Buying used sailboat without testing on water

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Ace214, Apr 18, 2019. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Ace214

    Ace214

    Joined Feb 5, 2019
    4 posts, 0 likes
    Siren 17
    Alex Gonzalez CA Private
    Sorry for the late reply, everyone, I've been a little tied up with other important things (wife, kids, Easter visits, etc). There seem to be a number of remarkably different views on this topic, I guess people's own experiences have influenced their positions. You're going to laugh at this, but this morning I called my bank (the Royal Bank of Canada, which is Canada's main bank), and I asked for information on their escrow services, and the rep I was speaking with said "what do you mean by escrow, can you spell that for me?"! Even after explaining the entire process of buying a boat with an escrow account, the rep didn't seem to know what I was talking about!
    I guess I will use common sense and do things carefully:
    1) start with a first visit to visually inspect a potential purchase
    2) discuss with the seller to see if a sea trial can be done otherwise a detailed inspection by a boat inspector, either of which I will pay for myself. I only have experience sailing a very small and simple dinghy, so I'll need to ask the seller to show me how to raise the mast, set up rigging, set up sails, launch and retrieve using trailer, etc.
    3) completion of a bill of sale and transfer of ownership
    4) visit by the seller and myself to my bank in order to sign the bill of sale and transfer the money to the seller's account.

    It's still pretty cool here in Montreal and the boating season hasn't quite started yet (it'll probably start around the beginning of May as the temperature gets milder). I'll keep you posted on my progress! Thanks again everyone!
    Alex
     


  2. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,220 posts, 4,094 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Being “cool weather” I can see why a few sellers might not want to put the boat in the water to sail.

    There is also, sometimes, a mind set that “it is only 2000 dollars. Man that is nothing, it is a boat. Break Out Another Thousand”.

    We sometimes forget the “foreign” rules regarding legal stuff. Not sure if Canada follows the same rules as in England, but it may be that escrow is handled by a lawyer/Barrister in your region north of the border. Escrow accounts are a common thing here in real estate deals. We often have “title Companies” handle the escrow as a 3rd independent party.

    Checking the info in Canada I found this reference...
    • trust account An account used by a law firm or real estate agent to handle earnest money, funds set aside for repairs and other money that the buyer and seller put up before closing.
    Or if the 2000-5000 is not a big issue you could put language in the contract that entitles you to refund or “I’ll give you 1000 now and the other 1000 after I see that the boat floats and equipment works as you say it does.” “If it does not you owe me a full refund.” It sort of is what ever you two can work out that you all agree is fair. Certainly a boat broker can be used if you are really unsure. You can Negotiate the brokers cost for the work he is being asked to do.

    Best of luck.
     


  3. Daveinet

    Daveinet

    Joined Sep 20, 2014
    1,032 posts, 216 likes
    Rob Legg RL24
    US Chain O'Lakes
    I'm not sure what a sea trial will tell you that a good inspection won't. Its a piece of plastic, it will float. If you are not an experienced sailor, you will not learn anything on a sea trail. My first monohull sailed like crap, but I would be willing to bet the selling price that an inexperienced sailor could tell that from a sea trail. I learned how to make the boat sail. I didn't do things the boat was not capable of. If you have nothing to compare it to, you wouldn't know it's limitations. The guy I sold it to, knew the sails were original (40 years old) and knew it had a flat blade rudder. He also knew I used my Hobie sail most of the time.
    There is a couple of reasonable approaches you can take. The approach I took with my first monohull was this. After shopping for a while, I realized the prices were all over the place on cheap trailer sailors. Knowing that I was completely ignorant, I chose to buy a boat that was cheap enough that I could call it a learning experience, and could always be sold for nearly the price I paid for it. It had some interior rot. There were no real cracks in the gel coat. (spider cracks, but nothing serious) I had no idea how it would sail, or even that blown out sails mattered. I bought it, and put it in the water. After several sails with it, I learned what I wanted in a boat, and how to look for it. Because of the baggy sails, the boat wanted to turn down wind. Worse yet, it had a flat blade rudder that limited how hard you could turn before it would stall and become ineffective. Both of those issues could have been understood without a sea trial if I actually had the knowledge. The boat also had some interior rot. I learned how to fix and how much labor was involved - something you can only learn from first hand experience.
    So when I bought my second monohull, I did a couple of things. First off, I searched for a brand/model of boat based on it's Portsmouth rating. This is a handicap used for racing in an attempt to level the playing field. The faster the boat, the lower the number. Fast boats must be well designed, otherwise they are not fast. Typically these faster boats will be better built, as they are built to a more precise standard. Understand that in the 70s and 80s, everyone and their brother was building boats. There were a lot of boats built to capitalize on the market boom. These boats were built to be cheap, but look cool. In contrast many performance oriented boats are more likely sailed by those who were more careful about maintaining the boat. They will be a little more expensive, unless you buy something a little more obscure like my RL. Once you have a short list of brands/models to look at, then it really comes down to if the hull is solid and if the sails are blow out. You could put the mast and sails up while the boat it in someone's back yard. This is worthwhile, as it will get you familiar with the rigging, and you will be able to inspect all the lines and stays to make sure they are not frayed, and that the cleats, shackles and turnbuckles work. If it is a swing keel, or drop keel, you can check out the mechanism and make sure everything moves. If there is a slight wind, it will fill the sails. Even though it is a static test, you can still see the shape. See if the sails respond to different sheeting angles. Does the sail twist, or does it just grow a big belly.
    Sails and rigging are the expensive stuff. The boat itself is plastic. Some boats are cored, so you have to pay attention to soft spots in the hull, where water could have rotted the core. The boat may leak, but that is pretty much a given. Rebedding all the fittings should be expected on any old boat. You won't find that out till the first rain storm. Your real goal is to eliminate the expensive stuff.
    BTY: If the boat is moderately small, like in the 20 ft range, you can buy a 24 volt trolling motor and a couple of batteries and forget the outboard. As long as you are not going out on one of the Great Lakes or the ocean, that should be fine.
     


