C&C 27 Association – Buying a C&C 27

C&C Yachts sold a boat called a 27 for almost 20 years. Four of the five variants were all-round boats well suited to a racing rule written in the sixties, while the last variant was intended to nail a rule written for serious racing in the eighties. Despite the name, only two of the variants were 27 feet long; two others were effectively 28 feet while another was 26-and-a-half. The sail area grew by 10 per cent, then contracted to almost the same area in a different shape. Therefore, before you dive into the purchase of a C&C 27, we suggest that you read the material in Overview and Evolution. Familiarize yourself with the differences between the various Marks by reading the Guide to Marks and Sea Change.

  • The first part of this note concentrates on the 27 Marks I, II, III and IV, but includes some thoughts on Mk V's.
  • The second part deals exclusively with the Mark V.

Once the hunt has begun, arm yourself with this article on the art of searching and this guide to inspecting a prospective purchase. The guide is very thorough, but note that the author refers to your inspection as a preliminary to professional survey of a serious candidate and provides detailed suggestions as to finding the right person. See also this page on doing a shortlist-narrowing pre-survey inspection by yourself; its advice on buying a moisture meter is well worth considering if you want to look over a number of boats. None of this information is a substitute for a survey by a professional surveyor. If the idea of risking several hundred dollars on a survey is daunting, think about how you'd feel if you unknowingly bought a boat with a seriously expensive problem; a good surveyor can help you avoid that. A guide to finding a surveyor, by surveyor and C&C 27 owner Scott Schoeler, is available on a separate page.

During his search for a new boat, Association member Hugh Morrin made himself two useful Word files to help manage the buying process. One is a tracking sheet to help compare different candidates and build a mental picture of the market; the other gives a checklist of the merits and demerits of specific available boats.

In its heyday, C&C Yachts was a world benchmark for quality of design and construction in production boats. C&C's were light, fast and very carefully detailed compared with their contemporary competition, even if they do seem to err on the heavy side compared to later boats. The quality of construction was matched by the quality of gear (a contrast to present practice, in which indifferent builders hide their failings behind a smokescreen of premium-quality blocks and winches). That said, the original models (Marks I to IV) are now over 25 years old and they may be over 35 years old. Therefore, they are bound to have problems, particularly if the previous owner(s) confused 'low-maintenance' with 'no-maintenance'. Fortunately, there are a lot of 27's out there and lots more C&C's, so the problem areas are well known, as are the remedies. In buying a C&C 27, a large part of your buying task revolves around the identification and assessment of the problems present in your prospective purchase: what are the questionable areas; what will be the cost in cash and fuss; and is the price reasonable given that cost?

This page is intended only to hit the high spots, touching more specifically on areas that are particular issues with 27's. It's not definitive and it's not intended as a source of solutions, except where these have already been dealt with in this site. In some areas there are simply too many ways to skin a cat. Also, costs vary from region to region, sometimes dramatically. As an example, Towser had her bottom sand-blasted in Toronto to remove a perishing anti-osmosis coating at a cost of $300. In stark contrast, a friend on Georgian Bay was quoted $7,000 for the same job on his 39-footer. There's a difference in the amount of work here, but it's not 23 times as much work; as there's no telling where such absurd differences are likely to pop up, there's little value in quoting prices unless the variables are clearly known. Search the Forum for ideas on areas in which you need to do work – there are very few questions that haven't already been discussed, with various methods and sometimes costs.

I'm sorry to harp on this, but the information on this page should not be treated as a substitute for a survey by a properly credentialled marine surveyor (not some club bar-fly who 'knows boats'). Use the info here as a guide to homing in on a boat that you're willing to invest several hundred dollars in surveying. Aside from demonstrating that you've made a good choice, a survey by a disinterested pro will give you an edge in negotiations with the seller. Moreover, a survey may be a precondition for obtaining insurance; insurers are nervous of boats of this age (Towser's original insurer, whose "marine specialists" understand little outside outboard runabouts, doesn't like handling boats over 25 years old).

Once you've bought a boat, don't wallow in buyer's remorse over the things you missed. Be prepared to buy a boat with 'minor' issues you think you can live with, that drive you crazy by the end of your first season. Towser had ugly, stained cushions when bought but we thought we could overlook them. After one 10-day cruise (before which we'd steam-cleaned the cushions to what we thought was pristine newness), we were looking for an upholsterer. Every morning, we'd woken red-eyed and runny-nosed – and we don't have significant allergies. New cushions cured the problem. On the other hand, Towser also has some aesthetic problems, such as a topside gelcoat so chalked that she is described as blue in the spring and grey by mid-summer. Initially, they were high-priority, but we have successfully ignored them since 1997.

The subtitles on this page are the product of some thought. Originally, the terms 'major problems' and 'minor problems' were considered. But then it became apparent that for some people, the colors of the galley tea-towels are 'major problems' while issues like deck delamination are 'minor problems', to be dealt with at some time in the indefinite future. Accordingly and in the spirit of the times, less judgmental terms have been chosen. Tea-towels affect only a small (albeit critical) aspect of galley management and may be considered 'manageable problems', while deck delamination reaches far into the issues of the long-term viability of your boat and your personal relationship with your credit manager, and so are 'potentially far-reaching problems'.

