In this third of five steps in buying a used sailboat, we will cover how to narrow down from a long list of 20-30 boats to 2-3 models that suit your needs best. So you have worked out how you will use your boat and developed a long list of boats that could meet your needs. Now it's time to develop a short list. Until now most of your research will have been done online, now it's about going to see the boats up close, experiencing them first hand and determining which models meet your need best.
1. Plan Road-trips: We live in New Jersey and have plenty of opportunity to get up to New England or travel as far South as Chesapeake Bay. Over the summer, we planned a couple of road trips - One up around Newport and the second more locally in New Jersey. We got the map out and plotted where some of the boats we were most interested in were located. With a bit of planning we were able to map a trip starting in Newport working our way back home to New Jersey that allowed us to see 4 boats in one day, each a short detour from I-95. The brokers were very accommodating in scheduling viewing appointments. Subsequently we made a couple of trips locally to see 1-2 boats each time. This way were efficiently able to see 7-8 boats in a couple of weekends.
The one thing to keep in mind is that you need an hour with each boat at least. That should be enough time that you don't feel stressed looking over the boat over and also enough to time to talk with the broker. You are not doing an in-depth survey so an hour should be enough.
2. Be Prepared: Unless you are an experienced boat-buyer, you need to be VERY prepared in order to use the time as efficiently as possible. You should take good notes. After viewing half a dozen boats, they blur together. We developed a 30-minute check-list that you can download here. This was based on the excellent Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual. I strongly recommend buying this book as over 130 pages are dedicated to inspecting an old boat.
You will need a screwdriver for tapping around the hull and a good flashlight for poking around down-below. You should also take a digital camera with you too. It's a great way to keep a record of features you liked or problems to avoid.
3. Inspect With Your Brain Not Your Heart: Take your time and be analytical as you look over each boat. We were fairly disciplined about completing a 30-minute test for each boat we viewed. It's very easy to fall in love with the wrong boat.
Start with the hull and below the water line (if the boat is out of the water), then the deck. Lastly go below. It's important to do it in this order. It's easy to form a premature opinion good or bad your first impression below decks.
On our first trip, we saw a stunning Bristol 38 that was immaculate, especially the saloon. The varnish was so perfect you could see your soul in it. We spent an hour talking with owner, a lovely older guy. We drove away in love with her but a couple of days later we checked our notes and regretfully decided she was wrong for us. The boat was too small for us.
4. Talk To The Broker or Owner: Most of the brokers and owners who we met on our travels were informative and a pleasure to talk to. Several of them were surprisingly candid about the pros and cons of the boats we were viewing.
On our second trip, we met with a broker from Sandy Hook Yacht Sales called Kevin McGettigan, to view a 1988 Sabre 38 Mk2. This was our first time seeing the model of boat we would ultimately buy. Kevin spent an hour with us telling us about Sabre Yachts, how they are built and what made them such great boats. His advice was critical in shaping our decision to buy this boat. In the end we bought a different 1988 Sabre 38 Mk2 but thanks to Kevin, we felt very confident in the decision.
5. Going Back To Your Needs: Once you have seen half a dozen or so boats, this is a good time to go back to how you will use your boat, the process you went through to determine what you need in a boat and how much you can afford. We spent a long time thinking about this. Viewing the boats helped us visualize what it would be like to own and sail these boats. It reaffirmed that our assessment of how we would use the boat was correct. In our case one boat came up to the top, the Sabre 38. It was far and away the best boat for our needs and desires.
The only issue was should we go for the slightly smaller, older Mk1 that we could buy for 20+% less than the newer larger Mk2. We also kept the Bristol 38 on our short list, although a little pricey for our budget.
In next week's post I will explain how we narrowed it further and found OUR boat.