Harken Derm

Do your boat buying homework

Published on December 13th, 2018

Scuttlebutt encourages commentary from our readers, and while we may not at that time be able to include them all in the publication, we hold on to some in hopes we can. This letter from Twig Burke, President of The Burke Insurance Agency, offers his thoughts on how to improve the boat buying experience:


I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the guru of Scuttlebutt Sailing News and his wife had settled on purchasing an Alerion 28. Having owned one myself for the past five years, after racing Lasers, Shields, IODs, Etchells, and Sonars along with years of offshore racing, I can attest to the fact that the Alerion 28 is a boat that takes you for an enjoyable day of sailing!

After deciding on an Alerion 28, the Leweck’s next task in the natural progression of purchasing a used boat is to engage the services of a surveyor to ascertain the condition of the vessel to finalize a purchase decision…and to be used for an insurance underwriter to secure insurance coverage for the vessel. This is where your most dreaded experience of most of our ‘schooling days’ starts to really kick in…HOMEWORK…!

Unknowingly, you do it when you’re looking for the boat in the first place when deciding what kind of boat, what broker to use, how to pay for it, etc. And when you make the final decision to purchase it…your homework assignment has only just begun! Choosing a surveyor is one of your more important decisions, an assignment that needs a quality effort with…homework.

We all know the results when we didn’t do our homework…we ended up being woefully unprepared for the inevitable class discussion or quiz. That will be the same result if you don’t do the proper homework for finding a good surveyor.

Ask everyone in your sphere of influence…your boat-owning friends, your boat broker, your insurance agent, the local boat yard, etc. and get their collective opinion on who has the best reputation. If it’s a vessel that’s located outside of your area, consider purchasing a plane ticket for your surveyor. And with boats getting older, a surveyor’s ability to identify potential moisture issues is a key component to your surveyor homework assignment.

Like all professions, there are some surveyors that are better than others. However, you can increase the chances of choosing the right one…by doing a thorough homework assignment. Once you’ve chosen a surveyor…make sure you attend the survey. You’ll never learn more about your about-to-be new boat than the day you go over the entire vessel with a surveyors fine tooth comb!

With a completed survey…you now have a report card on the vessel that will help you make that final decision as to whether to purchase the boat or not. If you go forward, but a number of items were discovered by the survey, you have a bargaining chip to negotiate with the seller! All of this leads to your next homework assignment…picking a marine insurance agent. 😉

Bottom-line, there was a reason we were given homework assignments as a learning tool that most of us detested. The difference is that for a lot of us…the subjects we studied in school weren’t nearly as much fun as buying a boat!


We encourage Scuttlebutt readers to submit stories, letters, or feedback to the editor. Please send to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com.

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