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27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone have a checklist of questions, or things to consider, for the purchasing of a boat (new or used)? Basically I''m looking for a list of things to find out about in the process of evaluating a potential boat.



I am not sure that your question is very clear. I assume you mean, What questions should I ask myself in order to identify the type of boat that is right for me.

When I start to look for a new boat for myself, (or to help someone else), I start out by thinking about how and where the boat will be sailed.
-Will the boat be daysailed, raced or cruised or all three?
-Will it be sailed single-handed, short handed or with a lot of people or all of the above?
-Will the boat be sailed in an area known for light air, or heavy air, or a wide combination of conditions?
-Will the boat be kept for a long time or sell her quickly in a couple years?
-Is a fixer upper OK or would a boat all set up and ready to go better suit my needs?
-Are there aesthetic or other subjective preferences to consider?
-What is a reasonable budget that will not leave me boat poor? Or for that matter, does it matter if I am boat poor?

That starts to set up expectations. To use myself as an example, in my case I daysail, cruise and race and I do single-hand, with my wife,and with the new boat with guests. This lead me to look for a boat that is easy to sail short handed but with room for a bunch of people for a daysail and another couple for cruising.

I sail on the Chesapeake so I wanted good light air performance but I also sail year round so I wanted good heavy air performance as well. This lead me to a light weight boat with an easily driven hull and a fractional rig for maximum flexibility. I expect to keep the boat for a very long time and so wanted a very sound hull but was not afraid of a boat that needed some upgrades.

I don''t have a lot of spare time these days so wanted the boat ready to use but the boat will live behind my house and I can work through and upgrade things a little bit at a time. I have owned traditional boat and modern boats. I wanted a modern boat but one with reasonably jazzy lines. Other subjective issues was that I wanted to have a draft under 6''6", deeper than which begins to limit your cruising grounds on the Chesapeake. I wanted a boat that was a minimum of 40 seconds a mile faster than my current boat because that would afford us much greater range. I really wanted a boat that would sail to windward well, tack easily and is fast on a reach.

I had a real budget to maintain and for the size that I was looking for that restricted my choices to boats built in the mid- to early 1980''s.

I am not sure that I am actually answering your real question here. If not, I will watch for a clarification and see if I can be of more help.

27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
No, I was thinking beyond the consideration of the kind of boat. Let''s say you''ve narrowed it down to several makes/models and now I am looking at a specific boat (ie. Caliber 35). I want to make a list of things to consider or investigate such as: 1. What are the age/condition of the sails? 2. How many hours on the engine? 3. Is there a maintenance log? Etc. In other words, I want to come up with a consideration checklist to help evaluate the boat.

Hope that is a little more clear.


I have have written first inspection checklist for a friend. Some may not apply in your case.

1. Deck
A. Walk around the deck, bouncing lightly on the ball of you feet. All decks have a little flex and you should be able to tell after a few minutes what is normal. If you hit a place that flexes a bit more than the rest, you should be able to feel whether this is a lighter built area in the boat or an area of delamination. Delamination feels like the parts of the deck are moving separately. It may also feel like the skin only oilcans until it hits the coring. You may be able to hear what''s going on by hitting the area with the flat of your hand. Essentially you would hear a dull, hollow, and less ringing sound where there is delamination. Be aware that bulkheads and hardware attachment can give some false readings.

B. Look for spider cracks. There may be minor spider cracking around fastenings but wholesale cracks, cracks radiating out of a the rail or near bulkhead positions or cracks that extend more than an inch or two may be significant.

C. Look for dings, dents and large repairs. Especially look for large repairs near the rail.

D. If the boat has a fair amount of teak or teak decks, examine the teak for cracking, splits and delamination of the plies or disconnection from the deck. If the teak has been varnished and the varnish has gone opaque or is missing in places this will require stripping and refinishing, a fairly big job. If the teak has been left exposed and the soft wood has been eaten out by strong chemicals or scrubbing, leaving a raised grain, this is a fairly substantive thing to correct requiring a lot of sanding and careful refinishing. This is "fair damage".

E. Examine hatch covers and custom fiberglass parts for damage. One would have no reason to anticipate damage to these items and if badly damaded can monetarily effect the value of the boat.

F. Check deck hardware.
1. Winches: Turn each winch drum on the drum. They should turn easily and not feel gritty or bound up. Turn the drum by hand using your fingers in the handle socket. Turn both ways on two speeds, feeling and listening for the clicks of the pawls and any grinding of metal. It takes a surprisingly large amount of force to turn the drums this way so you may assist with your hand on the drum.
2. Look at the deck blocks for broken or oxidized sheaves. Make sure they turn freely. Blocks for any boat are quite expensive to replace. Look for bent, worn or missing parts.
3. Check rope clutches for operation and damage. This is hard to do if the lines are off the deck
G. Check anchor, anchor rode and windlass. Make sure that the handle is there and that the windlass works right. The lines should not be covered in rust as it attacks the nylon. The chain should not be a pile of rust since it will either be shot or need regalvanizing.
H. Check running lights for cracked lenses.

