Here are the major things that I would look for during the initial walk through:
Hull - Issues above/below water line: Thru-Hulls: Intake, well bonded, no excessive corrosion. Gel Coat - Dimples, blisters, cracks, repairs, discoloration. Look at the keel/hull joint. Can you see a line? If so, that could indicate a area of closer inspection. Tap on it (hull) with your hand or a small hard rubber mallet. Listen for "thud" sounds which may indicate moisture or delamination.
Deck - Cracks around stanchion bases. Some hairline ones are possible and okay, large ones or ones that have been repaired require more inspection from below. Walk around the deck, do areas feel "mushy" or soft. Tap a few areas with the hard rubber hammer and listen for "thuds". Look for areas of localized discoloration, especially around hardware. Wiggle a few stanchions, do they feel solid or mushy? Spin the winches, do they spin freely with a nice buzz sound or do they bind or have a grinding sound?
Rigging - Look at the rigging holding the mast up. Is is corroded/rusty, have any broken wire? Look at the mast, any evidence of corrosion/blistering around any hardware, flaking paint (if painted).
Running Rigging (lines) - Heavily worn (fuzzy) or newer? Can you look at the sails? Look for excessive loose threads, bagginess, tears or repairs, dirty, etc.
Below Deck - Look for any water stains on ceiling or around any through deck hardware bolts. Does the inside have a strong musty smell? May indicate excessive moisture in the cabin. Check the bilge - Water in it, How much? Color? Salt or Fresh? If the boat has a head, look at it and all the plumbing hoses.
General appearance of the boat will tell you a lot. If it looks in good shape, and not just a fresh coat of paint inside, it was probably maintained well.
Since the boat probably has an external motor, that isn't a significant factor during the initial walk through. However, a boat with an internal motor requires a good look at the motor and its condition.
I am sure others will chime in, but I think that you can get a pretty good feel about a boat in a 15 minutes initial walk thorugh.
Last edited by DrB; 05-29-2008 at 11:40 AM.