Re: Is a marine survey really worth it for an inexpensive boat?
I'm also in Seattle and bought my first boat without a survey. It was a Catalina 25 tall mast/fin keel that I kept on Lake Union. I currently have a larger boat that I keep at Shilshole Bay.
I read all of the DIY survey instructions that I could find and think I did a pretty good job of finding all of the major issues on the boat. I was able to get the price lowered by $1500 (more than 25% of asking) as a result. I didn't have the boat hauled, and if I were doing it again (especially at this time of year) I would have it hauled. It would be good to see what the hull really looks like.
A surveyor really has two jobs, one is to be completely objective (if not defaulting towards telling you not to buy the boat) and to have more experience in knowing what to look for. I think you can learn the latter for a simple boat like the ones that you are talking about, but only you can decide how objective you can be.
I wouldn't think too much in terms of "how bad can it go" and what parts can you sell off of the boat. An outboard that is $1700 new will sell for under $1000 on Craigslist here, even if it is only a few months old. Disposal of the boat is going to be very expensive and probably cost more than your purchase price. You really do need to survey the boat, you just need to decide if you can self-survey or pay someone for it.
My second boat did get a survey. It was useful and paid for itself in negotiation value. It was also required by my insurance (they require a survey for boats insured for over $20k I think). I'm not sure that I learned much from the survey that I hadn't already figured out myself, but the negotiation power was stronger.
If you do buy a boat and keep it on Lake Union you really need to come out for Goose Bumps (Jan/Feb) and Duck Dodge (May through August). They are very fun casual weekly races and even if you aren't competitive you'll learn a lot about boat handling. Go out a few times with someone who has raced before so that you learn the rules and get comfortable on the course, then do it on your own.
I know of a cheap slip on Lake Union that is available (it is right in front of my old boat), PM me if you want details.
Even if you aren't required to have insurance you should get it. Insurance on this cost of boat is very inexpensive (a couple hundred a year) and liability insurance is going to save you a lot of money if you get into even a minor accident while docking or sailing. If you are sailing on busy Lake Union or going through the locks you'll really want the peace of mind that it offers.
Last edited by Alex W; 12-12-2012 at 12:35 PM.