Common Issues With Island Packet Yacht Sailboats

Common Issues With Island Packet Yacht Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Island Packet sailboats have been popular for decades, and they’re still available now. But what common issues do these boats have?

Island Packet sailboats are considered solid and well-built and have always used high-quality parts. However, age and design flaws cause problems like leaking port lights, fiberglass rot, keel separation, and electrical failures over time.

In this article, we’ll cover all of the common issues that Island Packet sailboats are known to suffer from. We’ll go over why these problems happen, how to spot them, and how to repair these issues before they become severe. We’ll also cover the best ways to avoid having them in the future.

We sourced the information used in this article from our own experience with Island Packet sailboats, along with the testimony of the online sailing community.


Table of contents

Island Packet Sailboat Quality

Island Packet Yachts is one of the iconic American sailboat builders of the later fiberglass era. During the 1980s and 1990s, they produced hundreds of typical production vessels for the consumer market.

They were mid-range sailboats at the time and very similar in build quality to other well-known brands of the era, such as Catalina, Islander, and O’Day. Like Catalina, Island Packet Yachts still produces some models today, such as the 350.

As far as quality is concerned, Island Packet boats were roughly the same as the other manufacturers of the time. Design, construction, and materials were generally solid, and these vessels have the ability to last quite a long time when properly maintained. In fact, many sailboat owners consider Island Packet Yachts to be slightly above average in terms of build and material quality.

That said, these vessels suffer from a few common ailments that are common to boats of their era and design. But overall, Island Packet sailboats are generally considered to be high-quality sailboats, and maintenance has the biggest effect on their future usability.

Island Packet Sailboat Electrical Problems

Electrical problems are relatively common on older Island Packet sailboats. This has less to do with the quality of the boat and more to do with the condition. Extended periods of moisture exposure, especially below decks in the cabin, can do a number to your boat’s electrical system.

Salty air is the main culprit when it comes to electrical degradation. Usually, exposed electrical contacts (such as fuse boxes and terminals where wires meet) become corroded. Light sockets and plugs are also commonly affected, as are switches and exposed wiring.

Other common causes of electrical issues include owner modifications. This issue is suspect, especially when shoddy workmanship is evident. Look for signs of tampering, such as random electrical tape, wires twisted together, and loose wiring hanging out of cracks and crevices.

How to Fix Island Packet Electrical Issues

If you’re comfortable working on electrical systems, you can retire parts or all of your Island Packet sailboats by hand. Doing so is fairly cost-effective and shouldn’t take too long if the problem is isolated.

Issues like intermittent navigational lights can be fixed by cleaning or replacing the bulb socket, and bad interior lights can be repaired with a new switch or replacing the fixture.

Electrical work should be done by someone who’s qualified and knows the proper safety procedures. This could be you or an experienced boatyard. Simple repairs, such as contract cleaning and battery terminal replacement, can usually be accomplished by laymen.

Island Packet Aluminum Tank Issues

Aluminum fuel and water tanks have a limited service life and should be replaced to avoid leaks or contamination. Most older Island Packet sailboats have reached the age where such tanks must be replaced or at least inspected.

Any competent boatyard can perform a rudimentary tank inspection and check for leaks or corrosion around the outside of the tank.

How to Repair Aluminum Tanks

Aluminum tanks, regardless of the type, should only be repaired by professionals. Aluminum can’t be welded using steel welding equipment, and the precision must be high to avoid leaks or defects.

Dissimilar metal corrosion, which often occurs with aluminum, can be difficult to spot. Plus, cutting or welding a fuel tank is inherently hazardous and should be left to professionals.

If you need a new aluminum fuel or water tank and you can’t find one that fits, try consulting a metal shop that works with aluminum. Most fabricators will make you a custom tank if you provide them with plans—or even better, provide them with the old tank. This job can cost anywhere from $500 to a few thousand, depending on the size and shape of the tank and the gauge required.

