What to Look For in a Used Boat
Thistles can generally be found for $2,000 - $15,000 depending on their age, condition, rigging, etc. Purchasing a new Thistle will cost between $20,000 - $25,000 for an all-up boat ready to sail. Before purchasing a Thistle, you will want to consider how you will use it - as a daysailor, to learn how to sail/race, or primarily for racing. You will also want to consider how much work you want to do on the boat initially as well as maintenance each year. New Thistles are all built out of fiberglass, however you can still purchase one of the older mahogany boats (either restored or needing restoration).
When looking at purchasing a used glass boat, you will want to check the following:
- Condition of woodwork - are the rails delaminating? Is the wood in good condition or is it really black (particularly mahogany/ash). Teak rails will not turn dark (or can be lightened using teak cleaner), however bleaching mahogany once it is black is very difficult and does not work extremely well.
- How stiff is the boat - if you step in the boat, does it flex a lot under your feet? Can you easily depress the sides of the boat up front (especially around the waterline)? This is definitely important if you plan on racing the boat, however in general it does signal the quality of the boat's construction.
- Does the boat have a silver/black mast? Thistles came with 2 types of masts, older boats have a gold mast which is much too stiff for competitive racing. You definitely want a black or silver mast if you plan on racing the boat, simply consider the price of a new mast ($800-$900) into the boat's price if the boat comes with a gold or wood mast.
- Look at the bottom of the boat (at least crawl under and take a look). Does the bottom of the boat have a lot of stress cracks (spider web looking cracks)? Most used boats will exhibit these cracks, however if there are too many be aware that it does signify a weakening of the fiberglass. You will also want to look at the bunks the boat has been sitting on, if they are 2"-3" wide and run the length of the boat you will want to check under the bunks for creases in the bottom of the hull. These are relatively difficult to fix later, and do affect the speed of the boat.
- Check around the edges of tanks for cracks as well as the tanks themselves for the stress cracks mentioned earlier. Tanks sometimes become cracked where they are attached to the hull. This can be a major problem because they are relatively difficult to patch as a "do-it-yourself" project and leaky tanks can be very unfortunate in the event of a capsize. Definitely look closely at this, and if you purchase a boat in this condition fix them or have them fixed.
- Weight. If you intend to competitively race the boat, it is important to consider the boat's weight. If you purchase the boat from a racer, he/she will likely already know the boat's weight. Minimum weight is preferable, however 10-15lbs overweight will be acceptable except perhaps at the highest competitive levels. Be aware if the boat is 15-25lbs light then more likely than not the hull is not as well constructed as it could be. Weight should certainly not be your number 1 concern, however keep it in mind of you intend to race the boat competitively.
These are simply suggestions for you to look at when considering which Thistle to purchase. If all these are taken in to consideration you probably won't find a used boat to purchase (of any class) however if a boat exhibits all these qualities negatively then you may want to keep looking (especially if you intend to race it). Thistles age extremely well compared to most one-design classes, however their condition is still a function of how they have been cared for.