Sailboat Buyer Beware

The number one tip I can give to anyone searching to buy a boat by looking online at sites such as Yachtworld or Sailboatlisting, is to take the photos with a grain of salt.   Do not, do not, fall in love with a boat online by looking at their photos.  Trust me on this.

I personally learned this lesson the hard way.  There was a particular sailboat (which was at the top of my boat want list) that came onto the market and it looked amazing in the photos and listing.  So I called the owner with lots of questions.  What is the condition of the interior teak?  Any signs of leakage?  Any teak on deck or in the cockpit?  How do the bilges and engine compartment look?  Any signs of corrosion?  What is the condition of the standing rigging?  And more questions along this line.

All the answers indicated this was an exceptionally well maintained boat with no large issues at all.  The interior teak was said to be in great shape with the exception of one little section in the shower. The engine had been well maintained along with the rest of the sailboat. The photos showed a beautiful boat that supported what I was told.  This boat was located on the East Coast, which means I would need to fly across the country to view it.  Based on my conversation with the owner, I went ahead and booked a flight to view this listing.

waterdamageRemember the saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is?”  When I viewed the boat, I discovered the opposite was true to every question I asked.  It was quite shocking to see the dripping water in a few places- including the headliner and mast, damaged teak everywhere inside and out.


The Engine showed signs of having seen significant salt water as indicated by the rust.  Floor boards would not even lift up.  My lay person opinion was that this boat had serious water issues.

Remember, the listing pictures showed a lovely boat with no issues at all.  Photos are deceiving, along with this owner.

mastissues copyCheck out the base of this leaky mast.  You know the problem is longstanding when you see colorful mold growth on top of the corrosion.  The yellow mold was a nice touch.

I knew within 5 seconds that I had been hoodwinked and this boat, in my humble opinion, would not pass survey.  This owner was most convincing, but I still felt foolish.  It was a completely wasted trip, except I did get a chance to visit a local art museum, so not all was lost.

If you are currently searching for your dream boat, or about to begin your boat hunt journey, remember these photos and my rather expensive experience.  Beware the slick listing photos and falling in love with boats online.

The fact is that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to finding the boat of your dreams – the ads and photos are simply a starting point.  You have to resist the temptation to reach any conclusions until you’ve actually seen the boat.  Recognize that you’re likely going to look at a lot of “project boats” before you find a boat that really fits what you are looking for.  Working with a broker who represents buyers is another good tip.

Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story.  We are about to close later this week on our new Taswell 43, and it is a very nice, clean, sailboat that actually was very well maintained by the previous owners. We used a great broker, Philip Thompson, to represent us and find us the boat we wanted.  Interestingly, it’s not a boat that we fell in love with from the ad and photos – that came after we went and saw it.  What we found was a real gem that makes our hearts sing.

  2 comments for “Sailboat Buyer Beware

  1. August 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Out of curiosity, what did the seller say when you saw the reality of the boat? Did you thank him for wasting your time and money traveling across the country because of his fibs?

    Glad that you did find something that you love:) Good luck! I love hearing about your adventures!


    • August 19, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Lani, will answer you privately. 🙂


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