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Discover essential tips and suggestions for buying a used boat. Learn how to evaluate a boat’s condition, what to look for, and important factors to consider before making a purchase. Perfect for first-time buyers and experienced boaters seeking a great deal.

Recently I went to a local boatyard to pick up a few items needed for some off-season work on by boat. After making my purchase, I succumbed to the temptation to wander around in the boat storage sheds and yard, as boatmen will do for the sake of enjoying a brief but welcome midwinter liaison with the craft they love.

Ducking under and around the bow of one tarpaulin-covered craft, I found myself face-to-face with a “For Sale” sign. And how did you ever guess that it was attached to a boat?

Something about her appearance caught my attention at once – she was a Wood, Aluminum and John Boatswooden craft obviously dating back to the days when most cabin cruisers were individually designed and built to order in local yards, rather than mass-produced in factories. A real sweet little ship with a saucy character all her own.

About an hour later I drove home with head full of exciting thoughts about how much I might be able to get for my present boat and what kind of offer to make to the owner of the craft that had so unexpectedly captured my fancy.

By the time I had slept on it for a few nights, of course, Ol’ Debbil Reality had told me firmly and flatly that I just didn’t have the amount of time this old sea gal obviously needed to make her once again fit for the water. End of romance!

But this common experience – it happens to all boatmen – put the bee in my bonnet that it’s high time I got around to writing something on buying used boats. It’s commonplace to see “For Sale” signs on craft at boatyards, and most newspapers have a classified advertising section listing many and very assorted craft. If the man lives who has not once in his life been struck by the urge to buy some used boat he has stumbled upon, he is indeed a rare and unique specimen of Homo sapiens!

Used boats come in such a staggering variety of sizes, shapes, materials and ages that it’s impossible to put into print detailed instructions on how to inspect and evaluate any kind a person is likely to find himself considering. If there’s any general rule that could be considered to apply equally well to all used boats, it is the statement that “used craft can be anything from wonderful buys to worthless investments!”

Every boating writer who has sat at the controls of a typewriter for any respectable length of time has received his share of reader letters from desperate people who hope, somehow, that these knowledgeable gentlemen might be able to pen them some words of wisdom that will somehow extract them from hopeless messes they have gotten themselves into in trying to recondition “bargain” used boats. Alas, there is no magic formula, no book of wisdom. Only a book of matches could erase the pile of mistakes that some hopeless used boats represent.

If they are to do any good, words of wisdom must be spoken before the used boat is bought.

The more that’s wrong with a boat, the lower the price likely to be asked for it by its owner. And the lower the price is, the more likely someone is to buy it impulsively! A seller will tell you his “good” reasons for selling:

  • he hasn’t got time to use the boat;
  • he’s been transferred to Yokohama;
  • or one of his children needs an operation.

It’s up to you to try to discern his real reason for selling; he has somehow discovered extensive rot in some area you cannot see during a casual inspection, or he has been out in the boat and has discovered something seriously wrong with its handling characteristics, or the boatyard has told him to pay the storage bill or they’ll possess it, or parts of the old powerplant are unobtainable anywhere. Nobody is compelling you to buy a boat you’ve discovered for sale at a wonderfully low price. It’s an old seller’s trick to prod prospects into making on-the-spot decisions by saying another man is very interested in the boat and is coming back this evening to buy it if it’s still available. There are plenty of used boats around – don’t be pushed or panicked into making a quick decision.

In the far corners of every boatyard there are usually a few very sad specimens, boats that have been left there out in the weather for years by owners who are “going to fix it up some day.” Paint peeling all over, planks pulling loose, the hull distorted because of inadequate support, the engine a mass of rust, daylight showing through open seams, the bilge a mess of oil and junk. It’ll cost you to have the yard crew extricate it from its resting place amidst the other junkers. Once you get it home, the more you pry into its innards, the more work you find it needs. Junkyards pay a good price for scrap brass and bronze. Make a guess at how many pounds of this metal might be in such a tub and how much you could get for it after the boat has been broken up and burned for firewood, and don’t pay any more for it than that!

