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I am often asked, by prospective TS16 owners, what to look out for when buying a boat. Therefore, to help fill space in Tillerscope, I have decided to write down some of my replies and thoughts on the subject.


This will not be a definitive range of advice, if anyone would like to either add to or argue against any of it, please do so.

The prospective owner firstly needs to examine what is expected from the boat:-

  • is it “A” Class? (measured)
  • what is its record and club handicap?
  • condition and make of sails?
  • what about weight?
  • Check for lead (lead usually means that the boat is light)
  • Outboard motor is not usually necessary


A cruising boat:

what are the extras included? – bunk cushions, awning, extra anchor and line, jib roller, navigation lights, suitable outboard etc.


A boat to learn to sail in and gain seamanship experience:

My experience has been, that people learn more quickly if they join a club and participate in the racing activities. Probably, an older boat, set up for racing, could be satisfactory to begin with and then trading up, at a later stage, when experience has been gained.


Some people like the satisfaction of resurrecting an old boat and are looking for a hobby type project.

TS’s are like “grandpa’s axe” which has had 3 heads and 6 handles so far!

There is nothing on a timber Hartley that can’t be repaired or replaced! The main consideration is the economic viability of taking on such a project compared to building a new boat from scratch.

A minimum maintenance boat:

The easiest boat to maintain is the moulded fibreglass version of the TS. Although around 100 have been built, they seldom come up for sale as owners seem reluctant to part with them. These glass boats are very strong and not easily  damaged. Minor chips, scratches and redundant bolt holes can be filled with plastibond and touched up with ordinary enamel paint. Consequently, these boats bring a higher price than the equivalent aged timber boat.

Other factors:-

Price: Clearly, how much are you prepared to pay will reflect the quality of the boat you can buy. Most purchasers are looking for value under $6,000. Usually in this price bracket, you can only expect an older but fairly sound boat, probably with some minor faults. Lower priced boats will have many faults. Any work required or gear needing to be replaced should be taken into consideration when negotiating the sale price.

Glue breakdown: The easiest fault to spot is the result of glue breakdown. Some of the glues (pre epoxy) in past years were not very reliable and packed it in after about 10 years. The result of this can be observed by distinct cracking along glue lines, especially along the chines and around the joints           at the tuck. This is repaired by cleaning the paint away from the joint, raking it out and then filling it with epoxy glue. Chines are usually then reinforced with a light fibreglass tape. Filler is then used to fair the tape into the hull. Re-nailing may be required elsewhere.

Dry rot (really “wet rot”): The nemesis of timber boats! Dry rot has a distinctive smell which should be a warning sign. Rot is more a problem for boats used mainly in fresh water or left uncovered in the weather to collect rainwater. The danger spots for rot are anywhere water lays for some time. Check around the stern, inside and out, under the floor- paying attention to the case logs, the keelson, stringers and plywood. If possible, check right forward near the lower stem and keel, in case the boat has been left bow down with water in it. Check also around the fastenings and fittings. Rotten timber is soft and spongy, even under paint, and can be depressed with a firm finger or a non serious tool (eg. a car key).

The cure for rot is surgery. Cut out the soft and damaged wood and replace it with a similar type of timber. If this is not practical, in smaller infestations, scrape away the damaged wood and use an epoxy filler and, if appropriate, fibreglass cloth

Beware heavily painted boats – paint can hide a multitude of sins, so poke around and look for soft spots generally and for cracks in the plywood.


Leaks: Beware the boat with a fitted bilge pump or multiple bailing devices!!!

Sellers often tell lookers that “all timber boats leak!”. This is quite untrue, some older ones may leak slightly eg. a litre or so a day. Leaks can be tracked down and fixed.

Places to check for leaks – Bungs- often need to be tightened with a tool to get them fully water tight. Bolts holding the lower rudder fitting can become loose and elongate their holes. Fin pivot pin– some boats still use a nut and bolt which is hard to keep water tight, This system has largely been replaced by using a pin and cover plates.

In older boats, the gasket method of fitting the fin case to the boat was used (that is, the fin case being set on a bed of caulking compound and held down with bolts). With time, the caulking dries out and leaking follows, particularly if the boat has been away from the water for some time. With use, the wood may swell up and leak stop – however, it would not hurt to nip up the nuts that hold the fin case in. If that does not work, then the boat will need to be rolled over on its side, the fin removed and the leak attacked from inside the case by running epoxy resin into the joint.

