Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Things to Remember When Looking at Boats

Clean, bundled and organized - just how like we like it!
We had a fantastic weekend in Lauderdale - in fact, Scott and I were laughing about the fact that we packed so much into this visit that it actually felt more like a week!  Not only did the weather cooperate, but we got to check out some very cool boats and even met up with a few blog friends both new and old.  We also got a couple of big "firsts" out of the way for our little Isla; first plane ride (she was AMAZING!), first time on the beach, first time in Florida, and our first time traveling as a family!  It was great and we were so happy with the trip.

Aside from all the fun we had, we did learn a few things that I'd like to share with you in the event that you ever find yourself in the market for a boat.  Some of this might be common sense but either way, here are

10 Things to Remember When Looking at Boats

  1. Line up more than one boat to look at.  It was one particular boat that ignited the trip to Lauderdale - however my dad gave us some solid advice when he said, "You might as well look at several boats while you are down there".  Good advice!  Why spend all that money traveling only to look at one boat? Scott and I hit our favorite boat listing site, Yachtworld.com, and lined up five others to look at that fit the basic profile of what we are looking for.  We looked at a couple of boats that we knew weren't "the" boat - but we thought the make and model could be.  There is always something to learn on ANY boat and you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised!  The more you look, the more you learn what you like or don't like, especially if you are in the market for your first boat.
  2. Be organized.  Organization pays off - especially when you cram five boat visits into one and half days!  Before we left, I emailed all the brokers of the boats were were interested in - asked them a few questions and lined up specific times to meet them.  I printed out all the listings as well as the string of emails that went with them, which included the broker's name and direct number.  I also printed out a detailed map with directions to each boat from the previous boat so that we didn't waste any time getting lost.  All the preparation certainly paid off!
  3. Have a list of general questions to ask the broker.  Why is the owner selling?  How was the boat used? How many hours does the engine have on it?  Age of the rigging - both standing and running?  Have hoses and seacocks ever been replaced?  How old are they?  Condition of the electronics and their age?  Age and condition of all sails?  How long has it been for sale?  Stored in water or on the hard?  Type of refrigeration?...etc (more on this in a later post).  Make a list, bring it with you and take detailed notes for every boat because you WILL forget to ask questions and you WILL NOT remember every boat despite what you think! At the end of the day you'll find yourself having conversations like this: "Wait...was the Brewer the one with the roller furling main?? Or was it the Whitby?  Was the Wauquiez the one with the engine driven refrigerator or was it 12V?" It gets very confusing, very fast.
  4. Understand the broker may not know a thing about the boat.  It never ceases to amaze us how useless some boat brokers are (others, however, are wonderful - stay tuned for a post on the subject!).  If you get on a boat and the broker doesn't know where the water/fuel tanks are it's safe to say they do not "know" the boat despite their claims.
  5. Learn how to "look" at a boat.  When we get on a prospective boat, we get down and dirty.  Things we like to look at: storage  - all of it: under floorboards, in cupboards, under cushions, on deck, in lazarettes, in drawers...we literally pull it all out.  We closely look at windows for any signs of water damage and/or leaking,  we check the battery bank, we check behind the electric panel to see if the wiring is a mess or if it's labeled, zip-tied and done properly, we look at the rigging on deck and see if it shows signs of age and wear and tear, check the deck for anything amiss like cracks, pools of water...etc.  We also look at the engine room extensively; access, corrosion, general cleanliness - you can learn a lot about a boat from how good the engine room looks!  Don't forget to bring a camera and take pictures of everything.  It's easiest if someone does the "digging" and the other acts as the photographer.
  6. Set aside at least two hours to view the boat(s). Doing all the above takes some time.  Set aside 2 hours per boat for your initial visit.  You might not spend all of that time on every boat you see (we looked at one that we knew was not right for only 20 minutes but it was still worth it because we found we loved the model) but if you find one you like, get in there and use every bit of that 120 minutes information gathering.
  7. Don't be bashful or shy.  Do not worry about "bothering" or "offending" the broker with questions or the fact that you want to dig around.  If they have a problem with you doing either then you should probably wonder what they are trying to hide.  Along the same lines, be honest with the broker about what you want - if you get on a boat and see that it's not for you - go ahead and tell them that.  
  8. Research the boat(s) before hand.  Whenever I find a boat I think I like, I hit the forums.  Cruisers Forum and Sail Net are a WEALTH of information about all things boating.  I just do a search about the boats in mind and see what people are saying about them.  You will get clued into all sorts of information like build issues, maintenance issues, sailing performance and more.  It will also help you formulate the questions that might be specific to the particular make and model.  In addition, we really, really value Mahina's list of boat's to consider for offshore cruising.
  9. Clearly define what is important for you and prioritize.  Recognize what are deal breakers, and what are not deal breakers.  Learn to define the "must haves" and "might adds".  For example, Scott and I know that a must have for us is a center cockpit boat.  Solar panels would be nice but if a good boat didn't have them, it would not be a deal breaker.  Scott and I are clear on the things we want in our next boat and it makes boat shopping a lot easier and less overwhelming when you know what you are looking for!  
  10. The price might not be right.  When you are shopping around, it's tempting to want to buy the boat that is the cheapest.  However, a "cheap" boat will most likely require work and it will not take long to put the cost of that boat right back into her when doing upgrades (we learned this first hand)!  Boats, unlike homes, do NOT appreciate and there is no positive return on investment when you upgrade them.  In today's market you would be considered lucky to get 50 cents to the dollar on any upgrades you do.  We're looking to be on the other side of that fence this get a deal on someone else's efforts.  Sometimes, it might make more sense to pay a more upfront to pay less on the flip side.
So that's how we look at boats these days - what have we forgotten?  Do you have any tips for prospective boat owners? Share in the comments!  Keep in mind - this list is for an initial visit.  If you like what you see, follow-up visits will ensue and should include more in-depth digging, a proper marine survey and a sea trial.  

Brittany, Scott and Isla


Keep Reaching said...

thanks - excellent advice -

Unknown said...

Great advice! Boat shopping the second time around really feels empowering after all the knowledge one gains with experience.

Paul said...

Great Post! As you know, we are looking this weekend so we will be using your tips extensively. Thanks

SailFarLiveFree said...

When do us non-Twitter/Facebook folks get to hear what boats you're looking at?

Travis and Maggie said...

The flip side of refitting a boat is you get to design it for your needs. And that's way cool!

Dan K said...

I'd highly recommend reading and using the post I wrote called Boat Inspection Trip Tips. You can find it at: http://bit.ly/bapBJE

Windtraveler said...

@ Travis & Maggie - agreed!! That's why we did it with our FIRST boat, and I would never tell anyone NOT to...but we don't want to do that again this time around. Once was enough for us!
@ Dan K - AWESOME LINK!! WOW...you REALLY know what you are doing...mind if I share this with our followers???

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