the drawbacks of a boat with this condition. In this case it was deemed significant and we quickly moved on to the next boat.

Now my next question(s) for the experienced sailor.

I came across a beautiful 35'' Ericson that has been very well maintained, and it shows, it has recent new 25HP Diesel engine with just over 300 hours. The decks are solid, and everything seems to be in order. It is best example of what I have been looking for thus far. My concern is, this boat was built in 1970. I am experiencing a mental barrier with a boat that is so old. Or is it?

This boat has many upgrades and has been cared for by an owner who cares about boats and knows how to take care of them. I realize that any boat that I purchase that is now 20-25 years old will be much older and difficult to sell after the 5 years I plan to keep this boat. I have been told that the quality of this boat is greater than that of the boats I have been considering otherwise.

I don''t know if I have fallen for this clasic beauty or if this is potentially a good deal. This boat has no frills on it, no auto pilot, no roller Furling, etc. But it appears to be a solid boat for the Bay and costal cruising. Can you help?

Thanks in advance - Again.

Rookie
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Old 09-14-2002
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First boat blues - need help!!!

Rookie:

I''ll let folks who are more familiar with that Erickson comment on it; I can''t. Boats built when fiberglass was fairly new are considered to be stronger because no one understood how well fiberglass would hold up, but that''s a gross simplification and not a helpful guideline, IMO. Moreover, Ericksons of that era were built in Santa Ana, CA principally for the SoCal sailing scene: light winds, little anchoring but lots of marina docking, and in Erickson''s case, lots of club and class racing. I''d say the same cautions about older boats apply, but moreso. (E.g. what''s the status of the steel grid under that foam rudder? how much of the (probably original) keel bolts are still there?) Also - if love''s assault is hard to shake - consider that a 35'' boat will be more costly to keep up, the repairs & haulouts a bit more expensive, and the upgrading or adding of gear (furling gear for the jib? good 2nd working anchor & rode?) harder to fund.

Suggestions:
1. Use the web and track down the Erickson owners groups; then dig in and ask them for help on this model
2. Use the Sailnet resources
3. Ask the broker when the last time the boat was surveyed; ask if s/he will approach the owner about you reviewing the survey, if it''s not too old - that''s a reasonable request given the boat''s age
4. Revisit the boatyard, marina or dock where you saw the boat and ''big nose'' around a bit; talk to folks, ask about the boat and see if you can dig up some anecdotal info on it.

Jack
jack_patricia@yahoo.com
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