Soft Ribs – All O’Days eventually need new ribs, and if the boat you’re looking at hasn’t had a rib job, it probably needs one, or will in the near future. If the floorboards are out of the boat, visually inspect the ribs for softness and flexibility. If the boards are still in, try stepping on them or on the king plank. If the ribs are soft, there will be play. Other indicators include a crack along the keel flange where the keel meets the bottom of the boat, or an indentation or depression in the bottom where the boat is resting on the cradle. One other thing to look for on ribs is how they are attached to the boat. Original ribs and older ribs are typically only tabbed in at each end. Fully glassed-in ribs in are preferred.
Condition of the bottom – If the boat has been raced recently, chances are that the bottom is in pretty good shape, meaning that it’s fair and smooth. O’Days tend to have a void aft of the keel, so the absence of one is a pretty good indicator that a previous owner faired the bottom. The presence of gentle athwart ship ripples or depressions is also common, and can suggest the presence of soft ribs with over-tightened keel bolts, or possibly that a previous owner replaced the ribs one-at-a-time with the keel still attached. Don’t worry about these, as half of the boats you’ll race against have the same problem. If the boat hasn’t been raced or has been sitting in a back yard, there’s a good chance it will have a rough skin of multiple coats of bottom paints, all of which will have to be stripped prior to racing.
Keel – As with the bottom, if the boat has been raced recently, the keel should be in pretty good shape. Ideally, you’d like it fair and smooth from the bulb to the flange, little or no rust, centered, hanging plum, and aiming forward – but don’t count on it. Don’t be surprised to find rust (all Rhodes keels rust), pock marks of erosion, and cracks along the keel flange. It also shouldn’t surprise you to find bizarre asymmetries in the keel’s orientation to the rest of the boat, particularly around the trailing edge relative to the skeg. On one hand, don’t worry about it, it’s common. On the other, there may be a keel job in your future. One other thing – if you plan to dry sail, look for a plate and lifting ring straddling the aft-most keel bolts. If there is none, or if the existing one needs to be replaced, you’ll have to install one or replace it with lifting rings, which means loosening the existing bolts (often easier said than done as the entire bolt turns) and, in turn, almost certainly causing a crack in the fairing compound around the keel flange.
Structural Stability Around The Chain Plates – Check all five chain plates (including back stay) for looseness, and don’t be surprised if you find some. It’s not uncommon in older boats. A lot of O’Day owners fix this by through-bolting them with stainless bolts.
Rub Rail – The rub rail covers the seam where the deck is fastened to the hull. Ideally, you’d like the rail firmly attached and stiff. Check for looseness by trying to wiggle it. If it’s loose, look underneath. It could be either a weakening in the joint between the deck and the hull, or possibly the rail detaching from the joint. If it’s a weakness in the joint, and depending on the extent of it, you might be able to fix it in an afternoon with a little epoxy. If the rail is detaching, you’ll probably need some professional assistance, as typically, the entire rail needs to come off and remounted. Don’t worry about hairline cracking around the rub rail. It’s most likely cosmetic crazing in the gel coat.
Dryness In The Tanks – The O’Day has three flotation tanks; one under each seat and the third forward. Each of these tanks is filled with Styrofoam strips for flotation, which due to the drainage plugs located in the bilge, are fairly waterlogged and heavy. While not uncommon, you’ll want to inspect the tanks, and if they are indeed wet, you should plan to replace the foam with closed-cell foam that won’t absorb moisture (Home Depot – $3.50 a sheet). If the tanks don’t have access ports, add that to the list. Additionally, some people glass over the small drain holes, which become unnecessary after cutting access ports.
Rudder & Tiller – There are three things to look for in the steering system. The first and most important is the rudder itself. You’ll want to inspect it for warps in the shape, for weight and for the condition of the surface. Racing rudders are relatively lightweight and have a smooth, wet-sanded surface. If the rudder doesn’t conform to that description, buy the boat assuming that you’ll eventually need to invest in a rudder. Also important is the fit between the pintels and gudgeons. The goal is tightness and minimal play in the steering system. If the pintels are loose in the gudgeons, you’ll need to replace those too. Finally, attach the tiller to the rudder and check for play. Again, the goal is tightness.
Mast, Boom & Spinnaker Pole – If you’re looking at an O’Day, chances are that mast is tapered and has jumper struts, which is fine. Look for metal fatigue around the intermediate sheave box where the jib halyard comes out, as well as around the partners. Also look to see of the mast is sleeved, as that would indicate that it had broken. You may also want to check whether the halyards are rope or wire, that the sheaves turn easily and that the rigging is presentable and includes functioning turnbuckles. You may also want to confirm that there is a bale or track on the mast for the spinnaker pole. None of this is critical as you can replace sheaves and halyards and attach a bale. The boom should have an internal purchase system for the outhaul, two independently attached mainsheet blocks and be rigged for a boom vang. Look for metal fatigue around the boom vang as that’s where booms typically break. Don’t worry too much about the condition of the pole, as they are inexpensive to replace.
Spongy Decks – Some boats are stiffer than others. The places to check include the bow deck, cuddy top and side decks. One boat builder has been known to quip that spongier is better, as it indicates less glass was applied high in the hull. That may or may not be true, but the bottom line is that in all cases, class rules allow specific types of deck stiffening which solve the problem.
Race Readiness – O’Days come in a variety of states, from pure cruising to race-ready circa 1960, to race-ready by today’s standards. No matter how the boat is rigged, you’ll end up changing it to suit your preference. Ideally, you’d like to see a traveler, or recently installed rear boom bridle system, adjustable back stay, adjustable jib tracks, jib halyard fine-tune adjustment rigging and twing lines. Additionally, you’d like all of the associated lines led in a logical and uncluttered way. Unless the boat has been raced recently, it will most likely have none or very little of the above.