Questions about boat buying process...
Mike''s advice is right-on. As to your question, yeah, it''s pretty common I think to place the deposit (with conditions as Mike stipulated) prior to the survey. We bought our first boat long distance, and while I don''t necessarily recommend the way we did it, we had the survey conducted without being there. Although we made out ok, it''s definately better if you can be there for the survey. One other point, aside from just being the smart thing to do, surveys are required on used boats by most insurance carriers..
Best of luck! Take your time, shopping is a lot of the fun!