In your February 1 issue, you state that a five-year-old Seaward 25 will bring between 85-90% of its original price. I disagree. Asking and selling prices are always different for sailboats. I bought a '98 new in '98. I sold it in 2002 for 75% of original price. If I had used a broker, they would have wanted between 10-15% commission, which would have more than offset any increase in a higher selling price.
While Nick Hake is correct in saying that you get a lot of compliments on the looks of the boats, I'm not sure that the quality is that much higher than other production boats. Problems I had with my new boat included gelcoat voids, a jibsheet traveler which was not attached to the glassed- in aluminum bar, and came off; no connection to the deck plug for masthead lights, which required running another electrical cable; fittings in the holding tank installed backwards so it leaked; the pipe which connects the rudder to the wheel cables broke out of the rudder; improper trailer axles, resulting in the weight of boat resting directly on axle; and leaking hose to shower head.
The good news is that Don Pollard, Pollard's Landing, Holland, MI, who sold me the boat, stood behind everything. Don is a rarity in business today, honest and fair. I am a firm believer that a boat is only as good as the dealer and Don is one of the best.
Thanks for the Seaward 25 review in the February 1, 2003 issue. As a proud owner of a 1996 Seaward 25, I would agree almost exactly with everything in your review. I purchased mine new, and stumbled with the price, since so little information was available at that time. I've never had a second thought since. It's a great boat that is holding up and worth (to me) the price. Call it pride in ownership or just simple quality. Don't worry about that backstay attachment point—mine has been abused, and it holds. Not only does it handle the mast and forestay, but it holds up the bimini as well. I always receive the "nice boat" comment. Those who come aboard for a sail change from "nice boat" to "great boat." Excellent for my singlehanded daysails and the weekend overnighters. And thanks for mentioning Seaward Yachts Forum at www.trailersailor.com. We tell it like it is, and there may be more than you ever wanted to know.
I have owned a 1994 Seaward 25 sailboat built by Mr. Hake since new, and have been sailing nearly 20 years on various craft.
Overall, I have been pleased with the looks and versatility of my boat, but it has not been without lots of frustration over workmanship and design issues with this boat.
I would recommend that you take a close, hard look at how the compression bulkhead is put together. The starboard bulkhead has been cut so that it rests on the inner liner on the outboard side, which does not adequately take up the loading forces presented by mast compression. Also, take a look at the joinerwork: The bulkhead is simply screwed and glued to the archway. I had to pay thousands to correct this problem on my boat, after the inner liner fractured with a rigging tension of 5% breaking strength on the shrouds, which is how experts recommend tuning the rigging to avoid excessive cycle loading of the rigging. I did a full report on the repair process on the Trailor Sailor web site and a private web site and can send you photos showing the repair.
The builder, Mr Nick Hake, says that he now reinforces the deck with Klegecell foam,and uses thicker laminates, but still appears to ignore the loading issues by not changing how the forces from compression are transferred to the hull of the vessel. He continues to advise owners to hand- tighten the rigging, basically undertensioning, to account for a lack of structural integrity. The story you will get from the builder is that this problem has been "corrected," was limited to '94 boats, but the boats built today continue to lack an internal bulkhead on the starboard side to take the loading down to the hull.
Additionally, many items that should be through-bolted with backing plates (stanchions, prop strut) use large fender washers instead.
One major area that is absolutely ridiculous are the engine mounts. The engine mounts are simply screwed into the thin laminate with machine bolts, with no washers or nuts on the blind side. I had to drill access holes and install washer/nuts after the whole engine started to vibrate loose. I have heard this practice has not changed, either, despite the fact that the problem was brought to Hake's attention by myself several years ago. An owner of a newer boat (2000) on the Trailer Sailor website said he noticed his engine bolts were loose and obviously lacked washers/nuts.
On this subject, also take a look at through-hull fittings. You will notice they do not have any reinforcement, simply a hole drilled through the hull and the fitting is installed with 5200.
Once again, I do not harbor any ill will toward Hake Yachts. I would like to see the company do well because they do have a great design in a trailerable. But, they do need to address quality issues, as they sell these boats as "quality" trailerables!
I have a high degree of respect for your publication and you do a lot for improving quality in the sailboat construction world by telling the truth.
