(Topic ID: 187405)

Anyone familiar with Sunfish Sailboats?


By mbaumle

1 year ago



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  • Latest reply 1 year ago by mbaumle
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#1 1 year ago

Hey guys,

So my fiance (and also myself) are looking into purchasing a used Sunfish. She's learning to sail, and I have some experience already. We've been perusing craigslist and other classifieds, but haven't really found any that have looked like a good enough value. I've read through some sailing forums, and a buyers guide or two, but honestly, it all seems really dense, and I really don't want to get burned when buying one.

Does anyone have words of advice, general tips, or things to look out for when buying one? Perhaps one you're willing to sell reasonably? (I don't want to turn this into a wanted ad, but I figured I'd ask anyway).

I appreciate the help!

-Max

#2 1 year ago

Basic advice is somewhat similar to pinball machines. Check the rigging and sails (depending on where they've been stored-sails could have rodent damage/lines & tackle could have mold or fraying) check the haul for soft spots or fiberglass patches/half ass repair jobs. I would also be concerned about UV damage, salt corrosion, the hardware being in decent condition/present. These things were usually stored outside, rode hard and put away wet. Sunfishes have been around since the 1950s, but I assume you are looking at the later fiberglass ones. Are you planning on sailing together or individually and what sort provisions do you have for transport/storage (are you waterfront or keeping it on a dock or beach?) is it cartop only or trailer? What's your price point? I've always been partial to Lasers, but you can really open it up with a slightly larger boat like a Flying J or 420. Hope this helps-fair winds and following seas.

#3 1 year ago

Thanks for the words of advice. So we're definitely looking into the later fiberglass ones, however, I've read that sunfishes made by Pearson, indicated by a "P" prefix in the serial number (1989-1991?) were of horrendous quality. Incidentally, the last one we looked at was a pearson, and we passed on it.

For now, we'll be transporting it via cartop, but I plan on adding a hitch to my car for a trailer--but there's no hurry to do so. I'm not waterfront, but NJ has plentiful lakes where I live. We also plan on using it in some brackish or saltwater down in Wildwood Crest (not the ocean, but their bay/estuary).

I have a fairly large shed which should be able to handle something up to 14' long, no problem, so storage shouldn't be too much of an issue. I'd prefer not to go larger, though. Our price point is hovering around the $700 mark--but we're flexible for the proper deal.

How much of a dealbreaker is it if the owner doesn't have a title? It seems many of these sunfish are sold with that condition.

#4 1 year ago
Quoted from mbaumle:

Thanks for the words of advice. So we're definitely looking into the later fiberglass ones, however, I've read that sunfishes made by Pearson, indicated by a "P" prefix in the serial number (1989-1991?) were of horrendous quality. Incidentally, the last one we looked at was a pearson, and we passed on it.
For now, we'll be transporting it via cartop, but I plan on adding a hitch to my car for a trailer--but there's no hurry to do so. I'm not waterfront, but NJ has plentiful lakes where I live. We also plan on using it in some brackish or saltwater down in Wildwood Crest (not the ocean, but their bay/estuary).
I have a fairly large shed which should be able to handle something up to 14' long, no problem, so storage shouldn't be too much of an issue. I'd prefer not to go larger, though. Our price point is hovering around the $700 mark--but we're flexible for the proper deal.
How much of a dealbreaker is it if the owner doesn't have a title? It seems many of these sunfish are sold with that condition.

I think the lack of a title is something you're going to encounter with these older hauls. I haven't encountered much of an issue personally with cartop sized boats, however enforcement/paperwork requirements vary by jurisdictions. For example, I know some states/jurisdictions have a recreational vessel tax/"water use fee".

http://sailingforums.com/threads/nj-sunfish-registration.22574/

Sunfish are hugely popular and there is probably an association in your area that could help you. Another resource to check are the local sailing or yacht clubs-they may have used vessels from junior sailing programs or camps. It also never hurts to inquire with rental outfits and dealers. As my dad always says "a man can never have too many boats" (I suppose the same applies to pins, I think a new analogy could be pins and boats)

#5 1 year ago

It looks like in New Jersey, anything over 12 feet in length must be registered, and anything that is titled, must also be registered.

Really, I don't think we'll be doing enough sailing in areas where we'll have law enforcement to worry about. At the end of the day, we're just looking for something that hasn't been beat, and has a fair amount of life in it. We have a yacht club down the road from us, maybe I'll see what types of resources they have.