2 Spars and rigging:
A. In some ways it will be hard to inspect the mast and rigging if it is all disassembled. In some ways it is actually easier.
B Look at the stays and shrouds. They should be free of kinks and bends. They should be free of obvious rust. (If this is a salty environment, then crevice corrosion is a real threat.) Look at terminals for bends cracks and corrosion.
C Look at the running rigging for chafe, broken stands, etc. Rust stains on dacron or nylon line is a bad omen.
D. Check mast mounted hardware and sheaves for wear, damage and proper operation.
E. Closely examine areas around shroud and stay attachment, spreader bases, hardware, and holes in mast where halyards exit looking for small hair line cracks or signs of distortion. On fractional rig or cutters, this will often occur near the jibstay attachment point and jib/ spin. halyard exit box.

4. Sails:
A. I doubt there is much you can do here. Open a bag. If the sails are just stuffed crudely in a bag, unfolded, figure that they will be in poor condition because nothing kills the life of the sail like being crimped (except flogging a sail or sunlight)

If you can try to look at the general consdition of the most used sails and get a sense of their age.

5. Structure:
A. Look for signs of movement wherever two surfaces meet. Look at the joint between the bulkheads and deck and bulkheads and hull (often mostly concealed)
B. Open the bilge and look for ring frames. Are they cracked or separated from the hull? Does the wooden elements look like they have been wet or oil soaked? Are there signs of rot?
C. Open the sail lockers and under berths and look at bulkheads and frames. Are they intact? Does the wooden elements look like they have been wet or oil soaked? Are there signs of rot?
D. Look at the keel bolts. Is there crushing of the glass or spider cracks near the bolts? The bolts should not be a massive pile of rust but a little staining is normal.
E. Are there signs of repairs near the keel? Different colored gelcoat or glass than found in lockers or signs of things being cut and reinstalled.

6. Rudder, Keel and keel joint:
A. Minor hairlines between the ballast keel and hull are normal, especially at the leading or trailing edge. Gaps or obvious signs of movement are not.
B. Look for repairs or crushing at the leading and bottom edge of the keel and at the hull in front of and behind the keel. Hull should be fair and free of hollows or humps.
C. Move the rudder by hand in all axis. There should be minimal play.

7. Interior:
A. You don''t need my help here except open all doors and hatches and look for signs of movement.
B. Look for signs of leaks and look at the condition of the woodwork. Is it beat up? Has the vanish failed? Has water gotten behind the varnish and stained the wood. Look for broken items.

8. Mechanical systems:
A. Normally I would say try everything. Turn it on and see if it works. With a boat that is decommissioned there is no way to do that. The best you can do is turn knobs and throw levers to feel if things feel stiff and unused or gritty.
B. Look for signs of corrosion or poorly performed repairs. Look for loose piping or things that have been cobbled together.

9. Electronics:
A Same as above, normally I would say try everything. Turn it on and see if it works. With the boat decommissioned there is no way to do that. The best you can do is turn knobs and throw levers to feel if things feel stiff and unused or gritty.
B Look for signs of corrosion or poorly performed repairs. Look for loose wiring or things that have been cobbled together.

10. Engine:
A Same as above, normally I would start it up. Shift gears see if it works. With a boat that is decommissioned there is no way to do that. The best you can do feel controls for action and look at the appearance of the engine.
B Look for signs of corrosion, leaks, or poorly performed repairs. Look for loose wiring or things that have been cobbled together.
C. Check the stuffing box and shaft for signs of problems or a scared shaft.
D. Look at the exhaust port. Stick your finger in. It should not come out with a lot of soot or feel greasy.
E. Check the prop to see if it folds properly and smoothly. Check for excessive play in the blades. See what kind of prop it is, rigid, folding, feathering, two or three blade. A fixed three blade may be the wrong prop for what you want to do and a feathering three blade costs a fortune so think about whether you can live with what is there. Look at the engine hour meter and and see if there is a maintenance log. (The absence of both on boats under 35 or so feet is nothing to worry about but bigger more complex boats should have both.)

That''s about it for now.
Good luck

27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Thanks for the outline! That''s exactly what I was looking for and I''m going to convert that to a checklist questionaire. Problem with looking at a boat is that there is so much information overload upon the initial visit. This will help focus on the objective consideration needed. Again, thanks!

PS. ANy opinion on internal tanks such as the Caliber''s have???

I am not big on molded in tanks. I think they are more subject to the flexing of the boat and over time will be a problem that you can''t fix. It is hard to actually layup and install molded in tanks properly so they are even more prone to problems than simple metal tanks. They also obstruct the ability to inspect portions of the boat. I think they are more of a manufacturer''s cost savings move rather than an ideal solution.


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