Island Packet Outfitting Issues

Outfitting issues are problems with parts installed during the outfitting phase of construction. These include issues with winches, deck blocks, thru-hull fittings, port lights, vents, and so on. Generally speaking, Island Packet sailboats were constructed well and with the correct materials.

However, some owners report small manufacturing oversights that can cause leaks and other problems down the line. This includes some models which used the wrong kind of screws for installing port lights. Proper port lights are installed with bolts, which are secured on both ends.

Port lights that are screwed on instead of bolted can cause the fiberglass around them to crack when stressed. Additionally, they can back out or strip their original holes, causing leaks and other issues around upper-deck thru-hull areas.

How to Repair Island Packet Outfitting Issues

Outfitting issues vary widely, but they’re generally easy to repair. Most of their jobs require no more than some sanding, drilling, or bolt replacing. Most items on Island Packet sailboats (such as deck vents) are standard marine parts that can be ordered through vendors such as West Marine.

If you encounter an issue with the port lights, there are a few ways to go about fixing it. The easiest way (and the riskiest) is to remove the affected screw and tap in a larger diameter screw if the hole is stripped.

You could also drill out the hole and use a bolt and washers, which are stronger and more secure. Just be sure to re-seal the area before tightening it down again.

Fiberglass Issues with Island Packet Sailboats

Fiberglass problems happen to all sailboats of this type, regardless of the manufacturer. Luckily, Island Packet always used high-quality glass and resin in their production, so systemic issues are uncommon. However, damage to fiberglass that allows water to ingress into the core (especially on the deck) can quickly cause problems.

When water gets into a fiberglass deck core, it causes rot. Rot leads to soft spots and rapid decay and should be fixed as soon as possible. If your deck sags or feels spongy, chances are there’s a water ingress somewhere, and the core material will need to be replaced.

How to Repair Fiberglass on Island Packet Sailboats

Fiberglass core issues are difficult to repair. Usually, you have to cut out the affected core material to prevent rot from spreading. Some people consider a boat to be totaled when this happens, but a careful repair can rescue it. Additionally, the cause of the leak must be corrected to prevent further issues.

Other fiberglass issues, such as cracks or splits, can be easily repaired with a fiberglass and resin kit such as West System from West Marine. These materials are exceptionally expensive, so care should be taken to use them correctly the first time.

Keel Separation Issues on Island Packet Sailboats

Keel separation has been a systemic issue on many production fiberglass cruising sailboats from the second half of the 20th century. Very few of these boats had a full displacement keel or a semi-displacement keel. Instead, they utilized a fin keel, bulb keel, or some form of the long skeg.

Island Packet sailboats are no exception, as their keels are bolted to the boat and occasionally prone to separation. Keel separation occurs when the bolts holding the heavy keel blade loosen or corrode. If left unchecked, this can cause the keel to break off or water to enter through the bolt holes in the bilge.

Thankfully, Island Packet sailboats don’t suffer this issue as often as other brands. The “Catalina Smile” is rare on Island Packet boats, and it’s also easy to inspect. When purchasing an older sailboat, try to inspect it out of the water.

Look around the base of the keel for signs of stress or separation, which could be incidental but may also point to keel separation.

How to Repair Keel Separation on Island Packet Sailboats

Repairing keel separation can be easy or difficult, depending on how bad the issue is and what the initial cause was. If the keel is separating due to loosened keel bolts, simply tightening them down to spec should do the trick. However, if the problem is caused by corrosion, repair becomes more difficult.

An experienced boatyard should inspect the keel if there are separation issues. If corrosion is severe or leakage occurs, the bolts will probably have to be replaced. Fiberglass may need reinforcement as well.

The area around where the keel meets the hull may have damage due to flexing. If this is the case, the fiberglass should be replaced and patched—but only after tightening the keel bolts.

Common Issues With Island Packet Yacht Sailboats
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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