Posts Tagged ‘Boats’

Jul 22, 2010

So – You Want to Buy a Boat — Part II


Rot, Rust and Osmosis


Wood, steel, aluminum and fiberglass are all perishable to an extent we only ignore at our own great risk.  The decay and decomposition of any boat hull is an ongoing process.  Fortunately, we can delay, and even reverse, the process, but it takes both time and money.


Keeping your body healthy and well nourished can slow the process of dying, and any well built boat can last a long time and remain healthy and structurally sound if it is well maintained. Unfortunately, like the seemingly healthy person who is about to have a massive heart attack or stroke, but shows no signs of anything except perfect health, boats can also appear to be in “Bristol” condition until just before a catastrophic failure.  Cosmetics can hide a fatal disease.


The  majority of sportfishing boat hulls from 30-75 feet are constructed of some combination of  fiberglass and/or wood (with more exotic “composite” materials frequently playing key roles). The ability of resins, adhesives, welds and mechanical fastenings to hold things together is of paramount importance.


Most of the chemical bonds are internal, and other types of joins and secondary bondings are hidden by structures like tanks, furniture and decks added after the original hull was constructed.  Modern wooden boats are generally sheathed in fiberglass or some other  resinated fabric.  Many problems or potential problems can not be seen by the average owner or captain.


Even a skilled boat builder may be totally unable to determine what is still sound and what has faults and flaws that may fail under the stress of heavy weather. Old fashioned surveyors tapping with hammers and listening for the change in sound that indicates a void or laminate failure would miss many potentially catastrophic flaws. 


Luckily, both physicians and surveyors have miraculous new tools to help them investigate beneath the surface, many of them using similar technologies.  Think of a marine survey as a physical exam.  X-rays, sonograms, and radar type of technology are all used by modern marine surveyors.  Not getting a hull survey is an enormous acceptance of risk and one that could (usually would) stop an owner from getting adequate insurance. 


The phenomenon of “osmosis”, a blistering of fiberglass hulls, is of particular concern in older fiberglass hulls.  I would never be involved in purchasing an older glass hull without having a competent surveyor check the hull with a moisture meter.  Repairs can be made but they are expensive.


WARNING – even the best surveys include the phrase “inaccessable to inspection” with regard to major components that can not be adequately inspected and surveyors do NOT accept liability for potential problems in these areas.


Can you See From the Helm?


I get to go for sea trials on multi million dollar boats I would not accept as a present.  If I can not see the bow, or at least the deck hand on the bow, from the helm station, I do not want to dock the boat. 


If I can not see the angler in the chair well enough to be able to see if the reel is turning over I do not want to fish this boat seriously.  It may be fine for cruising but not for fishing.


Can you see the electronics?  Can you see them in real world conditions when the sun’s light is at a low angle?  Do you have to stand up and lean over to read any of the display screens because the screen is mounted at less that a 60 degree angle (measured above the horizontal)? Any one of these being answered “yes” would mean I have to spend money correcting that particular flaw and could tip the scales toward a different boat.



Engine Room Lay Out


Engine room layouts have improved enormously in recent years.  Manufacturers have made most of the critically important preventative maintenance much easier to do.  (If you do not know what this entails plan on hiring a captain.) 


Fluids and filters must be easy to change or they may not get done regularly enough.  This includes primary and secondary fuel filters, lube oil filters, coolant filters and all fluids. 


It should also be easy to do battery checks, get access to bilge pumps, fuel priming pumps, shaft glands or seals and all refrigeration and air conditioning pumps.  You should not  have to cut salon soles (engine room overheads) to work on main engines.


The key word is prevention!  A good boatman avoids trouble by anticipating it.  On a good boat this is easy to achieve.  Look for it and make it high on your list of necessary features.


Beware a Cream Puff


Most buyers would consider low hours of use by the previous owner as a plus when looking at a used boat but watch out.  Low engine hours and lack of use by a loving owner can actually be a negative.


