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Old 03-27-2004
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Evaluating One-of-a-Kind Boats?

There are a lot of resources for the prospective buyer of a production boat to help them evaluate the choices, including JeffH here on this Message Board (I''ve learned a lot reading your posts, Jeff), as well as reviews in the sailing press, class associations and owners groups, etc...

But what kind of advice can you all offer in helping someone evaluate one-of-a-kind boats?

Certainly, one can calculate "figures of merit" (whatever merit they may have) from basic measurements; and try to compare hull form and design to those of more common, well-known production boats in order to get a sense of its characteristics.

You can also talk to the PO, and get the boat''s story, but clearly that has to be taken with a grain of salt, since they are trying to sell you the boat.

A test sail would be a very good idea, but will an hour or two in whatever the conditions are on that one day reveal what you really want to know (i.e. how the boat performs in exactly the opposite kind of weather)?

Obviously a careful inspection of build and condition and a professional survey would be pre-requisites before closing the deal.

What else can one do?

Tim
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Old 03-27-2004
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Evaluating One-of-a-Kind Boats?

Buying a custom, home built, or rare design is always a tricky business. I have often been attracted to custom or rare boats because they often have cheaper prices than the bigger name brands, and are often more interesting boats, but it really takes a lot more care to sort them out and make a decision. I know of no easy method to do that. There are often very few hard numbers on custom boats and those that are available are often inaccurate guesses.

When I have looked at one-off''s or rare boats, I have tried to find the designers and talk to them to see how much info that I could get on the boat. I will ask the owners about crew that have sailed aboard the boat and then I try to ask crew members pointed questions that get beyond the simple "Had many a good sail on the old girl" level of discussion.

There is a certain level of care that is required in terms of visually evaluating how you think that the boat will behave in a chop or seaway. You may want to get a designer to look at the boat and try to ''read the lines''.

Custom boats rarely have the kind of hull and liners that you find on production boats so you can generally crawl around and try to detect signs of hard use or poor build quality but there is a lot that can be hidden as well.

You might stipulate multiple sail trials so that you can evaluate the boat in a range of windspeeds from light to moderate, and then really spend the time that it takes out there to figure out whether you like the way she sails. Some owners will balk at the idea of multiple sail trials so you may have to pitch your case to owner as to why you need more extensive sail trials than you would with a boat that is more of a known quantity.

You can try to find out what you can about the yard that built the boat. When I was looking at South African boats I emailed a S.A. yacht designer and asked what he knew about the boatyard that built the boat and any local knowledge of the specific boat. I have also talked to the yard that maintained the boat for the P.O.

Of course a detailed and thorough survey is especially important.

But after all of that, I have basically relied on my gut reaction.

Good hunting,
Jeff
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Evaluating One-of-a-Kind Boats?


Another thing I''ve seen that may be helpfull; A friend of mine was selling his boat, and found some people he trusted to be good, safe sailors, and they offered to charter his boat for a week of cruising the Channel Islands and California Coast. They had already had the boat surveyed, and used that to get comp coverage in his name, and he handed over the keys. They got back, transfered the insurance into their own name, handed him a check, and are still happy with their new boat.


But also in general

1.) Read read read read read!!!!

Many authors have sailed around the world before they decide to write anything. Hill, Pardey, (if you''re willing to go back a while) Hisock) etc, all have great reading. It''s obviously biased, but it''s everything they wished they knew before they headed out. Also, I was talking to a sailing friend of a friend, who was kind enough to drop two DECADES of back issues of Cruising World, Sail, Practical Sailer, and the like on me. It''s helped me imensley,

2.) Sail sail sail sail sail.

I crew on any boat I can get on. I hang around the harbor and talk to people. It''s amazing how much diffrent reviews a boat gets at sails time vs. when the tired skipper and crew just got in from 30 kts and 8'' waves. and the more you sail boats you''ve read reviews for, the more the numbers make sense, and the more you know what "tender" "seaworthy" "roomy" and all those other terms which can have a range of meanings mean to certain reviewers.

my $0.02

-- James
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