The Smart Buyer - Case Study

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A careful, methodical approach

I was about to test the Southport 33 FE center console with twin Yamaha F350s at the Miami International Boat Show in February with two representatives from the builder. Moments before we cast off, two prospective customers joined us. I would have preferred to put the boat through its paces without the extra crew because I tend to drive a boat hard, but I’m glad the two gentlemen — a father and son from Puerto Rico — were aboard because it resulted in some good information about buying a boat.

Kelmith Lopez has sea-trialed the Southport 33 FE (shown here) and several other center consoles as part of his boat-buying research.

It turns out that Kelmith Lopez, 24, and his father, Antonio, were researching the purchase of a 30- to 35-foot center console for fishing. After the sea trial, I talked at length with Kelmith.

He and his father were going through the boat-buying process the right way — with patience, research and proper planning. “I wanted a new boat yesterday,” says Lopez. “I am that anxious. We have been without a boat for too long — three years. But you can’t let your emotions lead you, or you will be sorry. We are looking for the perfect deal on the perfect boat.”

They had satisfied their fishing fix for the past couple of years by joining friends who own boats, but they now want their own. Lopez and his father were thrilled with their last vessel — a 2000 HydraSports Vector 2796 center console with twin Evinrude 225-hp direct-injected 2-strokes. The boat was fast, with a 51 mph top end, and it took a beating.

What impressed me most about Lopez was his belief in sea-trialing as many boats with his father as possible to find the one that best fits their needs. “If I don’t ride the boat, I am not going to buy it,” says Lopez. “If you don’t drive it, that’s almost like buying it sight unseen.”

Kelmith Lopez

The Miami show gave them a “great opportunity to test various boats we are interested in and meet not only with the sales representatives, but also with boat designers and representatives from the companies,” he says.

I asked Lopez every question I could think of about his preparation, planning and research. He answered each one without hesitation.

The financial pieces seem to be falling into place. Lopez has a job as a quality inspector for a medical device company; his father’s commercial diving business, which specializes in marine construction, was picking up; and his brother Omar was finishing his doctorate in coastal engineering and also has a good job.

The three of them will divide the cost of the boat and the storage and maintenance and insurance costs. They were well aware of the significance of these expenses. “We ideally want a boat with a trailer because keeping a boat at a marina would cost $10,000 a year,” says Lopez.

They have money for a down payment and are determined to set aside more. Although they hadn’t ruled out a used boat, the idea of buying a boat with engines that might need replacement and wiring and pumps that might have to be replaced did not excite them.

These guys know the type, design, deck layout and hull they want — a deep-vee with plenty of deadrise at the transom for a soft ride in rough seas, a big cockpit that can hold four or more anglers and lots of storage so the decks can be kept uncluttered. For power, two engines would be just fine, although triples would also work if the price is right.

Fishing the south side of Puerto Rico, they need a quick and durable boat that’s capable of running 60 miles a day. “When you’re mahi fishing, the first boat to get to the birds is going to get the fish,” says Lopez.

When I met him, he and his father had already tested a 34-foot HydraSports Custom and a 35-foot Scout. They were also planning to test the Southport 33 FE again, but this time in rough waters off Puerto Rico. The father and son were also scheduled to sea-trial the new Cobia 344 center console with triple Yamaha F300s. They had inspected boats from Sea Vee, Robalo, Mako and Everglades.

The Sea Vee and Scout were impressive, but a “little too fancy,” says Lopez. All of the boats have strong points, he says. “It’s just a matter of finding a boat that is everything you want it to be,” he says. “And that job takes a lot of time and effort.”

So far, Lopez and his father like the Southport best, followed by the HydraSports. But there’s still a lot more testing to be done.

April 2015 issue