Assessing an Atalanta is, as for any wooden boat, a mixture of taking time, questioning (e.g. ‘where did the water come from to make that soft’) and understanding typical issues for that boat.
You may have found Technical Paper O, drafted a long time ago, dealing with this subject. We are in fact in the midst of an update to it. A professional assessment could be useful but will be costly and you might be better leaning on some friendly Atalanta owners locally. There are at least a couple on the South Coast with extensive restoration experience who may be able to help. Contact the Secretary Richard James for details.
Here are some random personal thoughts on potential Atalanta specific woes, put up for others to augment / disagree with as they see fit. Not a complete list (see the paper) but things that I have personally come across.
The below is not intended to put you off. Atalantas are tougher than perhaps they look and few of the jobs are beyond the average boatowner. There is plenty of experience in the Association to assist with remedies.
I hope this helps. Feedback on this thread will be very useful as part of our updating Paper O
Before reading it is also worth noting that most of the areas of concern really apply only to boats which have been ‘let go’ and boats don’t generally suffer from them all. Keeping on top of maintenance, a good set of covers (or a barn) and a watchful eye mean that most of these can be avoided or at least dealt with in the early stages before they become a big deal.
Top Sides and hull. Generally resistant to issues unless fresh water has lain inside for long periods. External issues include ‘screw-sickness’ where brass screws have de-zincified visible as screwhead size circles; impact damage visible as cracks in the veneers. Tapping the hull with your finger can help identify (rare) hull delaminations – affected areas sound ‘hollow’ or ‘click’ compared to sound areas. Inside look for high-tide marks, signs of delamination and softness beside the ‘hog’ and uphill sides of stringers, paint which appears to be ‘mottled’. Check the bottoms of bulkheads for softness.
Check the skeg fastenings. It should not move significantly when gently pushed side to side.
Check the stem looking for signs of delamination (it is laminated) and separation between the veneers and the stem.
The centreline as originally built has also lead to issues as the boats age, requiring removal and replacement of the outer ‘sand-keel’. Look for separation between the ‘sand-keel’ woodwork and hull along the centreline. Paper T outlines remedy.
Cockpits. Often deteriorate due to fresh water again. Check all framing etc which should be easily accessed via the ‘tunnels’ from the aft cabin and galley/chart table. Bear in mind that the keelboxes form part of the cockpit structure.
Keelbox Woodwork. Early boats had solid wood sides but most of us have plywood (of good quality originally). Check for ply delamination on every surface you can access and for scoring from the keel mechanism at the forward end. Ideally do this from above by removing the tops of the keelboxes in the galley/chart table area. The screws are generally obvious but the wood may be hard to lift if it has been stuck with sikaflex or similar in the past. The near vertical sloping panels on the aft sides of the keel hoist woodwork will need removing first. You can also inspect from below and from in the cockpit. For the latter check in particular the rear end of the cases. (Paper T includes information about fixes)
Check also the join between the vertical side panels enclosing the lifting gear and the top of the keel cases. These joins are in effect under-water to leeward when sailing! The brass screws holding them together have been known to fail.
Decks. In my experience with Atalantas one of the biggest issues. The sun, movement of feet, and all of the water traps and through-deck fittings lead quickly to water ingress and weakness if not cared for. Tell tale signs of issues are paint flakes in line with the diagonal joins between the top laminate strips, paint flaking /signs of delamination on the quadrant between blister and deck, cracks / lines down the centre of the blister, areas of filler visible on deck. Vulnerable areas are the aft deck, particularly the last 12″ or so and the join over the bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit, the fore- and side-decks on the up-hill sides of the fore-and-aft deck strips, around any through-deck fittings and the hull-blister join. The ‘tapping finger’ can help identify areas of concern. Less easy to examine is the wood underneath cleats, bits and bow-roller – look for rusty water runs underneath inside as signs of trouble.
Fixing all of these is relatively simple but time consuming. A common part of the fix is to glue ‘doubling’ ply to the underside as in Technical Paper S – it really stiffens the whole thing up.
Transom. Check the upper 10″ inside and out. The rear edge of the deck often has a trim which can trap water. Note that the transom is made in two parts with a join in line with the rubbing strakes.
Keel mechanism and steelwork. This is a subject covered extensively in Technical Papers C,F and X and in the Bulletins. A proper assessment requires an understanding of how the keel mechanisms work – see Papers C,F and D. In general the mechanisms are robust and trouble free with regular maintenance. Checks will include “Do the keel bolts move?”; “Do the keels move up and down?”; “Are the clamping plates free?”. Slacken the clamping bolts and it should be possible to move the keelbolts sideways by striking the ends (firmly but not too hard). Try to move lower/raise the keels. If they don’t move judicious application of pressure / thumps from a mallet / penetrating oil might help. The fact that they don’t may not be too serious but will require further investigation.
The steelwork can be inspected relatively easily ‘from the outside’ in the boat, particularly if the keel case ‘lids’ in the main cabin are removed. Through the latter it should be possible to guage the condition of the clamping plates and how freely the move. Look for rusty dribble marks from behind the steel plates on the bulkhead / keelboxes. If time and owner permit, remove one of the keelbolts for examination.
Rudder and Tiller. Generally pretty robust and problem free. Rudder blades and stocks are made of a special alloy, which can suffer from corrosion and stress. See Papers E and M. Check Rudder bearings and also the lead of the uphaul / downhaul: check that for signs of the wires damaging the pulleys inside the transom. Check the whipstaff tiller bottom bearing operates smoothly, and also the four steering wire pulleys.
Mast and Boom. For wooden masts check under / around the metalwork for signs of distress: discoloured wood, separation of the varnish. It is not unknown for water to get behind these fittings and rot the spar from the inside out. The spars were made in two halves, glued together vertically. Check that the glue line is intact throughout.
Chainplates. These are subject to stress and movement. Look inside for rust-stains, cracks in the paint. If water is allowed to pentrate due to lack of paint /attention the plates can rust from the inside, looking healthy on the surface. It may help to assess what’s going on by withdrawing one of the bolts and inspecting the inside of the hole.