Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An email exchange

I have exchanged a couple of emails with another sailor who was looking at a Tartan 42. He ended up buying the boat and is extremely happy with his purchase. I haven't asked his permission to share his side of the conversation, but upon review some of my side of the conversation might be of interest to someone looking to buy a boat. Here it is for what it is worth.

This was my response when he asked about our experience buying Kintala...

Thank you for your kind words about our little web site, we are glad you enjoy it. The Tartan you are considering appears to have been much better maintained than was our Kintala, and in fact, we've saved some of the pictures from the sale ad for ideas to do to our boat. I don't know if you have seen your boat yet, if not keep in mind that the pictures we had of ours made her appear to be in much better shape than she actually was and alluded to including some items that were not actually there after we made the offer on her, some of them essential like the v-berth mattress. A couple of purely aesthetic items we live with, and that did not show in the pictures include a warped and wrinkled spot in the cabin headliner and the ceiling of the V-berth area, which is also warped and wavy. Eyesores that no one seems to notice but me.

Had I to do it over here is how I should have approached inspecting Kintala. On the inside I would start by very methodically going through the boat, opening every single cover, looking in every cabinet, and examining every area I could access. Make notes of what you see, wiring runs, loose or missing fasteners, doors that don't seem to fit right, water stains, anything that just doesn't appear ship-shape to your eye. Then put power on the boat and flip every single switch, all the breakers, every fan switch, every light switch, run the water in the galley and the head, in particular run enough water down the head sink to make sure the sump tank switch and pump are working. (Kintala's was not; the switch had been removed and the pump had shorted due to running dry.) Someone had also removed the plumbing to heat the water heater from the engine cooling system. That is on my list of things to do.

Examine the head closely. Someone had butchered our system rather badly. The macerator had been removed, some of the hoses were missing, and the vent line for the holding tank dead-ended under the V-berth. We had to replace the head itself. The floor under it was badly water damaged, warped, and holding stink. We replaced both the floor and all of the head hoses as well. Kintala has two waste ports on the deck. The aft one doesn't go anywhere and I have never figured out why it is that way. There was also a deck wash fitting that had the plumbing behind it removed. I plumbed it back up when we replaced the head.

Fire up the stove, check that the oven works, make sure the LPG bottles are up to date and that the regulator / shut-off valve works. Take a look at the hinges on the bottle trunk and the lazarette lid. Minor item but I have been working on ours since we bought it.

If you don't do anything else have the engine, transmission and V-drive fluid analyzed. Had I done that we would have saved thousands of dollars in repair costs and months of frustration. Also look very carefully at the engine mounts. If they are not perfect plan on having them replaced first thing. On our Tartan there are additional mounting brackets for the V-drive as well as two more engine mounts to support it. We have replaced those mounts as well. Check the alignment on the prop shaft. Look carefully for oil leaks. I have yet to find and fix all of ours.

Inspect the battery mounting and wiring carefully. Kintala's batteries were simply sitting in the box unsecured. Though we have fixed that for now I think it is an item that will need addressed again before we hit big, blue water.

We have one soft spot in our deck; forward on the port side just aft of the forward waste fitting. Older Tartan's have a reputation for soft decks so have yours checked carefully. All of our running rigging was shot, we needed an new mainsail, and have done some stitching on our head sails. At some point in the past our standing rigging was replaced; all of ours has mechanical fittings. I had a rigging inspection done, hope ours is in good shape, but have since had reason to wonder how much faith I should put in the inspector. I have to say though, I am very, very pleased with the versatility of the cutter rig. It is one of my favorite items on the boat. The next time the mast is down I plan on replacing all of the sheaves.

Our auto-pilot doesn't work and there seems to be very little parts support for it. We are still debating what do do about that; new auto-pilot system or wind vane.

Look at the steering closely. Though Kintala is a great sailing boat she has a bit of a weird feedback in the helm, not sure how to describe it. It may be that our system just need lubed and adjusted a little. I simply haven't gotten that far down my to-do list yet. All of our exterior teak needed scrubbing as it had been neglected for several years.

We had a highly recommended surveyor do a survey on the boat AND had two different "mechanics" do a systems inspection and a rigging inspection. It was a complete waste of time and money as they missed virtually everything that was wrong with the boat. The survey we had to do for insurance; the additional inspections seemed like a good idea at the time.

Good luck. For all of our problems I am pretty pleased with our Tartan. She wasn't the boat I thought I had paid for, but she will be a good boat for us when we are done. She is, in my humble opinion, the prettiest boat on our lake and quite a sight with her big mainsail pulling hard and both head-sails full.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask.


He bought his boat and, as I said, is very happy with it.  His was (is) a very well maintained boat that had benefited from the loving care of a dedicated owner and the ministrations of gifted, professional, mechanics and craftsmen.  Apparently my blog entries about Kintala and my general low opinion of the marine industry caught his attention since his experience as a Tartan buyer has been nothing but positive.  He has offered to help us in any way he can to get Kintala back up to speed, taking pictures of his boat, getting us technical information, and has issued a standing invitation for us to visit so we can poke around a Tartan as a Tartan should be to learn what we can. 

Here was my response to his generous offer:

Thanks for the kind words and the offer. I am about as pleased as I can be that your boat experience has been opposite of mine. Last weekend I actually got the V-drive back in the boat and a good bit of the drive train assembled. There is still a ways to go before I try and start the engine, but at least we are making progress.

One thing I try and do on our blog is be as accurate and truthful as I can. We all hear the good tales about people who are cruising and, as one would expect, all the industry mags do their best to promote the lifestyle and paint an alluring picture of the boating world. My experience, and I am finding out mine is not unique at all, cuts against the grain of all the feel-good stories. I would hate if anyone who read our blog thought that everyone has an experience with the marine industry that is as negative as mine. I would hate it equally if anyone reading my blog thought that jumping into a 30-year-old boat project held no possibility of getting badly burned by the dishonesty, lack of skill, and just plain chicanery that (again in my experience) is pervasive throughout the industry. I am a pretty determined individual, a better than average mechanic, make a pretty good living, and have the unrelenting support of Deb who is even more determined (and in many ways much more capable) than I. Even with all that in my favor I am right at my limit of being able to pull this thing off.

And I think that is a story that other people who are thinking of trying this should hear.

I love being in the sky, deep in the flight levels, and all that is involved in getting there. But I don't actually care for airplanes that much - they are just tools, necessary accessories in order to enjoy the experience of flight. And I love being on the water, far off shore in the deep watches of the night and making my way on the wind. And for that a sailboat is a necessary accessory. But I have pretty much gotten over my infatuation with boats.

Thanks again. I may well take you up on providing some pictures of the things on your boat. And certainly, if I am ever in your neck of the woods I will take advantage of your offer to see a Tartan 42 in all her glory.

Good sailing.


2 comments: said...

That's a well thought-out post and good information for us as we continue our quest to sell Moonrise, our Cal34, and buy the 'blue water' boat. The financial aspects of that purchase will require that we take on another older boat, so we expect to have to do plenty of work, but perhaps a printed out copy of this post will serve as a reminder about how closely to look at any potential vessel. We love good old boats, but don't want to spend all of our resources, whether time or money, making one fit to sail. Glad to know that some people have good experiences buying boats. We had a good experience with our Cal, but she's a simple vessel meant for coastal cruising.

TJ said...

We had a good experience with Nomad. We did a lot of work on her, but she never threatened to put us in the poor house, stayed tied to the dock for months at a time, or beat me up like Kintala has done. Good luck with your search, I hope my experience helps you find the right boat.

I'm sure Kintala and I will be friends again one of these days...