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How to Buy the Perfect Boat
But you can’t decide which one, right? Like any other game, boat buying is won and lost in the preparation. You need to get your priorities straight, your goals clear and your ducks in a row before you begin. Apply the following principles to help you make the best decision.
Bounce around on the foredeck on your toes-like a boxer. Too much flex means it's poorly supported. If the deck flexes or creaks, it's too weak. At the least your hatches will leak.
Any boat longer than 25' should have an anchor locker in the foredeck. The locker should have a U-bolt to secure the rode and a cleat to tie off the rode. Hatches should be notched so they can be closed when the anchor is deployed. Larger boats should have a box dedicated to containing chain rode.
A cleat that is less than 6" long is essentially useless, except for fenders. The rule of thumb is to allow 1" of horn length for every 1⁄16" of line diameter. Since 3⁄8" line is the smallest dockline you should consider, a 6" cleat is the minimum size you should accept. Of course, bigger is always better.
RIDE THE RAIL
Foredeck bowrails should hit above your knees. Anything shorter could trip you overboard. As with cleats, bowrails should be mounted with aluminum backing plates.
Stainless-steel windshield frames show that a builder is willing to go the extra mile-or three. Stainless steel costs three times as much as aluminum. Lean hard on the frame and give it a few yanks. Yes, we know you're not supposed to, but your passengers don't. Best to have a strong windshield to support them.
ROOM TO MOVE
Stand in the side walkways. If you can't put your feet together side by side, the walkway is too narrow. On boats under 24', you might have to put up with a walkway that will accommodate only one foot at a time, but accept nothing narrower than that.
Work your way into the cockpit and look for seams between the sole and inwales. Can't find any? Good. It means the boat is made with a one-piece molded fiberglass liner that forms the cockpit and often the seat bases. This construction method is preferred over a plywood sole covered with glued-on carpet.
STAY IN THE LINES
A rectangular caulk line in the center of the cockpit sole indicates a removable fuel tank hatch. You won't need a saw for service and annual inspections.
Stand on a deck hatch. Rise up on your toes and drop to your heels. The hatch should barely flex. To make the hatch easy for a person to get through, the opening should be a minimum of 2' wide.
Remove and refasten the canvas top. Top-end builders use track systems that make installation more water resistant than snaps. The frame should be stainless steel.And the canvas should be a high-quality woven acrylic such as Sunbrella.