Helpful homework before viewing a boat

Story by Harris & Ellis / July 3, 2023

Author: John Heintzman, Yacht Broker Harris & Ellis Yachts

Viewing boats with your yacht broker is one of the fun parts of purchasing. But your time on each one can be brief. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of each showing.

First things first: do your homework. Before you start looking, have a good chat with your broker about how you want to use the boat. Do you want a day sailor, a weekender, or a boat that will enable you to do some extended cruising? Perhaps you want to race during club events. Let your broker know your plans—and your budget—to help them narrow down the search for vessels that are a good fit.

Once your broker has lined up some viewings based on your boating preference, you can learn a lot about each boat before you go to look. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How long has the vendor owned the boat and why are they selling?
  • When and how was the boat last regularly used?
  • How long ago were the photographs taken?
  • When was the last survey? Would the sellers be willing to share the survey results?
  • Is the boat in her slip or on the hard?
  • When was the last time the listing broker saw the boat?
  • Is the seller the sole owner of the boat and free of any debt?
  • Is there information about the maintenance history?
  • How many hours has the engine been used?
  • Have there ever been issues with osmosis?
  • Have the water tanks or fuel tanks ever been replaced?
  • Has the boat had any groundings or collisions?
  • What equipment is listed with the boat, and is any not operational?

If you like what you hear, and want to check out the boat yourself, don’t get too caught up on items that will be inspected as part of a pre-purchase survey. An accredited marine surveyor will give you a detailed rundown of the yacht.

Your job is to get a feel for the boat, check its general condition, and decide if you want to make an offer. Here are a few things to consider once you are onboard: 

  • Walk around, on deck and below. Cushions and curtains can be replaced. But you need to know if the boat fits you—literally. Think about the height of the people who will be using it.
  • Do you like the overall aesthetic of the boat: the finish and layout, for example? Check that the locker doors open and close nicely. Are the skylights, hatches, or ports crazed or frosted?
  • Is everything clean and dry? Do a sniff test for odours. The big three are odour from mould, from fuel, and from the head or holding tanks.
  • Look for signs of water ingress: stains on the cushions under ports, leaks at the hull-deck joint, or water at the mast step, for example.
  • Open the lockers behind the settee and check for mould.
  • Most important, imagine yourself sailing her. How do you feel?

Your onboard viewing will give you a good sense of whether the boat has been cared for and if you want to go to the next step: an offer and a professional survey of the yacht, its rigging, and its engine.



Thank you for all your work in facilitating the sale of our dad's boat. Jake and I really appreciate all the hard work you put into it with the many visits, paperwork, etc. A special mention has to go out to Grant for teaching me how to fold the sails!

As first-time boat buyers and as foreigners wanting to buy a cruising catamaran in the US, we knew we needed a reliable broker that had our best interests in mind. John Heintzman was just that, and more! He was extremely committed to understanding what we were looking for, gave great advice, and guided us through the purchase process with great patience and knowledge. All in all, we felt very well taken care of.

I feel compelled to reach out about the absolutely wonderful experience that I have had with Grant and Patricia Bowlby. I completed the purchase of a boat yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. They were so helpful, kind, and patient. This was my first experience with a broker, and I think I’ve found the best.

I can’t thank Ewan Campbell enough for the super job he did in selling G, making up for my lack of experience in this realm and patiently searching for just the right buyer and a win-win for seller and buyer alike.

It was a wonderful experience selling A with Jeff Cole’s expert assistance. Thank you for simplifying a complicated process. Your patience and kindness are especially appreciated.

I just wanted to thank Jeff Cole for all his hard work. He was very professional and effective.

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