Is there a price range on these types of sailboats? We've been flying by the seat of our pants, only comparing the prices to other local deals.

#6 1 year ago
Quoted from vaevictis:

I've always been partial to Lasers, but you can really open it up with a slightly larger boat like a Flying J or 420.

I was going to say the same thing. Once you go laser you never go back! I learned as a teen with a club sailing lasers. They are actually great for learning because they are so responsive. They can be rigged simply for beginners but if you want to get more in depth or race them, they have more rigging capability with a cunningham, vang, and outhaul, etc., things the sunfish doesn't have. They are, however, more tippy, so if you're learning plan on getting wet.

If you're not on the beach I'd definitely look for one with a trailer, you'll be glad you did. Better for the boat and your back.

I paid $1100 a few years ago for a nice condition '79 laser with basic (recreational) rigging on a trailer. They may hold up better around here with only fresh water though. I wasn't in the market for a sunfish but I'd guess they would fetch maybe 2/3 the price of a comparable laser.

Around here it's easy to title/register boats or trailers that have no title, just make out a bill of sale when you buy it, pay the sales tax, and then sleep well at night knowing it's done.

#7 1 year ago

Ok, my $0.02. I bought and sold several *fish(Sunfish and Minifish) along with a plethora of knock offs.

1) Sails and rigging are important, but only for figuring out your final offer. They are cheap to replace(if you are not officially racing, at least): http://www.intensitysails.com/rastprsafors.html

2) Hull - check for blisters, breaks and soft spots. Sunfish are light, so there will always be some flexing, but you should not hear fibers breaking with moderate force. If it has a port, open it and check for water logged foam and/or evidence that there has been a substantial water intrusion. If there isn't a port on it now, make a note to put one in. A dry Sunfish should be fairly light, with no sound of water sloshing when lifting the bow. Scratches in the finish are just cosmetic unless they make it into fiber. Just mix up some epoxy putty, fill sand and sail. Paint the hull if the color bothers you

3) Make sure the rudder hardware is all there and not bent to hell and back.

4) Check the rudder and daggerboard for rot. Budget to replace if they are(unless you REALLY like epoxy repairs).

I once bought a Sunfish that was stored outside for $200 with a trailer. Rudder was amazingly functional. Daggerboard was rotted at the top, but I ended up cutting out the soft wood and filling it all in with West Systems epoxy. It ended up being a perfect leeboard for a homebuilt sailboat I made for my sons. Sail and rigging were toast, but I picked up the sail I linked to above, and it was great.

Total cost, maybe $350, and my kids and I sailed the hell out of that boat. Now, that being said, that was in Kansas, where you don't have boat titles. So, I could pick up boats from backyards and whatnot for next to nothing without worrying about titles. So, good luck

#8 1 year ago

I'm not a boat guy, but I used to live on some of those lakes in northern NJ so I've had/used small sailboats, rowboats, and canoes in my time there. The little sunfishes are great, and I'm quoting the below for emphasis:

Quoted from ThatOneDude:

2) Hull - check for blisters, breaks and soft spots. Sunfish are light, so there will always be some flexing, but you should not hear fibers breaking with moderate force. If it has a port, open it and check for water logged foam and/or evidence that there has been a substantial water intrusion. If there isn't a port on it now, make a note to put one in. A dry Sunfish should be fairly light, with no sound of water sloshing when lifting the bow. Scratches in the finish are just cosmetic unless they make it into fiber. Just mix up some epoxy putty, fill sand and sail. Paint the hull if the color bothers you

I'm more familiar with the boats from the 70's, as that is primarily what we had. The key concern for those was any cracking or issues in the hull, shoddy repair work, basically anything that would allow water to enter the hull.

Only other recommendation I have is to keep an eye on northern NJ for ones for sale. Many sell/move between other lake residents, but you should see some listed for sale. Places like Ringwood, Erskine Lake, Cupsaw, etc.

Luck!

#9 1 year ago

Water in the foam is a huge problem with some of them. I got one for essentially free and that was about what it was worth by the time I put in the effort to make it work well.

Overall, I find anything but the sails are pretty easy to fix. You can patch the fiberglass on hull easily, the rudder and dagger board are easy enough to repair if you have a complete one as a template.

