Buying a boat from a reputable dealer is never as rarely a proposition. Boat dealers inspect the vessels they add to their used-boat inventory. Their staff of trained marine technicians ensures the boat is in first-rate condition before it’s offered for sale.
Buying a boat from an individual — whether its a used fishing boat, a used pontoon boat, a used ski boat or a used deck boat — is much like buying a used car. While there are no tires to kick, there are several things you should inspect yourself. A simple checklist will suffice for small, open boats, but larger vessels need a more extensive inspection.
The hull is the most important part of what you buy, when you buy a used boat. Inspect the hull of the fiberglass boat on a bright, sunny day, with the boat out of the water. A quick inspection will expose any large holes.
Turn the boat so that the sun is shining — at a shallow angle — on the side that you wish to inspect. Look at the side of the hull and see if you see ripples in the gelcoat or the fiberglass. If you reserve scratches in the gelcoat, inspect the scratches closely, to ensure the scratch is only in the gelcoat and does not penetrate to the fiberglass. You can repair a scratched in the gelcoat handily, but damage to the fiberglass underneath requires a much larger time commitment.
Look for blisters on the hull. It’s hard to find a boat that doesn’t have a few small blisters on the hall, but a boat that has a great number of blisters or very large blisters (more than a half-inch in diameter) will be an expensive proposition, both to repair and to sell
While you, as a buyer, might use the presence of blisters to drive the price of a boat down slightly, you should know that a blister isn’t always a death sentence for a hull. Marine surveyors report that less than 0.003 percent of boats hulls with blisters – usually, those with many, very large blisters — are weakened to the extent that they are no longer serviceable, and most of those boats Usually, the damage involves the only gelcoat, or the gelcoat and the first layer of fiberglass beneath the blister.
Hint: Don’t dash out to buy a moisture meter before you boat shopping. The moisture meter measure the water content at the surface. Blisters on a boat’s hull – and the water that causes them – is below the surface far enough that the meter won’t pick it up.
Turn the wheel from lock-to-lock as someone watches the movement of the outboard or the rudder. If it’s a cable steering system and you feel the steering “drag,” or if excessive effort is required to turn the wheel, inspect the steering wheel, the helm and the cables for evidence of rust.
If the boat is equipped with hydraulic steering, ensure the hydraulic tank is full (up to the bottom of the filler), turn the hydraulic steering system on and have your companion turn the wheel. Trace the hydraulic lines, checking for leaks. As your companion turn s the wheel from lock-to-lock, inspect the hydraulic cylinders for leaks from the seals.
Interior and Upholstery
Inspect the interior for signs of mold or mildew. Feel the tops of pipes in the galley and head; moisture can accumulate there quickly and, in a dark place, allow mold to gain a foothold. Turn the cushions over and look at the upholstery on the bottom of captain’s chairs, inspecting for mold.
Check the list of equipment you’re buying with the boat – sails, mast, outboard and any miscellaneous equipment – and ensure the serial numbers, if any, match those on the bill of sail. When in doubt about any item arrange for the boat to be inspected by your dealer or a marine surveyor.
Next Week: Buying Used Parts