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  4. DArcy - Islay Mist

    DArcy - Islay Mist

    Joined Feb 11, 2017
    358 posts, 308 likes
    C&C 27 MkII
    Ca Ottawa
    I've been looking at boats as well. I looked at one which was a private sale and looked into escrow. I got a number for
    Trang or Trin at RBC - 416-955-8371. Sorry, I didn't ask for spelling of the name. I also have a contract template which might help you - but I am in no way a lawyer so I'm not sure how effective it would be if used in earnest.
     


  5. jwing

    jwing

    Joined Jun 5, 2014
    492 posts, 212 likes
    ODay Mariner
    US Guntersville
    How does one go about testing the swing keel of a boat on a trailer? I once passed on a boat that was on a trailer. I crawled under, looked up and saw nothing but black. Luckily, I had a flashlight with me, so I could confirm that there was a keel, but there was no certainty that it would deploy. Also, I saw stones wedged between the keel and its housing. The seller told me that there was no problem. I asked him to demonstrate, but neither of us knew how to lower the keel through the trailer.

    Same boat - the mast was down and had a red Dixie Cup taped to the bottom. The seller claimed that it was there to conform to traffic safety rules and immediately tried to divert my attention to something else. But I took the cup off and found that it had been concealing a crack and deformation at the base of the mast. He told me that the boat had been sailed like that for years, so I ask him to show me how to raise the mast. He wouldn't, so I left. On the long drive home, I got to thinking that if we would've erected the mast, it might've looked OK, but that would not have proven that it was was capable of withstanding the forces and angles of actually sailing.
     


    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
    jssailem likes this.
  6. Ace214

    Ace214

    Joined Feb 5, 2019
    4 posts, 0 likes
    Siren 17
    Alex Gonzalez CA Private
    Yes, at the very least, an inspection and raising of the mast and sails on land would be a must, otherwise I would walk away. Like you mentioned, it's unlikely I would be able to lower the keel while the boat is on a trailer. Any idea how much it would cost to repair a broken keel or it's mechanism on a small trailer sailer?
     


  7. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,220 posts, 4,094 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Ace. DIY will be a bunch of time. There are several threads on the SBO forum that talk about trailer sailer centerboard repair. One fellow lifted the boat up off the trailer in the air (under a shed) and then built a cradle under the boat. With the boat in the air he dropped the center board and made the repairs. Time and materials. If you are handy with tools and enjoy making things not so bad. If you would rather be sailing, then the project might be a deal killer.

    For some sailing is a hobby that includes the time and effort associated with old boat maintenance/repair. Others would rather be out on the water and have money to pay someone else to do that work. Still others just want a new boat with no problems. It is kind of the way folks buy and maintain cars.

    All budget priced boats will have a higher cost for maintenance and repair as they are often in lack of those elements.
     


  8. Kings Gambit

    Kings Gambit

    Joined Jul 27, 2011
    3,156 posts, 780 likes
    Bavaria 38E
    US Alamitos Bay
    Of course; what the buyer and seller agree to, including contingencies for return of “earnest money” in the event of non-acceptability/non-sale, is what will happen. Many brokers help set up such contingencies so they can move forward with a potential sale, etc., but certain rules do apply. Non-brokered sales/purchases are a bit different. Perhaps, my term is not accurate in this example but IMHO the seller is justified if some work is to be done to require something from a prospective buyer beyond an expression of interest coupled with evident swooning.
     


    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
    jssailem likes this.
  9. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,220 posts, 4,094 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Oh I like that..
     


  10. Kings Gambit

    Kings Gambit

    Joined Jul 27, 2011
    3,156 posts, 780 likes
    Bavaria 38E
    US Alamitos Bay
    When I have something for sale, such as on craigslist, etc., and I get a call asking what is my bottom line, it ruffles me some. It makes me suspicious that the caller is not really interested in the item for personal use, but is price shopping to acquire items cheap, potentially for resale, etc. Even if the OP here is sincere in his interest (and I believe that he is), there are many examples out there of folks trying to work a seller to sell low so the item may be resold at a “profit.” (Just try selling stuff at a boaters swap meet to see what I mean.) After putting in a lot of time on the scamster, the seller could end up with an insultingly low-ball offer that can’t be accepted. Asking for non-refundable “earnest money” on a “test sail” goes a long way to derailing scamster ploys, etc., as it testifies to a buyer’s true interest in buying the boat.
     