Potentially far-reaching problems

The C&C 27's hull is solid, hand-laid glass and generally is in good condition. Osmosis (blistering) is seldom a problem but does very occasionally show up, usually under the stern. There may be issues if the boat has been in a serious collision or a hard grounding and was not repaired properly.

The crack that you see between the keel and the hull is known as the 'C&C smile' and is found on most C&C's of this vintage. It is the result of flexing between the two materials (lead and fibreglass) and will usually reappear within a year of being repaired/filled/faired with epoxy, etc. It's not a problem normally, but sometimes that smile can be the legacy of a hard grounding. An obvious sign is a large ding in the keel; the hidden 'don't-walk-away – run!' is damage to the floors at the aft end of the keel.

The deck is cored with balsa, and this can create a serious problem. If the watertight seal around deck fittings is broken, water will enter the balsa core; if enough enters, the core will separate from the glass above and below, and the deck will flex, enlarging the compromised area. Most cored decks have some moisture in them; you need to know if there is too much. This is an area where a credentialled marine surveyor really earns his fee. See Deck Repairs and Deck Repairs II for varying degrees of severity of the problem and this page to learn how to avoid future leaks.

Look for signs of water entry such as staining or streaking on the bulkheads or hull insides. Water entering between hull and deck is probably not too serious – the retaining screws may just need tightening – but water entering through the deck is a much greater indication of potential problems, because a leak through the deck (at a chainplate, stanchion base or cable entry) could also be a leak into the deck core. Also, if water runs down the bulkheads too often, the bulkheads could start to rot.

Deck gelcoat often has stress or impact cracks that are purely cosmetic. When cracks are extensive over the deck or combined with deck softness, suspect delamination.

The main bulkhead on the Marks I to IV is very shallow at the starboard side of the doorway and has cracked on a limited number of boats. The repair is straightforward but time-consuming.

There's nothing wrong with an Atomic 4 gas engine in good condition. Most people with A4's are very happy with them; they are quieter and smoother than all early diesels and many contemporary ones, if considerably thirstier. Do not let anyone tell you they are dangerous; in a lifetime of boating, I've only had direct knowledge of one gas-powered boat blowing up and that was the result of a union dispute leading to the placement of a small quantity of dynamite next to the gas tank (Oakville, ON, about 1964, made a bang that impressed everyone in town and blew the dock boy into the river, but to everyone's astonishment, didn't injure anyone seriously). Again, these engines are old – Towser's, inspected by a marine mechanic and fine when bought, developed over the next five years an accelerating thirst for oil and an embarrassing tendency to coat the surrounding water with oil on startup, necessitating a rebuild and eventually, replacement with a diesel.

Gas tanks are a growing issue (but not a deal-breaker, because replacement is straightforward and relatively inexpensive). If the tank is steel, it should be swapped out the minute you take possession of the boat as it's probably badly rusted on the bottom, and suddenly realizing that you have 50 liters of gas in your bilge – which has happened twice at our club – can spoil your day. If it's aluminum, you should make it a priority to loosen its mounts, lift it up and look at the bottom. If it's pitted, replace it. Good tanks apparently are made by Moeller (formerly Tempo Products). New tanks should be the latest generation of non-permeable, flame-resistant plastic, as should hoses.

Manageable problems

C&C used good-quality components, but thirty years of use is thirty years of use. Whether you regard a boat's equipment and sails as perfectly serviceable or totally clapped out depends a lot on your expectations, the boat's intended use and the depth of your pockets. Remember that a 30-year-old block that spins easily in your hand is probably a bear under load; first- and second-generation line stoppers are vile. Conversely, a slow-turning or immobile winch might just be gummed up with dead grease (as Towser's were). Keep in mind that you can sometimes save money by making larger purchases (sails, a furler and associated blocks, for instance) than by buying items a piece at a time.

The 27's mast and rigging are massive by contemporary standards but nonetheless prey to age, particularly when combined with salt water and/or freezing temperatures. On the Lakes, there have been several unconfirmed reports of 27's losing their masts to rigging failure. A new forestay is $90 in Toronto, a set of four lower shrouds $400, so there is no reason to trust your rig and sails to bent wire or wire with broken strands – condemn them instantly.

On the other hand, all Towser's lines were so green and stiff with mould, I thought they'd have to go. Over ten years later, we're still using the main halyard and the rest only went because they were ridiculously oversized. But we used the old lines for about five years and they looked fine after I ran them through the wash machine. I told this story to a recent buyer and he said that chance remark saved him C$400. Pad the hardware and bundle the lines with twine or pack them in a mesh lingerie bag so they don't get so tangled, then wash them at a laundromat that has spin washers (top-loading ones don't do as good a job). Whitener for synthetics (sold as "Bleach For Unbleachables)" is safe and kills mould, but real bleach (Javex) will ruin the lines.

