Sea Trial and Error

Ever call a broker on his or her cell phone? I do that often, and most of the time I reach them. That’s because the phone is a huge source of business—good brokers know a missed call can sometimes mean a buyer is on to the next boat. It’s also why I sometimes speak to brokers while they are conducting sea trials, simultaneously telling me they’d be glad to give me a ring back shortly. Even if I happen to be calling from my dreary office, this can brighten my day, and I think it would have the same effect on all but the most hard-hearted of us. At least someone is drawing near to the purchase of a boat.

Jon Burkard, Allied Marine

Jon Burkard, Allied Marine

That sea trial can be an exciting day. Think back to what you were looking for on your last sea trial, then think about what the broker wants you to get out of it.

“Buyers should be prepared,” says Jon Burkard, president of Allied Marine. “If I’m going to buy a boat, I’d like to go for a sea trial with a surveyor, because understanding what the rpm settings are on the engines is key, and understanding what she should really perform like is really key to purchasing a boat.” The best illustrative example of this is, of course, when the opposite happens.

“One of our brokers in here in Stuart named Cookie White,” Burkard explains. “She’s also a boat captain, and the other day she got a call from a friend saying, ‘Hey can you help these people out? They need a captain for the afternoon on their 61 Hatteras motoryacht that they bought three months back, and they can’t really find anybody.’” White is in sales now and not captaining too much anymore, but for her friend she said she’d do the job. So she met the friend’s acquaintance to move the boat.

“So the boat’s only running half as fast as it’s supposed to go, and she said to the guy, ‘Is this always like this?’” Burkard says. “And he says, ‘Yeah when I bought it this is how fast it went.’ It was going 11 knots when it’s supposed to do 21. And then she says, ‘Does this always smell like this?’ And the guy says, ‘Yeah it’s been like that since new.’ And meanwhile the battery charger’s cooking and his batteries are literally frying in the bilge. He’s got all these problems with his boat and he’s even had captains just run it and not say anything. Well that’s not the kind of person she is, so she tell him, ‘This boat needs all these things.’ The guy bought the boat directly from the seller and didn’t have it surveyed, and he’s stuck holding the bag.”

“People sometimes say ‘I’m going to buy it direct and I’m going to save the commissions,’” Burkard explains. “Well those people usually end up overpaying for the boat and getting something that isn’t exactly what it should be. Using a broker to me is such a key thing, and I hear all the time ‘You guys make too much money’ or ‘You shouldn’t be involved’ or whatever, and I stand there and shake my head. If you’ve got about five minutes or ten minutes or even a couple of days I’ll sit down and tell you all the stories.”

The stories seem pretty funny af first—I’ve heard a fair number of them myself. Of course, they’re not really funny—they’re eye-opening. Be sure to keep your eyes open on your next sea trial.


4 comments on “Sea Trial and Error

  1. H. Mccaughey

    Good article. It reinforces my view that you never buy a boat, a house or a vehicle without an inspection by a marine surveyor, a house inspector or a car mechanic.
    People who buy a boat without inspection need their brains inspected.

  2. John Todd

    When I first saw the title to this story I thought, oh know, another “SLAM THE BROKER” story. When I read it I was pleased to see the captain/broker get her due. Most of the boats I sell are captain maintained. A good transaction is usually a combination of a good captain(and crew), knowledgeable brokers, and a willing buyer and seller. A thorough survey is also an essential part of the deal and a MUST DO if the boat is to be insured.

  3. John Kelly

    Great points here. As a Surveyor, I insist on a sea trail and highly recommend the buyer be aboard – I want him/her driving the vessel some of the time to get a feel for the boat they’re buying.
    I always take oil samples, and if the vessel is ‘large’ with engines that are complex (and expensive), I subcontract an engine survey from a qualified engine guy/s who are familiar with and work on those engines.
    I have surveyed vessels after purchase (new buyers discovered they need a Survey prior to underwriting) and have seen some horror issues present. One sailboat had an obvious and significant cracked main bulkhead! Best to find those things before a purchase.

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