Tom’s Tips About Old Boats

By Tom Neale, 10/7/2014


1. Are there hull sections that you can examine that have been cut out for thru-hulls or port holes? Are there indications in those sections of voids or poor layup? Knowledgeable tapping can also help.

2. Is there room on the boat to add things that may not have been required when it was built? An issue that quickly comes to mind is space for a holding tank and/or an onboard treatment system.

3. Look for component weaknesses that are likely to occur because of age. How expensive will it be to fix this and how important is it? Crevice corrosion in stainless steel is an example. It occurs in stainless when there's water but the water isn't moving thus there's little oxygen. If you're looking at an old sailboat (or maybe not so old) you should assume that there's some crevice corrosion in the rigging and factor in a survey for this and replacements of parts if necessary. But that cost may be insignificant when you consider the cost of a new boat.

4. Beware of old black iron tanks. There will probably be leaks if not now then in the near future. These tanks can sometimes be repaired if there's access, but sometimes they must be replaced, perhaps involving cutting a hole in the side of the hull. A boat with this sort of problem may be too old even for the most nostalgic of us.

5. Much has been said of the wonderful old slow turning diesels that seem to chug along forever. But they do fail, and sometimes it's extremely expensive to get the part for a very old engine. An old boat can have a new engine. Sometimes that's the best of both worlds.

6. Does that old boat you're thinking about have a known pedigree? Like an old Mako or Boston Whaler or one of many others that people widely know and love? If so, and if it turns out that you don't like it, you'll probably find it easier to sell.


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