J/30 Class Association

I'm looking at a J/30 soon

Posted By: Brad Swearingen

I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/21/19 03:16 PM

Hi, folks. New member here.

A buddy of mine has offered to give me his 1979 J/30. He lived on it for six months, and now lives on a slightly larger power boat. He doesn't want to pay the slip fees for it, and bought it dirt cheap, which is why he's offering it to me. Where he currently stores it is too expensive for me to take it on, but if I can find a slip or mooring that I can afford, I'm contemplating on taking on the challenge.


I'm a wood worker and know basic fiberglass work. He's a wood worker, too, and has done some work on the interior. I have built a motorcycle from scratch, so mechanical (engine) work doesn't scare me.

I've never owned a boat, but plan on buying a 16-19' skiff sometime next year so I can take my kids fishing on the Patuxent River. I live in southern Maryland, just ten minutes from a ramp. I was also contemplating building a small sail boat (plywood and fiberglass) prior to his offer.

I have taken sailing lessons, and can handle a Flying Scot (the boat I was trained on) solo, if clumsily. With a partner, I can sail it fairly well.

He says the 15hp diesel runs well, but he thinks the alternator is dead because it eats batteries. He says the sails are in fair shape, and should serve a few more years. The deck over the cabin leaks a bit, but can be repaired. As far as he knows, the hull is sound.

We're gonna meet up for lunch soon to talk about it and then try to get it out in the wind (it's near Annapolis) soon, before the weather turns, so I can get a good look at it and a feel for it on the water. He says the boat is serviceable, but could use some attention.

I'm married, with three kids, 16, 9, and newborn. I'd love to get a boat that I can take out for day trips, and, once my family warms up to the idea of Dad being a skipper, over night...maybe. I've been reading what I can find on the boat, but most of what that is from the mid-90's or earlier. From what I can gather, it can be sailed solo on the main, just not as fast as with the jib up, and that if I have another person (or more), putting the jib up means it can reach closer to its real potential on the water.

I'm thinking that if it's truly in serviceable condition, and nothing scares me when I look at it, I'll take it, fix the engine, and play on it for a year, tinker with it, and decide whether I love or hate owning a sail boat. At that point, hopefully I'll have learned enough to decide whether it's worth fixing anything that's really broken, and whether the boat is worthy of a rebuild for a longer life. My wife is on board with me checking it out and taking it if it's serviceable; while she'd prefer a big power boat, we both know our current budget won't allow for it, and she'd really like something to get out on the water.

So...having said all that, can you offer up ideas on what I can inspect when I visit? It's in the water, of course, so I won't be able to test the exterior of the hull for soft spots. I know these can be prone to that because it has a balsa core. I know the deck can be damaged from over tightening the mast hardware; if so, is that something that can be repaired (I assume the mast must be removed first)? Are there any glaring deficiencies I should look for? I'll take lots of pics of it; is there anything I should take a pic of to show you guys for further evaluation?

Attached is the only pic I have of it so far; he sent it to me yesterday. Of course, he took it from the deck of the boat he's living on now.
[Linked Image]


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Posted By: forbes

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/21/19 05:35 PM

I have redone a J30 - as have may on here.

Start with the major issues (both from a cost and time consumption point of view):


1. Condition of hull below waterline. Spend the money on a proper marine survey (or bottle of fine scotch etc.) to look for wet/rotten core areas (including the transom). If there are wet areas, and depending on the location, this can seriously threaten the structural integrity of the vessel. Be aware that a decision to repair these areas will take roughly twice as long as you think it will. There is no cost/corner cutting on such a job (other than to do it yourself) as it must be done correctly. This could be a deal serious breaker. Also look at the area where the lead portion of the keep is affixed to the fiberglass structure (about a foot down). Serious cracking in this area will need a proper repair and could be a sign of a problem (broken/loose keel bolts).

2. Condition of deck. Again you are looking for wet/rotten areas. The core between the fiberglass shells is balsa wood. Works great until it gets wet in which case it rots. We replaced four main areas on our deck. In two places we accessed the spots from above. To do so we drilled in excess of 200 holes and picked out the rotten core until we found dry wood. Many, many hours. In two other spots we re-cored from below. A bit easier but again time consuming and you need to be half competent with fiberglass (again using the good stuff, not some automotive body fill). Also consider the work to make the area look good. We ended up removing everything from the deck, painting and applying kiwi grip. Was the practical solution to hiding our repairs - we also took the opportunity to fix every deck crack along the way.

3. Engine. Check out the replacement cost, it might scare you. However, a little knowledge/maintenance on these Yanmar engines goes a lot way (replacing filters, zincs, belts, oil etc).

4. Rudder. Mine had a vertical freeze crack when I had bought it (unseen). I wish I would have known beforehand. Those vertical cracks (on the leading edge of the rudder often near the gudgeons) warn of water ingress. Water often finds a way in near the rudder bracket bolt holes (if not properly epoxied). I was suspicious of mine and even trained the crew for a broken rudder situation. Thankfully I did as it broke in 30 knots. Not fun. $2700 plus shipping and paint and hardware for a new one.


1. Mast/rigging. (This would be major if racing) If the standing rigging is in poor form, expect to pay decent money to replace it (not as bad as you may think though and there are used masts around). Have someone qualified look at the rigging. They can spot a problem right away.

2. Bottom. Our has 20 years of bottom pain on it. We decided to remove it all ourselves to "save money". Sure, it may have, but I'm probably going to die younger because of it. We tried various chemicals. That helped - but ultimately be prepared to run a sander for many days. If the bottom is rough, and if your environmental laws permit, finding a guy to soda blast is the perfect and slickest solution. Note if you do this, you then are looking at +/- 6 coats of epoxy (something like interprotect 2000E), sanded, then a bottom paint (ours is $400 a gallon). This project can because expensive.

3. Running rigging. Depending on the quality (measure of strength, weight, stretch) replacing the rigging can be fairly priced to expensive. Have a look at the age/brand. Has it been exposed to lots of UV? Learning to splice eyelets can help.

4. Hardware. You can spend a fortune if you really want, but you dont need to for your purposes. If the winches work, learn to service them. Have a look at the main sheet blocks, the vang blocks and the spin sheet blocks. Cheap/poor shape blocks is dangerous corner cutting.


1. Sails. If not racing, watch for used sails on this site (or post what you are looking for). There are lots of used sails around. Look at new sails if you are keeping the boat with plans to race it.

2. Cushions. Pays to know someone who knows his or her way around a sewing machine.

3. Lighting/Electrical/Batteries. Sometimes old wire needs to be pulled and redone. Lights should be switched to LED.

4. Nav/Instruments. Do they work? If not, set a budget.

Take some time and read through old posts. There is a wealth of information on here.
Posted By: Brad Swearingen

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/21/19 05:53 PM

Thanks, forbes. Much appreciated.

I already had thought to replace/repair wiring and lighting as needed. I'm a wiring/harness tech by trade, so that will be easy to do. LED's are my go-to now; the bike I built (a 1975 Harley) has all LED's because they draw less and won't be damaged by vibrations.

I don't intend on pulling the boat from the water to check the hull initially. I'll play with it for a while, and if I decide that dumping money into a sailboat is a good decision...or one that won't lead to a divorce...then I'll go that route. If we love the experience, I imagine refurbing the boat to good (not new) is cheaper than buying new in the same class. Am I wrong in that?
Posted By: forbes

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/21/19 06:08 PM

Depends on how much you assign to your own hourly wage. Some very nice rebuilt racing caliber boats come up for sale. But if you have the time, it can be a rewarding project (or so I tell myself).
Posted By: Brad Swearingen

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/25/19 02:12 PM

I assign an hourly wage of zero for my hobbies. wink It keeps me from crying when I think about how much time I put into them. We don't have the means to purchase even a used boat right now (brand new baby, other kids in extra curricular activities, etc.), so a free, serviceable fixer-upper should be a good way to test the waters and decide whether we love sailing enough to start fixing this one (or buying a rebuilt boat later) or if we should just give up on the idea altogether!

