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 doesnt 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.

    Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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