    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  11. Kings Gambit

    Kings Gambit

    Joined Jul 27, 2011
    3,156 posts, 780 likes
    Bavaria 38E
    US Alamitos Bay
    The proverbial shotgun is used for the opposite purpose, according to folk lore!
     


  12. jwing

    jwing

    Joined Jun 5, 2014
    492 posts, 212 likes
    ODay Mariner
    US Guntersville
    It doesn't ruffle me some; I hate it. If we are talking on the phone, my answer is always, "The price I posted is my bottom line; I have represented the item accurately and priced it fairly and anybody who actually wants it will agree." If the correspondence is via text, I don't reply. BTW, nobody who started the conversation by asking my bottom price has ever bought something from me. Same for people who request more photos (I never give more photos than I've put in the ad.) I have gotten a couple of lectures about my ignorance of how Craigslist negotiations work. I laugh as I'm going for the end call button. My experience with Craigslist is all people who come to see what I have are good people and buy as soon as they see that my descriptions and photos are accurate representations. Of course, I'm always ready to demonstrate. Example: When I sold a lawn mower, we met where we could cut some grass.
     


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  13. Kings Gambit

    Kings Gambit

    Joined Jul 27, 2011
    3,156 posts, 780 likes
    Bavaria 38E
    US Alamitos Bay
    I usually say that I don’t “negotiate” over the phone. Do you wish to make an appointment? That seems enough to forstall the scamsters.
     


    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
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  14. Daveinet

    Daveinet

    Joined Sep 20, 2014
    1,032 posts, 216 likes
    Rob Legg RL24
    US Chain O'Lakes
    And that is exactly how. Most swing keels will have an inch or two of travel before running into the trailer cross bracing. I good floor jack and a piece of wood will allow the boat to be lifted a few inches, allowing one to make sure it moves freely without spinning the swing bolt. A good flashlight to view clearances. Your biggest concern is the winch and cable that lifts the keel. If it will move the keel up and down a few inches, it is likely OK. In my boat, I could see the attachment from the top side. While I didn't do it at the time of sale, I have slid the boat forward enough to drop the keel to the ground. (Actually I dug a hole under the boat, so it swung the full distance) You should also take a plastic wedge, so you can move the keel side to side. With the floor jack underneath, you can even lift on the bolt side and check for keel bolt slop. For the most part, that stuff is fixable. What you don't want is cracks in the fiberglass, especially around the keel.
     


  15. Project_Mayhem

    Project_Mayhem

    Joined Sep 24, 2018
    352 posts, 65 likes
    O'Day 25
    US Waukegan
    You can also use a snake cam for the centerboard as well as other areas. They can be had for $30-50 on amazon. Some are even wireless and work with your phone
     


  16. Meriachee

    Meriachee

    Joined Aug 1, 2011
    3,266 posts, 1,112 likes
    Catalina 270
    CA Wabamun - on the orange ball
    We'd like to buy it for a relative in Tierra del Fuego. We will pay for the container, packaging and shipping, and will pay you generously for your assistance.
     


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  17. Daveinet

    Daveinet

    Joined Sep 20, 2014
    1,032 posts, 216 likes
    Rob Legg RL24
    US Chain O'Lakes
    Just a quick comment. We are assuming a trailerable boat with a swing or drop keel. If it is a fixed keel, then it may need to get wet to confirm no leaks through the attachment point.
     


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  18. capta

    capta

    Joined Jun 4, 2009
    3,086 posts, 1,149 likes
    Pearson 530
    na Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
    I think it really depends on how much one knows about boats. An engine can be run out of the water, running gear can be checked to see if it is true. Leaks rarely develop w/o leaving some sort of indication behind (beware of newly painted boats). Sails can be laid out on a lawn and masts and booms eyed either verticle or horizontal. Wires are more easily inspected in hand.
    So, I think it comes down to how much you trust your judgment.
    I bought this boat w/o a sea trial and it worked out fine. There could have been problems I didn't detect, but there weren't. Of course, the boat was surveyed twice, so that helped. Sadly the insurance companies won't take my own survey even though I used to own a survey company. Ba Humbug.
     


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  19. Roadking Larry

    Roadking Larry

    Joined Mar 30, 2013
    646 posts, 145 likes
    Allied Seawind MK II 32'
    US Oologah Lake, Oklahoma
    I'm pretty much of that mind myself.
    I've currently got a boat for sail. It's in the slip at the marina ready to go. Time and weather permitting I'd take a prospective buyer out for a test ride at the drop of a hat. Hell, if I've got time I'll take my self out for a test ride just because "sailing".
    :biggrin:
     


    Will Gilmore likes this.


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