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Old 11-05-2014, 12:04 PM   #1
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City: Baytown, Texas
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Vessel Model: Prairie 36
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Advice on a Prairie 36.

I have a good friend whose father owns a Prairie 36. It hasn't been used much over the past 10 years or so. He is thinking of selling and I'm thinking of buying. I'm hoping to begin the Great Loop in a couple of years and this might be the boat. I've been doing some research and find that these boats are well regarded as to quality of build. What I would like to know from those of you who own or have experience with this boat is:

(1) Coming from a sailing background; how well do these boats track/ride in a cross chop and is there much roll?
(2) Do I need to think of fitting a steadying sail?
(3) How are the electrical systems on these boats? Can I expect major problems?
(4) How about steering systems?

I understand the Perkins 4-236s are great engines and though I haven't had a chance yet to inspect the boat yet I know the owner takes good care of the boat and is knowledgeable.

Looking forward to maybe owning a trawler. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Kevin
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Old 11-05-2014, 01:28 PM   #2
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Vessel Model: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
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I've owned my Prairie 36 for two seasons now. I still like it, if that means anything.

1) I've been very impressed with the handling in all kinds of conditions, including a cross chop and heavy seas. Yes, there's some roll, especially at anchor or moored. About the same as other similar sized boats of this style. There isn't much keel and with rounded chines and a heavy superstructure, it's gonna roll.

2) I'm thinking of getting "rocker stoppers" but I doubt a steadying sail would do much. There's already a lot of windage with my enclosed flybridge, a few more square feet of sail are unlikely to help much. But if you want to try, you should be able to rig one on the existing mast and boom without too much trouble. Let me know if it works!

3) There will likely be lots of wiring updates. But from what I can see of the original wiring, it's all over-sized and good quality.

4) I did have the flybridge helm pump rebuilt. Simple and inexpensive. Otherwise, the steering is built pretty ruggedly and performs flawlessly.

Any old and unused boat is going to have issues, particularly with mechanical, electrical and electronic systems. The hull below the waterline is not cored. The cabins have a double-shell construction that will tend to divert any leaks, but that could also make them harder to find.

I have the larger Perkins 6-cylinder turbos. Way overpowered. You'll like the 4's much better. Some parts are hard to find, but it can be done and the engines have a good reputation.

I'm at the tail end of a pretty significant re-fit myself. I found very few things that actually had to be "fixed" per se. But I blew way past my budget on improvements, upgrades and general nice-to-haves instead of necessities.

Same goal: doing one of the loops in the next couple of years. Hoping to do the Down East loop first, but we'll see. If you buy it, keep in touch!
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:11 PM   #3
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City: Merritt Island,Fl
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Can't speak to the 36,however, I do have a 29. Our boat was inactive for almost ten years. We purchased from the original owner . The steering system needed new seals all around, both helms, pump, and piston. Very smooth and tight. Factory wiring was in excellent condition and works perfectly.

The 29 is built like a tank and is in very good shape. The 29 tracks flawlessly. They do roll, as expected, given the design.