Consider these facts.  When an internal combustion engine is first shut down there is a film of oil coating all its moving parts.  Over time this oil drains away leaving the metal dry and unprotected.  Since at least one cylinder on every engine has an exhaust valve open, or an exhaust port exposed, there will be some degree of exposure to a salt air environment, even on turbocharged engines, and over time a thin coating of rust will form.


If special lay-up procedures are not followed when the engine is left idle for long periods of storage, the first few seconds when the engine runs after a long time without starting will cause more wear than hundreds or even thousands of hours of normal use. The rust particles on the cylinder walls can act like a grinding compound when the piston begins to move up and down and can create enormous wear to pistons and cylinder liners!




The higher up you are the better you can see ahead of the  boat, and with experience the easier it is to read the depth  of the  water before you cross over it.  I can not take boats safely to some of my favorite places in the Bahamas unless I have the  advantage of height of eye a tower gives me.


Most people do not use a tower for anything  except styling and are not therefore familiar with what make a tower functional.  Unfortunately, most tower manufacturers never use their products, so functional towers these days are scarce as hen’s teeth. 


It should go without saying, a tower should be easy to climb (not too steep) and it should be easy to enter the upper platform.  Controls should be easy to reach from the padded corner of a belly rail so the skipper can always hang on with at least one hand and never has to use both hands to adjust gear shifters or throttles.  A good tower has all the electronics a flying bridge has and they should be easily visible.  A loud hailer with a microphone in the tower and a speaker under the cockpit overhang makes communications between the cockpit and the tower easy and saves a lot of yelling.


Sea Trials


Sea trials are an absolute necessity and the rougher the better.  You might have the wettest boat ever built and never  know it if you do not have some chop and at least a modest breeze. Wet boats often have poor vision ahead, a serious impairment. (On one boat test of a well known brand of express boat I was afraid I would run over a wind surfer because I could barely make out their bright sails.)


ALWAYS try to run the boat on one engine!  Can you steer in either direction?  Or is this a one way only rig that would be a nightmare to dock with one engine shut down?  What about windage and maneuvering in a tight channel?


Does she track straight in a following sea?  Does the auto pilot handle her or will you be hand steering constantly, in a quartering or following sea?  What about beating into it?  Does she come down softly or with a bone jarring SMACK that will eventually loosen fastenings and beat swinging doors off her hinges?


We boat for the fun of it.  The more advance research you do, the better the professional help you can hire, and the better your new boat suits your needs the more fun you will have.  


Happy boating and good fishing!


For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit:




Jul 16, 2010

So – You Want to Buy a Boat — Part I

All boats are compromises.  There is no single perfect boat anymore than there is one perfect car.  Ferrari sports cars, Land Cruiser SUVs, Ford pick up trucks, and Chevy soccer mom vans are all designed to fill a specific niche in the automotive world and each has special functions.
Boats are much like cars.  I will, in this article, only discuss twin engine, diesel powered, sport fishing boats over 32 feet in length.  That still leaves an enormous amount of variability and equally many pros and cons of the multiple variables.

Rather than start out looking for a 42 foot Brand A or a 53 foot Brand B, a prospective boat buyer should start by drawing up a comprehensive list of where he intends to go, and the maximum number of people  who will be on board 90% of the time (It is crazy to buy a boat with enough staterooms to give optimum privacy to the one biggest crew you will ever have in the next 3 years!).  Then, calculate how much fuel you need to make the longest crossing you intend to make more than once or twice a year. Carrying a bladder or some drums once a year beats having a boat with the capabilities of which you rarely use. Here is why:

Size Matters

The size of your new dream boat may be a lot like the  responsibilities and demands of your job. According to “The Peter Principle” an executive who performs well tends to be promoted until he reaches a level at which the demands of his position overcome his abilities and he can no longer be promoted or maintain his position.  He or she is pushed sideways into a job with equal (or lesser) status, but one where he will remain for the  rest of his career.

