Northwest Used Laser Buying Guide


Northwest Used Laser Buying Guide

by George Yioulos

When buying or selling a used Laser, there are many things to consider. The value of a Laser is obviously what someone is willing to pay for it, but there are a couple of key areas to check so that will have buyer and seller are on the same page. This presumes a bit of background knowledge of sailboats; should information about terminology be required, please don’t hesitate to call your local dealer for a thorough walkthrough.

“In Lasers We Trust!” –George Yioulos

1) Deck & Hull Stiffness

The stiffness of a Laser’s deck & hull are similar to a car’s odometer. Start here for a general understanding of condition.

A boat can lie somewhere between ‘stiff’ or ‘soft.’ A new boat is very stiff, and this stiffness decreases with general use and having water inside the boat. A stiff boat will resist your pushing into the deck and hull with your hands, a soft boat will give and flex..

To check, push down on either side of cockpit. Push firmly your body weight will rest here while sailing anyway. Does the deck flex when you push it? Yes, no, maybe so? Maybe a lot, or maybe it’s nice and firm? Test the cockpit floor and around the mast step.

Depending on what you felt, you have just gauged the relative integrity of the hull. You have some idea of the stiffness and current integrity. From here on out is a personal value decision about what you need from the boat and the other items down the list.

It’s been implied, but a softer boat will probably have some leaks. There are many articles online on how to search out these leaks, but you’ll never get back the original stiffness in the boat.

As we move on to the next parts, know that you simply may not require a stiff hull. Knowing what a softer boat means in terms of general condition can help you make an educated decision about what boat is right for you. Be careful not to let that take you too far down the scale however. A stiff boat obviously being worth more will also continue to hold its value better than a boat that is becoming softer and softer.

Deck and Hull stiffness is important, but it’s just the one part of the value.

2) Mast Step

I place a lot of importance on this area, more so than I think a lot of other people do.
It’s expensive to fix and it’s easy to check, it’s important. A leaky mast step is a hassle and financial pain to repair. Not fixing it though lets water right into the hull aggravating the deck and hull integrity issue from point #1.

Look for spider cracks around the deck opening to the step. If you can, an easy way to check for leaks is fill the step with water. Wait 5 minutes. If it isn’t full, it’s leaking into the boat. If you see an inspection port right next to the step (big 4”-5” disc that can be opened to gain access to the inside of the boat) the step has probably been repaired or replaced already.

3) Kit (Sail, Spars, Blades & Upgrades)

A good SAIL is very important. You might not need a new sail, but a tired and worn sail will just steepen your learning curve. Because the material in all Laser sails is ‘stretchy’, it looses its shape over a period of use. This simply means an old sail is less efficient, harder to de-power and harder to trim into proper shape. Even if you aren’t intending to go as fast as possible, you don’t want a car designed for a V-8 engine running on only five cylinders! Make sure you get a boat with a good sail.

There are three SPARS on a Laser; the top and bottom mast sections, and the boom. The spars are made of aluminum and are rather flexible. You want them nice and straight. They can definitely become permanently bent. Sight down the length as you would a 2 x 4 of lumber. If the boat has been in salt water, check the rivets on the spars that hold the plastic and metal fittings in place. Corrosion is pretty easy to see, but it’s hard to accurately tell how much damage has occurred below the surface without drilling out.
Check for straightness and inspect all rivets.

Warped, rough or chipped BLADES are slow. The daggerboard can easily warp or chip at the edges if not treated with basic care. Site the trailing edge for large variations from straight. The rudder can have stress at the head where the rudder head bolts through. That said, rough blades aren’t difficult to make smooth out, little nicks and gouges can often be wet sanded out with 600/800/1200 grit sandpaper. Big nicks or gouges will require gelcoat repairs.

The Laser now has some UPGRADED controls, the boom vang, sail outhaul and sail Cunningham. This started in 2001; new boats come with these new items, and many boats have been retrofitted by now. These new controls simply make it easier to control and fine-tune the Laser. The boat doesn’t go any faster with them, but it’s simpler and more intuitive. You can also de-power the boat more easily, which is pretty important.

4) General Appearance

Over its lifetime, a Laser will acquire scratches, nicks and dings primarily in the gelcoat layer, which effectively makes up the entire outside of the boat. As long as the fiberglass below the gelcoat isn’t exposed or damaged (it has a different texture and is a millimeter or two under the gelcoat, it is easily distinguished) don’t worry about cosmetics.

Gel coat scratches and markings can be wet-sanded out with 600-800-1200 grit sandpaper in a few minutes with haste or an afternoon if you want to make the boat shine. Sealing up small gelcoat chips is easy as pie as well. Your local dealer can match the color, but if you look at the Lasers around, any color will do for most small repairs ? While a nicely sanded and fair look is easy on the eyes, it really doesn’t affect the value much at all.

You do want to watch for fiberglass damage. Discoloration or fading is a sign of UV damage though. The Laser stands up to UV rays pretty well, but a long time in the sun will eventually damage the appearance, and the materials that make up the hull and deck.

5) Extras

Extra parts that make it easy for someone to buy a boat and get right to sailing are valuable. Perhaps a launching dolly, boat covers or gear bag are included? This isn’t critical to the die-hard racers, as they typically like everything a specific way. For casual sailors, or anyone just getting into the Laser, being able to hit the water with the right kit is nice. No ordering parts or buying new gizmos. To the water with that boat!

Finally never forget the value of the Laser itself. There are fleets of Lasers everywhere. Lots of sailors who race their boats are willing to teach. There are accessories and extras to make sailing fast, fun, exciting, safe and easy.

While it’s impossible and probably not necessary to put a monetary component on the fact that the Laser is a ton of fun, it’s another piece of the puzzle of getting into the best and one of the most popular single person small sailboat in the Northwest.

West Coast Sailing
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Portland, OR 97227

(503) 285-5536
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