Storage wars and maintenance mayhem

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So you’ve been considering purchasing a shiny new boat. There is a particular shining beacon of light bobbing enticingly up and down at the marina that is calling your name. It has all the bells and whistles, gadgets, gizmos and hardware that make this particular boat stand out from the crowd. What’s more is that the owners, a retired couple, are selling. They have kept the boat in fantastic condition and their more than fair pricing has you hooked. Your cash is burning a hole in your pocket and you are on the brink of concluding the purchase, but … are there other factors that need financial consideration?

As a general and very broad rule, 10% of the value of the boat can be attributed to yearly maintenance on a boat. Simply put, if your boat is going to cost you R100 000, expect to spend in the region of R10 000 on maintenance annually. As we’ve suggested in many of our past articles, it is important to get a marine surveyor involved to check the boat for defects. In most instances, the marine surveyor’s fee will be far outweighed by the value apportioned to the repairs he uncovers. These repairs will either need to be done by the seller of the boat, or they can be covered in the form of a discounted purchase price.

Docking your boat at your local marina also needs to be carefully factored into the overall costs of your boat purchase. In South Africa you’ll be looking at anything from R2500 per month upwards for a berth at a yacht club or marina … if you can get one. Some marinas are very difficult to get into and require you to join a waiting list.
Another factor that needs consideration when berthing at a particular marina is whether it has a slipway with repair facilities. If you’re going to be docking at your local yacht club, ask for a hardcopy of the rules and regulations and peruse them carefully to find out the exact costs associated to berthing your boat there.

boat marina

Boats are made of a variety of different materials such as composite materials, fibreglass, aluminium, steel and even wood. Do some fact-finding as to the upkeep of the particular hull type you are purchasing. Wooden hulls are more expensive to own, repair and upkeep. Lighter fibreglass and composite hulls will offer better fuel economy and this should also form part of your extensive research before signing on the dotted line.

If you trailer your boat but don’t have the space at home to park the boat, you might need to use the marina storage or a storage facility in your area. These costs also need to be factored into your purchase equation.

Does the boat have all of its certification and has it fulfilled its buoyancy requirements? Without the correct certificates, you’ll be going nowhere. Ensure that your prospective boat purchase comes with all the certification it needs to legally be on the water or you’ll be lumped with the additional costs associated with getting the certification.

boat care

If the marine surveyor does pick up a number of repair issues with the boat that the seller agrees to fix at his expense, then (you’ve done boatyard research prior to your purchase right?) ask that your reputable boat yard be used for the repairs so that you are ensured a proper job is undertaken without shortcuts. Shoddy workmanship only costs money down the line. Remember to factor the marine survey costs into your overall boating budget.

Lastly, don’t forget that you will need to factor in your insurance premiums in to the price of the boat. Shop around at the various marine insurers to get the best cover at the best possible price. After all is said and done, and the boat has been paid for, it’s time to gather the family, friends and relatives for the naming of the boat. Yes, we also think “SPOTLESS” is a wonderful name for your new boat.


  1. Engine Issues: Buying a boat with a bad engine spells disaster right from the outset. Check spark plugs for carbon, listen to the sounds being emitted and show up early for your appointment to see the boat so that the seller hasn’t got time to warm the engine ahead of time.
  2. Electrical Systems: Replacing the wiring on a boat is not a job you want to undertake so looking at the electrics on the boat is paramount. Test all the electrical devices, check fuse boxes and look at the condition of the wiring. Is the wiring, straight and loomed in a neat way? If you’re looking at a rat’s nest, it might be wise to consider another purchase.
  3. Failing bilge pumps: Make sure the bilge pump is properly operational. Access the bilge, look at the condition inside the bilge and trigger the float switch manually.
  4. Deck to hull separation: Check for abnormalities on the boat’s rub rail. A bent, twisted, or misaligned rub rail could well indicate that the boat could have hit something hard and stressed the deck to hull joint. Spraying down the rub rail and checking the bilge for leaks is another way to assess any possible damage and leaks.
  5. Saturated Foam: It is often very difficult to detect saturated foam within the hull and this often means getting a marine surveyor in who has a extensive knowledge of finding saturated foam using a moisture detector and can check the cored areas of the boats. It is possible to tap on suspect areas with a mallet and listen for the tones that indicate dampness, but you need to know what you are listening for.

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