Buying a Second-hand Boat

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I guess that I was a bit picky when I went out to buy a boat.  I'd owned a boat before, had hired half a dozen and had cadged rides and a 'look- see' on many others, so I had a fair idea of what I wanted.

I found it necessary to make out a checklist, and to photocopy it.  Then, each time I looked at a prospective boat, I could fill out a check sheet.  It took between 20 and 40 minutes to check over a boat - most prospective buyers take about 5 minutes!!  I gave each boat a thorough going over, even if it was unsuitable, as looking at different boats builds up one's store of experience over how different people solve similar problem.  It also enables one to see what is possible.

Another advantage of the checklist is that it gets one over the positive appeal of a 'well presented' boat.  Some boats are presented for inspection with crockery, removable soft furnishing, pictures, TV, radios etc. all in place, and everything polished and shiny and smelling of lavender and roses.  A little note says that the crockery etc. is NOT part of the sale, but its presence gives the boat a lived in, friendly, 'buy me' feel.  The checklist cuts through this, and often proves that the rather bare looking, stripped out boat is actually the better buy.

After checking over each boat, I had a good idea as to whether or not it was at all suitable for me.  I also knew whether anything would need to be changed, and I could cost out these changes. In the end, I chose 'Rosy', even although she had some serious deficiencies.  However, she was being offered at such a good price that I felt able to afford the cost of the changes that I felt necessary.  In the event, she cost me about £1000 more than I wanted to pay - and the engine needed more work doing to it than I had estimated.

I guess I looked at some 30 boats altogether.  One has to be VERY hard hearted.  I fell in love with one boat I looked at, and I really wished to buy her, but ...  Although she was beautifully fitted out, she was designed as a weekender - two weeks at the most.  As a travelling live-aboard she had some serious deficiencies.  For example, she had a small, 30 gallon (150 litres) fuel tank, and the only heating was a coal fired stove with no back boiler.  I put in a bid, way below the asking price, but catering for the cost of the changes I would have to make.  My offer was rejected, and it took the owners another three months to sell her.

Having chosen a boat, the next step was to put in a written offer, clearly stating the terms and conditions of my offer.  I wanted the boat to be surveyed, and for the surveyor to give it a clean bill of health.  I also wanted to spend half a day on the boat, with the previous owners, to learn how things worked.

I managed to spend time on the boat with the surveyor - I asked him to let me do this as part of our contract - and this was very valuable.  I learned, informally, a lot that he could not put into the report.  I also commissioned a separate report on the engine and transmission unit, as the engine was/is an elderly Kelvin J2, and I wanted it checked over by a specialist.

Armed with these 2 reports, a bit more haggling took place.  I admit to feeling that I was paying some £900 - £1000 more than I really felt she was worth, but this was balanced by the fact that she saved me from having to look at another 15 or 20 boats.


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