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Date: 5 January 2016. Boat Search for Beginners (DIY survey)


Recently a fellow wrote. He and his bride are coming to the United States. They wish to find their Dream Boat, or at the very least eliminate ones that will not work for them. When the gent asked if anyone had suggestions I piped up with the following bits of advice.

When arriving at the boat take pictures of her exterior. You will not remember how many windows she has two weeks from now nor the configuration of said openings. From all angles, photograph the boat. This includes things like anchor pulpit, the windlass (or not) forward, anchor(s) along with the swim platform, dinghy storage spot, etc.


I recently accompanied a friend who was looking at an Albin27' as a coastal cruiser. I should have taken more pictures of the exterior. I took these at the end of the visit and by then we were sure this boat would not work for him.

My mistake was in not taking more photos as this is a production model. Just because this one did not meet his current needs does not mean another might not be better suited.


Albin27 aft cabin model

Narrow side decks

Forward hatch opens

Take copious notes, photographs of everything and most important of all: IMMEDIATELY upon departure turn on a recorder and talk about the boat. Some things will strike you right away.


What I did correctly:


I did take numerous pictures of the inside of the boat and in various compartments and cubby holes. I liked that this model had portlights (opening windows) as they are a costly upgrade. The living space was adequate though not spacious forward.


There are two ABSOLUTE necessities:

#1) The engine room. If you cannot easily get to all parts of that engine, you are not going to maintain her properly. And guaranteed (almost) that the current and previous owners will not have done the difficult to get at stuff either. Access for this boat was good.

While you are in the engine room look at the bilge. This engine started and ran okay. The thick layer of oil in the bilge was one nail in the coffin. My friend does not want to spend time having repairs made.

For a person mechanically inclined the oil in the bilge might be the ticket to a lower final price, IF he could fix it himself. For my friend the difficulties of getting a mechanic to show up took this boat off his list. Workers who do not come are the bane of life out here.

Many "old timers" swear you must be able to fix everything aboard your boat. While I agree that would be ideal it did not stop me. That said if I was physically able and mentally smart enough to fix this engine I would not be shivering in 50 degree weather tonight. I would be MUCH closer to the equator.

#2) A working and workable galley. Whoever cooks has 100% say in this important area.

I'm a Galley Up gal.

While cooking and doing dishes I want to see out and enjoy the view.

My neighbor up the canal swears that Galley Down is the only way to go.

Our 40'er had a galley down. Note the Seaward Princess stove/oven combination, and the silver jigger!

Also verify there is storage space in the galley for the items you want. Galleys really cannot be economically changed so make sure you are going to be happy with whatever is there.

As you're looking at various vessels and taking
lots of pictures, keep the following in mind:

Storage. You are going to need more than spare parts and tools. Life aboard includes hobbies and having a place to stow the gear required is essential for long-term happiness.

The head and shower. I know of no woman who tolerates well a head that gets wet with every shower. A separate shower is essential. Onboard Seaweed a shower curtain keeps the head and sink dry.

This Albin27 has a small head wet head.

Take a shower in there and everything gets wet.

From the helm can you see all points on the boat? Cameras can abate that however being able to see is enormously helpful when maneuvering in tight spots.

Separate areas of the boat where you can go to plot murder of the other person. Everyone loves each other but there are times you will breathe wrong. Having an area out of sight of the other helps maintain calm. And remember Happy Wife, Happy Life.

Have fun. The idea to take time to explore a variety of boats is a good one. Just remember MOST of your time will be spent at anchor or in a marina. The "ride" is important however life at zero knots must be comfortable.

Roughing it is for kids. Women like myself have done that.
We are now into a more decadent lifestyle and expect amenities.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is this:

If either partner does not like the boat, no epiphany will come after purchase.


During the course of our look at this boat, these things were noted:





  1. The bow rail wiggled. That means the deck does have water damage. Rails should be solid.

  2. The ice box next to the sink would have been all but inaccessible because of location. And it was too small. Plus there was no apparent place to install a proper refrigerator.

  3. Oil (a lot!) was under the engine.

  4. Those wire cap nuts are unacceptable. Butt connectors are required. And the wiring is a mess with corrosion apparent in many places.

None of these things individually made this particular boat a No-Go. It was the combination that drove the final nail in the coffin. The gent I accompanied wants to go cruising. If that is the case buying a project boat at any price is untenable.


A while back I wrote a series on finding your boat. If you wish, start here:

Finding Your Boat (part 1)

Being on the water is fabulous. I love it and wish you well in finding your Dream Boat.

What do you search for when looking for your dream boat?
And, how did you find her? Via online search, marina shopping, boatyard walking?

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