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Advanced beginner
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282 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'm hoping to make my first sailboat purchase this year or next. A very pretty 1980 30' Cape Dory came on the market locally several months ago, but just out of my price range. However, the sale fell through because the survey showed engine has a blown head gasket, and the price has been lowered accordingly. It's now well-within my price range, although the repair will be a stretch.

Is it nuts for a novice to purchase a boat that needs a major repair? As much as I love the looks of this boat, it seems unwise for someone with my level of experience to take on a boat that needs major work. Should I just skip this boat and move on? I've been thinking about her for months, sorry she'd sold before I had enough saved to pay the original price.

Thanks, E.

(I don't think this is against the rules - here's a link to the boat Cape Dory 30)
 

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Senior Member
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Do you know how to repair a head gasket yourself? If you can do the work it;s not a strecth, if you are counting on paying to have the work done I'd say run away.
 

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A head gasket change is something that should/might be doable without pulling the engine. But the issue, I suppose, is - is that ALL that's wrong? Who determined that was the problem? How reliable is that nugget of information.

The ability to DIY this is a big factor, as xymotic indicated.. cost wise and comfort level wise. Paying someone $80-100/hr will up the ante in a hurry.

A cherry boat with just this issue could be a good deal overall.. but but but.....
 
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Fresh water refugee
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how unskilled are you? you could alsways just sail her and fix the engine later if it is on a mooring and you can find an alternative method to charging the batteries.
 

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Can you fit an outboard bracket on it & put outboard ?? Blown head gasket could mean overheating & why ? Other problems with engine ?
 

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if all the others systems are in good shape it would be a good deal 12.5k . offer 11k and and at that price you could afford to have someone replace the head gasket if that is the only real problem. that boat in good shape should sell for in the mid 20s. which engine does it have?
 

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Asleep at the wheel
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I can appreciate the "stretched budget" issue, so let's look at it from a slightly different perspective. If you buy the boat this year and can't fix it yourself, and can't afford to pay someone else to fix it this spring/summer, will you be able to in the fall/winter? Or will you be essentially in the same financial situation at that time?

This is a buyer's market, and another CD may come alone in the interim that will be somewhere between the cost of what you'll pay for this boat, and what you'll pay for this boat plus the engine repairs. Will you kick yourself if that boat, or another, equally attractive boat comes up? I mean, you could be out playing/learning to sail, but instead your boat will be sitting. On the plus side, if you do get the engine looked over by a qualified mechanic and you're OK with paying whatever he says it will cost to get it back up to snuff (or doing the work yourself to make those repairs), you'll have a 1980 CD with a known-good engine (or about as known-good as you can get), and that peace of mind may be worth it to you, even IF you have to wait a year to really begin to enjoy her.
 

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Your worst case is the engine is shot. A new Beta Marine engine/trans combo will run you about $7K + shipping.

It's a fair bit of work but not rocket science to pull the old engine and swap in the new, especially if you know someone who's done it before and can help you through the process.

The question is would that $7K blow your budget and can you do the work?

In the boat's favor is the fact that she looks like she had an owner who kept her well. That's VERY important in a boat this age.

A lot of folks here will tell you to go for it (after all we all did), but at the end of the day you have to pay the bills and no matter how well maintained there will be additional expenses with any boat that need to be factored in.

Best of luck whether you decide this is the one or if it will be the boat you haven't found yet.
 

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Advanced beginner
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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
My mechanical skill level: pretty unskilled. Sailing skill level: been sailing dingys for about 5 years. No cruiser experience. (The wind dies, I paddle home or get a tow.)

I am, however, married to a mechanical engineer. We have a deal - I buy the boat, she takes charge of the basic maintenance, at least until I learn how to do these things as well. (Can she fix a head gasket? I don't know.)

I have been assuming this is a repair I will have to have professionally done. Actually, given the $4,000 cut in the price (the original price was $16,500) I assume a hefty repair bill is in order.

What worries me is - is a blown head gasket the beginning of this boat's problems or the end? The last buyer walked away after the survey, and I assume he/she was also offered the same cut in the price.

E.
 

