Tanzer 16 thoughts on buying a boat.

Buying a used Tanzer 16—some things to look for—before you write the check or hand over the cash.

I should preface these remarks.  I am not a marine surveyor.  I have built a few boats in wood, but not in fiberglass.  Now that I have owned two Tanzer 16’s these are the things I would look for if I bought another one.  (I invite your thoughts and comments.  jim)

The principle issue is that Tanzers were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the builders used mahogany plywood sandwiched between layers of fiberglass reinforced resin.  The plywood is likely to delaminate or rot when subjected to water.  There are two primary points of entry. 

a.       Fiberglass components separate or crack and water enters there.  People drill holes in the deck and transom.  If these are not protected, water can enter there.
b.      If the boat is stored outside, without cover, for a long period of time, it almost guaranteed that water will enter.  This is exaggerated if the boat is stored level.  The problems are reduced if the boat is stored bow up and stern down so the water can drain. 
c.      Storing the boat with a tarp tented across the mast is almost as good as covered storage.  The tarp should be open on the ends to facilitate the flow of air.  The air helps with evaporation.

Areas prone to water damage.

a.      The deck.  Water that has entered the deck core will leave soft, spongy spots.  The deck may be deflected. Older boats had different decks than later boats.  Mine is #1306.  It does not have a king post and the deck is made of 1/2-inch plywood. Best way to check:  pull out some screws and see how the wood looks.
b.     The seats.  Some “oil-canning” is normal.  If one seats moves up and down more than the other, the problem may be damaged plywood in the seat surface.  (Mine is cracked but not rotten.  (I was able to examine it with a fiber optic camera.)  Sometimes seats pull away from the hull.  The were glassed in after the hull was laid up.  This is usually a fairly simple repair.
c.     The transom.  Boats get stored in a level position, or the plug is left in.  Water collects and finds its way into the transom that is made of plywood with glass on both sides.
d.     The floor.  There is a piece of plywood between the floor and bottom of the hull.  If water enters this area it can turn spongy or rot away.

Examining the boat before you buy.

a.       Walk on the deck. It should easily support the weight of a 200-pound person without oil-canning or feeling spongy.  If in doubt remove some screws from deck fitting and work a tiny probe into the wood.
b.      Transom  --  stick your head and an arm into the lazzarette and stick a probe into the transom.  The glass/plywood sandwich should be firm everywhere.  If you find punky spots examine further.  Particularly check around the gudgeons and outboard bracket.
c.      Floor --  I really don’t know who to check this out.  I assume that the floor will feel spongy if there is a problem.
d.     Seats --  Step on them.  There should be some give, but not too much.  You will feel the difference.  You can work a camera in through the plugs.

Mast and boom. 

a.       It should be straight and true all the fittings should be tight.  Fasteners should be stainless or aluminum pop rivets. 
b.      Check the mast head fitting.  Sometimes there are cracks if the mast was dropped.  (A common occurrence with such a heavy long mast.)

Standing rigging.

a.       The standing rigging should be secure and show no signs of corrosion or cracking.  However, if these are problematic, it’s an easy fix.
b.     The chainplates should be secure.  No cracks and the surrounding material should be strong.  You should not be able to move them at all.
c.      Stem head fitting—ditto.
d.     Gudgeons—ditto.
e.     Outboard mount—more ditto.

Rudder & tiller.               
a.        Usually a visual inspection is enough.  Some rudders get lost.  You can build a new rudder from scratch, but it is a lot of work and would cost some money.  See the link about building a rudder.  Maybe you can find one on a boat being parted out.  If you have a bad rudder with a good aluminum blade you can rebuild it pretty easily using the old rudder as a template.
b.      Sometimes tillers are cracked.  You can make a new one without too much fuss.  See my old post.  If I did it again, I would make darn sure it cleared all of the after deck.  Mine rubs. (I made a third tiller.  This one is straight, like the plans show, and it doesn't rub.)

Sails.     If they are original, expect them to be tired or just worn out.  New sails aren’t cheap.  Plan on more than a $1500 for a jib, Genoa and main.  Throw in another $700 - $1000 for a spinnaker—and don’t forget a spinnaker pole.  (You don’t really need a spinnaker to enjoy this boat.) Prices and quality vary all over the place.  I got my sails from Tanzer boat parts.  They are great sails, but delivery is sloooooow.  I acquired the spinnaker in a trade.  I think it came from an overnighter #588.  I just bought a roller furling Genoa from Schurr Sails.  Delivery and service were super good. I haven't used the sail yet (5/21/16) so I don't know about the quality.

Running rigging.  Depending on how it was stored, sheets, vang, control lines could be anywhere from new to worn out.  Easy to replace, but not cheap.  Deck blocks are easy to replace, but again not cheap.

Trailer.  Assume that the trailer is beat.  If it isn’t, you got a bonus.  Try for a galvanized trailer if you can find one.  Assume the lights won’t work, or they won’t work for long—especially if you launch in salt water.  Check the post on using removable lights.  If the trailer has bearing buddies—great.  If not, add them.  Large tires are preferable to small tires.

How much should you pay?  Price depends on condition more than location.  I track Tanzer 16 ads across the US and Canada.  They are pretty much the same price everywhere depending on condition on the boat.  This seems to be the way things work:

$500 or less.  The boat is a beater and will need a lot of work.  If the hull is seriously compromised, it might be kinder to part it out.  The mast is worth at least $200.  The rudder is worth $150 - $200 (price new ones if you don’t believe me).  The boom is worth $75 or more, but you can probably find something that will work.  Even the gudgeons and pintles are worth money because they are hard to find.
$1000 - $500  Good hull, not much rot.  It will need new sails.  It won’t have a motor.  The trailer will pretty much suck.

$1500 - $1000.  Good hull, no rot.  Fittings in good shape.  Trailer serviceable but not swell.  Sails worn out but workable.  If it includes a motor, it won’t be much.

$1500 - $2500.  Boat is in good shape.  It has been properly stored.  Trailer is okay to good.  It may have a motor.  Sails okay or better, but not new.

$2500 plus.  This should be a good looking boat with good sails.  At the high end you should expect a pretty boat with new paint and very good sails and rigging.  The trailer should be good to excellent.  You will pay extra for a motor.  These boats have had one or two owners and been stored under cover their whole life.  Even the deck and hull gelcoat are in good shape.

$4000  I did see one boat that merited this price.  It was far nicer than factory new, and I would have bought it at that price, but I was already into my hinged mast project on my boat.  It even had full canvas.  The trailer was pristine and the sails were new.The market in the Pacific Northwest just won’t support the $4000 price, and it eventually it sold for $3000.  Somebody got a bargain!

Final thought.  It’s a boat!  No matter what you do, you are going to spend more money and time than you intended.  Life is short!  Get the boat; fix it up the way you want it; then try to sail the bottom off of it.


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  2. Thank you for the extremely helpful information. I bought a used Tanzer 16 18 years ago and use it all summer long on Provincetown for sailing and fishing. Fortunately, I store it as you suggest tilted up with a tight tarp. Question about the new mail I bought from Shurr. It is made of Dacron and seem very light, but brittle. My last "new" sail began splitting all over the place. I am not interested in racing, but in durability. As I still have and use the original sails (when the new ones fail!), I would love to know what material they were made of and if I can make sure to order the next sail using that material. Thank you again,


  3. Great information.
    I see you mentioned you are working on a hinged mast set up. I am looking for any information on how to convert to a hinged mast set up. Scott