In my analogy, I see one reason for the thousands of boats that sit, wasting away, in canals, at docks behind their owner’s house.  Often they are just too much for the owner to cope with!  In particular, they may be too big for the owner to enjoy taking out by himself, or with family and friends, but no professional crew.

A 50 foot plus convertible is too big to take out for an hour or two when her owner finally does get a little free time.  It takes so long to wash down the entire exterior, chamois off the water droplets, including the spray curtains, and of course do the engine room checks that it is not worth the hassle.

blk marlin release gbr 2I always quip “Let me make sure we’re not sinking” when I enter the hot engine room after even a short trip, but sometimes we are!  The last time I had that sinking feeling when I climbed into the engine room water was pouring from a dripless shaft seal that had a rubber boot that needed adjusting.  Nothing really major, but enough to make me always check the engine room while I am still dirty, and before I have a cocktail.

Then you still have to clean the interior, vacuum the carpets, wipe off the countertops, do the inside surface of the windows – ad infinitum!  The care and maintenance of a boat is a direct function of the area of its cockpit deck, fore deck, bridge deck, salon and galley soles, and number of marine heads that need to be cleaned.  Size does matter, and this is where one of the inherent conflicts in boat brokerage comes into play.  Brokers get paid a commission on the total cost of any boat they sell, and bigger boats cost more and create bigger commissions.

There is an old joke about the winter it got so cold in Florida that the yacht brokers had their hands in their own pockets!  Unfortunately, there really are way too many sleazy yacht brokers.  However, a good, reliable broker is your friend and the expert upon whom you rely. Finding a good one is all important!

Choosing a Broker

A reputable broker should gladly give you names of his or her previous clients so that you can call or visit to inquire about the relationship between the broker and his client, and the satisfaction of any transactions they had shared. Getting the right broker is in many ways the  most important part of looking for a boat.

It is not a broker’s job to sell you a boat, it is his job to steer you toward boats that fill the bill your descriptions and discussions have indicated would suit you.  Often this is a boat you would never have thought to look at!  The ultimate decision must be yours.
Jeff Fay and I once bought a Rybovich for less than the price of a far lesser production boat that I had in mind because a (now retired) broker friend, Peter Schweitzer, found her languishing in Sarasota. “Humdinger” was, and is, what her name implies and she is still going strong 30 years later.  Still under the care of my friend and ex-partner, she is one of the prettiest and most successful charter boats in Kona, Hawaii and still strong and sea worthy- thanks to a good broker with his finger on the pulse of things and a wide range of contacts.

In direct contrast, I once went out on a sea trial with a friend.  My friend really liked his broker, considered him a friend, and trusted his advice.  I knew it would do little good, and only damage my relationship with my friend, if I mentioned that not only was I getting  half soaked,  I was about to lose half the fillings in my back teeth on the ride which the broker was describing to our friend/client as both soft and dry!  The broker was selling a boat, not guiding the customer in his decision.

The deal was made but the owner did not keep his new boat for very long.  The professional captain he had to hire to run his new, bigger boat steered him into a much better choice for him to achieve long term boating pleasure.

Surveyor- A Buyer’s Friend

If a broker helps you understand what style and size of boat suits you best, a  good marine surveyor is the hero who protects you from dangers you can not see or imagine when you have finally found  what seems to be a suitable choice.

Perhaps the most anxious I have ever been during a boat survey was when I was in the Canary Islands and on the selling side.  I knew my boat, a custom built, foam sandwich composite 40 footer named “Duyfken” well and loved her. She had carried me through hazardous situations over thousands of miles of ocean and we had caught every species of billfish off her.

The surveyor, a Spanish gentleman, with a degree from M.I.T., was the most thorough going I have ever seen.  He went over her with a fine tooth comb. What if he found something seriously wrong that even I did not know about?  At that moment, the importance of getting a good surveyor the next time I was on the buying side became more obvious than it ever had been before.

Part II to follow

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: