Inspecting the Aging Sailboat tip #1


    Excerpted from Don Caseys Inspecting the Aging Sailboat

    There arent many experiences more ripe with promise than buying a boat. When you find the very craft you have been dreaming about sulking impatiently on a cradle or shifting restlessly in a slip, perfect days on the water suddenly play through your mind. You step aboard and run your fingers over her in a lovers caress. Look how perfect she is. This is the one! You stand at the helm, gripping the wheel, feeling the wind through your hair, the sun on your back, the motion of …


    Are those cracks in the gelcoat? Should the deck crackle like that? Are those rivets in the rubrail, and why are they loose? Why doesn’t the head door close? Why are there brown streaks beneath the portlights? Are those water marks inside the galley cabinets? Should there be rust on the keel bolts? What is that bulge in the hull?

    If any of these indicate real trouble (and some of them do), it is about to become your trouble. It is going to be your money paying for the repair or, God forbid, your feet treading water. So be still your beating heart; shopping for a boat is about looking for warts.

    But where do you look? And what do you look for? And when you find something, how do you know what it means? Thats what this book is all about.


    The interior of a boat is a trap. Manufacturers discovered long ago that attractive interiors sell boats. If you don’t believe it, go to a boat show and compare the amount of time shoppers spend below to the time they spend on deck. Nice woodwork and plush upholstery are essential to getting signatures on the dotted line.

    There is nothing wrong with having a great-looking interior – but never use interior dcor to judge a boat. Far too many manufacturers building to a budget have scrimped elsewhere to put money into their boats interiors. This strategy is often successful financially, but intellectually – and perhaps morally – it is bankrupt. Coordinated colors and rubbed varnish don’t account for much when the wind pipes up and the seas start to crest.

    Dont misunderstand; a cozy woody interior is a definite plus over a boat with the interior charm of a refrigerator, but you should not be overly influenced by a boats below-deck look. Treat a fab interior as a bonus or as a tie-breaker, but not as a major selection criteria.

    Whats behind the wood and fabric is what youre most interested in. Is the deck hardware through-bolted with generous backing plates? Are all through-hull fittings accessible? Are electrical wires secure or are they free to chafe dangerously against raw glass as the boat pitches and rolls? A couple of sheets of veneered plywood can hide a plethora of flaws and omissions. Make sure both the intent and the function of the interior design is nothing more sinister than to give the boat added appeal.

    Cabinets and furniture can also seriously complicate some emergencies. Imagine sailing into submerged debris; if the hull was holed below the waterline, could you get to the damaged area to stem the flow from inside?

    Look at the cabin of a boat critically. Fight the tendency to form an opinion based on a pleasing dcor. Interior varnish and velvet have almost exactly the same significance as a nice shade of red engine paint; they don’t give a reliable indication of anything.

    Don Caseys book, Inspecting the Aging Sailboat will show you, step by step, how to evaluate the condition of an older fiberglass sailboat – the one you own or the one youd like to purchase. To buy a copy of Inspecting the Aging Sailboat from Practical Sailor, click here.

    Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at