Buying a Used Laser
From The LaserWiki
If I'd had a hundred used boats this past summer, I'd have sold them all, easily. There's a big demand for used boats and, it seems, a small supply.
I guess the reason for the demand is quite simple, you can get a competitive Laser with a good sail for half the price of a new one and interestingly enough, the value of a used boat in good shape seems to have more to do with the cost of a new boat than what the owner originally paid for it.
Having had so many calls about used boats I've developed some guidelines, here they are:
THE SERIAL NUMBER:
Check the transom of the boat for the serial number, it'll look something like this! PFS 800000779
The first three characters denote the builder as follows. This is from memory but it's fairly accurate:
PFS - Performance Sailcraft in Montreal. Boats built from about 1971-82
ZFS - Performance Sailcraft in Montreal after they went bankrupt and refinanced. Boats built from about 1982-85.
ZID - Performance Sailcraft in Hawkesbury, Ontario, after they went bankrupt and refinanced again. Boats built from about 1985-89.
PSB - Pearson Small Boats, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, after another bankruptcy by Performance Sailcraft. Boats built from about 1989-91.
SLI - Sunfish Laser Inc., Portsmouth, Rhode Island, after Pearson Yachts and Pearson Small Boats declared bankruptcy. Boats built from about June 1991 - March 1997.
OQT - Vanguard Sailboats Inc., Portsmouth, Rhode Island took over building Lasers and Sunfish from Sunfish Laser.
The next five characters are the sail number, in this case 80000, which was my first Laser. If the first character is a letter than the sail number is over 100,000. A=10, B=11, C=12, etc. followed by the next four numbers.
The last four characters denote the month and year the boat was built.
So now you know how to tell who built the boat, the real sail number and when it was built.
Check the obvious. Is it clean? Has it been looked after? A 10 year old boat that has had covers put on it all the time will probably be in better shape than a 4 year old boat left out in the sun all day in Florida.
Check the stiffness of the deck, especially the area where you sit to hike and the bottom of the cockpit. Do this by pushing on the deck with both palms side by side. If it moves you'll know it's soft. The deck is a sandwich of foam between fiberglass with gel coat on the top. When it's all stuck together this is really stiff but the fiberglass can delaminate from the foam, which is the reason it will move.
If you want a demonstration of "soft", go down to your club and find some of those old boats that have been on the racks for donkeys years, you'll find one of them which will give you a good demonstration.
Check for water in the hull by opening the transom drain plug and lifting the bow. Absence of water doesn't mean it doesn't leak, but if water gushes out you might want to know why. It's tough to check for leaks unless you can sail the boat. Of course if the owner will let you take the boat for a sail then go for it.
Leaks can usually be fixed easily enough. Run some epoxy around the deck/hull joint. Pull all the screws in the boat with an electric screwdriver then put them all back with silicone. If they are stripped out then through bolt the fittings. Check the cockpit drain plug area, you have to pull out the bailer to do this. Take out the brass tube, silicone the joint and put it back. Check the joint between the hull and check at the top of the centerboard slot. You'll have to epoxy this if you think it leaks as silicone will cause friction with the board.
The mast step can be a problem area. If it has been replaced then that's OK, it's probably stronger than new. If not and the bottom looks worn then you might want to put an inspection port in to reinforce the bottom of the tube where it meets the hull. To do this you chip out the original glue, sand off the shiny resin and then make a strong joint with fiberglass.
Your hull should weight about 130 pounds. Don't necessarily look for a light boat, you are sacrificing stiffness and durability for an insignificant gain in speed. However you probably don't want a 150 lb Laser.
If you're going to race, check the mast rake. Put the bottom section (make sure it's not bent) in the mast step. Hook the end of your tape on the back of the top of the top section and measure to the center of the transom. It should be around 12'-6 1/2". Now, you have to understand that the mast rake is hearsay, the manufacturer's technical specification is not published. There are probably boats which are different and go fast. Check the mast rake especially if the mast step has been replaced.
It's critical that the bottom and top sections of the mast are straight. (The only exception is the 4.7 rig which has a pre-bent bottom section.) Roll the top section on a flat surface to see if it has a slight bend at the collar. It's nice if the boom is straight, but it'll probably have a slight downward bend in it at the vang key. Don't worry about loose fittings too much, you can always rivet those back on or through bolt them. Replace plastic clam cleats with aluminum.
CENTERBOARD & RUDDER
Check that the blades are straight with no chunks missing from them. If the tiller is made of wood you can always buy a new one.
Make sure the sail has the red Laser patch near the clew, if not it's not legal for racing and you'll have to buy a new one. If it's a rag you'll have to buy one anyway if you plan to race.
If the lines aren't too great than you'll probably need to replace them. Try one of our advertisers for a line kit. If you race then you'll need a bailer and decent tiller and extension. You should also get an anti friction plate to drop in the mast step. Ask about the race record for the boat, it might help, but take into account who sailed it!!!
You're happy with the boat. I can't tell you what to pay for it as prices seem to vary across the country. I do think you should be able to get out racing in a reasonably equipped competitive Laser for about half the cost of a new boat. Used boats which have been taken in exchange by Laser dealers usually cost more than Lasers purchased privately, but on the other hand the dealers will usually put the boat in good shape and back the product to a certain extent afterward.
When deciding on price take into account whether you'll have to buy a new sail, line kit, tiller, bailer, etc.. Also take into account the extras that come with the boat like a carry all bag, top and bottom cover, spare sail, trailer, dolly, etc... Check the prices of all these items in the ads in this newsletter to get a general idea of what they are worth. Oops! I nearly forgot, you might need a mainsheet ratchet block and cleats!
WHERE ARE THEY?
Check the classified ads in the Laser Sailor for something near you. Check your daily newspaper. Check the notice board at your club. Check with your local Laser dealer. Last year at the Midwinters in Sarasota I wrote to all the Laser owners in the club to see if they would charter their boats. Ten said yes, three of them told me they'd be interested in selling their boats, I didn't even have to ask. All three were sold. So head down to your local club and get a list of owners and you're on your way! RECYCLE YOUR BOAT You've got a Laser sitting on the rack and don't use it. Why not recycle it? There are lots of people out there looking for used boats.
Original article by Allan Broadribb.