-John Fassero, LCDR, USCG
Mr. Fassero is a regular participant at www.trailersailor.com, and has raised these issues both in that forum and directly to the builder. We forwarded his letter to Hake Yachts for a response, and were sent a copy of a recent company newsletter, a section of which addresses some of Mr. Fassero's concerns, as follows:
"Several Seaward 25 owners have called our attention recently to an Internet posting by the owner of a 1993 25 who experienced severe mast compression problems. We've taken a hard look at this particular case, and while extremely unfortunate, it is in no way indicative of any design flaw in the boat. The problems were a result of a quality control lapse, rather than an engineering flaw.
"More than 580 25s and more than 335 23s, which share the same engineering, have been produced to date. Over that span of more than 900 boats, we've heard of compression-related problems on only 7 boats in the more than 16 years these models have been in production. All were a result of parts or procedures circumventing existing quality control standards.
"The problems arose from three possible circumstances:
1. Inadequate bonding of deck to headliner. Since 1996, QC procedures have changed significantly to insure proper bonding of every part that leaves our glass shop. Specifically, we've developed new methods of producing extremely uniform vacuum pressures so that parts can be of consistent high quality. We've also developed sonic testing equipment that allows us to insure our bonded parts are void-free.
2. Inadequate bonding of bulkhead to headliner. In 1996, the headliner was redesigned to include a compression ledge, which insures that no shearing will occur at the bulkhead to headliner attachment point.
3. Inadequate layup strength. We've heard only one report of a problem as a result of this issue. Since 1996, each glass shop molding is checked a minimum of three times before being released to assembly. We've also switched from a roving and mat layup in our headliners and decks to a combination of unidirectional S and E glasses. This, combined with better process development and laminate design has allowed us to improve the bulkhead and arch area of the boat considerably.
"We believe the boat we build today can sail without compression bulkheads, with the fiberglass arch carrying all compression loads.
"Of the seven boats we're aware of with some degree of mast compression problem, five were built during a three-year period when the Seaward line was manufactured by another firm. Nick Hake, who started manfacturing boats in 1974, did not control manufacturing of Seaward sailboats during those years."
There are a couple of additional things people should look at who are considering buying one the the higher horsepower outboards you covered [March 2003].
I purchased a year-old 1999 Precision 23 with a Honda four-stroke 8-hp manual-start motor of the same year. I immediately had trouble with the motor. First, it took a lot of force to pull the starter cord with enough power to turn the engine over. Neither my wife nor father could do it. Second, even with enough force, it was very difficult to start the motor. It turns out the idle jet would get gummed up if the motor sat for more than a few days even with fuel stabilizer in the tank.
When I queried a Honda dealer they told me I needed to drain some of the stale fuel from the carburetor before starting anytime the motor had not been run for awhile. Assuming I could devise a container that would fit under the engine block and below the motor housing, I asked what I could do with the fuel I collected. "Throw it overboard," was their response. Right. Considering that most boats are used in warm weather and sit for days or weeks at a time, I felt Honda's design was faulty, so I began to look for another 8-hp motor with electric start.
Unfortunately, it was Honda who was the first out with one in 2001, but I bought it anyway. I have not had any more trouble with starting although it can still take up to 20 seconds of cranking before the motor runs. They have also added a reduction gear on the pull rope to make it much easier to pull, but there is no way I would buy one without electric start.
Your motor mount also has to be heavy duty to handle the weights of these beasts. And once it is on the mount, I advise leaving it there. When trailering, tie a safety line from the motor to your stern pulpit for peace of mind and save your back.
A word of caution about small four- strokes. Three years ago I bought a new AB rigid-hull inflatable with a new 9.9 Honda, from a local dealer.
Over a two-season period, I had occasional problems with the engine either failing to start or starting on one cylinder. I was completely frustrated—an unreliable engine is an unacceptable safety risk. The dealer finally surmised that, even though the boat was rated for 10 hp, the engine was too heavy. The low freeboard aft caused seawater to back up the exhaust port, through open exhaust valves, into the cylinders.
Honda's owner's manual does not specify any minimum freeboard. I contacted Honda and got absolutely no satisfaction. They steadfastly refused to admit that the exhaust was inadequately baffled. (The next year the 9.9 model was completely redesigned). The dealer ended up buying back the engine for about $300 less than I paid for it. I bought a two-stroke 8-hp Yamaha the same day, and I am completely satisfied with it.
