The 10-Minute Once Over
Going to a boat show or cruising the dealers? Now is the time to buy. Just make sure you bring along our cheat sheet to see if the boat you’re in love with is a contender or a pretender.
It should drain overboard, have a u-bolt to secure the rode’s bitter end and have good access to undo a tangle.
They’re often missing but are needed for spring lines. They must be at least one inch long for every one-16th inch of line diameter.
It needs a minimum of three steps with the lowest being three feet or more below the waterline and must be deployable from the water.
Look for piping along the edges and stitches pulled down below fabric level to reduce wear.
They must have raised lips — fiddles — of at least an inch in height on all sides to keep gear in place.
Check to make sure they are at least two feet wide to be useful for entry and exit.
To wear well, it needs to be thick. If it’s hard to fold over on itself or to crease, it’s oK.
Many builders save a few bucks by not including screens for ports and hatches.
Look for at least two support posts. Give the frame a few good yanks to see if all is secure.
Padding must be at least four inches thick; five to seven inches is better. After you get up, the indent should immediately disappear.
There’s only so much you can learn from looking at a boat on land; while it’s always possible to get a feel for flex in the sole by jumping up and down, the next step is to get it on the water. To begin with, stop looking and start listening.
Go out in a two-foot chop. Let the boat pound. It should sound solid, with no creaking or groaning. If it doesn’t, things are flexing and moving when they shouldn’t. When it’s calm, produce waves by running over your wake. Also, try a few high-speed turns. The best place to listen is up and forward; it’s a high-stress area and gets you away from the noise of the engines. Put your ear to a bow rail; it’s a good sound amplifier.
See if doors and drawers open and close as they did at the dock. If not, the hull/deck structure is twisting. Put a piece of cardboard in a gap between a door and frame. If it wiggles or falls out, that component is working along with the hull, which could be a problem.
On boats with wide-open spaces, such as motoryachts, tightly tie a string athwartships across the space. See if it sags and tightens while under way.