Advice about Nic 38

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August 11, 2016 at 05:58 #25959

I received this email from a prospective Nic 38 buyer, asking for advice. Anyone want to comment?

Hello from Paris,
I have just discovered your website and wonder if I could trouble you for some advice.
Having just retired and, planning to move to the French Atlantic coast somewhere between La Rochelle and Bayonne, I am looking to buy a suitable sailing yacht circa 38 feet, with good sailing performance and windward capacity (lee shores all the way) and a protected cockpit (or one on which I could put a part hard top, and which is not excessively difficult or physical to sail).
I had a colleague at work who had a Nicholson 38. He told me that sometimes he had trouble putting the boat about and might need help from the engine. He also found that it got too expensive to run and maintain. I am prepared to pay for a degree of straightforward updating and equipment renewal (sails) but absolutely do not want an unquantifiable and endless list of risks and repairs.

Would you be able to comment on these observations? The cost of maintenance clearly depends in large part on whether or not a boat has been re-fitted. I have seen these boats for sale, allegedly re-fitted at some stage, at quite reasonable prices. In your view what is the minimum power, size of genoa winches needed to render sail control easy.

What about sailing performance? For example, in say force three to four, in moderate seas, what can be expected in degrees to the apparent wind on a beat to windward? The keel seems quite shallow.
The nearest comparable boat seems to be the Salar 40 which I suspect is pretty mediocre to windward despite its good sailing reputation: I think that when I or my widow had to sell, a Nicholson might be marginally saleable in France because the name is recognised here, whereas the Salar I think would just rot. Brexit means that if I buy a boat in the UK and flag it in France, in the EU it will have to stay.

Can you think of any other comparable yacht to meet my desiderata?

I would be very grateful if only for a few lines of advice.
Sincerely Potential Buyer

August 11, 2016 at 06:01 #25960

Here is my response to his email – I wonder how many other owners agree with me:

We have sailed our Nic 38 around 15,000 NM in 6 years. For 5 years we explored the N.A. northwest coast from British Columbia to Southeast Alaska. This is mostly protected waterways where sailing to weather is the norm in the summer season. Most recently we sailed a 3400NM passage from Washington State to Hawaii.

We love our cruising boat, find she provides great protection with the enclosed cockpit, and is a joy to sail. She’s definitely tougher than we are, and we find her easy to handle. However, it is extremely hard to bring running rigging aft because of the glass windscreen, so you must be prepared for deck work to change sail plans. She is a stable boat with her flat bottom, so deck work is OK in moderate conditions.

I can honestly say we’ve never had problems bring the boat about (i.e. tacking) unless we had only a jib deployed – of course it is the main that points the boat to windward, so it is not possible to tack when only flying a jib. We have tacked with a jib and mizzen. I would not list tacking as a problem for the Nic 38.

We are a short handed crew – my husband is the sole deck-hand as my arthritis means I cannot manage any sheets or halyards. While the primary winches are small, so is the sail area given it is a ketch with a shorter mast, so he’s not had problems handling the sheets. We have older two speed Barient self-tailing winches. I am not certain if they are original.

Sailing to windward, we can achieve an AWA of 45 degrees (or better). I would say she sails to weather extremely well provided the rigging is properly tuned. It is also important to consider the headsail area to the main/mizzen sail area as improper balance can create extreme weather helm, but knowing how to choose a sail plan and trim the sails can make the helm so balanced that she steers herself to weather.

As far as maintenance costs, you are correct the costs will depend on the condition of the boat. Given it is solid fiberglass hull and deck, with a glass deck-hull joint, there is no concerns for deck leaks or rotted cores. I can comment on some of the more common problems for Nic 38’s now that they are 40+ years of age.

We have found the original spars and standing rigging hardware to be quite robust, though we have prudently replaced all wires and turnbuckles. We have inspected many chainplates, and have found them to have minor crevice corrosion, which we were able to grind out and continue to use the chainplates. They use a very robust design, but be forewarned that the rod threads are BSF, which is an obsolete thread though nuts are still available.

Look closely at all portlights and hatches to see if they have been rebedded. Leaks around these areas are common for Nic 38’s at this age. Given the solid deck, the water damage is to the interior. It is not hard to rebed the portlights, but some owners have been unable to remove the original hatches for rebedding because of severely corroded fasteners that cannot be removed.

Also look at the stern tube and bearing. There is no cutless bearing, instead it is a white metal bearing. Try to wiggle the shaft, if it moves excessively, the white metal bearing must be replaced. This requires finding a foundry that can make one a custom bearing for you – we had one made without problems at Port Townsend Foundry in Washington state for less than $1000.

We have rebuilt our rudder, again for prudence, as some sister boat owners had their rudders fail. We found the rudder stock ready to be replaced due to crevice corrosion. Again, Port Townsend Foundry made us a custom rudder stock for a reasonable cost.

We have the original Perkins 4-108 and Thamesway gearbox, both of which perform wonderfully. One complaint is it is loud when the engine is running. I’ve read that newer engines are more quiet.

We keep a blog for our boat, You can read more about the repairs and improvements that we have made during our ownership on that blog.

In short, I would recommend the Nic 38 as a comfortable cruiser for your situation where you will be doing considerable windward sailing. We’ve probably sailed 8000 NM to windward along the NW coast and never had a problem bringing her about through hundreds of tacks. The protected center-cockpit is a must for comfortable cruising, in my mind, given we have spent years sailing in cold waters and temperate climates.

August 11, 2016 at 07:44 #25961

Marilyn, That is a quite excellent ‘review’ of how our 40 year old Nic-38s are, & how they behave. The OP seems to already be knowledgeable about yachts & performance, & will probably know that yachts like ours,… unless they’ve had relatively recent refurbishment or possibly been on the market for a few years & the Owner hasn’t wanted to spend any more money on his boat or has ”swallowed the anchor”…will always need SOME money spent on her.
Your point about replacing/re-bedding porthole windows is good, but easily dealt with. I’ve re-bedded 3 saloon windows & 1 aft-cabin window, with another 1 coming up before too long.
I had to drill & punch out a lot of the original ‘Interscrews’ as most were corroded in place, & couldn’t get the same sized replacements, so I drilled every hole out to 5mm & put 5mm st/steel bolts all round, facing inwards, then trimmed them all down & put white plastic nut-caps on every nut.
My primary winches are Lewmar 48 2x speed.

August 28, 2016 at 11:03 #25966

seacale II

Would you kindly refer Potential Buyer to my post on 26th August 2016 in which I am advertising my Nich 38 for sale.

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