New to sailing - Sunfish as first boat to learn on? (and other questions...)

Thread starter #1
Very long story short, last summer I had the opportunity to get out on a 32' Italian designed sailboat on Lake MI. I was hooked. But because I'm a college student I cannot afford a small boat AND a slip, so I started looking into the small trailerable sailboats like the Sunfish, Flying Scot, etc.

As of right now I'm looking for a very low cost - but complete - Sunfish sailboat within a couple hundred mile radius of Kalamazoo, MI, and I plan to cartop it once I finally get one (I'm eyeing two right now). My few outstanding questions are as follows:

Is this a good first boat that I could learn on either alone or via the help of a friend and sailor? Is it something that can be used on inland lakes? And finally, is there anything wrong with cartopping it on a full size sedan (2003 Camry)? I'm 6'3" and relatively strong, if that makes any difference.

Another question I have is about acquiring a project hull w/o rigging. Is this practical, or would I be better off buying a complete and functional boat for $200? Is there anything I have to look out for when purchasing a used setup?


beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Is this a good first boat that I could learn on either alone or via the help of a friend and sailor? YES. Is it something that can be used on inland lakes? YES. And finally, is there anything wrong with cartopping it on a full size sedan (2003 Camry)? CARTOPPING IS FINE. I'm 6'3" and relatively strong, if that makes any difference.

Another question I have is about acquiring a project hull w/o rigging. Is this practical, or would I be better off buying a complete and functional boat for $200? IF YOU CAN FIND A COMPLETE AND FUNCTIONAL BOAT FOR $2OO, BUY IT!!! THAT PRICE IS UNHEARD OF FOR A FUNCTIONAL BOAT. Is there anything I have to look out for when purchasing a used setup?

Sorry for the all caps, but it was the easiest way to answer, altho you should be shouting over a $200 Sunfish!!!
Go for the Complete boat for $200 + . Sounds like you will be sailing alone so a trailer is going to make life a lot easier as you will be able to get your boat in the water without having to get a launching dolly.
Trailers are quick in and out of the water and makes for more time sailing. Have a friend who car tops his Laser on a Toyota Corolla and it is a big production that requires most of the back seat and trunk space for gear and so only room for 2 people in car and it takes an hour. I can get all my gear in my post 1972 Sunfish cockpit when on the trailer and I am sailing in 15 minutes . I know that the Laser and Sunfish are different set ups but just want to bring up a few points about the different modes of transporting and there are cost advantages of car topping and other considerations that you probably have . I car top my 55 LB Snark when I do not want to take a trailer so I know all the routine for car topping.

><> Minas man <><
Thread starter #4

Cool, thanks! Within a 100 mile radius I've found half a dozen for $300, three for $200 and one for $100 (which is since spoken for). Since all of these ads were within the past week, I'm going to search a few times a day until I come across another for $100.

Minas man, should I instead be looking for a Snark? Or even a miniature sloop, for that matter? The point wasn't to get a big boat (otherwise I'd go for a Flying Scot or something), but rather something that is small and light but still an actual sailboat...I'm just getting started, remember. If I get a Sunfish, it will be car topped because I don't have room for a trailer at present. The Camry is a bit bigger than a Corolla - I can put a 16' aluminum canoe on top with relative ease. And if the dolly is the dolly looking thing with two wheels, then I was going to say I had the intention of fabricating one myself (so the hull won't be dragged on the ground), as I am a broke college student ;)

Thread starter #5
Just did some searching for a Snark, found several around $100 - $200 ready to sail and actually two complete project boats about 90 miles out for $10. Might this be a better course of action for a newbie who just wants to jump ship from canoes, rowboats and kayaks to wind power?
After a 20 year hiatus from sailing I bought my neighbors 30 year old Snark and it got me sailing again but while it got me out on the water I knew that there must be a better boat for me and the Sunfish fit the bill for many reasons, comfort, speed, and ease of rigging were the top 3. Once I got my Sunfish I didn't sail the Snark any more and sold it at the end of the first season with proceeds paying for my Sunfish. Trading up got to love it. I have had 3 snarks and my latest one is my loner/car topper boat. It rigs the same as Sunfish with a lateen sail rigging but there is not any other comparison as to performance and comfort. If it gets you out on the water, that is a good thing and you can always trade up if you can't find the perfect fish right now. My second Snark was a restoration hull with new sail but hull water logged and ABS skin gone. It took the whole summer in a very hot loft to remove the 35 pounds of water out of the foam. I never did sail it but sold it and got new sunfish sail and main-sheet hardware.
I have other postings and pictures about the Snark on this forum and other members have posts on this subject.

><> Minas man <><

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
I don't recommend buying the Snark. It is a very low performance boat and you cannot sail it in a decent breeze - it is designed for light air. But at those prices, I question how good those Sunfish are. Since you will be cartopping, you can't get an overweight, waterlogged one. Take a bathroom scales, tip the boat on its edge on the scales, and get an approximate weight. 125 would be great, and older boats might weigh as much as 140 or so. With so many for sale in your area, pick and choose the best one.

