Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Things to Look at When Inspecting a Boat

Awww...this is me inspecting under the cushions of Rasmus three years ago.
Scott and I have looked at a good number of boats the last couple of months.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, boat buying is certainly different the second time around!  While we still have a lot to learn, we know enough to be dangerous which has helped us a lot in this process.  Looking for a boat is not unlike looking for a prospective home (or so I hear...) - you want to make sure a) you're not getting a lemon b) you're getting what's "right" for you and c) you will love it for years to come.  This is a pretty daunting task, and one that should not be taken lightly - especially if you plan on sailing that boat to far off corners of the globe.

Many of you have written asking about what, specifically, to inspect when looking at boats.  A blog follower turned us onto his incredibly thorough and fantastic post about Boat Inspection Tips which I highly recommend.  Between his great insight and our own experience and research - we've come up with a few items that should be checked out when looking at a boat.  Of course this list is not finite, and by no means does this take the place of a proper marine survey (similar to a home inspection), but here are:

10 Things to Look at When Inspecting a Prospective Boat
  1. Overall Look - This is the "first impression" and the easiest thing to see.  Has the boat been cared for?  Does she look nice both inside and out?  Is the woodwork peeling?  Is the gelcote cracking?  Are there rust streaks around all the hardware? Are the cushions in good order?  You can learn a lot about how the previous owner cared for his or her boat by this first look.  If you don't like what you see on the first impression, you can be pretty certain you're REALLY not going to like what you see when you start digging around.
  2. Anything that opens and closes - Portholes, hatches, seacocks and cupboards...open and close a few of each.  Check the portholes for water damage, and see if the seacocks move with relative ease.  You don't need to check them all, but a good sampling should tell you what you need to know to start. 
  3. Rigging - look for corrosion, chafe, and anything that is misshapen.  Run your fingers up and down the shrouds for smoothness and uniformity.  Look up the mast track - does it lean one way or another?  Do the swage terminals of the shrouds look to be in good shape?  How about the running rigging - do the halyards look old and frayed?  Do things run freely?  Replacing these items can get expensive!
  4. Deck hardware - Do the winches move properly?  Can you pull on hardware and does it feel secure?  Do the handrails on deck look clean or rusted?  Check the cleats - does the bedding look solid or could water enter anywhere? A little poking and prodding here and there can tell you a lot.
  5. Bilge - take a peek into the bilge if you can.  Most bilges will not be bone dry, but can you see any oil in the water?  This might indicate a leak in the engine.  If there is an abundance of water you might want to make a note and inquire about it.
  6. Inspect for water damage - Scott and I went on one boat where the headliner was rotting away in the far corners of the aft cabin.  No bueno!  Leaks on boats are not good and can lead to a LOT of very expensive problems if they have been left untreated for a long time.  Headliner is notorious for hiding leaks, but look for discoloration or saggy spots which are telltale signs that water has come through.  If there is no headliner, look for discoloration in wood or any signs that water has come in - stains, rust, and streaks are all things you want to keep an eye out for.
  7. Under the floorboards - I can't be sure, but I think the number one cause of boat's sinking is bad plumbing.  Take a peek under the floorboards to see the condition of the hoses.  Are they properly labeled?  Do they make sharp turns?  Are they dangling freely or secured well?  Do they look old and cracked?  Are the hose clamps warped and rusted? Replacing hoses is an expensive task.  Trust us, we know!
  8. Control Cables - the steering and shifting should move freely.
  9. Electrical panel -  This is perhaps our favorite thing to look at because we spent a LOT of time re-wiring Rasmus.  Check to see if the wires look neat and tidy.  Are they zip-tied and labeled?  Is there a wiring diagram? Trust me, when you want to fix a broken pice of electronic equipment later you will be very thankful that the wiring is done well and not a rats nest! 
  10. Engine room - I think I might have mentioned it before, but you can learn a lot about a boat by looking inside it's engine room.  Is it organized and neat - or does it look like a mess of hoses, wires and gear?  Do the hoses look cracked?  Do the engine mounts look secure?  Do the belts look degraded?  You don't want any of the above to fail when you need them!
Like I said, a proper marine surveyor will look at all of the above, but a marine survey is not cheap.  You can eliminate an unnecessary survey on a bad boat by doing a little work yourself not to mention you'll learn a lot in the process!

What have I missed?  What are the areas that you like to look at when inspecting a boat?  Please share in our comments!

Brittany, Scott & Isla


Ariel | CD 36 said...

Hmmm...I'd add sails to the list.

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

On a whole bunch of the areas that you mention, look at the least accessible places first. That's where you'll tell the REAL condition. If the seacock that's really, really hard to get to moves freely, the rest are likely to be okay, etc.

Anonymous said...

Fuses for safety reasons between the solar controller (if solar panel(s)), wind generater, alternator and the battery they are charging...many boats don't have them between the alternator and battery - after our experience we are installing one there too.
Gretchen s/v Alchemy

Ted and Shirl said...

I agree with Ariel...sail age as well as sail inventory is important. I just purchased a IP 3 on Lake Erie, otherwise I would have really liked to look at Rasmus when she is listed. Best of luck with the survey.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I'm selling my 38ft Laser. So this article was especially instructive! Thx!

Windtraveler said...

@ Ariel - Sails FOR SURE!!
@Carolyn - great point!
@Anon - thanks for sharing.
@Ted - Congrats - IP are great boats!! Fair winds to you!
@Doc - happy to help :)

Anonymous said...

DIY Survey Checklist for Used-boat Buying

Before hiring a professional surveyor, look for these danger signs.


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