Comfort, looks and price are starting points in boat shopping, but no purchase should even be considered before you complete these five sea-trial tests. We test boats for different reasons than a potential buyer would. Mostly, we want to see if a boat has any idiosyncrasies that might get a less-experienced operator into trouble. In other words, we do some of the things our fathers told us, "Don't you ever do that!"
A prospective buyer should perform some of the same tests we do when taking a boat out for a sea trial:
* Safety. This is a biggie. Most performance-safety issues concern turning. Conduct this test with no passengers and only after hooking up the red safety lanyard we call the kill switch. In open water, check to see that no other vessels are nearby. Sit down and brace yourself. With your engine trimmed for porpoise-free running at about 30 mph, crank the wheel hard over.
Does the boat power through the turn smoothly, or does the prop lose its "bite" or blow out, dumping speed? If the boat surges and bolts in this maneuver it's a sign of a poor match among hull, drive system and prop.
Also, some straight inboard vessels can suffer from rudder stall, meaning when you turn the wheel hard over, the boat starts to turn and then just plows straight ahead. This usually means the rudder is poorly designed, and creates turbulence rather than channeling water.
Finally, idle forward, turn the wheel hard over, and then push the throttle to the wall. Some poorly designed boats lay over so far on their beam that water pours over the gunwales. Not good.
* Low-speed control. Things you should be aware of include the following: In which direction does the stern swing on an inboard when in reverse? Most only back up one way. Can you change direction when powering in reverse? Even some stern-drives, when in reverse, lock into a turn and won't alter direction until you remove the throttle. These factors aren't cause to instantly reject a boat, but you should be aware of them.