I have seem people make a roller that you set on the back of the trunk of the car, set the bow of the Sunfish on it, then push the boat, right side up, onto the roof. You can also use a stepladder to hold the bow of the boat, then lift the stern and pivot it on if you are loading or unloading solo - but you probably don't want to haul a stepladder to the lake to unload, so hopefully someone will be there to help. I have sailed Sunfish for many many years, and never had a trailer. The roof works well for me.

Thread starter #8
Alright, so Sunfish it is. BB, what about the possibility of opening up the hull up to remove the old floatation material, clean the hull and perform any repairs before closing it back up? Is this a common repair?

The roller idea sounds great. I was already thinking up something similar in my head...
opening one up (by pulling up the deck at the hull to deck seam) is usually strongly discouraged - I guess it's just too difficult to get it to line back up and go back together correctly.

it's not that hard to put in inspection ports and use fans (or other methods) to dry out the water-logged foam. but then you have to find the leaks and fix them... which would/could be the longer/harder process.

check out the Sunfish Knowledge Base (KB) for good information on drying the hull and putting in the inspection ports.

I have a 66 Sunfish that was given to me needing that repair you mentioned and I have not fixed it in 3 years. My good Sunfish was $350 ready to sail. A dry light hull is in sound condition is well worth waiting for, unless you are up for the challenge of the fix and the boat is at a give away price. Post 72 boats are the best because of the cockpit storage and the new style rudder. The expense of the rudder up grade makes it costly. It can be far more economical to get the right boat than to fix up an old water logged one.
Like BB says if your car topping solo you will want a light hull.
Make sure to read the article, How to buy a used Sunfish.
It is easier to go from a Snark to a Sunfish than a Sunfish to a Snark.

><> Minas man <><
Thread starter #11
Thanks everyone for the input! After missing a few $200 and $300 boats by mere hours because that's how quickly they sell, I posted a wanted ad and received my first good response today.

Beautiful 197x Sunfish with all hardware, original but good sail - always stored indoors - and only one repair about the diameter of a pinky finger...all for $250. Actively used the past two seasons (that's when they purchased it used from a guy who car-topped it) and no water in the hull. I didn't take too many photos because I'm going back next Thursday with a friend who used to race these, but I've attached the two I did take. I'm going to take a look at all the hardware on Thursday. Oh and it's also worth mentioning that it does have the cockpit storage area. Does this also mean it has the new rudder?

After pulling the thing out and handling it....all I can say is that it is a BEAST. I can drag it, lift each end individually and overall move it around with ease. The front end is easily lifted above my head. Right now I'm in the process of acquiring a sturdy Yakima system for the roof of my car, by which time I will have designed something to help me get it up there alone. Anyway, input is welcome at this point because I think I'm going to be buying this in one to two weeks.




Active Member

The hull is definitely the new style because it has a stainless steel gudgeon. You should take a look at the ID number that is etched into the transom to find out what year the hull is. You can get more information on the Sunfish Sailor Yahoo site under "Files" --> "Serial Number". Also, as BB said, the next time you go to see it, take a bathroom scale with you to weigh the hull. Just balance it on its side on top of the scale. If it weighs more than 140 lbs, you'll probably want to dry it out.

Thread starter #13
Thanks, Dan! I had the same thoughts, but I still thought a photo was best. I wasn't able to find any ID numbers, but then again I didn't look on the transom. Will do that in a week. Or...should I have the owner take a look for me before then, e.g. is it useful information to have before going for a lengthy look with the intention of immediate purchase?

Super quick question about the weight. If I weigh it and it ends up weighing a bit too much, is that a reason not to purchase the boat? Or is drying it out a normal thing that will bring the weight back down to where it belongs?



Upside down?
Staff member
1. Drying out a hull is not at all abnormal. If you use the Search Forums function (in the upper bar), you will find out that there are many posts on the subject on the Sunfish Forum.

2. Knowing the year the boat was made won't tell you whether the boat is worth purchasing. But, obviously, a very old boat should be less expensive that a newer one of equal 'seaworthiness'


Active Member
Knowing the year the boat was made will give you more information if you need to make repairs. The internal backings for the deck fittings were changed from wood to aluminum in 1986. In the older boats, the wooden backing blocks can degrade so if you need to replace a fitting it's good to know what your working with. That's not to say you shouldn't purchase the boat. If it's dry internally, then the backing blocks should be fine.


Active Member
I took a look at your picture of the transom and I can just make out the hull ID number (AMF46238M73A) which would make it a 1973 hull if I read it correctly.
i have yakama roof bars and, although I only did it twice and on a Cherokee, heres how I did it. Go to lowes or home depot and get a 5 ft section of 3/4" black iron pipe. With the boat next to the car and the rack on the car, slide the pipe half way into one of the rack rails. Lift one end of the boat and place it on the pipe. Lift the other end and place it on the rack. lift the first end and place it on the rack. remove pipe and tie down the boat. I hope that makes sense. Its so you never hold the whole weight of the boat and sort of walk it up on to the roof rack.
Thread starter #18
Ylojelo, I am aware of that method and may give it a try. Are the 58" Yakima crossbars wide enough to mount and tie down the hull and rigging or should I purchase wider bars? As I type this I'm pending a deal on some 58" bars...but it just occurred to me that I might want to go wider. Any insight into this would be much appreciated, as would a width measurement of the transom AND the widest part of the boat. If someone could get this to me today, that would be great!