How to Buy a Quality Used Sailboat and Avoid the Lemons
Buying a used sailboat can go one of two ways – it can either be a great bargain or it can turn out to be an enormous money pit. Of course, everyone wants to find that great bargain they can brag about to all their sailing friends. This article will help you understand the important things you need to consider when purchasing a used sailboat. If you are new to sailing and wouldn’t know a well crafted boat from an inflatable dinghy, consider bringing an experienced professional to help you inspect the boat. It will be worth the investment, and you’ll probably get an education in the process.
The most important thing to remember with sailboat materials is to avoid wood. It is difficult and costly to maintain, in addition to hiding flaws that could be impossible to detect without tearing it apart. Fiberglass would be the best choice. While some claim that a fiberglass sailboat is “maintenance-free,” this is hardly true. Plan on spending a few days per year on maintenance which could include applying antifouling paint to the bottom (to prevent the growth of barnacles and algae), regular waxing of the topsides with a good marine wax to prevent oxidation of the gelcoat, varnishing any teak trim annually, regular inspections of the mast and rigging (about as regularly as you have your car tuned up), annual inspection of your sails by your sailmaker to repair any small rips or tears, and regular engine maintenance.
If you’re not a fan of fiberglass, you can also consider steel. However, be careful to inspect for rust. This is one problem you don’t want to have. There are also boats constructed from a material called ferro-cement. Ferro-cement is the least expensive construction for boats over 25 feet. This construction methods uses steel wires covered with a sand and cement plaster. But, unless you build this boat yourself, steer clear of these as they are typically built by amateurs.
Only consider sailboats with newer engines, as older or vintage engines will be difficult to find replacement parts for. While it might be enticing to own a vintage model, really evaluate how much time and money you are willing to spend on maintenance.
The most reliable engine test is the “Smoke Test.” Well-maintained diesel engines will blow small amounts of black smoke with some white – especially if started cold. However, steer clear of diesels that blow blue smoke or a steady stream of white smoke. While diesels are generally very reliable, they do require regular maintenance. Ask for maintenance records for oil changes, etc. Gasoline engines should be leak-free and have a bilge blower that operates correctly. Again, ask for maintenance records.
Sails and Rigging
The only way to make sure the sails are in good repair is to remove them from their bags and spread them out on a flat surface. Look for mildew, previously made repairs, worn spots, pulled stitches, and broken slides. Check that the winch operates smoothly. Inspect for worn pins and shackles, worn lines, broken blocks, and fraying wire. Hoist the sails, if possible, to ensure everything works properly.
Look for any leaks around hatches or portholes. These can be costly repairs to have to fix later on. Have someone who really knows electrical check the wiring. Again, this can be expensive to fix later, or even dangerous if a fire breaks out while on the water. Check to see if there are any wires banging around inside the mast – as this could certainly keep you up at night if you’re a light sleeper.
Just remember when you’re buying a used sailboat that you’re really in the driver’s seat. Most sellers are typically in either one of two scenarios: They are either upgrading to a bigger boat or they’re getting out of sailing altogether. Either way, they will be pretty motivated to sell. Don’t pay more than you need to. Start with a low offer and see if they counter. If buying through an auction website, don’t get caught up the passion of bidding. There are plenty of boats for sale, so if you don’t win the first auction, don’t give up.
Use a reliable sailboat transporter, to ensure your new purchase arrives in the same condition you bought it in. And, above all, enjoy your new boat. There’s nothing like a day on the water!