Buying a Sailboat – Survey, Haul Out and Sea Trial

Buying a Sailboat – Survey, Haul Out and Sea Trial

We’re quickly learning the boat buying process is just that…a process! Seriously, I think it might be more complex than purchasing our house in Dallas.

Much like the home buying process has an inspection to make sure you don’t have any crazy weird electrical issues or major foundation problems, boats go through a similar quality check process called the survey and sea trial.

We’ve been told over and over that when it comes time to buy a boat we need to get a really good surveyor and be present for the survey to make sure all ends of the boat are inspected.   So, here we are taking the advice of those that have come before us.

Once our offer had been accepted on the boat, we sent emails to our fellow sailing friends asking for an honest and thorough boat surveyor recommendation.  When a guy named Brian Stetler came up more than once, we figured it was a good sign so we decided to hire him for the job.  That’s right, it’s the responsibility of the buyer to hire and pay for the boat survey.

Now that we had our surveyor picked out we needed to pick a marina for the haul out and make sure the boat was there and waiting at least 12 hours in advance so the engines had plenty of time to cool down before the survey began.  This is how we ended up sailing our dream boat from Vero Beach to Ft. Lauderdale with John, the current owner of “Reset”. (P.S. It’s a 2005 Leopard 43 Owners Version)

Considering we’re sailboat buying newbies, we had no idea what to expect. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a survey before or not, but for us it was an incredibly interesting experience and we learned a lot!

It was an action packed day spent hunting for problems…and I even got my hands dirty down in the engine room. So grab your plastic hammer, shop rags and your wallet…its survey time!

Pretty in depth right?!? Our brains were total mush by the end of the day and our pocket book was down a couple of grand but it felt 100% worth it.  Once we got that survey back we had a good sense of what we were getting ourselves into.  Not only that but we now had a little bargaining power for negotiating the purchase price down a little more.

Finding a Surveyor

There is an organization called SAMS (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors) that has listings for surveyors and is a good place to start.  However, we always like getting a good recommendation from a friend.  If you don’t know anyone in the boating world that might have a good recommendation…that’s where blogs and forums come in handy.  It doesn’t take long after posting a question before the responses start flowing.  If you were looking for one in the Ft. Lauderdale or Jupiter area then we would recommend Brian Stetler.  He was recommended to us and we thought he did a great job.

What a lot of heartache a service like this could save in the RV world.  Perhaps someone should start SARVS (Society of Accredited Recreational Vehicles Surveyors)? Maybe not the best acronym but still a good idea!  Imagine having a host of pros at your fingertips to help you decide whether or not to buy that half million dollar used Prevost (or that ’72 Winnebago)!

Crazy thing is, we’ve talked to all kinds of people who decided to survey their own boat or worse, forgo the survey all together.  Most of those people we talked to who “self-surveyed” had some very nasty surprises waiting for them after a few months of ownership.  Unless you are an expert, or an incredibly seasoned boater, not hiring a good surveyor sounds like a big roll of the dice to me…but to each their own.

catamaran sea trial
surveyor checking for delamination
catamaran survey
good surveyor

Survey Report & Oil Analysis

We received a full 20 page report filled with details and photos from Brian but you don’t want to sift through that. To give you an idea of what all the survey found, here is the 4 page summary.  We also included a portion of the oil analysis for the port and starboard engines. I am not sure what it all means other than the part that said normal. We just took Brian’s word for it when he said it came back all clear.

survey reportsurvey reportcatamaran survey report

catamaran survey reportoil analysis resultsoil analysis

Buying A Sailboat Phase 2

While we’re waiting to hear back on our counter offer there is much to be done.  We’ve got to get insurance in place, make sure the money is ready to go, hire a documenter, figure out registration, pick a name for the boat and I am sure a ton more we haven’t even thought about.  Luckily, we have Kent to help guide us through all the steps so we don’t miss anything.  If we do, we will blame it on him ’cause that’s what brokers are for, right? 🙂

Sailing Lessons

Yes, we do have sailing lessons lined up and will share much more about those in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, if you are in the Ft. Lauderdale area and a captain…we would love to go sailing with you.  We will gladly provide your caffeine fix for a morning sail or your beverage of choice for sundowners. 😉

So…what did you think of the survey? Got any fantastic boat name ideas for us? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Disclaimer: None of this is a paid endorsement. There’s no affiliation, compensation, sponsorship or discounts with Kent our broker, Just Catamarans, Brian the Survey guy or any sailing brand, boat or product.