By Matt Leduc, Latitude Yacht Brokerage, LLC
You have made the jump and are looking for a boat for you and your family. You have worked hard for a long time and this is your payoff. Your broker has listened intently to your needs. You have done your homework together and have come up with a handful of boats that could be “The One.” Do you know what you should be looking for?
The entire process of “looking at the boat” is very important. You must look with intent and purpose. You are looking for clues to the boat’s history. It’s nice to get as much information about the boat as possible before you go to see her. Many times the seller may be unaware of an issue, and other times the seller would rather have you try to find the problems. The data you collect should be used to assess if she is worthy of your consideration. Now, let’s go take a look.
It is all about the layout. Boat building has come a long way over the years, and this evolution has made manufacturers consider the customer. It has always been and will always be about layout. Many of my customers need this advice. Many get caught up in the model number/length of a boat from a particular manufacturer. I have seen many manufacturers move a nav-station desk a certain way and, in combination with a slight move in the galley counter top, make a 36-foot boat feel bigger than the previous 38-foot model. It is amazing! The only way you will observe this is to get out on the boats and take a look for yourself. It will only take a few seconds below to find out if you like it or not. Don’t be shy. If she doesn’t fit, move on to the next boat. If you do not like the interior layout or finish, nothing else will matter. If she looks interesting, then continue. Remember, look with intent and purpose.
The first thing I like to do when I’m with a client is to look at the boat from a distance, ideally from as far away from the boat as possible. Stand forward of the bow and look down her centerline. Look for symmetry. Anything out of balance could be a sign of an issue. Keep in mind, you are looking for clues to an issue that the boat has had in her past. It could be nothing, or it could take you down a path for more information. Make your way closer to the hull, looking down the topsides. You will always see some nicks and dings, but you should be looking for cracks, crazing or blisters. These are the issues that could cause the biggest concern. Then, make your way aft and look at the running gear. Check the strut, cutless bearing, shaft, zincs, rudder and rudder bearing.
All of these items tend to come up in a survey once in a while. These items need periodic attention during the boat’s life, and you may need to budget for maintaining or replacing any or all of these within the timeframe of your ownership. The biggest one of the group is the rudder. An extremely high percentage of all rudders in your marina have a moisture or delamination issue. It is very common issue with fiberglass rudders, and you may need to deal with this.
The deck is the make-or-break point for a boat. If the deck has a high moisture reading on a moisture meter and/or is delaminated in high-stress areas, there is a problem. You may not want to deal with it. On older boats, elevated moisture readings or delamination become more common. When dealing with this type of issue the question then becomes location and size. Many times, moisture or delamination is in an area of low stress. In that case, it should be monitored throughout your ownership. Of higher concern are high-stress areas such as chainplates, mast bases, stanchions or the windlass. The good news is that on a fiberglass boat most of these issues can be repaired to be just as good as new.
When inspecting storage compartments, look not only at the storage space but also the tabbing. The tabbing is the 2- to 3-inch tape that holds the interior parts to the hull. Does it look cracked or coming up in areas? If so, it could be a clue to an issue. Compartments are another area that could hide signs of an active or old leak. Get into the bilge – How does it look? Look at the tabbing, keel bolts, wiring and plumbing runs.
Systems investigation may be tricky. In the Northeast, the biggest buying time is in the late winter and spring, when most boats are out of the water. Most of the systems analysis will be done at the time of the survey. The survey will only be done after you have already seen the boat and agreed upon the price. How do you account for systems issues before the survey? You must ask questions of the seller. Get as much information out on the table before you negotiate the price. All of the 12V and 110V systems should be tested at the time of the survey. What about the water systems? If you’re buying a boat and choose to test a system you will be required to re-winterize any system that you decommission.
Many times these systems will be covered in a decommissioning escrow that will be held back at the time of closing. Talk to your broker about the details of the escrow hold back. This is a very brief description of what you may encounter during your purchase process. You may buy and sell a handful of boats in your lifetime. Every one of them is a great investment of time and money. Your Latitude Yacht Broker can sell as many as 30 boats per year. The above advice is a sampling of what our experienced brokers can provide as we guide you through the process, assist in looking at a boat, and manage the transaction and closing.