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Prepping a boat for sale / survey

Oct 26, 2008
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
I happened to look at a boat with a broker on Tuesday night for about an hour. It's a '96 model Catalina that seemed to be a bit under the market price. The broker's explanation is that it is a well-cared for boat but the seller is an old man now whom needs to let it go and is a motivated seller. He claims it is ready to be sailed and motored away without any complications. A red flag to me was when he said the rigging is all original but will last a lifetime, no need to worry about replacing it (after 20+ years), he says. Also, the rudder stock had some movement when I wiggled it. Shaft and prop rotated nicely.

As far as I could tell, the boat looks and feels solid and I didn't see any sign that port lights leak. The problem I have is that it is dirty and the interior woodwork obviously didn't see much care. Interior upholstery is dirty and worn. The floor actually looked pretty good ... until I opened the bilge. A couple of inches of black ugly water obscured everything beneath the surface. The boat is on stands now because owner isn't using her this year.

So my question is, if the issues are cosmetic, is it reasonable to make a request to the broker to get the boat cleaned and definitely dry out the bilge before I have a survey done or even show it to Sue? For one thing, if I show this boat to Sue, she probably will be turned off as soon as they open the hatch, maybe even before as the cockpit has a fair amount of dirt on all the surfaces. The boat smells like it hasn't been opened in a while but it's not so bad that it might just need a little ventilation. If it was a bad case, I'd dismiss it, but it's kind of borderline and might be a decent deal if all systems are go. Engine has 1500 hours, so says broker, but I haven't verified.
Mar 31, 2013
O'day 23 Pa
engine is the big one, get an oil test(it's cheap and tells you a lot)
Use the dirt as a bargaining tool once the survey tells you hull and deck are sound.
You don't not buy a house because it's dirty, your going to clean the hell out of it even if it's brand new :)


Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
So why do you want it and what sounds like a big project? I'd assume the worst on everything. I tried 'great' deals with some work on my wife, it didn't work and after factoring in true cost to make the great deal right or move it I found ready to sail for more was a better deal.
Jun 21, 2004
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Well, at least they aren’t asking top dollar for it. Most cases, they asking a bunch for a boat that is filthy dirty and unkept; and the broker tries to pass it off as well maintained with “lifetime”rigging. You’ve heard it all and know that’s a bunch of broker BS! Scott, do your due diligence and if it’s something that you & the Mrs really like, then negotiate hard. Sounds like it’s going to take a lot of elbow grease and a fair amount of funds to bring it up to your standard. Good luck and keep us informed of your findings.
Apr 8, 2010
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Standing rig over 20 years old? Replace it without further pondering. Lifelines too. The broker (regarding this info) is a lier or an idiot.
You might want to do an oil analysis on the engine, but it may not tell you anything more than you'd get from a decent mechanic doing a survey on it.
What Catalina model is this?
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Are you ready for a project?
First no matter what condition the boat is in, you are going to take it apart and put it back to gather in a condition that you want to sail and enjoy. If it is dirty and the rigging is old that is bucks in your pocket. Rigging is 7 - 11 K Retail. Sue is knowledgable about boats. Make your deal with the broker then tell the broker it needs to be pretty for your wife to inspect it. Key factors are hull, keel, rudder and engine. Everything else is pretty much fluff or you will be changing it.
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Jan 22, 2008
Islander Freeport, 41 Ketch Longmont, CO
Is this a fresh or salt water boat. If its been in fresh water, then the standing rigging is most likely OK. Salt water is a different issue, the bilge water is most likely left over frost/freeze water or leakage from ports, etc. may indicate work to do in the future. Check the engine (oil test is a good idea), look at the sails, are they in good condition? Electronics will most likely need to be updated but that is normal on any older boat. What other gear comes with the sale?

Use the current condition, as a big bargaining tool and offer a rock bottom price. Friends of mine buy boats all the time like this for almost nothing and with a bit of elbow grease and some soap they turn the boat for a nice profit.

Good luck
Jan 11, 2014
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Scott, you just put all that effort and money into new electronics for your boat and now you're going to sell it? :D

How much do you want this particular model? How deeply is it discounted?

If this is a boat you have been Jonesing for and a better kept sistership out of your budget, then this may be a good deal.

When I bought Second Star I was in a similar position. We were looking for a larger boat so we could comfortably take an extended retirement cruise. The Sabre 362 had been on my dreamboat list since I first saw one at the Atlantic City Boat Show (remember that?). It was also on my I'll never be able to afford that list. Second Star sat on the hard for about 2 years with no takers, when the asking price went from absolutely unaffordable to just unaffordable. It was obvious the boat needed lots of TLC and up grading (and more upgrading than I expected). I made an offer and was able to buy the boat of my dreams for a just barely affordable price and tens of thousands of dollars below what other Sabre 362 were selling for.

So, if this is the boat of your dreams and it would not be affordable otherwise then consider a really low ball offer. Ask the broker if other offers have been made and how long the boat has been sitting. Tell Sue that the boat is in really rough shape (exaggerate) and the asking price is incredibly low, a real bargain.

