In an average year, about one half of our survey business involves inspecting vessels for prospective buyers. The normal survey is an intense fact-finding mission that lasts from one to two days depending on the size and complexity of the vessel. The mission in itself is targeted to assist the buyer with gathering as much information on the present state of the vessel in order to assist him or her make a decision to accept or reject. These little sorties are intense and demanding on all parties involved. My old Pa Pa told me to buy boats with your head, not your heart and that was good advice. If you are intending to get serious enough to have a vessel surveyed, history is an area that bears some scrutiny. The surveyor will be busy enough trying to discover if hundreds of systems are safe and operational and has no time to discuss in depth past events.
There is a word that says nothing’s hidden that won’t be found, and this is truth. In the case of boat buying, you want to discover before you buy and not after the contract is signed. Recently I had to buy a car because “Old Peely, ” our fishing car just “woe out. ” My wife was becoming too embarrassed to be seen in what she called the wreck of the century. At the dealership I was handed a Sellers Disclosure Form to fill out that gave me the instrument of truth to disclose to the best of my ability the truth about “Old Peely. ” I could have saved a few minutes and simply written wreck across the form, but it did spark an idea. I know you have heard the old saying, “Buyer Beware.” Well this disclosure gives the seller the opportunity to disclose the truth about the vehicle and also inform the buyer as to the true condition of the vehicle. This instrument doesn’t in itself guarantee a true disclosure, but at least gives the opportunity for the truth to be told. When assembling a puzzle, you need to fit all the pieces together to get the whole picture.
Boats usually cost much more than used cars and why haven’t I seen one of these forms for a boat? I moved things around a bit and came up with the following Seller’s Vessel Disclosure for those of you who really want to know what you are buying. You would be surprised how many simply want to buy and then look around for someone to blame when the reality of their purchase sinks in. Instant gratification with boats can really get your attention for a while if you end up purchasing the wrong boat.
One of my personal goals is to work toward making Charleston, SC the most attractive place for a person looking to buy a boat, get the best service and have the best experience he or she can. Happy boat buying and remember, we learn much from history and the Lord loves sailors.
© Neil K. Haynes February 11, 1998