I met with my buddy for lunch the other day. We spent about an hour talking about the boat. I told him my wife and I are leaning towards no, even if it just means not getting our hopes up about something that will be too big for us to take on. He understood, and explained that the only reason he's giving it to *me* is because if he gave it to another of his friends, it would drive them to bankruptcy trying to fix it--they aren't handy, and would go broke paying somebody else to repair the all the small things it needs. I build things for a living, I build furniture in my (rare) free time, I can install plumbing and wiring is my paycheck, so he figures that I can fix everything on it myself.

So, first: It's hull number 15. He's the third owner. The previous owner, 86, only sold it because he was just not able to handle it anymore and wanted to see it go to somebody who would use it. He pulled it from the water two years ago and painted below the water line. Didn't test the hull for water or decay, though. My buddy had a survey done a little less than a year ago. Again, exterior below the water line was not tested.

First, and only real main issue: Engine needs an alternator. I don't have the details on the make/model of the engine yet, but am looking into it to see what's involved. I've had my hands in a few engines, so unless there's something crazy about this one, I'm not too worried...yet.

There are a few leaks in the deck over the cabin. The hardware mounting points leak. It's not enough to be a problem, but an annoyance. If I understand it, the correct way to repair this in a fiberglass boat is to remove the hardware, drill the mounting holes oversized, refill with thickened epoxy, allow to cure, and then redrill for new hardware. Is this correct? Is the deck balsa core like the hull? If so, and it's leaking, I guess it's safe to assume the core is wet and rot is happening or is imminent, no?

Sails are in great shape; they're only a few years old. It has the main and three jibs of varying sizes. He has sailed it on his own several times, usually with just the main, as it's easier to handle single-handed.

Winches are in good shape. Most of the lines are good, too. Shrouds are only a few years old and are in good shape.

Rudder is in good shape, as far as he knows. Can a DIY-er make one with marine ply and fiberglass if a replacement is needed? $2700 is scary.

Wiring needs some attention, but that's not an issue. I literally build wiring harnesses at work. I know I need tinned wire rated for marine use.

All electronics work, if old and outdated.

He suggested buying a cheap solar powered trickle charger for the batteries, especially if I'm not going to run the engine a lot in the first year. Thoughts on that? Seems to make sense to me.

Head works and, as far as he knows, the tank doesn't leak.

It has an alcohol stove. This really doesn't matter much to me, as I doubt I'll take it overnight anytime soon.

He mentioned that I should likely get a bilge pump for it. I need to ask him more about that. For some reason, it's one of the few things I didn't write down.

It needs a fire extinguisher and smoke detector.

He suggests getting a small two stroke motor to hang off the back if I get caught with a dead engine after fixing it to make mooring easier.

So, we're hoping to get together next week to go check out the boat. My wife will go with me, for while she has absolutely NO handyman skills, she wants to see what she's attaching her name to. I'll have camera in hand.

Your thoughts?
Posted By: Chris Edwards

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/28/19 11:54 AM

Hello Brad,

I would consider myself to be in a similar situation to yourself, and I have a young family 4 & 6-year-olds. I am quite handy and try to get the most out of a dollar when it comes to boats. So I generally will pick up spare parts where I can for cheap, and this group is very knowledgeable and helpful as for a one-design group.

Two years ago, I bought a J30. It has core issues, soft spots, and the interior is in shambles. I have been slowly fixing the boat, little things at a time. This year I was fortunate enough to get a spare J30 that someone was trying to get out of there yard, I use this as a parts boat.

Even though the boat is not in the greatest shape, I still race it on a weekly bases and also cross-lake Erie.

The Yanmar engines are bulletproof and have not had any issues with mine. After having an inboard engine, I would never go back.

