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post #11 of 11 Old 08-12-2004
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Sea Trial

What an interesting and informative thread for potential boat buyers!

I''ve become a more informed and knowledgeable car buyer as I''ve gotten older (last time I used service, it definitely paid for itself), and I hope to become a more knowledgeable and informed boat buyer as my sailing career progresses as well.

If I were traveling a substantial distance to look at three boats, I''d try to do as much homework as possible beforehand. There is no corresponding service like fighting chance for boat buyers, and I don''t think there are buyers'' brokers out there waiting for boat buyers to hire them, so you need to do the legwork yourself. Fortunately, there is the internet. You should be able to find out just what kind of boat your potential purchases are, how they sail, what their good and bad points are, before getting within miles of the dock. Find owners'' groups, sign up on their mailing lists, talk to them, have them mail you brochures, check out their tech tip sites (if available) to find out what weak points the boat has and how previous owners deal with them (some boats there won''t be a lot of info, more popular models, like a Catalina 22, you can learn so much about the boat you''ll feel like you''ve spent hours on one). Try to get your hands on reviews; newer boats are reviewed regularly, and one publication (Sailing World?) revists older, "classic" designs on a regular basis. The answer to your questions about whether the boat will spray you in the face, has poorly balanced helm, or "feels good" when sailed, can probably be answered better by people who have lived with the same kind of boat for years than a brief spin around the cove/channel/shore. These questions are mostly design questions, and not very amenable to being answered with any confidence by a brief sail.

And as everyone who chimes in on this topic is always saying, figure out what you want to use the boat for, and try to fit this in with what current owners are doing with their boats. Again, this is an issue of which design is best suited to your needs?

If all three of these designs are still calling you, go look at these boats yourself at the dock or on stands. Check out this article:

for some general guidelines on how to do an initial inspection of a used boat. Take notes, maybe even bring a digital camera so you can post photos of questionable things for comment.

If you have done your homework, you should have a pretty good idea which (if any) of these three boats is in good shape (reasonably seaworthy) and is worth making an offer on. Your initial inspection will hopefully get some insight into the physical condition of the boat. Was it well built to begin with, and has it been well maintained and cared for? At this point, you''re ready to make an offer contingent on a marine survey. Strongly recommended (by me, at any rate) to make sure you didn''t overlook anything, which if you''re not used to looking at boats (and have the itch to buy a boat clouding your judgement and skepticism) is quite possible. You can insist on a sea trial in your offer as well. Don''t count on the sea trial to confirm your expectations of the boat''s sailing characteristics, unless you manage to sail in her for a month.

Allen Flanigan
Alexandria, VA
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