Surplus military boats have ensnared almost as many poor souls as have in-the-back-of-the-boatyard clunkers. Once in a long while the Armed Forces offers for sale a boat that is really in sound, usable condition. It’s apt to be a special-purpose craft which they simply do not need any longer. If it’s of wood, it is apt to be of far heavier construction than is usual in pleasure craft. The big timbers stay wet longer after a rain and can breed rot faster. They are harder for the inexperienced boatman to repair or replace. The boat is so heavy it is difficult or costly to move about on land. Parts for its engine may be as hard to locate as parts for a 1909 fishing reel.

Much more often, a small military craft is declared surplus and offered for sale for the simple reason that it has been inspected and found to need more repairs than it is worth. It isn’t surplus in the sense that the Navy has more of them than it needs, or because the war is over. It just doesn’t make sense to spend any more time and money on it. Sure, you’ll do the work yourself, you say. Wait until you try steaming and bending two-inch by two-inch oak replacement ribs, or try dismantling a heavy duty engine that needs a set of special tools. You’ll be the one putting up a “For Sale” sign!

Yet, there are used boats that are in fact rather good buys. The important thing is to know the difference. It’s common to encounter not-so-old boats that have been neglected for a few years. The varnish has begun to peel all over; the wood under it has not yet been damaged by the weather, but the owner is appalled at the price the yard quotes to scrape off all that bad varnish, bleach and re-stain the wood and apply the several coats of varnish needed to restore normal appearance.

Man working on the boat
Refurbishing your used boat takes time and “TLC”

In a case like this, getting a boat back into service doesn’t call for the expert’s ability at woodworking and recaulking, it calls mostly for commonplace ability with scrapers and sandpaper plus willingness to do a lot of slow and patient work. Putting it another way, the boat is structurally sound but needs a lot of TLC in the cosmetics department. Its owner is fully aware of the fact that the boatyard will charge something like $14,00 an hour for labor and that all the scraping, sandpapering and recoating necessary to make it presentable will drag the job on for three, four or more weeks. Able and willing to do this work yourself, this is your chance to drive a hard bargain in your favor.

Another category of used boat is the kind that has been well cared for and which has been stored either inside or under a good cover when not in commission. Its owner has either spent a lot of money or a substantial amount of time in keeping it up. There’s nothing wrong with it at all and it’s on the market for some such thoroughly legitimate reason such as the owner is buying a larger craft, or is getting on in years and is reluctantly disposing of his cumbersome possessions.

Used boats in this category are seldom cheap, if you think in terms of the two- or three-figure sums asked for junk boats; but they can come out quite attractive when compared to the prices asked for new craft of similar type and size. Actually, when it comes to the higher-grade boats in the yacht class, really well-made ones by famous designers and builders often appreciate in value as the years pass due to inflation. One place to go a-hunting for really sound older boats, well worth investing in, is in the backs of big storage sheds near famous yachting centers. You sometimes find stout and handsome old craft there that haven’t been in the water for some seasons, and if you’re tactful and persistent in approaching crotchety or uppity owners, you can sometimes get them to agree to sell. They tend to prefer people they feel will appreciate and maintain their proud old boats, which is a hint of use to you.

You don’t have to buy from a private person. As boating has grown, more marine dealers have adopted the automotive industry’s practice of taking boats in trade on new ones. Many have a large number of used boats for sale. Here too you find junkers and gems, horse traders and square dealers. It certainly won’t hurt to visit well-known dealers in your area to see what they have to offer. Most parts of the country now have monthly boating newspapers that are on sale at marine stores and boat dealers’ establishments and they’re full of dealers’ and classified advertisements of boats for sale in the areas they cover.

Figuring prices on used boats is partly an art, partly a science. It depends on what class of boat is involved, and on the people. You encounter people with bills to pay who price their boats low for the sake of quick sales. You encounter wishful thinkers who imagine their craft to be worth far more than they really are, or who feel they will eventually find someone who will pay their price if they wait long enough for a sucker to come along. Marine dealers have “blue books,” price guides to name-brand used boats and motors, similar to the “blue books” used by automobile dealers. These normally set forth average prices, low prices for offerings in poor condition and top prices for cream puffs. What the books say is arrived at by averaging out reports from the field so, of course, they are only general guides. But they do provide good starting points. In general, items that have been used in salt water bring lower trade-in prices than stuff from fresh water areas, for obvious reasons.

