Buying Your Own “Hole In The Water” Part 1

With all the boat shows popping up across the country this winter, I thought I should touch on the do’s and don’ts of boat ownership. This series of articles will be posted in three parts in order to give you time to absorb all the information offered.

The two most widely-used sayings about boats are that they are “holes in the water, into which you throw money” and “the happiest day of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it.” Although many people believe these axioms are true, they don’t necessarily have to be if you approach boat ownership with an understanding of what is involved.

Look Before You Leap

Many people are unhappy boat owners because they buy the wrong boat. Before you dive head first into the world of boat ownership, ask yourself a few questions that will help you focus on the kind of boat you will need.

  • Who will use the boat? Just family or will you invite friends? This may have a bearing on the size.
  • How will you use the boat? Will you be fishing, water skiing, cruising, taking day trips, weekend trips or week long excursions?
  • When, and how often, will the boat be used? Do you boat year-round or only seasonally?
  • Where will you operate the boat? In lakes, rivers, bays, or on the ocean?
  • How much can you afford to spend? Don’t forget the initial cost of purchase is just the beginning. There will be maintenance, insurance, registration fees and instruction and safety course fees.
  • What type of boat suits your personality and temperament? Do you imagine getting from place to place with great speed or leisurely sailing to your destination?

Become An Old Salt

I’m sure there are many books on the subject of buying a boat that you could probably get at your local library or book store. Learn the terminology of boating, hang out at the local marina and talk to people about boats. By talking to boat owners you will find out what problems they have encountered and how different kinds of boats handle. You’ll also find what features they like and dislike.

When looking for a boat you will want to consider it in terms of:

  • Safety
  • Physical Condition
  • Options and accessories
  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Cost

New vs. Used

A brand, spankin’ new boat can be beautiful to look at but you should be aware that it can also have its own problems. Sure it’s under warranty and you don’t personally have to spend time on maintenance and repairs. However, you can’t use the boat when it is in the being repaired.

I could tell you a long story here but I’ll try to keep it short. I was recently employed by a very nice, and very inexperienced, couple to give private lessons on their brand new 42′ sportfishing boat. (I will not give the manufacturer’s name or that of the broker, who was to prepare and deliver the boat, in order to protect the guilty.)

This was a one-half million dollar boat and the new owners paid the broker $26,000 for prep and delivery, not to mention the $50,000 commission. Needless to say, the two weeks of training turned out to be less than ideal when the boat was continually torn apart to fix one thing after another.

Just to give you a feel for the disaster, some examples were:

  • Electronics not installed
  • Refrigeration did not work
  • Generator would not start
  • Boat was delivered with practically no fuel although the contract called for full tanks
  • Shaft logs squealed to high heaven
  • Stereo did not work
  • …I could go on but I think you get the point

Needless to say, this couple were on the verge of getting out of boating before they got started. The point is, although a new boat is something to be treasured, it may be wise to at least consider a used boat.

Used boats don’t come without problems either and to find that perfect one can be a time consuming headache. If you are spending a considerable amount of money on a boat you might want to consider having it surveyed by a qualified marine surveyor. I stress qualified because at this time anyone can call themselves a marine surveyor. Ask at the local marina for a recommendation and make sure that they are a member of either, or both, of the marine surveyor associations. You can call the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors – SAMS and they can recommend a surveyor in your area.


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Filed under Boat Maintenance, Boat Operation, Boating News

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