Wiring the only things I worry about is lighting and instruments, it's quite straight forward. Just try not to go down the rabbit hole.. if it works don't touch it and fix what needs fixing.

The things that can start racking up the cost are sails and equipment, and fiberglass can be fixed pretty cheaply. Dacron sails can last a long time if you're not worried about winning races.

I generally do not go farther than an hour offshore, so my concern of a catastrophic failure is pretty low. If i am going more, I make sure I go with a buddy boat.

I have been hit by a storm with 50mph wind, and the boat survived just fine.

So i can help you with parts some parts, the biggest cost to consider is storage, dock-age and lifting the boat. I have join a yacht club which is $1200 a year which includes all those things.

Posted By: Bob Rutsch

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 10/28/19 06:57 PM

Nice picture. From a distance it looks cool and enticing. It reminds me of the Easterner the 1958 12 meter that recently arrived in Annapolis. It appears to sail just fine, just don't look too close it's an old wooden boat that has been sailed hard for six decades. This boat is half the size, and half the age and made of fiberglass, so you have that going for you. I'll send email and see if there is anything I can do to help. There are many people friendly folks in the Annapolis fleet who would love to see this boat back on the water.
Posted By: Rob Van Name

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 11/10/19 06:00 PM

Please get an out of the water survey.

You might also want to look at the spreader brackets where they attach to the mast. After years of hard use the brackets come away from the mast. There is a through bar kit from Annapolis Rigging that fixes the issue. http://j30.us/blog/?page_id=325.
I installed the Annapolis kit in the water, just some time with myself and a ladder tied to the mast.

The engine alternator is a Hitachi I believe. I'm still running my original one.

You might check the engine bed too. In the early boats they were inadequate. Here in Melbourne FL we have four J/30s, the oldest Sleighride was Rod Johnstone's original boat and it needed reinforcement of the engine bed. Mine is #406 and is OK there.

The J/30 is a good family boat but I am biased. Good luck with what you decide to do.
Posted By: Chris623

Re: I'm looking at a J/30 soon - 11/11/19 01:55 PM

Hi Brad,

Good luck with your J/30 quest. It's a good choice for multiple uses, can provide many years of family fun and being a fiberglass boat, is nearly infinitely repairable if you are willing to do the work yourself.

The alternator might be your easiest fix. The 2-pin field winding connector can become intermittent. The terminals in this connector might be made of plated brass instead of plated phosphor bronze, which means that multiple un-mate and mate cycles can cause them to open up and provide less pressure against their mate. That was the case on my boat. Running the engine with a voltmeter connected to the system (large terminal on the starter, the alternator output, the battery positive, etc.) is the first step, then again while moving the connector to see if you can get the battery voltage to jump up. You might be able to fix it by somehow bending them back a little bit. Without fixing it, even a new alternator isn't going to work. If it isn't the connector, it could be the diodes which can become blown if someone shuts off the battery switch or turns the key off in certain situations before stopping the engine. These can be checked with the diode check range of a multimeter if the alternator is apart. If the alternator is still in the boat and only 1 or 2 of the 3 diodes are bad and you have access to an oscilloscope, this can be determined by looking for continuous train of small voltage peaks with an oscilloscope connected to the output terminal. Should the brushes be bad, even those can be replaced.

With regards to leaks and wet core, all of these areas should be addressed. Deck hardware mounting points, (especially those that have high loads), exhaust port and chainplate exit slots are likely spots for water ingress and eventual rot/delamination. They should be checked by tapping with a small ball peen hammer for delamination and at least epoxy isolated to prevent further problems. Those that are not yet delaminated, but you don't quite have time for, should be put on a long term list for repair. Wet deck is fairly easily cut away, ground out to a 12:1 scarf (taper), recored, replaced with new glass and non-skid. Some of the deck mounting hardware problems can be easily seen by discoloration and cracking from the inside of the boat.

Good luck!

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