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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am in the market to purchase my first sailboat. I am looking for something in the 20-15 ft range that I can easily trailer and will spend ~$2000 on the boat and trailer. The purpose of this boat is to ensure I and the SO actually enjoy boat ownership and sailing. We will be sailing mostly on the Potomac river and Chesapeake Bay.

My question is for that price range and intent should I pay for a survey on the boat? In attempting to keep the responses concise I'd like to request people respond with option 1, 2 or 3 and then elaborate if needed.

1. Absolutely! A survey should be done for every boat, everywhere, no questions asked.

2. Buyer discretion. It could help but chances are the cost of the survey would outweigh much of the benefit.

3. Nope. A survey is not needed for boats in that price range. Just do a very thorough inspection when you buy and you will catch any major issues.


If my thoughts are completely naive please don't hesitate to bash me about the head to help correct my thinking!

Thank you.
 

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Asleep at the wheel
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I'm with CapeCodda for a boat in that price range.

There are good articles here and elsewhere (See, e.g., the Catalina 25 owner's association, and this thread at Sailnet). Read them both. Several times. Take a notebook and camera with you, and take LOTS of notes and pictures. And if you can scrounge up a friend or acquaintance who has experience with sailboats and maintenance, then you're probably in good shape.

Most importantly, understand that since you're spending $2K on the boat, you're not getting something that will be trouble-free. You're going to have to put money into her, and probably pretty quickly. Don't spend all your disposable income on a fancy new chart plotter and radar next weekend after you buy the boat - save it, because stuff happens. Not that I have any experience with this or anything.

All that being said, if you WANT the peace of mind that a survey brings, then that's another story entirely. We didn't have a professional survey of our first boat ($1,000 Catalina 25), and we did have one on our second boat ($6,000 Allmand). In some ways, I was sorry I didn't have the first boat surveyed, because I really didn't know/understand what I was looking at for a lot of it, and had no clue whether, for example, the rusty winch on the Catalina's swing keel was ACTUALLY a problem or not. The survey is also a good way of getting a neutral 3rd party's suggestions about what needs to be fixed, and the order in which it should be done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks so much for the quick replies. Jimgo, I really liked your additional comments on the benefit of getting a survey done as a learning experience.

I feel better now about my approach and yes, I do know that anything in this price range does come with a lot of work. I'm looking forward to that.
 

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Hey,

#3

Cheap simple boats don't have many 'systems' that need to be surveyed (and maintained) and that makes it much easier for the buyer to determine if the boat is 'good' or 'bad'. For example, I didn't have my Catalina 22 surveyed. The boat was on a trailer so I could see everything. The deck was solid, the sails looks OK. The OB engine started and ran fine. The standing rigging didn't have kinks or meat hooks and the fitting were clean and rust free. What could really go wrong? The interior wad dead simple: No plumbing system, no head, no a/c electrical system. The dc system was an old 12V battery connected to a panel that had running lights and a few interior lights. The 'galley' was a pullout sink with an integrated small water tank.

No survey and no regrets.

My next boat was a 'big' boat (28' Newport) with all the 'big boat' items: inboard fresh water cooled diesel engine connected to a drive shaft with stuffing box. AC / DC electrical system w/ integrated battery charger. Real marine galley with alcohol stove, pressure hot and cold water. The head had holding tank and direct discharge. There were lots of through hulls to be checked and identified. That boat also had wheel steering with quadrants and rollers to be checked. It had self tailing winches, lines led aft and all sorts of stuff that I wasn't confident in my abilities to check. I watched the survey and learned a great deal. It was money well spent.

Good luck
Barry
 

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No engine, no systems, no through-hulls, no survey, no-brainer. I'd probably say sub $5K and a couple of those caveats and it'd still be #3. Especially if you can find and bring along a friend with experience as an advisor.

Something that size/price range can usually be insured as a rider on your home insurance so that particular survey requirement angle probably won't come into play either.
 

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Old enough to know better
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We all have our own limits that we are willing to risk. Some 2,000 is life savings. Heck for a lot of power boaters that is fuel for a weekend! But at that price range if you can't put your hand through the hull and the mast stays up you should be good! I have heard people recommend a surveyor before accepting a free boat, but others say under $10,000 don't bother. A simple boat like you are suggesting will likely be solid fiberglass, with perhaps some limited core in the decks. The big thing is to make sure it is solid, dirt will clean up but it is hard to firm up delineated fiberglass. It will be unlikely to be pretty at the price range, but that does not effect the ability to learn on it!
 

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I agree with the chorus here that no survey is necessary for a boat like that. FWIW, I did pay for a survey for my Oday 23; I learned more about boats in general and my boat in particular that day than I thought possible. And the surveyor gave me a special rate because the boat was so simple.

If you do decide to go without a survey, then invest in this book:

Inspecting the Aging Sailboat (The International Marine Sailboat Library): Don Casey: 0639785803447: Amazon.com: [email protected]@[email protected]@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/[email protected]@[email protected]@51izTuIhLJL

You'll be glad you did.
 

