How Long Do Sailboats Last?

In Boatingby Shelby Sullivan

If you make a hefty financial investment in your boat, you want to make sure that you can enjoy it for years to come. Everyone has heard horror stories of boats that don’t last more than a few years. However, other people are able to prolong the lifespan of their boats for centuries.

How long do sailboats last?

Sailboats are typically replaced every ten to twenty years. Their lifespan is determined by the type of boat, how often it is used, and the material it is constructed from. You will get a longer lifespan from a boat that is properly maintained over the years.

Here are more facts about sailboats and their longevity!

Do Sailboats Generally Deteriorate Due to Age or Too Many Miles?

Sailboats generally deteriorate due to too many miles. They can often hold up well in the harbor or marina for months at a time because there is little stress placed on the ship. However, an avid sailor who makes use of their boat regularly will face more maintenance and repair costs.

A 2004 model may be in better shape than a 2016 model if the 2004 version has been kept at the dock for most of that time. The number of hours put on the sails, the hull, and the other parts of the ship is what indeed causes long-term damage and deterioration.

Keep in mind that much of this deterioration can be fixed with the appropriate maintenance.

What Parts of a Sailboat Will Deteriorate First?

It may come as no surprise that the different parts of your sailboat will deteriorate at different rates. Identifying potential problem areas can help you avoid purchasing a boat that is already in a state of disrepair.

One of the main areas that will deteriorate first is the fiberglass. Newer sailboats like those made by Glastron have a composite core that is situated conveniently between two fiberglass skins. The problem that many boat owners encounter actually stems from the core inside the fiberglass. You may notice that parts of your deck or seats begin to feel a bit spongy. This is a sign that rot is settling in.

The rig and mast can also deteriorate on your sailboat. Many people have a hard time identifying whether there is a problem in this area until it is too late.

There are many components and cables on this part of the sailboat that can go wrong. Without proper attention and maintenance, you might find your sails landing right into the sea below.

Hull fittings are another significant part that should be inspected regularly for damage. Many of the newer sailboats have brass fittings that contain a healthy amount of zinc. Over time, the zinc releases from the brass and leaves the hull fitting more susceptible to damage. Other fittings are made of plastic and can easily warp in the sunlight.

Centerboards and keels are also areas prone to significant damage over time. They are subject to the heavy load of the ship, and the parts that support them are primarily underwater. These fittings can last for a while, but it will depend on many factors. Even the type of water you sail in can make a difference in the lifespan of your centerboard.

Do Catamarans Last Longer than Monohull Boats?

There has always been considerable debate over whether catamarans are better than monohull boats. Both models have their advantages, but which one is going to last longer? According to experts, you should choose the catamaran if you are interested in a boat that will last for the long haul.

First and foremost, catamarans are different than monohulls because they have two hulls. They also carry typically carry two engines and a generator, even though they run off of just one motor at a time. A monohull is dead in the water with an engine failure, but a catamaran can keep on cruising.

Catamarans are also considered to be more stable in the water than their monohull counterparts. Because their natural tendency leans more toward stability, there is less wear and tear on the ship over time. They also do not have the same lead keel underneath that can crack or become damaged over time.

Which Types of Sailboats Last the Longest?

When you purchase your sailboat, you have several different construction options. Understanding which one will last the longest is an integral part of making such a substantial investment in your boat. Fiberglass and wood are two of the most common building materials, so you should understand which one will hold up the longest.

See our article on How Long Boats Last for more information on this topic!

Wooden boats can stand up to the test of time with the proper maintenance and attention to detail. Many boat owners find that they can keep sailing with their wooden boats even when the ship is more than a century old. However, there is a certain natural allowance for deterioration of the wood each year that will require immediate attention.

A wooden boat may also be relatively simple to repair. A lot of people already have the tools and mechanical knowledge to work with wood. This can make finding someone who can handle a simple boat repair relatively easy.

On the other hand, fiberglass hulls can quickly be restored to their original luster with just a small amount of care. Fiberglass is still a relative newcomer to the boating industry, but it holds a lot of potential. These boats are only now beginning to round the fifty-year mark, so it will be a test of time before we can truly see which holds up the longest.

How Often Do Sails Need to Be Replaced?

The sails will need to be replaced depending on how often you will use them. Many people do not use their sails that often, preferring to sail just two or three weekends each month. If they can only sail during a few months out of the year, there is every possibility that those sails will last for at least a decade or longer. Some estimates say that those sails should last roughly fifteen years.

On the other, some people use their sails rather extensively. If you live on your boat and use them for exactly half the day every day of the year, you will probably have to replace your sails every two years or so.

Of course, there is a lot of space in between those two extreme examples. Consider how often you sail and the number of hours that you typically sail each time. It is common to see sails that last anywhere from 3,500 hours to 4,000 hours.

What are the Most Expensive Parts of a Sailboat to Repair?

With so many different parts to a sailboat, how do you determine which is the most expensive to repair? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is relatively simple. The most costly part of a sailboat to repair is a hole in the fiberglass. A single hole in the fiberglass renders the entire boat useless until it can be fixed.

Correcting a fiberglass boat requires a great deal of skill and finesse for the small details. Depending on the specific resin used and the fiberglass, you will be facing a hefty bill at the end of the repair.

Unlike wooden boats, which you may be able to repair yourself with a few simple tools, working with fiberglass poses a higher risk. You must also wear a respirator when working with certain types of resin. The cost of the protective gear should also be considered when you factor in how much you will be spending on a fiberglass repair.

Learn more about repairing fiberglass boats with our article: Repairing Fiberglass On Boats: Complete Guide (For Beginners)

How Long Does Fiberglass Last?

Fiberglass boats are still relatively new compared to their wooden counterparts. We are nearing the fifty-year mark for many of the first fiberglass boats that were commercially manufactured. Many of these first makes and models continue to be used today, as long as their owners were diligent with maintenance and care.

The truth is that fiberglass has the potential to last for a long time, but it may be broken down by the great outdoors. Some of the most common factors affecting the breakdown of the fiberglass include:

  • UV exposure
  • Movement fatigue
  • Water saturation
  • Salt from seawater

Minimizing their exposure to some of these simple elements can really make all of the difference. You should also have a keen eye for potential damage. As long as you are looking out for signs of wear such as small cracks, fatigue, or water damage, your fiberglass should last for a long time.

There are plenty of steps you can take to prolong the lifespan of your fiberglass boat. Check out our article: How Long do Fiberglass Boats Last? For more information!

Final Thoughts

The lifespan of your sailboat could range anywhere from ten years to fifty years with the right maintenance and upkeep. Make sure that you stay ahead of things by having your sailboat serviced routinely.

Without regular maintenance, you may find that your boat doesn’t last as long as you would ultimately like it to.

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