HULL & DECK
Use a phenolic hammer or the plastic handle of a large screwdriver to tap over the entire hull and deck. A good laminate gives a solid thunk. A hollow or higher-pitched sound may indicate a void and warrants investigation by a fiberglass pro.
Plug the scuppers and fill the cockpit to the height of any permanent step, such as the bridge deck or cabin entry. Pull the plugs. If 75 percent of the water drains in 90 seconds, and none gets into the bilge or cabin, then the scupper size is adequate. Scuppers should never be smaller than the area of a 1"-diameter circle (about 7⁄8" square).
Hatches and transom doors should be sufficiently dogged (latched), guttered, and gasketed to prevent flooding. They should open fully without stressing the hinges.
Case the joint
Hull-to-deck joints that are glassed, bolted, and glued together are better than ones that are just screwed or riveted. Check for joint gaps from inside the hull in the engine room, inside the anchor locker, and behind cabin furniture.
Structural bulkheads should be bonded to the hull with at least a 3"-wide fiberglass tab. There should be a foam or putty "filet" between the bulkhead and hull to prevent a localized pressure point that can crack the fiberglass. You'll have to climb inside berths and cabinets to find these.
Bolts, not screws
Windlasses, tops, towers, outriggers, and all other deck hardware should be bolted with metal (best) or wood backing plates. You'll have to worm your way into some tight areas inside the boat to check this.
All deck hardware should have a bedding compound of some sort to prevent leakage through the fastener penetrations. Bulges of excess compound around bases that has been squeezed out is a good sign.
Hit the canvas
All tops and side curtains should be tight enough to bounce a quarter. There should be no gaps where spray or rain (check with a hose) can get in. Zippers should have "hoods," overlaps that keep water out.
In the red
Side navigation lights must be visible to 112½ degrees aft of the bow (that's slight aft of directly abeam), and have no overlap at the bow onto the other side. Many lights mounted below the gunwale will not do this. Check that deck structures and equipment do not block lights. For full regulations go to uscgboating.org/safety/fedreqs/equipment.htm.