Most rudders are glass over foam over a stainless steel shaft and web (some are solid, probably because they were repaired by a previous owner). Water will invade a foam rudder, and in colder regions will freeze during the winter and separate the fibreglass skin from the foam or splits it. Most people simply drill a drain hole and that's that, but occasionally a surveyor will get his knickers in a twist over this; see this page for further thoughts on the matter.

Few people consider the stern gland and its packing or the p-bracket that supports the prop shaft unless they give trouble. The stern gland should not leak, the p-bracket should be firmly mounted and the prop shaft should be snug in the p-bracket's bearing. If one or both are very worn, expect wear on the prop shaft. Replacement of the stern gland packing and the p-bracket's cutless bearing are straightforward if somewhat laborious tasks. Replacement of a worn shaft will cost C$400 to C$500.

On our Forum, there has been increasing discussion of replacing the through-hull valves (which on early boats are rather dodgy brass gate valves, rather than real bronze seacocks). In some cases, the reason has been a general desire to upgrade; in other instances, there have been genuine problems (frozen with corrosion or visibly damaged in some way). Replacement with new Marelon seacocks costs several hundred dollars plus considerable labour; bronze seacocks cost about twice as much, but some people have chosen them because they are fairly close to a drop-in replacement.

Leaks into the boat are an owner's nightmare because they're often so difficult to track down, but are seldom more than a (major) annoyance if dealt with promptly. The toe rail, loose fittings or ill-fitting windows are often the villains. There have been several reports of leaks affecting the main bulkhead of the Mark V; water leaking from the mast-step area pools at the foot of the main bulkhead and, left unchecked, initiates rot (at which point you have a serious problem). Water entry down the chain plates of the Marks I to IV, often visible because of staining of the surface, has caused similar problems. Some people suggest making a line with washable marker below areas where leaks are suspected; test first, because washable markers sometimes penetrate old gelcoat and are difficult to remove. A Forum participant recently suggested chalk as a less risky alternative.

Crazed or leaky windows are readily fixable. The work is straightforward if you have aluminum-framed windows, somewhat more difficult with C&C's later glued-in windows. Alloy forehatches may have developed a leak; fortunately, repair products for the do-it-yourselfer have recently appeared.

Hoses, whether for exhaust, fuel, cockpit drainage, freshwater supply or sewage, have a fixed life. Cracking in the exhaust, drainage or fuel hose is more than enough reason to replace them despite their surprising price, because your safety often depends on them. One Forum participant got a highly attractive price on a complete package of replacement hoses from discounter Defender Industries. You must use marine-rated hose; if you cut corners, your boat won't pass its next insurance survey.

Electrical wiring is an issue on many boats (thanks to Iris for raising this). The previous owner probably added new equipment higgeldy-piggeldy with house-wire, woven through the bilge or jumped off other devices, so the end result is a rat's nest of unreliable operation. Even well-installed wires may have lost their chafe guards to old age and become dodgy. It's worth buying a book on the subject and re-doing the job as it should be done, if only for your own peace of mind (or safety – decayed grommets and chafed insulation caused Towser's nav lights to short just before we crossed Lake Ontario's freighter lane one night, which didn't make us happy). Marine-grade wire and terminals are expensive but much less prone to corrosion than landsmen's wire.

David Weatherston
Towser, Mk IV

Mk V – Specific issues

Most of the Mark V's out there are in pretty good shape, unless a previous owner has been negligent in its upkeep. Water entry is the worst enemy of these boats.

  • The most moisture problems seem to occur where the babystay chainplate exits from the cabintop. The seal around the babystay chainplate will open and allow water to enter the balsa core if people have applied too much tension to the babystay (this was not intended to take a heavy load – it's only there to keep the mast from pumping when beating in heavy air and seas).
  • Lack of care for the deck seal around the electrical wiring for the mast will allow water to migrate from the mast step on the port side of the cabin top and down into the deck around the port main chainplates.
  • As the mounting bolts for a Mark V are above the water line, a Mark V's rudder should be dry.

A close inspection of the forward mid bulkhead (at the aft end of the V-berth) will show discolouration if the baby stay has leaked. The other area to look at closely is the bottom of the main bulkhead (the one that separates the main cabin from the head area). The floor-pan has a recess to hold this bulkhead and it can collect water. Later boats had a drain hole to carry water away. If the boat is an early one, or if the hole is blocked and water has been allowed to sit in the recess, the end grain of the plywood will absorb the water and the bulkhead will begin to rot.

The cabin portlights (windows) are another source of leaks and water entry into the balsa core. These windows (as in most mid-80's C&C's) are a frameless design and are bonded to the cabin trunk. Due to the size of the windows they are structural. If they are leaking, a competent yard can repair them, but it's expensive and the price you pay for the boat should be adjusted accordingly.

Look also for:

  • excessive spider cracking in the cockpit floor area, around the cockpit coamings and traveller track recess;
  • excessive cracking in the area where the cabin trunk meets the deck and in the water runways along the toe rail.

The 27 Mark V is really a pretty simple boat and they were well built, there isn't much that can go wrong (nothing that can't be fixed with $$$ that is). Find a boat you like, make an offer subject to survey, buy it and go have fun.

Steve Reid
Still Knot Working, Mk V

Mk I