My problem is that my model had an expanding foam poured into the haul as both flotation and for structural support. It was totally waterlogged, the boat weighed almost twice what it was supposed to weigh. I grew up learning to sail on a nice sunfish provided by the school, it was light and as a young teen I could carry it by myself. I could NOT pick up the one I owned.

I ended up peeling the top off of the hull and cutting out 75% of the interior foam to cut the weight but still keep it ridged.

Around me a good, functional sunfish should sell for no more than $1K, and they can be had for a fraction of that if you are not in a rush to buy one.

I do like the larger Flying J type of boats, but they are hard in comparison to a sunfish. Much more tippy and you would need a trailer. You can easily throw a sunfish in the bed of a truck.

#10 1 year ago

Thanks everyone. Since posting, I've been able to go out and check some out people were selling on CL. I've passed on all.

I ran into this one. There's no repairs that I can see, and it looks to be in fine condition for being built in 1981.

I'll attach a picture of the main part I'm concerned about. From my limited research and even more limited experience, I *think* they're cracks in what's called the gelcoat. Can anyone here confirm that? Is this something to be worried about?

image5.JPG

Thanks again.

#11 1 year ago

Yeah, those are gelcoat cracks, also called crazing. The proper fix is to use something(I always used a dremel with a sharp conical grinding stone) to widen them into a groove to fill. I used West Systems epoxy and leveled everything. Now, if I stored this thing in the sun, I'd paint it. I kept mine dry and dark, so there was little UV impact, and I don't care about repairs being visible. If you do, just fix all of the crazing(and any other fiberglass work) at one time, then paint the whole hull. I recommend Rustoleum Topside paint for a boat that isn't sitting in water most of the time.
Biggest recommendation: go grab one of Don Casey's books on boat repair and have at it. You could be done in a weekend.
EDIT: I didn't paint mine, and my kids and I would sit on the hull where I repaired it while sailing. No issues at all once I filled them in. Then again, most crazing is superficial if you aren't allowing water to sit on it, as long as the plastic layers are still strong.
If I hadn't had to make room when I moved to California, I would have kept that boat. They are a blast!

#12 1 year ago

This is the book I used to learn repairs: amazon.com link »

#13 1 year ago

Ok, a further note. I am assuming that the crazing is caused by age and elements. If it is caused by flexing in a localized area, you need to stiffen the area to keep it from flexing. It can also be caused by impacts, but that is usually obvious from the pattern. Either way, check for flexing in the area, and listen for fibers breaking when pressing on it.

#14 1 year ago
Quoted from ThatOneDude:

Ok, a further note. I am assuming that the crazing is caused by age and elements.

I am thinking (and hoping) that this is the case as well. This particular sunfish was said to be stored outside, but fully covered. If a tree branch fell on it (or some other external means for the crazing), I feel like the cracking would be far deeper and more obvious. I'm going to check it out tomorrow afternoon, and make the guy an offer, but I really don't want to have to do any work to make the sunfish structurally sound. I just don't have the time or the skill set to do something like that right now.

At the moment, cosmetics are a non issue. I just want something that will require minimal work, and won't have leaks or structural issues.

#15 1 year ago

Consider a Hobie 14 or 16 unless it's a small lake.

#16 1 year ago
Quoted from wtatumjr:

Consider a Hobie 14 or 16 unless it's a small lake.

Hobie 14s are great boats, too. I'd probably recommend the fish for a beginner, but after he's gotten more comfortable, there are few things as fun as the flat out speed you can get from a Hobie tearing ass down the lake.

#17 1 year ago
Quoted from wtatumjr:

unless it's a small lake.

That's the thing, more often than not, we'll be on small lakes. Seems like Sunfish are easier and cheaper to come by, although, admittedly, I haven't done nearly the amount of research on them compared to sunfish.

1 week later
#18 1 year ago

Finally found one local that seemed like a good deal. 1979 AMF Sunfish, complete. The guy even made some wooden mounts for the mast and sail that fit right on the hull when transporting. Paid $700, and it included the trailer and title with brand new wheels and bearings. The ONLY thing it's missing is the drain plug for the hull and the title for the boat itself. Not a big deal. Otherwise, everything has been garage kept for it's life, and looks to be in really fantastic condition for it's age.

IMG_6108 (resized).JPG

#19 1 year ago

Congrats! Just in time for summer!

#20 1 year ago

Nicely done! Have fun!

#21 1 year ago

Thank you gentlemen!

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