The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat

It's a nice paint job, but what's lurking underneath?

Given that Phyllis and I are considering replacing Morgan's Cloud with a smaller boat, I have been thinking a lot about the process of buying a boat that will meet our specification:

  • 15,000 to 22,000 lbs (6800 to 10000 kgs) displacement, which will typically result in a boat around 36 to 42 feet (11 to 13 m) long.
  • Good sailing performance.
  • Almost certainly fibreglass.
  • Not a project boat. We are happy to do the usual tweaks that any new-to-us boat requires, but no refits and certainly no rebuilds. (That said, read on.)
  • Trans-ocean capable (in reasonable comfort and safety).
  • Price under US$250,000.

I have also:

This work has yielded a couple of conclusions:

Gonna Be Really Hard

I said right from the beginning that this was going to be a difficult spec to fill, but I was wrong. In fact, and contrary to what many people will tell you, because of two of the above requirements, it's going to be very, very damned difficult.

The culprits are:

  1. Trans-ocean capable (in reasonable comfort and safety).
  2. Not a project boat.

Drop either, and literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of boats jump into the frame.

The other problem is that really good, well-maintained boats, from consistently good builders, are way more expensive than most people—including me, up until a few months ago—think.

And often, maybe mostly, when we find a boat that seems to break that rule, a closer look reveals a lurking problem that explains the price—teak decks that need replacing, often with water in the deck core under them, are a classic example.

So, if we had more than US$250,000 to spend, that would obviously help, but we don't, so what to do?

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  34. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  35. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  36. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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