Good Luck,

John
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:32 PM   #4
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My observations of these boats are that present and past owners LOVE them! The 29 is more popular than the 36" but it may be because of the number of hulls produced. Good luck! It seems like a great boat, survey with an open mind.
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Old 11-17-2014, 02:07 PM   #5
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I was very interested in a Prairie 36, and went to inspect one in Florida. It had the turbocharged Perkins 6 cylinder engines. It has been a financial nightmare for the current owner, due mainly to the extensive deferred maintenance issues that he acquired with the boat. I was impressed with the build quality of the boat. The major defect of the boat was the extremely poor cosmetic appearance. Very large gelcoat cracks emanate from every stanchion base, and sharp radius. Part of this is likely due to a too thick layer of gelcoat at the time of original layup. It may also be due to the relatively inflexible gelcoat that was used for a period in the 80's.
This particular boat had delaminated decks that had been repaired by an amateur. There were areas where delamination remained even after a messy repair attempt. One more issue. Fuel tanks. According to David Pascoe, the coast guard estimates the life of aluminum fuel tanks at 15 years (1/8" material). The fuel tanks in these boats are now double that in age. This owner had to replace the tanks on one side, which of course begs the question... "why not the other side?". The answer is that the owner decided to leave this issue for the next owner.
Caveat Emptor for any buyer of a boat with 30 year old fuel tanks. In this boat getting one side done was a $5,000+ job.
As for the cosmetic issues
Cosmetically I would have said the boat I looked at was a 4 or 5, on a scale of 1-10.
The cost involved would be high. I have done this work before on a 39 foot sailboat. I know how many hours are involved in such an effort.
I estimated I could restore the exterior of the boat for about $12,000 (myself and two helpers for a month). Two nearby boat yards estimated the cost gave me estimates of $25-30,000. The latter number is not a economically sensible proposition for this vintage boat. I suspect that even my lower number would still be mostly nonrecoverable at the time of resale. I recovered no part of the cost in the case of my sailboat.
I did however get a significant amount of psychic pay in the form of complements on how a 40 year boat looked brand new.
In my search for a trawler I am making a diligent effort to exclude (as much as possible) emotion from the purchase decision.
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Old 11-19-2014, 01:18 PM   #6
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City: Baytown, Texas
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Well, I was finally able to inspect the boat and it looks like a good project. The port side engine doesn't want to start. May be injector pump issues as I checked the low pressure pump and it is working. 6 months ago this engine ran fine and has only been sitting since then. I'm hoping it may be the fuel shutoff switch and will investigate further this weekend. It has teak decks and there has been some leaks as evidenced by the wet plywood under the salon sole. The electronics are all ancient and most don't work but the wiring looks to be ok. The boat is well equipped with anchor windlass, generator, electric range, stove, fridge/freezer & ice maker for those essential beverages. The port fuel tank had a leak and was repaired by cutting off the bad bottom and welding up with new material one year ago. Both shafts are new but the boat hasn't been out of the water for 6 years when the shafts were installed and bottom done. I think the boat has good potential especially at the price I think I can get it for. BUT, do I really want to get into a boat this big knowing the scope of the probable work it will need. That is the question I have to answer to myself.
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Old 11-21-2014, 08:00 AM   #7
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Kevin, it sounds like you DO have a project boat there. If you like doing the work yourself, and have the resources, it could turn out to be a gem. Then again...

For the record, after two years, I'm still happy with my Prairie 36, although I've put about twice as much money into it as I'd originally estimated. That said, almost all of it was optional; things I did because I wanted to, not had to.

I can't speak for the boat Codger saw, but if you're going to take all the advice of David Pascoe, you'll never find a boat that's acceptable, unless money is no object. Frankly, if you're shopping in the price range that brings up 30-year-old boats, you might have to settle for less-than-perfect gel coat. Everyone has their own level of tolerance for cosmetics, and their own comfort level concerning what they are willing to fix themselves vs. pay someone to fix.

Clearly this boat isn't worth paying a yard $30K or $40K to fix up if you are thinking about resale value. But if you can reduce that by doing some of the work yourself, and get it to where you're happy with it for many years to come, you may be glad you did. It's a great design.
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Old 12-06-2014, 08:26 AM   #8
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Well, after much soul searching and cogitating, I have decided not to buy My friend's boat. Not so much because it needs some work (I actually enjoy working on boats) but because it really doesn't strike me as the boat I want for long term. I will probably stick with a sailboat or motorsailer a bit smaller than this Prairie 36. I appreciate all the responses and advice and will continue dropping into the forums because I love all kinds of boats. Oh, and if anyone would like to give a good home to a Prairie 36 and would like to get in touch with the owner, let me know. I would love to see this boat out on the bays again.

