Your own boat. Your very first vessel. Can you imagine? The lazy days of drifting on the water, the engine puttering gently as you set out for the open sea, your navigational equipment glistening in the sunlight beside a steaming mug of coffee. You’re the captain of this vessel. Why, perhaps you’ll even do a spot of fishing, or maybe you’ll just drop anchor and get to work on that mystery novel you always meant to write…
If this fantasy is roughly all you know for sure about manning a vessel then you need some help, cap’n. Buying a boat is a serious business – in terms of nuance and procedure it falls roughly between buying a new car and a new house and plenty of mistakes can be made, especially if you’re inexperienced.
STEP ONE: Acknowledge your gut instinct. Then acknowledge that your gut instinct is stupid
It’s so easy to fall in love with the romance of owning a boat and this can translate into buying the first beautiful vessel that catches your heart. Your instincts are important but they’re uninformed. Make sure that before you sign anything or put any money down, you retain the services of an experienced and impartial authority – this could be a boat builder or brokerage. Make sure they’ve got reputable trade affiliations with organisations like the British Marine Federation in the UK or SAMS (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors) in the US.
STEP TWO: Consider whether you want to buy new or used.
This is a big issue. A new boat has definite plus points: it’s sparkling and pristine, it’s fitted with the latest technology and it’s covered by all all-important warranty. However, it’s worth thinking seriously about investing in a good quality used boat if only because a previously used vessel has one important factor that a new boat cannot replicate: it has been tested on the water. A warranty is a beautiful thing but if your new boat isn’t seaworthy then it’ll be spending all its time in the boathouse being repaired rather than whizzing you around the coast. Older boats have their own problems too but this is why your ol’ pal the Marine Surveyor is so crucial to your process.
STEP THREE: Take a list of common boating issues and check them all out
Here are some common problems that should immediately set off alarms if you encounter them in a prospective purchase:
Mismatched paint – this is a sure tell for a boat that has been extensively repaired. Has the boat been in an accident? Did the seller volunteer this information readily? If not, consider what else they might be holding back.
Water lines – these are the lines that separate a rust-ridden area from one that is rust-free. Look for these inside the boat and on the engine. If you spot any, it could be a sign that the boat takes on water.
Handrails – are they bolted down? If they’re just screwed to the surface, then you have to consider what other shortcuts have been made with regards to safety.
Check the oil – is it gritty? Does it smell burnt? It’s definitely worth checking to see if you can send an oil and transmission fluid sample to a lab for testing.
Check the floors – are there any soft spots? If there are, walk, walk away.
Maintenance records – the seller shouldn’t have a problem with you checking these. Look for recurrent problems and see how carefully the boat has been maintained in the past. A careful seller is usually a trustworthy seller.
These checks may not be romantic but they’ll certainly save you a lot of heartache further down the line. Temper your heart’s desire with a lust for handrail maintenance and you’ll be fine. God speed, cap’n.
Mel Donohoe’s wife has to stop him investigating every YBWBoatsforSale sign. It’s a sickness. He’s also a freelance writer.
Photo License: Creative Commons image source
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