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When checking a used boat, keep your notebook at hand to note what easily leaps out and make your list which will be very useful if, after careful negotiation and evaluation, the purchase agreement is successful.

Let’s start our virtual visit and imagine the boat at dock. First of all have a look at mooring lines, ropes and compensators as they could be of poor quality or worn out: in which case they should be replaced with new ones, rubber compensators or galvanized steel mooring springs.

Make sure you check dock and mooring lines. If worn out, I suggest to replace them with 12-strand doublebraids, soft and noise-free. You can buy them ready for use, provided with thimble and having a pre-cut length. In case the lines chafe the hull, protections have to be installed. Also these are available ready for use and user-friendly.

Check carefully also the fenders as they may be replaced or increased in number. Anyway it is always better to provide them with abrasion-resistant covers. Ready-to-use kits are available.

Check and if necessary replace shackles in mooring line connectors.

Outside, have a look at dock sockets and wire. Often exposed to the sun they are easily damaged and in bad conditions and therefore need to be replaced with new ones.

Another delicate issue is the deck shower. Check proper working and integrity of pipes and plastic parts.

Make sure hatches, peaks and doors in general open and close correctly and check the condition of gas spring, if any, as well as of hinges and locks.

Make sure the gangway is solid and stable. Should the boat not be equipped with a gangway, take into account to have one installed as it can be useful in case you change mooring. You can choose a fixed gangway or a foldable one for easy stowage.

A teak deck or a fiberglass deck now turned yellow require a cleaning cycle, sometimes a severe one. Many specific products giving excellent results are available on the market. Check carefully teak thickness and seams condition as having to replace the deck may impact considerably on renovation costs.

Have also a look at the decoration strips and in sailboats the condition of running rigging.

Steel parts may require cleaning. Make sure above all bimini top joints are not damaged. Replace if necessary.

Pay attention also to anchor lines: make sure the anchor is not undersized and the chain is not rusty and without the marks required to determine the scope length. A high-quality chain with good mechanical properties is recommended. Provide it with a connector between anchor and chain.

Handrails are usually neglected. If the wires are coated, it will be necessary to replace them along with turnbuckles. Check condition of pulpits and stanchions.

Make sure navigation lights are not damaged. Consider the possibility of replacing the complete light with a LED version. Check if the installed lights comply with RINA or Colreg72 requirements and are correctly placed at the proper angles, rules change accordingly to the boat length.
Remember that the installation of LED bulbs on lights designed for incandescent bulbs make the type approval void.If you often navigate at night and enjoy staying in the open air a flood light is recommendable, as well as lights to be installed in the cockpit, table lamps and recessed lights for boom or fly bridge.

Interior lights should be provided with LED bulbs to ensure the highest efficiency. Replace recessed ceiling lights, if necessary, or replace the light body with a less delicate one in case the room is subject to salt damage. Changing out-of-date lights with a modern lighting gives a new look to the interior.
Also the day/light option of some lights can be useful.
Dark areas may benefit from the installation of a reading lamp or a LED strip.

Make sure all hinges work properly and are free of clearance. Check fixing bores on wood or fiberglass: if wide, they show heavy wear and little care.

Cleat and fairlead conditions help to assess the wear condition of the boat: make sure they are complete and securely fastened. Should they be damaged, they will have to be replaced or repaired.
In this case have a look for underdeck accessibility.
Check and polish deck metalwear and shackles.

Running rigging may require to be partly replaced. Money can be saved by installing polyester cordage and Dyneema rigging, tough and sturdy. Switching from polyester to Dyneema rigging, a smaller size is acceptable.

If possible, check the efficiency of the hydraulic system. As an example pipes older than 10 years may have to be replaced as they smell bad or are partially clogged.
If water leakage from main pumps such as water pumps is evident, they have to be replaced. It is also recommended to replace the toilet and to fit the boat with a spare pump, especially in case of manual pumps.
Sometimes you may consider an upgrade and replace the old manual toilet unit with a new electric one.
Special products for the washing and sanitation of any kind of tanks are available.

Have a look at the condition of the sound-deadening panels in the engine room. If they split apart, replace them. You can choose among a wide variety of panels the ones which best suit your needs.

As for electrical equipment, check the condition of batteries, their use (engine starting and services). Replace them if necessary taking into account amps, dimensions, location and wiring. To increase efficiency the installation of a flexible solar panel on the bimini may be taken into account.
Do not forget to fit the boat with some spares such as clamps and electrical terminals.

In case the interior layout does not have a ventilation system, consider the possibility to install adjustable fans. Hatch fans are easy to install.

Both electronic instruments and antennas have to be checked and replaced if necessary.
Also check the condition of compass, barometer, hygrometer and thermometer.

Special attention shall be paid to safety flotation devices such as liferafts, lifebuoys, dinghies, safety harnesses and accessories, lifejackets, signalling devices, warning lights, fire extinguishers and first aid kit cases. All these must comply with the applicable law and be in good condition. In matter of safety saving is not justified and any doubtful-quality equipment or device must be replaced.

Last but not least make sure the boat is fitted with a boat hook, oars, flags and a cleaning kit: your boat will definitely need it!

Davide Zerbinati

Davide Zerbinati

Architetto Navale e Ingegnere Nautico specializzato in barche in alluminio è un riconosciuto perito nautico e appassionato velista di seconda generazione, ha collezionato molte miglia in Mediterraneo.
Autore del libro “Lavori a Bordo” e conduttore del serial Tv “Lavori in barca”.
Davide Zerbinati

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