Paraphrasing somewhat here's what the email said...
Hi- I read your blog. I live in northern New Jersey and am a member of the XXX Club in YYY. There is a small lake at the Club which allows for sailing of small sailboats like the Sunfish or Laser. I am not a sailor, but will be taking lessons in May. I want to buy a boat so that my family can use it at the XXX Club.(Actually he only asked about Sunfish. I added the bit about Lasers because I like Lasers better. Honestly he never even asked about Force 5's.)
Do you know where I can buy a used Sunfish or Laser? What should I be looking for in a used Sunfish or Laser?
Thanks so much!
So let's try and help this guy. Where can he find a used boat? Here are some ideas from me. What other suggestions can you think of?
1. Contact your club and ask them. I know that when I was a member of Sunfish Fleet 17 and Hunterdon Sailing Club we were always trying to match new members up with used boats. Usually demand exceeded supply at this time of year, but we did our best.
2. Contact other local sailing clubs and ask the same question. (Maybe you should even fake interest in joining the other club to make them more interested in helping you.)
3. Go and see your local boat dealer. He might have taken some used boats in part exchange for new ones. For example I see that your local dealer in North Jersey, Sunset Sailboats, currently has a used Force 5 for sale for $3,200. (You're not really that desperate are you?) Seriously though I once got a very good deal on a Sunfish at that dealer; it was the demo model he had had on display all the previous season. Dealers also sometimes have partly used boats that have been charter boats at major regattas and they can be excellent deals too.
4. Check out websites of local sailing clubs. Sometimes boats are offered for sale there. For example, on Hunterdon Sailing Club's Trading Post there is a used Force 5 for sale for $1500. No, no, no, you're really not that desperate. There's a reason everyone has Force 5's for sale, trust me.
5. Check out the Sunfish Forum and Laser Forum. The Sunfish Forum currently has a couple of used boats for sale, not too far from you in Eastern Pennsylvania, including one for $100, or only $1 if you take the trailer too! Wow! The Laser Forum also has a Laser Radial for sale in Philadelphia.
6. Check out ebay and craigslist. For example, I see that craigslist currently has three Sunfish for sale in North Jersey including one for $35.
7. Look out for For Sale ads in your local library.
8. Check the classifieds in your local newspaper.
9. Go to your local town dump and see if the town has removed any abandoned boats from the beach. They may need a bit of work but the town may be happy for you to haul an old hull away for free.
To answer the second part of the question, what should you look for in a used boat...
Preferably take someone who is knowledgeable about that class with you when going to see a used boat. Failing that, look at the condition of every part. Even an untrained eye can see if the sail, spars, rudder, daggerboard etc. are in good condition or totally beat-up. Most important of all check the hull. An old hull is likely to be scratched up a bit but you don't want one that leaks. Are there any visible cracks or holes? If the hull has inspection hatches check if the hull is dry inside. Weigh the hull. A dry Laser or Sunfish hull should weigh no more than around 120-130 lbs. If water has soaked into the fiberglass inside it could be much more than that. Unless you have a fetish for fiberglass repairs, you don't want a heavy leaking boat.
Good luck with your search.
Anybody else want to add ideas on where to find a small used boat for sale?
PS. Only joking about Force 5's. They really are very comfortable boats.