Guide to buying a yacht: Below deck (Part 2)

Dee Haitch
Posted November 27 2015

This article follows part 1 in the series on buying a yacht by former yacht broker, Dee Haitch. Click here for part 1.

Down below

Start the engine. Does it start easily an idle properly? Leave it to warm up for a while whilst you look around at other things. Starting from right forward, if there is access to the chain locker or similar storage space, have a good look in it. Is there any sign of corrosion or other damage? If there is timber in there, does it look, feel and sound solid? Does the locker smell fresh?

Move through every closed space in the boat and do the same inspection. If the are timber bulkheads, check them. Pay particular attention to the top and bottom and any areas that might be covered in. Check all the bilges. Are they clean or do they have rubbish, water or oil in them? Do the bilge pumps work? Can all spaces be got to and pumped out if necessary? If the boat has a bolt-on keel, do the keel-bolts look sound and corrosion-free?

Does the toilet work? Does it have anti-siphon devices fitted? Do the sea-cocks close properly and look corrosion-free? Do the skin fittings appear sound and corrosion free? Are wooden bungs in evidence adjacent to every skin fitting? Go through the boat and check all skin fittings the same way. Check for signs of any leakage, particularly around chain plates or any other fastenings that come through the deck. Do all the lights/electrical devices work?

Does the wiring look tidy or are there odd bits of wire hanging around, particularly in any switchboxes. Do the battery isolators actually isolate? Do the batteries look clean and corrosion-free?

Don’t dwell too much on cosmetics. By and large they are not a major issue and will doubtless be changed as you go along and start to make the boat ‘yours’. After all, you wouldn’t buy a house just because you like the colour it’s painted. Or would you?

Now have a look at the engine. Assuming it is an inboard engine, does it move in and out of gear smoothly? Are there any vibrations felt when going ahead or astern? If so, it could be something as simple as barnacles on the propeller, but also look at the engine mounts and shaft alignment. Are there any obvious oil, fuel or water leaks from the engine or gearbox?

Does the engine look clean and well-cared for - as opposed to just ‘cleaned up’? Does the owner have any service records? When in gear, does the engine pull reasonable revs smoothly - bearing in mind that it is unlikely to reach full revs whilst the boat is static. Whilst running fairly hard in gear, is there any smoke from the exhaust? If so, what colour is it? Is there a good water flow through the engine and exhaust? When you stop the engine, does the stern gland, (stuffing-box type), leak more than a few drips a minute? If you get hold of the propeller shaft and give it a good shake, is there any movement? Are there any obvious leaks (or marks from previous leaks) in the fuel and water tanks or lines? If it has an outboard engine, then the task is simpler, but again, examine the engine under the cowl for any obvious signs of leaking or corrosion. Check gear movement, vibration, starting and stopping, as well as running under load.

Don’t expect not to find things wrong with the boat. It is virtually guaranteed that you will. The trick is to do the evaluation as to what might be minor and easily fixable and what might be serious enough to be a genuine deal-buster.

Take the time to make notes on things you might want to change or that need fixing. Even take a few pictures to jog your memory later. Don’t rely on dragging things out from your memory when you get back home. From your list and pictures you can probably get a pretty good estimate of what might need to be done, what it is going to cost you and how long it might be expected to take. If it is things that are actually wrong with the boat, but you are still interested, then they might become a point for discussion with the owner, perhaps with some compromise being reached on the cost of rectifying the problems.

After weighing everything up, If you are still of the mind that this might just be ‘the’ boat, then the next stage is to decide how much you are willing to pay for it and then put your offer to the seller. Unless you are 100% confident in your own ability to guess what is under the water, any offer you make should be ’subject to inspection’. If your offer - either first or subsequent - is accepted, then you are going to want to have a look at the boat out of the water.

By this time you are likely to have made a pretty fair assessment as to whether this is the boat you want - assuming there is nothing too bad found under the water. That being the case, it might be a good idea to arrange in advance to have a surveyor or qualified shipwright on hand to give an inspection and valuation that your insurer will almost certainly ask for. Having them there does not mean that you can just leave everything to them though; really what they are doing is providing a report that your insurers can use to cover their tails with their underwriters.

The surveyor in turn covers his tail with the bottom line on his report that says, in effect, he’s had a look but don’t blame him if he missed something critical. Even a surveyor with the best intentions is only human and can make mistakes. It is your money you are spending so you have a vested interest is looking just that bit harder than a surveyor might. Get some friends involved and poke, prod and gaze as much as you can and don’t be afraid to point out - and ask about - anything you are not sure about.

If you are buying privately, then you will have to arrange things with the seller yourself. You have to see about getting the boat to a slip and of course finding out what it is going to cost you. You will have to arrange with the vendor to get the boat taken to the slipway and taken back again after. Plus of course arranging with the slipway to clean the hull for inspection and, possibly, getting some antifouling re-done afterwards, particularly if it had only recently been done and the cleaning takes a lot of it off again. Make sure all these details are properly clarified with the vendor before going ahead. It is common that the deal worked out regarding slipping cost (slipping only) is that if you go ahead with the purchase after inspection, then the vendor will pay for the slipping cost. If you do not go ahead with the purchase, then you pay the slipping cost. Normal practice is that you would pay some deposit on the vessel before slipping - just to show good faith.

If you are dealing through a broker you will probably find that he will insist on you signing a formal offer to purchase - and paying a deposit - before you have the boat on the slip. Any offer you make should again be ‘subject to out-of-water inspection’. In other words, if that inspection reveals something nasty that you weren’t aware of before, then you have every right to back out of the deal and get your deposit back; or negotiate a reduced price to take into account whatever the problem might be. The broker will probably be able to arrange the slipping for you. And the return of the boat afterwards. It can usually be at a slipway of your choice - provided of course that it is not a ridiculous distance away. Many brokers also have agreements with vendors that also says, very basically that, if you wind up buying the boat, then the vendor wears the cost of the inspection slipping. If you change your mind and don’t go ahead with the purchase, then you pay for the slipping. Pretty fair really.

The broker is also likely to be able to answer any questions you may have and to take account of any problems that you report finding with the boat and then assist by negotiating with the vendor for any reduction in price in the light of those problems. If you wanted to have a formal survey for the vessel, the broker will be able to give you a list of local surveyors so that you can then choose the one of your choice to do the job for you.

Next week: Part 3 – On the Slip

3 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Dee Haitch

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