If you’re in the market for a larger boat in the cruiser or sportfisherman class, there are two kinds of people you should know about – yacht brokers and marine surveyors. Sometimes brokers also serve as surveyors. Brokers are to boating what real estate agents are to houses – they maintain lists of crafts for sale, show prospects boats likely to interest them, and collect commissions upon making sales. Surveyors are people who are well acquainted with boat design, construction and maintenance; they give boats expert and thorough inspections and submit reports on their condition and value. If you’re spending a substantial amount of money on a larger used boat, buying through a reputable broker and/or having it checked over by a surveyor is an excellent way to avoid making a costly mistake. There is a list of brokers and surveyors in the back part of “Boat Owners Buyers Guide,” on sale at many well-stocked marine stores and at some news stores near boating areas. Also, you can find such people in the Yellow Pages.

England - North Harbour
Looking into used boats
Source: wikipedia.org

For smaller boats, it’s worth while to hunt out someone who knows them well and have him look at your prospective purchase. Beware of the self-appointed expert who knows about everything, though! It can take a bit of hunting to find a man who has the intricacies of fiberglass all straightened out in his noggin; but it is worth doing.

Since you’ll be looking for a boat suitable for fishing, we’ll concentrate on likely types. Whether of wood, fiberglass or aluminum, you’re going to find that the used boat field is full of “orphan” makes. Same goes for Inboard and Outboard Enginesinboard, outboard and stern drive power plants. Pleasure boating in the last score of years has been going through the same stage the automobile industry did between about 1910 and 1930 – it was new and booming, and attracted hundreds of hopefuls. Many more failed to survive than managed to keep going and become firmly established. When a boatbuilding firm fails, its employees scatter to the four winds seeking new jobs. Some years later trying to locate information on, or special parts for these orphan boats, is practically impossible.

As boats themselves are just non-mechanical hulls instead of assemblies of functioning parts such as axles, differentials, drive shafts and powerplants as are automobiles, you don’t need to worry too much about special adjustments, special parts, periodic lubrication, etc. Most use steering gears, navigation lights, instruments, deck hardware, sea closets, stern bearings and other parts made by firms that specialize in such items and you can usually get workable substitutes if not exact duplicates by shopping the marine supply catalogs.

It’s in the engine department that you must be concerned about parts for “orphans.”

Items like stoves, sea closets and compasses are normally used inside boat cabins, and they’re made of materials like stainless steel, porcelain and glass. Durable to begin with and sheltered from salt water and the rough-and-tumble of deck duty, they tend to last a very long time as far as their basic parts are concerned. They often outlive their makers by many years. It can be hard to get replacements for their operating parts. So in becoming the owner of an older used boat, it’s wise to anticipate some problems and perhaps expenses in entirely replacing items of this nature for which parts are unobtainable. It’s also often very difficult to obtain replacements for original hardware and accessories aboard imported boats.

You may well find yourself looking at one or more lapstrake wooden boats built from 10 to 20 years ago. Builders of wooden boats used this method in a late-ditch effort to compete with fiberglass, as the planking goes on with less careful edge-fitting than with smooth planking, and synthetic, rubber-like sealing compound applied to the overlapping areas was faster than traditional hand-caulking with cotton strands.

Read also: Self-Survey Criteria for the Basic Boat

Divided into a million surfaces by the ribs and laps, the interiors of these boats could only be finished with acceptable speed by varnishing, either spraying or dipping. After a while the varnish began to deteriorate and peel, the inside looked bad, and the owners let the boats run down. Of light and open construction, such boats aired out well and did not develop extensive rot. If you’ve got plenty of grease in your elbow joints, a shabby but sound lapstrake boat can be turned into a good, low-cost fishing boat. Seventeen to 19 footers were common and these are big enough to go to sea. However, built quite light for trailering and low materials cost, their hulls flexed on rough water.

