From Doug W.
“Tomorrow I head down to Vermilion Ohio to pick up my new-to-me 1987 Express 34, hull #22. The boat is a one owner boat currently called Piranha 3, and was bought new from a dealer in Ohio back in the day. The boat has never left the waters of Lake Erie. It’s new home will be here in Traverse City Michigan, where I have raced / owned / restored a dozen or so boats over the last 25 years. When I inspected the boat I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the bottom which has been barrier coated and Baltoplated. She needs a good sanding and burnishing but no big deal.
The topsides were excellent, and the deck was like new. Not sure there is a craze mark in the deck. The deck hardware is completely original, including the nine winch layout and horn cleats for the halyards. I was amped to buy the boat until I went down below. As I understand it, the former owner is now in his nineties, and his loyal crew are also his loyal children who are in there 60’s. It’s clearly been a few years (decades??) since she was cleaned stem to stern.
The woodwork appears original, and is showing the wear of 30 years of beer can racing. The cabin sole is in throw away condition. The bulkhead suffered the anchor locker leak and was replaced back in 2004. The repair was well done, but the bottom the of wood bulkhead and frame around the mast are showing signs of absorbing water from below. The sails are out dated. The electronics partially functioning.
Long story short, the interior was somewhat disheartening, though bringing her back would be a labor of love (and labor), not necessarily and significant expense. I made an offer well below asking price prior to inspecting the boat and the owners had countered well above my offer. After my inspection, I was glad I hadn’t agreed to their counter and walked away and made an offer on a different boat. A few days later, they accepted by original offer so I had the boat structurally surveyed. Having owning many J boats and having had core issues on almost all of them, I expected the worse. To my pleasant surprise the boat surveyed very well, with dry readings throughout deck bottom and topsides. Now hoping that the work needed is mostly cosmetic, we closed the deal and tomorrow the adventure begins.
The boat has a roller furler and that will stay. Am working with my sailmaker and PHRF to determine feasibility of 37″ sprit and asymmetric kites only. If you have ever raced boats with sprits / a sails and roller furlers, you know that is the most crew-friendly way to sail. My last boat was a J92 and the asym / sprit / and furler combo was awesome. Will sail the boat for a year to try to understand the mindset behind the nine winches. Will replace floorboards, hopefully with something synthetic, and do my best to clean up the wood work.
My biggest ambition is to expand the aft quarter berth by removing the center longitudinal bulkhead under the center of the cockpit floor. I’m baffled by the immense vacant expanse aft of the gallery in the rear port quarter. The line drawings seem to indicate it was meant to be storage accessed from above, but the only way to access that space on my boat is from the starboard quarter berth through an opening in the longitudinal bulkhead. It seems like a huge waste of space. I had a Tripp 33 and loved the queen / king size that stretched side to side aft of the engine, and the Express would hugely benefit by a bunk big enough for my 6’2″ frame.
Exciting prospects. Will keep you posted of progress.”