Guide to buying a used Dart?
The following tips might help you get a bargain rather than a liability!
Key points to check for are damage to skegs and splits on keel lines. Skeg condition is a good indicator of general wear and tear on a boat. Splits on the keel lines is a problem often associated with older boats. It can be tricky to repair and sometimes involves removing the decks.
Also check for crash damage. Sight horizontally along the hull surface and look for visible distortions. Darts can be satisfactorily repaired after even quite serious damage, and these boats are still worth buying but you should check the weight of repaired hulls. Dart hulls should weigh between 38 & 42 Kilos each, but some of the old boats have been known to be lighter than this.
Press the sides of the hull along the deck joint to make sure that the joint is intact. Heavy landings by crews can cause this to split, the toe loop rivits will hold the boat together, until…….
Chainplates can be a weakness on Darts, look for distortions and uneven bends. Any evidence of damage means replacement is essential, especially the bow chainplates, whose specification was improved in 1998.
Beam joints will usually show cracks, but there should be no sign of gel coat crazing or delamination. These joints will often be covered with tape or silicon sealer to prevent leaks, and this is good practice.
With the mast up, sight up it to see if it is straight. Small irregularities are normal, what you are looking for is kinks or bends. Take the mast down and support it at the head. See if it bends by equal amounts when turned from side to side. Check the surface for creases or crazing in the anodising, both these things indicate a mast that has been bent then straightened. Don’t buy a creased mast, or one with any dents in the side walls.
Look inside the mast heel. There should be a stainless wear plate. Check that this is properly riveted in and that the wear is central. If the wear is off centre the mast will have de-rotation problems.
Old masts have spanner fixings that pass right through the mast and are prone to wear and become loose. Newer masts have fittings riveted on, and this is superior. Also check for cracks around the hound fitting.
Check the beams for cracks and dents, which are rare. Make sure the mast ball is solidly riveted and not loose. The traveller car is prone to wear and expensive to replace.
Sails wear with age, and this is fairly easy to asses. Old generation jibs were produced from soft sail cloth. These had poor shape retention and wore quickly.
If the owner has a picture of his boat proudly displayed on his mantelpiece, look for shallow vertical leach creases towards the top of the sail, this is a good indicator of a worn out main. The batten condition is important and check that they are class legal “Catbattens”, three yellow and six red.
Worn and stretched tramps are bad news as a tight tramp is vital for Dart boatspeed. The jib block wear patches should be in good order. UV light can seriouslt weaken otherwise sound stiching, and a tramp cover should have been used. New style tramps have a “skirt” at the back to stop the sheets being washed through the tramp lacings. Check that the slides in the rear beams are in good condition.
Obviously new style ball bearing “Race” blocks are preferable to the old style. Make sure that all the cleats work properly.
Check rudder mechanisms for corrosion. A steel bolt passes through an aluminium sleeve, and if this corrodes solid the only way of separating the rudder blade from the stock is with a hacksaw. Check that the locking spring is not distorted and that the lift mechanism works smoothly. The roller housing can be damaged by rapid groundings, and this will cause the stock to spread open. This means that your rudders may jam half up.
Check for cracks in the rudder blades. Cracks and splits in the leading edge can sometimes be cured with epoxy resin, horizontal cracks near the stocks are usually irreparable, and a blade that is weakened here will be responsible for erratic steering in a breeze.
You should check the condition of the trolley, trailer, covers etc. All these items are very expensive to replace, especially when compared with the price of a secondhand Dart.