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Did the owner know the head gasket was blown when he accepted the offer from the first buyer? If he did and didn't disclose that I would start to look at the boat with an electron scanning microscope. There may be other issues. The boat does look clean, maybe a bit too clean. Did the blown head gasket allow coolant into the chamber which maybe lead to hydro locking and possibly to a bent rod. Sails in good shape? I'd low ball it by about $5k, he doesn't want two boats.
 

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What worries me is - is a blown head gasket the beginning of this boat's problems or the end? The last buyer walked away after the survey, and I assume he/she was also offered the same cut in the price.

E.
If you can get a copy of the survey, do so- that will answer a whole load of unknowns.

There are many many boats in the same price range and same LOA range that are ready to go today in your area. Place a wanted ad on craigslist and see what comes out of the woodwork.


All that being said, if it is simply a blown head gasket (evidenced by being hard to start but starting and running, with low compression, no compression, white smoke- if it is hard to start but runs, with black smoke, the problem is rings, valves, or valve seals) It is a relatively simple fix on a volvo diesel- certainly a lot simpler than replacing the head gasket on a DOHC gasoline automotive engine. If you can build Ikea furniture, you can apparently read a manual, so you should be able to fix a head gasket.... and it is a good idea to learn to fix a head gasket.

Replacing a head gasket is certainly cheaper and simpler and less time consuming than installing an outboard mount and outboard and remote controls to the cockpit and a new gas tank, etc., etc...
 

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Replacing a head gasket is certainly cheaper and simpler and less time consuming than installing an outboard mount and outboard and remote controls to the cockpit and a new gas tank, etc., etc...
...not to mention what that does to the beautiful lines of that boat.....
 

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Advanced beginner
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Discussion Starter #13
Did the owner know the head gasket was blown when he accepted the offer from the first buyer? If he did and didn't disclose that I would start to look at the boat with an electron scanning microscope. There may be other issues. The boat does look clean, maybe a bit too clean. Did the blown head gasket allow coolant into the chamber which maybe lead to hydro locking and possibly to a bent rod. Sails in good shape? I'd low ball it by about $5k, he doesn't want two boats.
Good question. In a separate ad on the Cape Dory message board he says the blown head gasket came up in the survey during the sale. On the other hand, the boat was very reasonably priced, so maybe he did know before the survey. Or maybe he just doesn't want two boats.

If a blown head gasket is easy to fix, why wouldn't the owner fix it instead of cutting the price $4000?
 

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Can she fix a head gasket? I don't know.
Well, considering that is a crucial part of the equation, I think you'd better ask her.:)

Then, plan on getting your own survey before you buy, and be sure to get a qualified mechanic to do an engine survey as well. That way you'll know what you're getting into.

The bottom line here is, once you have the engine fixed (either DIY or by hiring someone else), will it still be a price you can afford? If the answer is no, obviously you walk away.

The one thing you do NOT want to do is buy the boat now, and plan on getting the engine fixed sometime down the road "when you can afford it." What will happen is that the boat sits, doesn't get used much (if at all), yet continues to eat away at your cash reserves as you pay for insurance, dockage or mooring, other maintenance, etc. That's a formula for spending, in the long term, way more than you ever wanted to.

Good luck.
 

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One of None
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CD is a blue water boat.. by your stated experience, I'd say don't go for it. You won't be happy and the boat won't be "happy" unless it's on the ocean. On the Bay, it would be a slug.
 

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Administrator
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And since no one else said it, if this helps, this is a pretty poodr choice for the Chesapeake.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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Check that spares are available. The head or block could be cracked. Assuming the engine is original then it is 33 years old and spares may well be in short supply or out of stock totally.

Also my spidy sense tells me that it is not going to be just a head gasket. They are about $30 and it takes 1 - 2 hours to replace assuming nothing else is wrong. A $4k drop for a head gasket.

Hmm plenty boats with running engines out there.
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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5,242 Posts
It is a
Volvo
engine.

Unless you like being frustrated and paying exorbitant amounts for engine parts don't do it. I'd sooner take a cd 30' with an Atomic 4 gas engine than an old Volvo diesel.

cd 30' is a nice looking boat but the draft is a tad on the deep side for some parts of the Chessy.
 

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And since no one else said it, if this helps, this is a pretty poodr choice for the Chesapeake.
.. actually, I think Denise beat you to it!!! ;)
 
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