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FWIW, I did pay for a survey for my Oday 23; I learned more about boats in general and my boat in particular that day than I thought possible. And the surveyor gave me a special rate because the boat was so simple.
That was exactly the experience I had when I had our Catalina 22 surveyed. I think the surveyor charged $150 or $200. She spent a good half day with me, gave me an amazing education and we had a nice day sail.

I'm a guy who can build/fix/repair pretty much anything. But I'm more than willing to learn from someone who knows more than I do - not to mention the peace of mind. It was absolutely worth every penny since it was our first boat. :)

All that said it's worth asking around to find a good surveyor. The surveyor on our first boat was great and I referred quite a few people to her. The surveyor on our current boat was a toad and I would NEVER send anyone to him. You could try calling some local dealers, be up front about what you're doing and ask if they'd recommend someone.

Whichever way you decide to go, best of luck with your new boat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The information here is excellent. Thank you all very much for the help.

JimMcGee/Mstern - I really liked the comments about using the survey to learn regardless of the size of the boat. I think that is very important and shouldn't be overlooked just by trying to factor the decision to survey or not on what the person may find just in that boat.

I'm thinking very hard now about just going ahead and getting one done to learn! I am trying to schedule a few boats to look at over the weekend. We'll see how it goes.
 

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I
All that being said, if you WANT the peace of mind that a survey brings, then that's another story entirely. We didn't have a professional survey of our first boat ($1,000 Catalina 25), and we did have one on our second boat ($6,000 Allmand). In some ways, I was sorry I didn't have the first boat surveyed, because I really didn't know/understand what I was looking at for a lot of it, and had no clue whether, for example, the rusty winch on the Catalina's swing keel was ACTUALLY a problem or not. The survey is also a good way of getting a neutral 3rd party's suggestions about what needs to be fixed, and the order in which it should be done.
I felt exactly the same way. In the <10k range you can convince yourself a survey doesn't make financial sense. But then you'll be left questioning the condition of the boat when the weather pipes up for the first time.

A good survey can teach you a lot about your boat and give you peace of mind not just about the initial purchase, but beyond that as well.

I actually got a survey for myself the year after buying the boat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I have always enjoyed reading about how the initial question or post was resolved so I figured I'd post mine as well.

After looking at many, many boats throughout the Mid-Atlantic region over the last couple of weeks, we finally settled on one. This last Sunday we bought a 1971 Cal 25. It is relatively sound structurally but needs some cosmetic work on the interior. I know it's a bit different than what we were looking for but after talking with several other boat owners we decided that a boat/trailer option wasn't going to work. So we got one without a trailer and picked up a slip at a Marina in MD.

Thank you all very much for the help in this thread and all over the forum. I spend way too much time here every day reading and learning.

We sailed her 13 miles to her new home yesterday and had a blast doing so. We are at the Holiday Point Marina in Selby Bay, MD at slip B15 if anyone is in the area.
 

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Awesome.. congrats and thanks for the follow up.
 

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One other reason for having a survey (and owning a boat that can actually pass a survey) is that it is nowadays common for marinas, at least in my part of the country (NW), to demand proof of insurance showing that the craft is covered for "wreck removal" and "pollution abatement".

When obtaining actual "marine insurance" it is normal for the insurer to demand a copy of the current survey. So having an inexpensive boat is no guarantee that you will ultimately avoid the need for a survey.

And, even if one marina gives you a pass on insurance proof, the next one down the street might not.

Fair winds,
Loren
 

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If the cost of the survey is below 10% asking price of the boat, I would say that it is a good investment. And even if you do not buy that boat, you will learn a lot about what to look for in a boat next time you go shopping.
 

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My choice is #3.

If you are going to jump into the world of sailboat ownership, you should first educate yourself on boat design, construction techniques, inspection/survey, common problems and how to fix them. You can get all that and more from websites and books for less than $50 plus some mental engagement on your part. Or you can pay 3 or 4 times that amount for somebody to do your thinking for you and tell you what is wrong with one particular boat. For a simple daysailor, the choice is easy (for me).

I highly recommend sailing the boat, with the seller, before you buy it. That, plus your informed inspection, should tell you all you need to know. If the boat can't sail for some reason, don't make it your first boat!

Also, sailing the boat will tell you some things you don't need to worry about. On old boats less than $2000, there will always be things that can be repaired. If the boat is good enough to sail on the day you buy it, that means that these things can be put off until you know more about how you want them to work.

Another consideration: An active, enthusiatic, and helpful owners association with a good website is extremely valuable.

In addition to Casey's book, I recommend Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats by Henry Mustin and I think this book is eesential: Your First Sailboat, by Daniel Spurr.
 

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Congratulations. You will enjoy the bay much more in your 25 footer than a smaller day sailor. There are so many destinations on the Chessapeake that you will want to sail to that not having to launch and rig before sailing will make your life easier, more expensive, but easier.
Happy sails,
John
 
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