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Buying a J/44


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I'm having a J/44 (Spice) surveyed this weekend, what particular things should I be on the lookout for? My primary concern is wet core, so will be very diligent in hunting and measuring that. I know it's an old boat, I suspect that it's been ridden hard and will not be problem-free, but what I don't really know is specific 1990 vintage J/Boat problems that I should be looking for. Any input is appreciated!

Being my first post, by way of introduction I've previously owned (chronologically, and in some cases simultaneously): 1978 Abbott 22, 1982 Roue R/20, 1965 LeComte Northeast 38, 1972 Yankee 30, 1970's Cygnus 20,  197x Ericson 27, 1987 Abbott 36 (current). This 1990 J/Boat will actually be the newest one I'll have owned, which is slightly shocking, now I consider it.

I'll acknowledge in advance that I shouldn't expect anyone to even read this without a photo of my girlfriend's tits, but I'll hope for the best.

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I think many of the 44's needed keel sump rebuilds

Also, the boats that raced had new rudders, and there was at least one case of a boat being abandoned at sea when the stock rudder fell out- maybe because the rudder stock failed.

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You are correct about looking for wet core.  Adding to the rudder suggestion, check the rudder bearings and steering cable.  The steering cable on the new 44 that I sailed to Hawaii slipped often.  Check the grip of the winch barrels which wear over time.  Check every turning block, by now the ball bearings may be oblong.  

J/44's are an awesome way to go to windward in a breeze.

Good luck.

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6 hours ago, us7070 said:

I think many of the 44's needed keel sump rebuilds

Also, the boats that raced had new rudders, and there was at least one case of a boat being abandoned at sea when the stock rudder fell out- maybe because the rudder stock failed.

Spice has had had keel sump reinforcement, I'm told, and has the new class rudder (comes with the old one as a spare, or sculpture, also!). Does anyone know what the sump reinforcement should look like, or what should satisfy me as to it's sufficiency?

36 minutes ago, 221J said:

You are correct about looking for wet core.  Adding to the rudder suggestion, check the rudder bearings and steering cable.  The steering cable on the new 44 that I sailed to Hawaii slipped often.  Check the grip of the winch barrels which wear over time.  Check every turning block, by now the ball bearings may be oblong.  

J/44's are an awesome way to go to windward in a breeze.

Good suggestions on the rudder bearings and steering gear, also winches and turning blocks. They're all original Barient winches, which are great but also hard to get parts for all these years after they stopped making 'em. Turning blocks should be replace/repairable if needed, but the more I know about what I'm getting into, the better.

The part about going to windward in a breeze is music to my ears - seems like that's what I'm always doing, so having a boat that loves it is perfect!

Thanks for responding despite my newness - this is a great community.

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After yrs of taking care of one: throw away the original rudder, replace HK bearings with Jefa (if not done by now). If you drop the rudder, take a very hard look (with straightedges) at the alignment of the two bearing collars. They can be shockingly bad. Found tongue depressors under the ss sleeve used to wedge the sleeve onto the post, then ends covered in filler. The fuel tank sits in a bilge section that does not drain - if salt water gets under it the tank WILL corrode away. Lots of parts still available for Barients, and they are (were) so well made you don't need much. HK stuff (including furler) may well need new balls, simple but time consuming job. Get ball from Mcmaster, they're cheaper for the same thing. Take a hard look at electrical systems/wiring, by now there may be some hack work hiding behind panels

  As with any TPI boat, soggy balsa around deck fittings is probably the worst you'll find

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Thanks longy - great advice, I think I can check all of this weekend, I'm heading down to the boat to do the final survey with a buddy in the business, and will add rudder and other bearings to the list that need to be carefully looked at. I wasn't planning to drop the rudder, but will try to get a sense of how things are in the bearing department and maybe change my mind on it. The first thing I'll do with the boat in the spring is head offshore for Nova Scotia, so it'd be nice to arrive in one piece. I will be taking a Nerf football along for the ride, though, to plug the gaping hole left by the departed rudder...

You're absolutely right about the wiring - was original J/Boat wiring from 1990 ok in general, though? All of my previous boats have been wired with automotive-grade wiring, i.e. no tinning, and surprisingly most of it was still working, although in some cases (the 1965 Lecomte) a little too sporadic. Rewiring isn't a horrible job if you have time and a place to do it, but like everything to do with maintenance it's nice to see it coming and not be surprised by it in the middle of the night somewhere.

Can't wait to see the boat this weekend, and sail her in the spring! Buying a boat in the fall is a terrible idea in some ways :)

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Spice is a great boat. I would have no reservations taking her offshore as is.(she just went to Bermuda last June) She was owned by a ship yard for awhile which did a lot of work to her. 