Other causes of leaks include – old nail or screw holes, where the fastener is loose or missing, cracked or punctured plywood (trailer damage) and failed or damaged glue joints.

Sails: Look for quality rather than quantity. 3 sets of worn out sails have little value if you intend to race the boat. You may need to take into account the cost of a good set of sails, new or second hand, into your boat buying budget. The age of the sail can usually be obtained from the Measurer’s stamp at the tack of the sail (front lower corner). Condition and shape are more important than age.

Rig and fittings: Functioning blocks, cleats, traveller etc. are important for efficient and safe sailing. Make sure that all running gear is in order and all the systems, such as vang, halyards, fin tackle, rudder fittings and cords are functioning as they should.

Check that the necessary safety gear is included, particularly the correct anchor, chain and line, paddles, hatches and most importantly, buoyancy.

Check out the rigging wires for broken strands. Apart from ripping your hands to pierces, strands are a warning sign and the wire should be replaced.

Pay particular attention to the rudder design. The older all timber type have caused problems as they age, hence, most boats are using the alternative aluminium design, which is far more durable and lighter.

The trailer: 

Beware of freshly painted trailers. If any rust has been properly removed and treated before painting, good! But, if rust bubbles or holes are obvious under the paint, they could cause problems later on.

Solid square axles are the best but not essential. Check out the springs for excessive rust. A regular spray of fish oil usually maintains the springs and other bits and pieces in contact with the water when launching.

Wheels and tyres should also be inspected. Tyres on trailers tend to perish rather than wear out. Aluminium wheels can corrode, steel wheels rust. The important thing is that the hub has a common stud pattern (Holden Torana is common) for easy wheel replacement. The trailer should have a spare wheel included.

I would suggest that you change, or at least remove and inspect, the wheel bearings soon after you collect the trailer, and then you will have an accurate idea of the age of the bearings while you own the trailer. Water penetrated bearings can lead to trouble when travelling.

The winch is also very important. 2 speed is best. The wire is easily replaced, if need be, by one the new materials now in use. Preferably, the winch handle should have a common pattern where it fits onto the winch so that a replacement can be readily obtained (you will probably lose a few).

Outboards: I can only speak from personal experience on this subject. Second hand outboards tend to be a bit of a “lucky dip”, so far, I’ve drawn mostly duds. Therefore I prefer to buy my outboards new and keep them for a long time, and then I know their service record. In the past, I have wasted a lot of money on old outboards and with the benefit of hindsight; I can see that in the long run, a new motor would have been much cheaper. The warranty given with a new motor does offer some protection.             

What is a suitable outboard? – I have 2 motors – a 3.5 and a 6HP Tohatsu. The 3.5 is lightweight and is stored inboard, when sailing, by lashing it to the mast post in the cabin and is easily manhandled onto the stern when needed. It is light to carry around and pass up and down from the boat.

However, like all modern outboards under 6HP, the 3.5 has a single cylinder which makes it noisy and it vibrates at certain speeds, but it does push the boat along at about 5 knots in calm water.

The 6HP is much heavier and harder to manhandle. Being a twin cylinder, it is a much more sociable motor when you have guests onboard, in that,    you can hold a normal conversation with it running. The 6HP gives you much more authority when combating adverse weather and strong tides.

I find that both motors are surprisingly economical to run.

Note: Due to the depth of their stern, TS16’s should use a “long shaft” outboard.


Well, this has been the gospel according to Norm! I hope that it has not been too pessimistic and puts people off buying a TS. The important point to note is that most boats are in fairly good condition and will give their new owners many enjoyable hours on the water. However, every now and again, someone gets caught out, having purchased a boat that does not live up to expectations, the new owner is bitterly disappointed and is lost to the class and sailing in general.

Most problems occur at the lower end of the market. You should research further, in particular, talk to other TS owners and try to learn from their experiences and come to your own conclusions.

Finally, when you go to inspect a boat with the intention of buying, take someone with you, even if they are not a boating person. Make sure that your enthusiasm to get on the water does not blind your judgement or you may have regrets later on.


Norm Thompson

April 2005


Caveat emptor- buyer beware

The Hartley TS 16 Association of Australia and all its subsidiaries warn buyers that the information contained in the items for sale on the site may not be complete and that no warranty or guarantees are associated with these items. Hence, the association and its subsidiaries cannot be held liable for any faults or damages that may be present in the item after sale.