Re: Should I be scared??? What would you do???
I would add a couple notes to this. First of all if you live and sail in an area that has a strong sailing community, then unless you are considering a very unusual make or model, it makes no sense to buy a boat long distance.
But if, from your perspective, this boat has unique charms that warrant a long distance purchase, you should be working through a local broker who you trust. This simplifies many of the basic transactions such as simple sign off on contingencies and escrow and final payments. That said, once you contact the selling broker directly without mention of your local broker, that option is usually off the table.
In terms of the sea trial question, the seller's broker does not sound like he is being forthcoming, which he is under no obligation to be. It does mean that it is prudent to trust him less than you might with someone who offers good advice. But it does not necessarily mean he is dishonest or incompetent. I do consider the question reasonable. If the broker is going to structure a deal that he can sell to his client he needs to understand what you personally would like to learn from a sail trial. In that case a list of concerns may be helpful.
There is a big difference between someone seeking to know how well a boat sails, and conveniently she is rigged, subjective factors which could kill a sale, versus more pragmatic issues such as does the transmission work properly, do the thru-hulls and below waterline plumbing leak, does the depth sounder and knot meter work, does the wind instruments, and other mast mounted electrical and electronic components work, and do the winches work properly when under strain (very important for older winches for which parts are unavailable or hard to come by). In other words, things which might potentially impact the price of the deal but not kill it. I bought my current boat when It was completely out of commission, and sitting disassembled in a farm field in Maine. There was no practical or cost effective way to do a seatrial. We escrowed funds to address specific items which could not be tested on the hard, and stipulated line items for each and a period by which I needed to commission and test these items or the funds were automatically paid to the seller.
There is another category that is harder to define. Twice in my life I have seen otherwise perfectly good boats fail survey for structural reasons found while sailing. The first case was a friend who asked me to crew on his sea trial of an older Hinckley Yawl. The surveyor remained in the cabin while we tacked back and forth and somehow caught that the main bulkhead was shifting. We actually put tape on the bulkhead on one tack and measured the offset on both tacks. The bulkhead was moving somewhere between a 1/4" and 3/8". The seller claimed that he had no idea that was happening but needless to say, my friend did not buy the boat. It worked quite well except that I did not think to put the refrigeration system on that list since it ran, but we could not run it long enough to determine whether it would cool the plates.
In a simlar case, a friend was looking at an old Cal I believe. When they cranked on the hydraulic backstay the head door would stick. The surveyor figured out that the bottom end of king post was rotted in the bilge. I was not there for that one so I ma not sure how they sorted that out, but the deal did not go through/
I hope this is helpful, good luck.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay and part-time purveyor of marine supplies
Last edited by Jeff_H; 01-26-2014 at 01:33 PM.