My name is Peter. Retired.

I want to buy an older (25-30 Years) glassfibre sailboat and after two to three years of use sell it, with the feeling I im not fooling the buyer.

Theoretically, when plastic ages, it should loose elasticity. On the long term it would shrink and develop cracks, become brittle, while the glassfibre may hold everything in place or break.

Has anybody experienced if this can be felt? Maybe heard, perhaps with groans or squeaking sounds?
Or does much else on the boat fail before the age of the glassfibre material becomes a question?

Thanks to whoever has some knowledge.

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Comment by Tom on December 15, 2008 at 12:50am
boats of a certain era have held up better than sailors of the same vintage. Depends a bit on how hard they where driven and pedigree. But that being said, a good 60's-70's boat could be a better investment than a brand new boat. Will not cost a fortune and will be worth the same or more than you paid for it when you swallow the anchor.
Comment by Art Dufresne on December 14, 2008 at 10:32pm
Most of the old boats were built before builders really had all the techniques developed and the true strength of fiberglass was hard to define. As a result many builders overbuilt. Essentially replicating the thickness in fiberglass that a wood built boat would have. But some also made fatal mistakes...wood cores below the waterline, for example. The main issue with these boats is that they are too heavy and may need 20+ knots before they start moving. That's OK if you sail in Buzzards Bay but not in LI Sound.

As with any used boat you need a knowledgeable surveyor who takes the time to thoroughly look over the hull. It's even better if the surveyor also works on repairing and delivering boats as they may have experience with the model of boat you are considering buying. Designer and builder matter as well as your sailing needs.

For example, my Stevens 47 was built in 1985. It is a very well designed (Sparkman & Stevens, German Frers) in the late 70's and built very well. Many of these boats have seen extensive sailing over their lives and once clean and polished are as good as new.
Comment by CloudNine233 on December 11, 2008 at 2:45pm
I sail a 1964-65 Rhodes designed Pearson Vanguard - ancestor to Bristol (one of the Pearsons' opened Bristol) - quality of design/construction and boatyard played an important part in the early fiberglass years. It is also important to remember that early FG boats were made more closely to wooden scantlings, resulting in many very over-built boats. However, in the 70's - '80's, some resins displayed weakness as resin is petro based and some formulations were not as good.

All that said - it is also a case by case - care of the boat, etc... But Don Casey wrote that FG has the ability to be as good today as it was when it was originally laid and that any repairs do not necessarily compromise the integrity, unless they were performed poorly. And may actually improve the boat - if done well.

Another significant test of any old (or newer boat) is water or moisture saturating in either the core or the layup - resulting in delamination (deck or keels). This can create problems, but it is all repairable. Older boats also had other issues to be careful of - keelbolts may have been made of iron and prone to rust and failure if not replaced (ChrisCraft Apache - great boat, but with that Achilles Heel).

As you narrow your search for your boat - based on intended use - check out the pedigree and other owner's experiences - you will learn real quick if you are stepping in front of a bus or on the verge of acquiring your next best friend. Just some suggestions.... Good luck!

Comment by james brennan on December 9, 2008 at 4:32pm
I sail a1978 SanJuan and the glass hull is still very sound with no blisters or noticable shrinkage,the boat takes a good beating as it is sailed on shallow lakes and when the wind is up the waves and chop are not big but very close together and pounding,I have seen many boats that are 20-30 yrs. old that are in very good shape.If you keep your boat cleaned and waxed you will even reduce the ammount of oxidation you have to deal with
Comment by John Shasteen on December 7, 2008 at 4:40pm
If you buy a quality built boat from the 70's (Cape Dory, Bristol, Alberg, West Sail, etc) deterioration shouldn't be an issue. Paloma, a 1979 Bristol 29.9, at ages 16 and 29 went through two Force 10 storms at sea (winds gusting above 60 and 30+ foot seas) and numerous Hurricanes in the slip, with no structural issues. On the other hand, if you try to save a $$ or two, and buy a price-built boat from that era, you will get exactly what you pay for.

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