Many people aren't going to want to take you out for a sea trial unless they have a tentative sale...this cuts down on the lookee lous... Taking a boat out for even a short sale requires a fair bit of time for the broker and the owner, and getting the weather to cooperate makes it even more difficult.
If you don't know how well a given make/model boat sails, then getting a ride on one is probably a priority for you. If the boat is still being made, talking to the factory or a dealer about getting a check sail is a good possibility. But don't expect a broker or an owner to take you out without a deposit down and a tentative offer on the table.
When I was looking to buy a boat, I did just that... went to the factory and asked if I could go out on a test sail. Not only did I get a chance to test sail a Telstar 28, but I was able to sit down with Tony Smith, the designer of the boat and talk with him about for over four hours.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.