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Newbie Considering a 35 Lightning

Old 09-23-2023, 04:21 PM
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Default Newbie Considering a 35 Lightning

Hi Everyone,

I’m new to boating and this forum. Although I’ve had jet skis for the past 20 years, I really don’t consider that the same as boating. My dad owned a 22’ Donzi when I was younger, and I’m really looking at getting into the power boating world. From what I’ve read, it seems these boats are falling out of style in favor of Center Consoles and fancy ski boats. Honestly, for me there is something really cool and sexy about a true Big Block (or two) driven go-fast boat, and really hope to end up in one. I don’t need the fastest boat on the lake, but I’d like something with respectable speed (60 mph is good enough for me), and something that my girlfriend and I can overnight on (needs to have a potty).

I’m really looking at a mid 90’s Founain 35 Lightning. It seems to check all of the boxes and is within an acceptable price-range for me. Also on the list a Baja 38 Special and Formula 382 SR-1 (all 90’s year models). My question is, how fussy are these boats on maintenance? If you had to guess, how much does it cost on average to operate these boats? What kind of annual maintenance is required for these boats other than winterization and oil changes? How often (hours) do the engines and drives need to be overhauled? Are these boats overall pretty reliable? I know a lot of this depends, but what’s a realistic maintenance cost number for an average 35 Lightning?

I currently live in Kansas and will probably use the boat on Kaw Lake and Table Rock next year. I will probably have to tow the boat, but I have a ton diesel truck that I think should be able to do the job. I will probably move to Texas for the 2025 season and will most likely use the boat on either Texoma, Lake Travis, or Canyon Lake depending on where I move. Is a 35’ boat “too much” boat for these lakes? I’m not opposed to getting something smaller, but it seems that boats less than 38’ don’t really have potties and seem more difficult to overnight on. I know the 35 is a little smaller, but the one I’m looking at does have a potty.

My other “toy” is an airplane and on average it costs me about $30k/yr to own in hangar expenses, insurance, annual inspections, AvGas, database and maintenance. I don’t know if owning this type of boat will be similar in those expenses. I can secure outdoor storage for $45/mo, I don’t know what insurance would run. My fear is just constant (expensive) maintenance headaches. I know a lot of this depends on a good boat appraisal and how the boat was previously maintained. My last question is if there is a good directory for boat appraisers? Before I buy any boat I’d like to get it appraised. I appreciate you reading this far, I will also be posting on the Formula and Baja boards. Thanks a ton!
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Old 09-23-2023, 08:08 PM
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Lots of questions in there, I’ll get things started………

If you buy high hp, custom build engines or engines by Mercury Racing (blue engines) your maintenance bills will be significant. If you buy stock standard Mercury (black) engines, if they’ve been treated nicely and serviced well, they should run for a long time with just normal servicing.

Yes, Fountain are smallish compared to some other boats the same overall length. It doesn’t matter, get on board and see if it suits you. Fountains are certainly fast and a bit individual in styling, I like them.

All boats of that era are susceptible to rotten transoms, stringers and floor. Anywhere there’s a hole drilled into the fiberglass, if it wasn’t sealed 100% at the factory, it’s a huge opportunity for water to get into the plywood core and start the rot. Sellers who have already replaced transoms and stuff should be able to provide evidence of who did the work and how it was done. Get a good surveyor to check things out very carefully. Finding a reliable surveyor in the area might be difficult.

Welcome to OSO!

RR
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Twin O/B Sonic (11-19-2023)
Old 09-24-2023, 07:04 AM
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35' GREAT CHOICE PS owned many Fountains only 1 had the stringer problem and it was 30 yrs old? But just to be safe do the ice pick test
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Old 11-17-2023, 01:14 PM
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I just wanted to say thank you all for the replies. I apologize for the delay, but this month has been brutal. Lots of really good info here, and thank you for guiding this newbie. I found a Formula 382 that I really like and may move forward on; of course I know it's not the fastest boat by any means, but it really checks most of the boxes for me. Of course I plan on getting it looked at by a surveyor before purchasing. Thanks again!
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Old 11-19-2023, 01:58 AM
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A 35 isn't too big for Travis. Used to be lots of 38's out there but unfortunately the go-fast scene has pretty much dried up on Travis. On Canyon Lake you would probably be the biggest one out there. Haven't been on Texoma but that's a big lake. 35 should be fine there.

Getting a 35 Fountain as your first boat is similar to getting a twin-eng Bonanza as your first plane. Lots of stuff to monitor and with greater speeds, less time to react. Not that you shouldn't but thats a big jump and some training would be good idea for sure.

Maint costs are highly dependent on how much you can do yourself. If I had to pay someone to work on my boat, I wouldn't own one. Most of the really good boat mechanics around here (Austin) are booked months in advance and some won't take on any more clients since they are already swamped all year around.
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Old 11-19-2023, 07:30 AM
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Find yourself a 25-30, single go-fast. You should be able to overnight on one of those. Unless you find a unicorn, if you buy a mid 90s 35 fountain, you’ll be in a pontoon the next season.
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