I am trying to figure out what a survey may turn up,
So i would argue survey first sea trial second.
Unless you have x-ray vision, you'll likely want a surveyor to check for things like a wet deck core. If you don't know the standards, then perhaps you want him to look at the electrical system to make sure it meets code; proper breakers and so-on. I'm pretty sure you didn't do a dye test on the rigging and so-on and definitely didn't go up the rig to check for frayed ends at the top of the stays/shrouds.
See, this just pisses me off about surveyors. The whole purpose of hiring one, is so that you have an "expert" to find things that you, the "amatuer" would not find.
Yes, it upset me too and that's why I'm passing on the lesson learned so someone won't have to go through the same issue. I take the right steps but still went astray.
Originally Posted by Grand River Raider
And this is what I was driving at in my OP for this thread. As a new sailor, the subtleties of sailing characteristics will be lost on me due to having a few points of comparison, so unless there is something glaring a new sailor is not likely to notice it. But as others have rightly pointed out, the trial is valuable still for a number of reasons.
I continually give this advice to friends and strangers; Before you buy a boat, try out as many as you can so you know what qualities you like in a boat before you buy. It's like buying your first car... you may like the looks of the Ferrari poster in your room, but when you actually drive a car, you may be more of a truck guy, or find a mini-van meets your needs better than a Corvette. Sure, it's fast and looks nice, but how does it's driving characteristics meet your needs?
As for the subtleties... sometimes they aren't so subtle. For example, lets look at a J24, a Shark 24 and my Contessa 26. I sailed the Shark 24 for a few years as a borrowed club boat. I didn't like that it was fairly 'tippy' and turned slowly; it felt, to my inexperienced hand, that it was an awkward combination. I then had the chance to sail a J24 in 20knot winds... ooooh boy did we fly. Although it heels quite a bit (with my slight frame holding it down), it could turn on the dime and was a real "racy" kind of feel when compared to the Shark. My wife hated it. We bought a Contessa. It turns... eventually. The full keel with stern rudder means it does not back up where you want it to go without planning and luck and a lot of runway. You do not spin it in its own length. However, it is a heavier displacement boat, goes quite nicely in a straight line for long days and even though it heels quite a bit, it's way more stable. My wife and I both like it... although, for a day sail, I'd prefer the J24 - I won't mind skipping a day on the Shark 24 though.
My point is that as a newbie, you can definitely feel the difference. You may not know 'why' it sails a particular way, but you can determine if the boat is behaving in a way that makes you happy. If you have someone experienced, they can tell you why you are feeling what you're feeling and let you know if it's supposed to behave that way.