SELF SERVICE – SELF SURVEY
Become your very own inspection specialist
What a disappointment it will be if the boat you’ve just purchased turns out to be full of faults. To avoid such mistakes, there are simple checks that you can undertake to ensure you don’t buy a dud. A dockside inspection and a sea trial is the order of the day to determine the general condition of the boat. A proper examination can take up to three hours, depending on the size of the boat. Bear in mind, your inspection is to gauge whether the boat is worthy of an even more detailed inspection by a qualified surveyor. Simply, the purpose of your initial survey is to determine whether you are going to go ahead and spend the money to get a certified surveyor to test the boat.
ACCESS AND ENGINES
All engine hatches should be watertight as any water getting onto the components housed in the engine bay will cause corrosion. Note the ease of which water separators, fuel pumps, engine oil filler, bilge pumps and pump switches are located. Batteries should be installed high up and well away from bilge water. Battery housing containers need to be ventilated with the positive terminals being covered. All components should be as accessible as possible to make servicing and changing components easy. The engine bay should be well lit to improve visibility when engine maintenance is being done. Enquire with the owner of the boat if the deck would need to be cut to access or change the fuel tank.
Stand at the helm and check how well sighted you are and do the same while seated. You should have good sight in both positions. During the sea trial, try both positions at varying speeds to gauge whether you have clear sight in all directions. Is the instrumentation in east view? Does anything hinder your vision? Is there a bad glare coming from the windscreen? Is the height of the helm seat adjustable? In most modern boats, a lot of care and forethought has been put into their design to offer good sightlines, with ergonomics that lend itself to improved driver vision. All screens and display gauges should be easily viewed from both the standing and seated position.
A friend of Leisure Boating magazine recently purchased a second hand charter fishing boat and it soon became clear, when he was putting in a new wiring loom, that the old wiring loom had somehow been moulded in place by excess foam under the deck of the boat. Under normal circumstances, the old wiring loom could easily have been pulled out and the new wiring fed through. In this case, at great added expense, the deck had to be cut to remove the stuck wiring loom. Wiring should be neat, well organised and electrical terminals should have a protective covering.
CABIN AND GALLEY
If the boat has a galley and you plan to often make meals and cook aboard, make sure there is enough counter space to work on. Are the door latches in the galley self-locking? Is there ample storage for your galley goods? What is the headroom like?
Enquire with the owner of the boat as to what construction method and materials were used in the making of the boat. Was it constructed in a resin infusion process? Does the boat builder use modern processes or is it hand laid coring material. If the owner is not sure, you have the details of the boat to do your own online search.
TAKE TO THE WATER
Once you’ve done all the preliminary tests on the boat, it’s time for a sea trial. As soon as you are underway, check for excess bowrise when accelerating. The view of the horizon should never be blocked when standing or when seated in the helm seat. Check to see that the boat does not take an excessive amount of time to get up onto the plane using the trim tabs. If it does, it might mean that the boats has a poor design shape, and it will also have a higher fuel consumption due to the extra work the engine is required to do. Once you’ve achieved a suitable cruising speed, check to see that you have good all-round vision without any obstructions. Check to see if the boat is underpowered and whether the trim tabs are large enough to do their function properly. If possible, choose a day that is choppier than normal so that you can see how the boat fares when conditions are a bit rough. The boat might perform wonderfully on flat seas, but horribly on rougher seas. Open the throttle and find out what the optimum speed of the boat is before the hull starts pounding the water. Reduce revs to find out what the lowest planing speed is in rough conditions. Let the boat drift to check its stability when not underway. Do you feel like you’re on a rocking horse, or is it still comfortable without too much exaggerated movement? Check the steering response. If it takes approximately three turns to full lock, the steering will usually be very responsive for accident avoidance. Efficient steering is also far easier to use in close quarters.
THE FINAL SAY
Putting the boat you are planning on purchasing through rigorous testing is the only way to determine if you’re spending your money wisely. That’s why we’ve got a saying; “It’s always best to test”.