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by Larry Charlot
May 05, 1998
Catalina 25 #1205 "Summertime Dream"
CAUTION: This appraisal process is only for screening a potential boat before making a tentative offer. It is NOT intended to replace a survey by a professional marine surveyor! For your own safety and protection, you should always get a professional survey before committing to buy any used boat.
AUXILIARY PROPULSION: Inboard or outboard: This is not significantly different than checking out a car's engine, except to make sure that the "telltale" nozzle is spouting a good stream of water. This tells you the water pump impeller is probably intact and functioning adequately. NOTE: Despite the fact that you often see other boat owners doing this at launch ramps, PLEASE do not run your boat's engine out of the water! Many types of marine water pump impellers, especially outboard motor coolant pumps, are made of a soft rubber that spins at a high rate of speed inside a stainless steel casing. Running them dry will melt the impeller vanes, destroying the pump, in as little as 2 or 3 seconds! The next time you try to use the boat, the motor will still start and run just fine, until it overheats from no coolant flow, maybe suffering major damage. The water pump runs all the time, at the same speed as the engine crankshaft, not just when the lower unit is in gear!
If the boat has an inboard diesel, as a few late model Catalina 25's did, you should have a competent marine diesel mechanic do the inspection. These engines, and the transmission they drive the prop through, are extremely expensive to replace if you buy a lemon, so get a really thorough inspection and appraisal. Make sure the inspection includes the external prop shaft support strut, bearing, and the prop itself.
Look for excessive rust, pay particular attention to the axles, brake backing plates, springs, and spring mounting brackets. Look for cracked welds and loose or missing lug nuts. If possible, jack up each side of the trailer and spin each tire to check for improperly adjusted/dragging brakes or stuck wheel cylinders. If the trailer brakes are not working properly, deduct $400 for a brake rebuild ($100 per wheel). Check condition of tires. If they are completely shot - with dried out, cracked rubber, sidewalls delaminating, or badly worn tread - deduct $125 per bad tire. Catalina 25 trailer tires should be Load Range "E" (2,250#) 8-ply LT tires, like you would put on a heavy duty F-250/350 pickup truck. Check to make sure that the trailer has not been equipped with cheap, Load Range "B" passenger car tires by a previous owner. These are unsafe and will need immediate replacement if you buy the boat. Check rollers and roller axles for general condition. Look for any missing rollers. These usually last indefinitely, so there is probably nothing wrong with them, but it pays to be sure. Check all trailer lights are functional. Deduct $15 for each one that is not working Check level of hydraulic fluid in master cylinder. Look around the trailer for evidence of leakage If the fluid reservoir is not full, ask why. Check condition of brake lines and flexible hoses. There should not be excessive rust on lines and fittings, and flex hoses (if any) should not show dried out and cracking rubber.
HULL, EXTERIOR BELOW RUBRAIL, WORKING FROM BOW TO STERN:
Look for damage on the leading edge of the hull, to see if the boat has been smacked against the trailer during launching/retrieval operations. Any chipped gelcoat needs to be patched. Check that the bow padeye is firmly seated to the correct depth, with no evidence that it is becoming loose or pulling out. Inspect the whole hull for blemishes, signs of collision damage, blisters, and delamination Inspect the keel for any evidence it is coming loose, or has been smacked hard against a solid object. A professional marine surveyor should be consulted to inspect the keel if possible. If there is evidence of significant collision damage to the keel, you have to ask yourself if the hull/keel joint, or the hull itself, may have been compromised. Catalina 25's came with three different keels - swing, wing, and deep fin - depending on model year and original owner preference. Swing keels need to be thoroughly gone over, especially the pivot pin, winch, cable, and cable attachment fittings, and most especially if the boat is located in or near salt water. When you get to the stern, look at the outboard motor bracket - loose? corroded? broken springs?, the rudder gudgeons and the rudder itself. If the boat has a swim ladder, look it over for damage, too. Note on Catalina rudders: almost all early Catalina 22 and 25 rudders will sooner or later start splitting in half. This is caused by the plywood core absorbing water and swelling, cracking the fiberglass sheathing. There's nothing you can do to stop it, short of replacing the whole rudder ($375 or thereabouts). Early signs of cracking don't necessarily signal the imminent demise of the rudder, however; it might last many more years before it actually falls apart. Tiller: Check for general condition, delamination, warping, etc. $50 replacement cost, available from Catalina factory for a nice quality laminated tiller (you drill your own holes to mount it to the rudder plates).
HULL/DECK, EXTERIOR ABOVE THE RUBRAIL, BOW TO STERN:
ALL DECK HARDWARE: Inspect for broken parts, impact damage, loose or missing screws or nuts, and age of bedding compound. The upper shroud chainplates and lower shroud eyebolts should be re-sealed at least every 5 years with a product like 3M #5200 Marine Polyurethane. This is because the deck around these chainplates is under high stress from the standing rigging, and you need to absolutely exclude moisture penetration under these chainplates to prevent dry rot of the plywood deck core and main bulkhead inside the cabin. Inspect the lifelines, they should not be badly rusted. Inspect all navigation lights for proper function, and see if the green and red colored lenses are in decent shape or need replacement (the colors fade with age). Check all 6 cabin windows for any sign of water leakage or cracked glass (lexan on the '86-'91 boats). On the newer boats with flush mount windows, look around the screw holes for radial cracks, indicating someone tightened them too aggressively. Check the rubrail for general condition and to see if the plastic is pulling out of the aluminum anywhere.
Note on Stress Cracking: A common sight on Catalina 22/25 boats is gelcoat cracking in the shape of small spider webs, around the corners of the cockpit coaming and other high stress areas. This is often a sign that the boat has spent extensive periods of time on the trailer or a dry storage cradle, and is probably not a sign of abuse. The entire stern of the boat aft of the cockpit bulkhead may be unsupported by rollers, depending on who built the trailer, and this unsupported weight causes the slight sag that results in those stress cracks. They're unsightly, but probably not indicative of deeper structural damage in the laminations.
STANDING RIGGING: Look at each wire, if possible from end to end, to check for broken strands ("meat hooks"). Inspect all chainplates and attachment tangs for warping, corrosion, or other obvious damage. Go down in the cabin and look at the lower shroud eyebolts and backing plates; there should not be indications of water leakage, and the deck around the backing plate should not be indented more than very slightly, if at all. If it is, the deck may have dry rot around the eyebolt, or the shrouds have been grossly over tightened at some point for an extended period. If the boat has cast aluminum spreader sockets, these should be replaced with the newer stainless steel sockets, available as a kit from Catalina for about $50 (not including installation). Look at each turnbuckle carefully, dissassemble them if the seller doesn't object, to check for worn or stripped threads. If the seller DOES object, make it a condition of the sale that all turnbuckles are subject to replacement at his cost if found to be damaged or threads stripped. These 5/16" turnbuckles are $25 or more apiece, so it pays to make sure they're still in good shape before you buy. Check that the toggles are not warped and all rigging pins are in good shape. If the mast ever comes crashing down from a bad fitting, it will likely cost $5000 or more to replace, so it definitely pays to look for weaknesses in the rigging. Look at the mast, boom, and whisker/spinnaker poles (if any) for visible damage like bending, corrosion (especially around fittings), dents, gouges, or excessive numbers of old drill holes where hardware may have once been mounted, and then later removed. Remember that each hole in the spar weakens it a little. Carefully inspect the gooseneck (this is the fitting on the end of the boom that slides into the mast, and allows the boom to pivot) . This little guy gets a lot of wear and tear under high loads, so make sure it's in good shape, with no obvious damage or corrosion. If the mast is down, inspect the masthead truck for any signs of damage. The headstay and backstay attach to this casting, and both halyards run through it, so you might want to make an inspection of this part a condition of the sale if the mast is up and the truck is not immediately accessible.
RUNNING RIGGING: Inspect the condition of the rope, blocks, rope clutches, and camcleats on all sheets, halyards, boom vang, traveler, and backstay adjuster. Re-roping all of these systems with new line if the old stuff is worn out will cost a few hundred bucks depending on the quality and brand name of the rope you decide to buy.
SAILS: Inspect each sail thoroughly for frayed seams, rotten stitching, grommets loose or torn out, stains, mildew, etc. Sails are $700~$1300 each depending on brand name and quality, so adjust your offering price according to what shape you feel the sails are in.
INSIDE THE CABIN:
Check that all items like the stove, galley sink pumps, and interior cabin lights are working okay. OEM Whale galley pumps are about $60 if you need to replace them. Check ALL surfaces of ALL 12 cushions for condition of the upholstery, the foam pads, and the zippers. A full set of new Catalina 25 factory cushions is around $1000. Make sure they're in decent shape or deduct from your offer. While you have the cushions lifted, look under all of the access hatches. Check for excessive water, dirt, or bad odors in the bilge and storage spaces. Look at all of the fresh water hoses from the tank to the galley and head sink pumps. These tend to eventually get algae growing in them if maintenance is neglected, at which point replacement is usually necessary. These hoses don't cost much, fortunately. Inspect all Thru-hulls: find each and every one and scrutinize it thoroughly. Make sure the fitting and seacock (if any) are in perfect working order. Try to move or rotate the fitting to make sure it is firmly embedded in the fiberglass (it should not move). These thru-hulls are occasionally installed by a factory worker who doesn't get quite enough glass over the root of the fitting, and they have been known to literally pop loose in the hand of the boat owner during an inspection or replacement of the hose or seacock. Stock C-25's will have at least two thru-hulls, for the two sink drains and ice box drain, plus a big one for the keel cable on swing keel boats. Older boats have two thru-hulls all the way in the back for the cockpit drains; you access these from the inspection port in the very back of the quarter berth. Look at all six windows again, now from the inside, for signs of leakage. The hull-to-deck joint is covered by a wood trim strip all the way around, check this for looseness.
Most Catalina 25's came with a pressurized-alcohol Princess stove, called by many owners "The Factory Curtain-Burner" from their tendency to get cranky, unreliable, and prone to flare-ups with advancing age. I recommend replacement with an absorption-type Origo stove ($250 from West Marine). These stoves are far simpler, cheaper than repairing the factory stove, and they last virtually forever.
Look at the main cabin bulkhead around the upper shroud chainplates for signs of water intrusion. If you see any signs of leakage, have a surveyor evaluate for dry-rot. This bulkhead is exposed to very high loading from the chainplate, and you want to make sure it is sound. Check that the battery is okay, and figure on $50~$75 if it's in need of replacement. Check the primary switch panel for function and proper fuses. Check the porta-pottie for any signs of leakage. $55 to replace if needed. If the boat has an actual Marine toilet and holding tank, check these out, but have a surveyor look them over too. Open and close all three galley drawers several times to check that they aren't sticking or hard to open. Pour a gallon or two of water in each of the two sinks, galley and head, to make sure the drain hoses are not clogged, same with the cockpit drains on an older boat with the floor-mount drains. The newer boats have scuppers right in the transom and you can see visually that they're open. Look at all bolts in the cabin overhead where deck hardware is mounted, inspect for signs of water leakage or missing nuts. If the boat has a VHF or SSB radio, find where the antenna cable penetrates the deck (probably near the mast base), and check that fitting for condition and water leakage.
If the boat is a swing keel, and it's in the water, crank the keel up and down through it's full travel (approximately 28 full rotations of the winch). Feel and listen for smooth operation of the winch, and look at the cable as it unwinds from the winch drum, to make sure it's in serviceable condition. Look at the big rubber hose that the cable passes through, make sure it's in good condition and the hose clamp is tight. You DON'T want this hose to pop off the thru-hull!
Catalina 25's came with three different interiors; "traditional" with a folding table mounted on the cabin bulkhead, and two different dinette styles. Inspect the hardware associated with the table on whatever type the boat is. Raise and lower (fold and unfold) the table a couple of times to make sure it's securely attached to it's mountings and the fasteners are tight. The dinette tables are just veneered particle board, and as you may know, particle board isn't all that strong. Actually, it even falls apart if it gets wet enough. I recently had my dinette tear loose from it's four mounting screws (I sat on it without remembering to unfold the support leg on the outside corner - oops!); no big problem, I just rotated the mount base 20 degrees to put the screws into fresh wood. Anyway, my point is that it doesn't take all that much pressure to yank the screws out.
Check the accordion-fold curtain that closes off the head and V-berth. I am not sure if these curtains are still available from the factory as a replacement part or not, so make sure yours is in good condition. Inspect the foredeck hatch for cracks or looseness. Inspect the Companionway ladder; there should be no sign of looseness in the steps or delamination of the joinery in the wood. Inspect the pop-top and sliding hatch for cracks or loose hardware. The four big round-head bolts that hold the pop-top support rods into the hatch coaming tend to get loose with repeated up-down cycling of the pop-top. Tighten them hand tight with a large flat blade screwdriver. Check the slider that holds the pop-top up - it's an "L" shaped aluminum piece that slides up and down on the mast. These can get damaged during mast raising/lowering. If it's broken, they're only a few dollars from Catalina. Look at the sliding hatch, where the edge flanges slide in the wood tracks on the pop-top. Are the flanges badly cracked and tearing off of the hatch?
Inspect the companionway hatch boards and the rails they slide in on the sides of the companionway, for general condition. Teak is getting very expensive, so replacing these wood parts can involve some considerable expense if they're not in good shape.
IN THE COCKPIT:
Try out all the gadgetry - winches, camcleats, traveler, etc. - for function and condition. Look at the hatches over the lazarette, storage tray, and gas tank locker, checking for cracks or missing hinge fasteners. If the boat has a manual bilge pump, it will probably be mounted in the lazarette; check it for function, and make sure the handle is still on the boat and hasn't been lost. TIP: The shallow storage tray on the starboard side is a great place to keep propane bottles for your boat barbecue.
I hope this document will give you a good starting point to evaluate a potential Catalina 25 boat purchase. There is a lot more to these boats, but this guide covers most of the major points that are easily accessible for a pre-purchase inspection.