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Know-how: 10 tips for buying a boat

So you want to buy a boat. Don’t go it alone.

So you want to buy a boat. Don’t go it alone. Involve your wife or significant other from the get-go. Now don’t accuse me of chauvinism. I know quite a few women who own, maintain and run their own boats. In many cases, however, it’s the man who wants a boat.

Your partner often can exercise a veto. If the veto is overridden, the results could be, well, interesting. Boatbuilders know this and now decorate boat interiors to look like anything but a boat. Most saloons are shown with flower arrangements for this reason.

Whether buying new or used, hire a marine surveyor to examine the boat. It’s an inexpensive investment, and a survey potentially can save loads of money and spare you future aggravation.

Here are some items to consider when buying a boat.

1. Give serious thought to how you will use the boat. A boat that does 40 knots may look and sound great, but it could burn 20-plus gallons of fuel an hour. With the high price of gas and diesel, short getaways begin to get expensive. Will you be going out alone or with a crew? I have a friend who bought a 54-foot ketch and found that he couldn’t handle it on his own. Finding crew on short notice was problematic, and having to plan well in advance for a day trip eliminated any chance at spontaneity. He soon sold the boat; reality didn’t match with the dream.

2. Sailors should think about where the boat will be used. If you’re planning trips down the Intracoastal Waterway, the mast will have to fit under the bridges you’ll encounter. Will the draft be too great for the waters in which you’ll be sailing?

3. If you’ll be spending extended periods on board, be sure the boat has a decent head and adequate holding tank for your needs. Check the run from the marine head to the holding tank. A long run will require greater holding tank capacity. To avoid the odor of sewage, you have to pump the head at least 12 to 20 times after the bowl has been emptied. This will ensure the effluent is cleaned out of the discharge line and moved to the holding tank. The longer the line, the more pumping is required and, subsequently, increased tank capacity.

4. Look at the way the superstructure and the deck are joined. Sharp turns and angles may indicate areas where stress loading will produce cracks and leaks. Look for minute cracks in the deck, especially around hatches, railings, stanchions, chain plates, stairs, bow rollers and where ladders are attached. Walk on hatches, and jump on different parts of the deck and cabin top to see if there is any give.

5. Look inside the forepeak, chain locker and lazarette to see if the hull lay-up appears translucent. (It shouldn’t.)

6.Check how well windshields, windows and port lights are installed. They’re potential sources for leaks in the future.

7. Is the overhead insulated, or will you be plagued by moisture from condensation? And how well insulated are you from engine noise, both topside and below deck?

8. Look for easy access to fuses, circuit breakers and wiring behind switch panels. Will it be difficult to add circuits? Circuits should be well marked and organized, with wiring diagrams.

9. What are exterior and interior hardware items made of: stainless steel, chromed brass, chrome-plated zinc? Are they stock items available from known manufacturers? Is deck hardware (cleats, chocks, rails, stanchions) through-bolted with backing plates or merely screwed in place? Does the boat have cleats amidships, and if not can you install them?

10. Look at the anchoring system. Regardless of whether you plan to anchor overnight or stay at marinas, the boat should be set up for adequate ground tackle. Is a bow roller installed, and can it accommodate a proper-sized anchor? One anchor should be carried securely at the bow. Are there cleats and chocks for anchoring, and storage for a proper amount of rode? An adequate anchoring system is the cheapest insurance you can have.