44's were built to ABS standards, so I think they are substantially better built than other TPI models. Good luck, and sad to see her go if you do buy her. 

BTW, the "sump stiffening" on other J Boat models is comprised of building up additional layers of glass in the sump internally. If the 44's were done the same way, you should see additional laminate thickness in this area.  

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In case anyone is curious, I loved the boat on Saturday and have decided to go ahead with the purchase. I have to agree with everyone who's spoken about J/44's, and Spice in particular - they are amazing boats! We didn't find anything alarming during the survey, which was fairly extensive. There is some separated tabbing on a galley bulkhead that will be corrected before launch (no idea how long it's been separated, but may as well epoxy it back in place) and wear and tear commensurate with a 30 year old race boat (actually probably less than I would have expected), but overall she's in great shape.

We used a moisture meter to find damp, a hammer to find delam, and a thermal imaging camera combined with a shrink wrap heater to "see" below the outer skin where we found suspicious situations. The only delam is in the deck at the bow where a deck plate was installed without protecting the core - I'll fix that next winter once she's at home. We found moisture elsewhere in the deck, but small and in surprisingly few places - nothing to do there other than rebed hardware over time and while at it if there is exposed core, fix it. The hull had a little moisture in the transom and port quarter - a mystery until we worked out it's likely interior penetrations made to attach electronics and hooks to hang coils of line - they wouldn't be getting exposed to much water, but they are certainly exposed to humid air, and over the course of time condensation is the likely culprit. Lesson: don't pierce the skin of a cored structure without protecting the core, even in a place you think is dry! My plan for this is to drill a small hole or two at the lowest point we found moisture and boil it out with a vacuum pump, then inject a little epoxy, seal up the penetrations wherever they exist, and forget about it except for an annual inspection. She's still far stronger than most boats, and I'm looking forward to getting underway!

Aside from looking at the rudder post inside we didn't do much of an inspection there, I realized after the fact. Everything appears to be as intended, but if there are bearing problems they wouldn't have been evident. Has anyone done a thorough inspection of an old J/Boat rudder to be able to explain how you'd go about it? I assume you'd drop the rudder, or is there a way to look at things in situ? As mentioned earlier I'll make sure we have a way to plug the giant hole left if it breaks, but given the track record of the new rudders these boats had built, I'm not terribly concerned at this point.

On the electrical front we didn't find anything alarming, fortunately. All added wiring (new electronics, lights, anchor windlass etc.) seems to be tidy and well secured, and aside from the original electrical panel's LED readouts having a few failed elements, everything we tried worked.

I'm sure that there are boats I could like as much as the J/44 (J/46 and some other large J's, a few X-Yachts, etc.), but I don't think I could afford any of them, or they'd be in much worse shape. Spice ticks all the boxes for me (fast and fun like a giant dinghy yet comfortable for coastal and short ocean trips (Sable Island, Newfoundland, Maine, Mass) with an interior that will encourage quick weekend getaways to the great spots that the NS coast is dotted with. I also really look forward to going out solo for a Sunday sail around Pearl Island to see the Puffins and see how fast I can make the old girl go.

Now I just have to wait until spring to splash. Why did I buy a boat in November? Again!

Thanks again to everyone who chimed in, it is greatly appreciated.

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congrats!!  I bought a 1991 J35c last year after 40 years sailing my parents 1975 tartan 34.  Amazing upgrade to a fast boat that does indeed sail like a dinghy.  My survey was very similar to yours!  

Now working on replacing the plumbing bit by bit to get ready for extended cruising with family.

 

Mike

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The typical bearing inspection starts by taking hold of the rudder and shaking it to see if it has any play in the bearings.  Obviously the boat would be on the hard to do this.  A sealed bulkhead between the rudder shaft and the aft cabins and engine compartment might be the if the rudder falls out backup. 

Enjoy the boat.  

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Great advice on the rudder, thanks! I should be able to do that fairly easily before launch. Won't be able to get out of buying her if there is an issue, but I will want to be aware of it if it's there.

The watertight bulkhead plan would be somewhat involved to implement, but certainly not impossible. The Nerf football to seal things up would be easier, but probably not as effective! Plus with a 4" (5"?) hole in the boat you don't have much time to react, I expect. Definitely worth pondering. 

Congrats on your own J/35, Mike! There's a couple of them at our club, one of which is sailed well and we have only beaten them once (in an Abbott 36). A great boat, rewarding to sail. Enjoy!

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I agree with a close look at the rudder and associated bearings. By your description the boat will be on the hard for some time so if there is ANY clue to a problem such as binding or looseness drop it. I love my J boat, but in terms of quailty your old Yankee 30 is on another level. My last boat was a Tartan 30, very similar boat. If the bearings are in question I would support Longy's suggestion for Jefa, much better than my OEM JP3 crap.

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