Good luck!
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Ward H

Nov 7, 2011
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
I know you were just stating the brokers comments, that you don't really trust anything he says is true.

So my question is, if the issues are cosmetic, is it reasonable to make a request to the broker to get the boat cleaned and definitely dry out the bilge before I have a survey done or even show it to Sue?
I'd say it's a reasonable request and he'll say sure, no problem. Then when Sue / surveyor gets there he will have many excuses why it did not happen.

Sounds like the owner stopped caring for the boat a long time ago.
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May 21, 2004
C&C 110 Mt. Sinai, NY

If you are seriously considering buying this boat, be honest with the broker. Tell him something along the lines of "I am seriously considering this boat, but I need to have my wife see it. Right now it doesn't show well because it's dirty, smelly and the bilge is full of dirty water. Can you clean it and open it up before we come and take another look? We would like to see it on xx/xxx day. Can you have it ready by then?" If the broker is smart he will get the job done.

The last two boats I bought were at the lowest prices for the particular model. Both were not the prettiest and had some older worn out gear. However, I was able to sail them as is and made improvements over time. I have no regret and I don't mind spending time and money on the boat.

Good luck


Jun 4, 2009
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
I've always had a caution about the seller cleaning things up or repairing them for a sale. Obviously, he's not looking at the longevity side of things, just the surface what it looks like and how well it runs now. Perhaps if you frame things in that perspective your lady may accept things as they are.
Jul 7, 2004
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
I'm just wondering if having it cleaned up first won't work against you. They may be harder to negotiate with since a presentable boat is easier to sell.
Aug 2, 2005
Celebrity Class 19 Penn Yan, NY (Seneca Lake SP)
Beware of upholstery! We thought the cushion covers would benefit from a gentle wash cycle, but we removed only shredded fabric when the washing machine finished running. Sun damage over the years might not be too noticeable.
Aug 2, 2009
Catalina 28MKII Muskegon
If Sue looks at it and is turned off by it, that could just be wisdom.

I'd concerned that it's current state cosmetically is an indicator of deferred maintenance. I guess you'll see if you survey.
Jan 2, 2017
O'Day 322 Lake Pleasant, AZ
I may be asking a stupid question here, but why must 23 year old standing rigging be replaced immediately? It’s steel! They don’t replace the cables on bridges every 20 years.
(Running rigging, definitely.)
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Oct 26, 2008
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
It is a Catalina 320, which is a model that I really like. Basically, I am comparing it to The very similar Oceanis 321, which Sue has seen and likes very much. I was able to look at this boat conveniently and I primarily wanted to see the model. As it turns out, I like the model very much and I’m sure Sue would to. But she would be turned off by the condition of this boat. I believe it is basically a solid boat that lacked cosmetic care. I think that the yard cared for the hardcore items. I would definitely hire a mechanical surveyor to check out the engine. I absolutely don’t want the engine to be a project. I just replaced one a few years ago and I’m determined not to do it again. I’m concerned about the rudder, too. I didn’t like the way that the broker was dismissive.

Here’s the way I look at a few of the other issues. I’d bet that all of the boats that are this age are on the market with the original rigging so I would be looking at replacement for every boat that I see. Also, I doubt that Sue and I would be satisfied with the upholstery of any boat on the market. This boat would require replacement immediately. Others we might find alright for awhile and could put off that expense. But it would surely be an eventual expense.

The bilge water bothers me if the surveyor comes to the boat and can’t evaluate keel bolts. I soppose he could run the bilge pump to draw water down. But I doubt he could get a very good look. The fact that there is water in the bilge doesn’t really bother me since it has been on hard for a while, or should it? The boat does come with a very nice winter cover and a beautiful new dodger but no Bimini. That doesn’t seem tho bother he so much!
We are definitely going to look at boats that are cleaner and a few years newer. We’re not necessarily looking the lowest price but I’m not afraid of some cosmetic repairs.
I also consider that issues such as rigging, upholstery, sails and electronics may not be exactly what I want on any boat we find on the market in that vintage


Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
Cool, my wife did like bigger cabin spaces but after napping on the 310 queen berth she is very happy with that extra space there. That is really the only reason she is considering staying on the boat this year. Just some feedback since you want Sue to stay on board.

I liked a Oceanis 321 we saw but was too rough and lots of gel coat cracking.
Jul 1, 2010
Seaward 25, Catalina 350 Erie, Pa
Here's my 2 cents. From our experience buying a Catalina 350 last fall...Catalina made a lot of these boats (the 320 too). Most are salt water, and in average condition. The ones priced low are priced low for a reason.

I've always looked for the boat that was someone's baby, and was taken care of. These boats are very few and hard to find. With patience, we found a cream puff, though. The listing price is usually average to above average, but when you negotiate it down (usually more than you want to pay and less than they want), you really aren't that far off of the price of the one in less than average condition.

I'd much rather buy the above average boat (even paying more for it) as I know it's gonna cost me way less in the long run. Personally, if I was concerned the condition would turn off my wife, it would have already turned me off and I'd keep looking.

Good luck in the search!
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