Thanks
Kevin
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:24 PM   #9
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Ha! Well so much for famous last words! Was contacted by the Prairie 36 owner and asked again if I would be interested and what he would have to do to get me to buy the boat. Well, He made made me an offer I couldn't ignore so I told him, let me work on the boat a little and we'll get her running and then get her out of the water to see what has to be done to keep her safely afloat. He'll let me try her out and I'll pay the slip fees until I decide. This way it works for both of us. I replaced the injection pump on the port engine and it purrs like a kitten. Have gone through the boat and made lists of what has to be done when it comes out of the water for a bottom job. Some through hull valves are stuck, rudder stuffing is leaking some and starboard prop is bad but not too much it appears needs done while out of the water. I'm beginning to think I might be a Prairie owner by the end of summer. One question for you folks, there appears to be a bonding system with wires attached to all the through hulls. Many of these are corroded and some are broken off the fittings (many just hose clamped to the through hull). I have read that this system is not necessary. How do you learned people feel about this?

Kevin
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Old 07-09-2015, 11:27 AM   #10
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Kevin:

It's great to see one of these old girls being saved from a slow death from neglect. I suspect you'll find that restoring and repairing will cost WAY more than you think. Hopefully you can use that to get the owner to come to a realistic selling price for you both.

My bonding system uses very heavy green wires, almost all of which are securely fastened to the fittings. In one or two cases, it's obvious they've been re-terminated because the fitting failed or there wasn't a good place to attach it, but never with hose clamps.

I'll let the experts expound on whether or not you need bonding, I've always heard yes, and that's how the builders did it.
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Old 07-09-2015, 12:13 PM   #11
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There is much debate about the merits of bonding and I can't see a compelling case to bond or not to bond. But if you have a bonding system, I would maintain it.


Many thru hulls have a small screw that is used to attach the bonding wire. This is better than a hose clamp, but if that is all you have you can use them. Clean up all connections and make sure that they make good electrical contact with the thruhull or whatever. New boats use #8 green wire for bonding.


David
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Old 07-12-2015, 10:11 PM   #12
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I believe i have two types of bonding systems on our Atlantic 37 (sister ship) i have the heavy green wire that runs to various components and through hulls, but also have metal strips about 3/4 inch wide that run throughout the boat and tie to various areas. I am still new the maintenance of all of our systems - but everyone who has inspected her has indicated it's needed.

Let us know if you end up pulling the trigger and bringing her back to Texas, would love to see her one day.

Agree on repairs costing WAY more than you think - we blew our 1st year planned maintenance budget right out of the gate with updated through hulls and strainers - then the belly tank failed and had to be replaced. Still very glad we did it - just more than we expected.
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Old 07-13-2015, 08:10 AM   #13
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Thanks guys. The boat is in Texas (Kemah) and yes I know how much things cost (double what you think) as I have done this before on a smaller scale. I already know I will have to replace some through hulls due to stuck valves and several ports due to UV degradation making the plastic brittle. There is lotsa other stuff that needs done to ensure the boat is usable but even overestimating I can get the boat in decent usable shape for $10K. Where I go from there to make it like I want it may double that but should be able to do over time. Tankage is a problem for sure. This boat has already had the port fuel tank repaired. The forward tank was found to be leaking and was completely drained but still in place. The starboard tank is still holding for now and I'll have to keep an eagle eye on it and get it out for repair when needed. I haven't delved into the water tanks yet. It has two A/C systems and one is low on freon and not cooling but every thing else works. I'll have to get someone to tell me if I need to replace or not as I don't know if R-22 is still available. Yep a lot of work to get everything right but not too bad to get the boat going again.

Kevin
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Old 07-13-2015, 10:28 AM   #14
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RDS aluminum in Florida is the original manufacturer of the tanks, they still have the drawings and can fabricate a new one for you. Replaced the forward port tank a couple of years ago for around $1k including shipping. Was able to get the tank in and out without pulling motors.

Rick
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Old 07-13-2015, 12:32 PM   #15
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Thanks for that info Rick I'm sure I'll make use of it! The Port side tank that was repaired was pulled and had the bottom 1/2" cut off and new bottom welded on. Looks like a good job too. I would have probably asked them to install sight tube bungs for me if it had been me doing it.

Kevin
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Old 07-13-2015, 06:06 PM   #16
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We used RDS for our tank replacement as well and were very happy, right in the same $1k price range and had it completed in a couple of weeks. Had to reduce the size of the belly tank to get installed w/o removing engines and they were able to modify the original drawing and keep all the existing fuel lines.

Paul
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