Your article on small four-stroke engines, which I have waited a long time for, provided very little information that I can't get from manufacturers' pages on the Internet. Even some of this was wrong—you have the wrong weight for both the Suzuki df4 and df6. The mistake is understandable, because some of the literature for these motors uses the average weight of the two motors together. Even the Suzuki Marine web page has false information (e.g. I don't think the df4 has Sequential Multi-Point Fuel Injection).
I was looking for a comparison of the noise of the motors, reliability, details of convenience. To be fair, you did have some details of convenience, but most of your readers are shoppers by nature and can do their own comparison of specifications. What they can't do is use the motors and survey people who use them.
I enjoyed your article on fridge-free foods. I always appreciate articles that are aimed at the less wealthy small boat crowd.
I recently attended a boatshow here in Dallas, and found a 5-hp four-stroke motor by Briggs & Stratton. It's about half the price of any that you have listed in your article.
Visit www.briggsandstratton.com, and look under New Products.
-Donn J. KingVia e-mail
More Air Head Follow-Up
I was very pleased to see your review of Composting Marine Heads in the November 15, 2002 issue because of two things. First, I purchased and installed an Air Head toilet in my boat, a Southern Cross 31, during April 2002. Having taken the plunge before your assessment, I am now even more satisfied with my decision. Although I have not tested the system to its capacity as you have, I am very pleased with the simplicity of use and the lack of typical head odors.
The article accurately describes the details, pluses, and minuses of self-composting toilets. I have constantly referred people to this article for a good explanation of the entire situation. There is considerable interest in composting systems within the Southern Cross Owners Association and on the Southern Cross e-mail list on SailNet. Owners of older boats needing to conform to USCG standards or replace old holding tank systems are looking for alternatives.
As to your evaluation of the Air Head itself, again you are on target except maybe about men standing while in a seaway. Since the unit is a bit taller than a typical toilet when mounted in a boat (not an office bathroom) it's higher and easier to use accurately while standing, even in rough weather. Until using the Air Head, I had always requested that everyone take a seat if we were underway. My boat sits on the last mooring in the field and heavy winds from the north and northeast really rock and roll us. Even so, the gasket on the liquid tank held tight and only showed minor leakage after a particularly bad weekend with a too-full tank.
You are very right about the two knob-screws for removing the modesty shroud. Try doing that in a seaway or on a bouncing mooring—what a pain! I've spoken to the manufacturer about making the knob-screws line up easier, but I'll probably jury rig something myself.
The stainless bails that hold the Air Head to the boat have seemed very secure so far and I don't anticipate problems, but you are right that turnbuckles or lashings would be better. The manufacturer had recommended rinsing the bowl of the Air Head with a mixture of vinegar and water to keep it fresh after use. However, I have found that a mixture of Real Lemon and water is much more pleasant and even seems to reduce the ammonia smell when emptying the liquid tank.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the simplicity of installation, use, maintenance, and removal for emptying and cleaning. I sleep comfortably at night knowing that I'll never have to unclog a toilet hose, clean up after a leaking holding tank, or sink because someone left the valve open on the head, at least on my boat.
Where Credit Is Due
To Steiner (Pioneer Research), Moorestown, NJ: "If I ever doubted why I chose Steiner binoculars, those doubts were dispelled this morning. After 12 years, the bearing compass light malfunctioned and I returned the glasses to Steiner at Pioneer Research for repair. The message on my answering machine this morning informed me that 'a new compass would be installed and the binoculars would be returned to me in two days, at no charge'. While this kind of product backup appears to be remarkable, after 40 years of sailing, I have received similar treatment from riggers, sailmakers, many marinas, and others in the marine industry. The remarkable thing is that in today's business environment, where regrettable policies and activities abound, in the field of boating I have encountered only companies with product and service standards that have contributed to my sailing pleasure and satisfaction. Steiner and Pioneer Research is such a one."
To Sea Frost, Barrington, NH: "We have had a dual refrigeration system by Sea Frost on our sailboat since 1993. Both systems have worked wonderfully, and I have always had ice for Baileys in the evening. My problem came about last year when the expansion joint on the ice trays started leaking. I called Sea Frost and explained my problem. I was told to return them and they would be fixed and returned promptly. My next problem was that the boat with the ice trays was in Spain, and I was in Minnesota. Again the woman said, 'No problem. We will just send you two new ones at no charge, and when you can, return the old ones.' I was not even charged for shipping, and they could not have been any more pleasant. I did not expect to get new trays free; the old ones were nine years old and had served me well."