What should I look for in a yacht?

The main thing we need being a boat, you’d think by now, we’d have it sussed. Several boats have popped up online and a few are looking promising. But, between working full-time at a boat yard, generally running a race campaign and getting rejected on a daily basis all whilst maintaining healthy relationships with friends, family and myself; just doesn’t leave time for much else. That said, getting a boat is my number 1 priority in terms of campaign management.

One promising yacht that popped up on the radar took me down to the south coast of England for its viewing. I took photos and videos of everything as my surveying skills are very limited and in order to gather intel to show a surveyor friend. An interesting interior design with two companion ways gave us the option of having separate wet and dry areas and it was complete with all sails and ‘racing spinnakers’. This came to be the one of the only positives. Upon arrival, I was kindly offered a cup of tea, a good sign that the hob worked and that the gas system wasn’t too dodgy as we didn’t get blown up. So far so good.

As a young female viewing a boat alone I felt the need to show some knowledge of anything to do with yachts as to not be taken advantage of. So, pretending to know what I was doing, I lifted up the floorboards for any gaping holes or slight cracks, of course, focussing on the keel bolts and mast areas. Here I was met with a bilge full to the brim with water, which I was encouraged to taste in order to prove its freshwater-ness. I passed up the offer as the boat had been sitting on the hard for nearly a year and it was explained that rainwater leaks through its mast track with no way to stop it – essentially harmless, and in my head, fixable. Now, looking above my head, there is a hole. Said hole is covered with something white and sort of see-through. It’s roughly the diameter of the mast and within two inches of the actual mast. Perplexed, I ask “So what’s this hole?”. To which I received a reply of “It’s a vent” with a silent “obviously” on the end. Surveyor to the rescue again, confirmed my worries that this significantly weakened the support of the mast and was the wrong type of vent for a yacht.

The electrics… this is where I’m glad I had Aaron on hand to look through images. I know nothing about electrics and was told from the photos alone that there were at least 3 fire hazards due to unprofessional installation – cowboy boatbuilder style. Looking back on it, some bell was ringing in the back of my brain alarmingly, as I looked at the spaghetti roundabout of electrical wiring hanging in front of the engine. Following the cables through the bulkheads, we came to the batteries; again, this comes under my painfully non-existent knowledge of electrics. I glanced at what looked like batteries to me and carried on with my search. Later, I would discover that they were car batteries that leak a lethal and undetectable gas when charging. Brilliant.

Out on deck I take a quick glance around and think to myself: Yes, it looks like a boat. I walk up towards the bow and notice former shroud holes with cracks dispersing from them. “Oh yes the previous owner moved the shrouds back”. Again, perplexed, I move on. At the foot of the mast there was what looked like black duct tape and a canvas-like material wrapped around. I asked, “Is this temporary?” thinking there must be some reasonable explanation. “Oh no, that’s how you do a mast foot”. Also here, were cracks on the deck where the mast came through. At this point, I started thinking no work had been done professionally on this boat. Looking up, I saw a banana shaped mast and had to enquire how it had gotten so out of shape. To my great surprise, the owner proudly showed me how much further back the mast bent with just the slightest pull. I didn’t know whether to share the excitement or not and decided to go with a classic smile and nod. Curious, I asked if the rig was the boat’s original and was told it was. Plot twist, after looking up the particular on their website, we found that a dynamic, bendy mast was not included therefore the rig could not have been the original. Something else that struck me as strange was that some stanchions had also been moved outwards so that 2 screws were in the deck and the other 2 were in the toe rail. Yet another, from my perspective, unnecessary change.
"I drilled a hole there to let the water out"
Having seen enough of the deck and interior, I climbed down the ladder to have a good look at, arguably, the most important part. From the video I sent Aaron of the hull, he told me that the white streaks and circles were big signs of osmosis. Even with my limited knowledge, I knew that osmosis is every boat owner’s nightmare. An extremely expensive repair needing industry professionals; something this boat had apparently never seen. If I had taken the Tesco bag for life off of the propeller I most likely would have seen the pink flag of electrolysis, so in future it’s something I will demand to see first-hand.

As the keel joined the hull there was a definitive yet jagged lip underneath the blueish epoxy. I ran my hand over this to inspect it and to portray my concern. Quickly, the owner overexplained something about layers. Looking at the keel as a whole, little orange-brown specs caught my attention, and I took a closer look at what was rust spotted all over the keel. Astern to the rudder, doesn’t look too bad. Then, I see a little patch near the base of the rudder where the outer layers are flaking off. The owner, catching on to my observation, “I drilled a hole there to let the water out”. And that was the end of that.

To be honest, I was wearing rose-tinted glasses as I envisaged myself and Elin breaking records in this very boat. It was only until my phone call with Aaron at a dark train station somewhere in England, where reality slapped me in the face and the learning curve was more of a learning cliff. He told me that he estimated the boat’s value to be no more than £10,000 less than its asking price and not to touch it with a barge pole. His professional opinion was that it had been grounded under a bridge and bodged by an inept hobbyist.

Although the dream wouldn’t happen in that particular boat, I knew what to look for in the next, so all in all it was a good experience and I learnt a lot. The first thing I now ask for is a copy of the boat’s recent survey before even consider travelling for a viewing.

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