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Old 01-27-2012
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Buying a San Juan 21 in Alaska

My wife and I would like to begin sailing together. I grew up sailing, but it has been many, many years since I've been out on the water in a sailboat. I am looking at a 1974 San Juan 21 that was recently listed for sale. Wondering if anyone has some advice on specific things to look for or what are some red flags. I've read other posts about the problem with deck rot. We live in Alaska, so right now its consistently -5 to 10 degrees out. I've heard about using a rubber hammer or screwdriver to check for deck rot. Will that work in below freezing temperatures?
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Old 01-27-2012
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I imagine in temperatures like that, if water had gotten into balsa core, you'd have a lumpy looking deck with the expansion of the ice crystals in the wood.
I can't tell you anything about surveying boats in freezing weather, but when temps are above freezing, it's worth having a moisture meter to check capacitance (and possible moisture ingress).
Watch videos online (youtube probably has them) on surveyors banging on boats to hear the response sounds they get. I'm sure someone must have posted something like this somewhere.
At any rate, good luck!
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Old 01-27-2012
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There is usually not enough water in the wood core to cause any noticeable expansion on the deck. You should use a moisture meter and a phenolic hammer but both require at least a little skill in using them properly. Both of these will be pretty useless below freezing though. You will need to wait for a stretch of warmer weather.

A '74 SJ21 should not be going for more than about $2,500 if it is in excellent condition and also includes the trailer. The biggest issue I have read about was oil canning on the hull from the trailer bunks but this would correct itself once in the water for a little bit. I personally never had this problem with mine though.

Check the centerboard to ensure it still moves in the trunk. They have been known to get wet, expand and cause some damage. Very common to have to replace the cable and winch for the CB also.

These boats are fairly cheap to maintain. Make sure all the rigging and sails are fairly recent. I remember replacing all the standing rigging on mine in the early 90s for about $450.

See the following link for lots of good info. You may even find some references to the boat you are considering.

Jim Hubbard's San Juan 21 Sailing Page
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Old 01-31-2012
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Thank you both for the pointers. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 01-31-2012
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Also - the keel trunks tend to leak. A friend of mine has a San Juan 21 and his inevitably leaks and collects a pool of water on the cabin floor. You'll need to raise the boat and get underneath to perform the repair.
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