This “worked” the metal fastenings and encouraged beach sand tracked aboard on people’s feet to find its way to the bilge area and thence between the laps. So some tightening or replacing of fastenings, and “paying” the laps with a seam compound such as Boat-Life, GE or Dow-Corning may be needed to stop leaking. With a fine knife blade, a jet of compressed air or thin, pointed pick-type tool bummed from your dentist, clean out the sand grains. With a beer can opener’s sharp point, “rake” paint and dirt out of the laps on the outside and make vee-shaped lines at the laps. Using a caulking gun, run sealant into these lines, fair smooth with a finger tip and allow to set to make a tough, effective, waterproof fillet.

You see self-appointed experts “inspect” used wooden boats for rot by running around under them jabbing a knife blade in the planking and keel. They think it’s the water boats float in that makes them rot. It isn’t! It’s the fresh rain water that seeps into structural seams and crevices from above that does the mischief, and also the fresh water that condenses on inner surfaces in poorly-ventilated areas. This water keeps the wood damp for a long time and that’s what gets rot fungus to growing in and ruining the wood.

So, leave the bottom until last, since it’s the last place rot shows up. Look for it inside, in cabin seams, deck joints, ribs, etc. Once the wood is thoroughly dry, you can fix small rotted areas with “Git-Rot,” “Stop-Rot,” and similarly-named products from marine stores. These are epoxy type fluids which soak into the wood like kerosene into a lamp wick, then harden and firm up the rotted wood. They are quite expensive; they are worth it for small rotted areas as they can save much slow and difficult wood replacing work, but cost makes them hardly the thing for extensive rot. If you do find extensive rot, pass up that boat as there’s simply no cheap or easy way to fix it.

Manufacturing of Fiberglass Boats and Design FeaturesFiberglass boats call for fiberglass expertise to evaluate properly. We can give only a quick run-down on points to look for here. Cracks in the “gel coat,” the outer pigmented layer of resin, are common enough. They rarely extend down into the glass fabric laminate. They’re mainly a blemish to appearance, seldom a danger to strength or life expectancy. Some are caused by flexing and are commonly found around transom cutouts on outboard boats, where motor weight and thrust has caused transom flexing, and at places such as where a cabin side blends into a deck. Cracked areas a few to several inches in diameter and with many jagged lines radiating out from a central point, are usually the result of accidental bumps that flexed the fiberglass enough to make the gel coat crack even though the laminate did not suffer.

“Crazing” – fine, hairline cracks scattered at random all over the boat or over substantial areas, are usually the result of the gel coat being too thick and thus prone to cracking, just as is paint that’s too thick. A few cracks or craze lines can be fixed by routing them out with a pointed stone in an electric hand grinding tool such as the “Dremel” used by hobbyists, then filling with one of the fiberglass repair putties available from marine supply houses. Extensive cracking calls for so much painstaking work that few people undertake the job. It’s almost impossible to get a perfect color match between old and new gel coat. The usual way of gaining acceptable, uniform appearance is to paint the whole boat with epoxy or other paint made for use on fiberglass.

When inspecting a fiberglass (or wooden) boat, take a good look at the bottom for high or low spots and “hooks” that hint at bottom distortion due to the pressure of inadequate or ill-fitting hull supports on trailers. Such deformities can affect performance and handling quite seriously, and are often hard to remove. Watch for “rubberiness” in such boats too. A little is normal, but if the whole hull shudders and wobbles upon being shaken vigorously, it’s almost surely a sign of serious trouble such as loose or rotted reinforcing strips, loose joints at the hull-to-deck connection, etc.

More often than not a used boat is not in a condition or place where you can try it out on the water. The water test, of course, is the best way to discover flaws ranging from leaks to bad handling qualities. The fellow who has a used boat in the water and offers to take you for a ride is justified in asking a higher price, for he has given you a fairer chance to assure yourself that it’s a good boat. If your proposed purchase isn’t in the water, it might be well to take a few days to ask around for someone who owns an identical boat and ask him how he likes it.

If you let your emotions run away with you and rush to buy the first used boat you see that strikes your fancy, you can get burned badly. But if you take the time to look around, compare, check prices and give assorted boats thorough inspections, you can find yourself the owner of a fine and able boat at a price that makes a lot of sense.


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Июль, 04, 2024 46 0
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