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My grandfather recently gave me his Sunfish that he sailed 50-60 years ago. It's been sitting in a garage for the past 40 years. Should I just put it in a lake and see if it floats? Or is there something I should look for / maintenance I should do before trying it out given its age? Or should I not even try it at all?
You shouldn't try it at all. Sunfishes degrade rapidly in a garage when not being used. In fact, you should sell it to me. I can get rid of it for you very easily and not even charge you to remove it. :rolleyes:

Just kidding!!! Of course you should sail it. If your granfather took good care of your boat, it's probably in very good condition. I would take a look at the sail to make sure it hasn't been eaten by mice and has holes that can't be easily patched. If the sail needs to be replaced there are a number of dealers that sell recreational sails that are fairly inexpensive.

If the boat needs to be repaired there are lots of posts on this site that describe exactly what to do. Ask lots of questions. The members here are very friendly and can point you in the right direction.

Good luck and post lots of pictures!

An old dinghy is not like a classic car. There aren't as many things that can "expire" (tires, belts, hoses, fluids) from sitting. The sail can get holes in it from rodents or rot if it's organic material, pieces can corrode, the lines stretch out over time.

The hull can leak, which is reasonably common on older Sunfish, but you have to take on a lot of water before the boat is in danger of actually sinking. The foam blocks in the hull are designed to prevent this. On my first trip out with my '71? , the hull filled almost completely due to a number of leaks, since much of the keel had been obviously smashed out and repaired (and repaired). I was still able to get back to shore (on a small lake) with the deck above water. Most small dinghies are capable of getting you back even when holed; I have a buddy who punched a hole in the bottom of his Laser on a branch, about 2" diameter, and he was able to limp it back without sinking.

Remember: Fiberglass is forever. It does not rot, it does not biodegrade, it will be here for millennia after we are gone. Look at any of the Sunfish used for sailing at summer camps. These boats often live in the water for months, with no maintenance. What maintenance they do get is often done as quickly and cheaply as possible. They're often full of water, "broken" in various ways and handled by kids who have never sailed before. They still sail. Sunfish are pretty tough little boats and living in a garage for 40 years is a pretty easy life compared to what a lot of them get. It takes a lot of active abuse and neglect to truly "total" a Sunfish. There's a reason they've been building and selling Sunfish for almost 3/4 of a century. They're easy to sail, cheap to run, and will put up with quite a lot.

You might want to replace the lines, but even here, hardware store rope will work if you just want to go sailing. There are only two lines, so even the expensive "boat line" is relatively cheap. Re-varnishing the blades might also be a good idea if the varnish is shot (missing, peeling off, flaking), since wood does rot, but this is a simple job. Waxing the hull will make it shiny and go a tiny bit faster. None of this is strictly necessary to make the boat work.

You can sweat about any minutia you choose, or you can just go sailing, enjoy sailing, and deal with whatever issues or wrinkles come up. That's the fun. It's you, the boat, and the elements. It's not about what the boat looks like or if she has official parts. The wind and the water don't care about that.

What I would strongly recommend is a screw-together plastic oar like they sell for use with cheap inflatable boats. You will use it, will likely be glad you have it, and will definitely be glad you can take it apart and stow it. I use my 25-year-old plastic oar every time I sail. You can paddle a Sunfish with the daggerboard if you need to, but it's awkward.

Sail her. That's the whole point of a sailboat. If she needs fixing, fix her as best you can and sail her some more to see if it worked out. If she doesn't need fixing, sail her. She doesn't need to be perfect, councors, brand new out of the box, to be right.
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Agree with all above. We acquired what we believe to be a ~ 71 last summer. It came with a new sail from Intensity. Over the winter I sanded down the centerboard and rudder, re-stained and sealed...looks classic as it should. These boat are virtually indestructible so odds a are yours is quite seaworthy especially is garaged for 40 years. I am now behind danpal but if you need to have it removed from your place of residence, I too can be 'contracted" to handle the removal process ( which can be quite arduous.... :) ) and as a courtesy at no cost either.... so by all means let us "professionals" manage that for you... just kidding !

Take it out and enjoy it. Every time we go out someone comments on the Sunfish; those for which is brings back fond memories or those that don't know a thing about them but think they are "cool".
Just make sure any drain plugs are installed. There is one on the deck, and some folks add them to the transom.

Do a shakedown cruise in the yard, aka "Yard Sailing" to see if you have all the bits, line is not rotten, etc...And don't forget a well fit PFD.

Congratulations on you new boat!