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Owning a boat is a big commitment that should bring no end of satisfaction for the owner as well as the owner’s family and friends. In return for bringing all that joy, a boat deserves and needs a good deal of care and attention.

Right now may not be the ideal time for aspiring boat owners to take the plunge and buy a boat, given all the financial instability in the world. However, this blog is for all those contemplating buying a boat or are new to ownership.

Boat ownership

An owner is the custodian of their boat in a similar way to a home owner is a custodian of their house. While a boat or house is in their possession then an owner is responsible for its upkeep until they pass it on to the next owner at some point in its future. However, a boat owner arguably needs to act much more responsibly than a home owner. A neglected house might fall down but at least it won’t sink. A boat owner has to think about the safety of all those who are going to travel on it during their ownership. Ownership can become challenging occasionally, but as long as the rewards and benefits outweigh the effort and costs involved then you should live in harmony with your boat and get years of pleasure from it.

You will also end up with an asset that should have a good re-sale value, as it will have been well looked after. A neglected boat will not only quickly drop in value but things can then spiral downwards until it becomes unsafe to use. That said, it is no use pretending that the costs of boat ownership are negligible. It is better to be brave, be realistic and to budget for the unavoidable expenditure. In addition it is wise to be prepared to be in it for the long haul as boats may be easy enough to buy but invariably they are much more difficult to sell.

Boat care

Caring for your boat is not just about scrubbing the decks and polishing the hull. It is also about getting to know your boat from stem to stern. This entails understanding as much as you possibly can about what goes on in every nook and cranny and how all the various systems of the boat work.

If you shy away from the prospect of keeping a boat well maintained and in good condition then perhaps boat ownership is not for you, unless you have the significant resources required to employ others to look after the boat for you. Even then you run the risk of not being able to cope with equipment failure or a breakdown at sea as you lack the technical skills and know-how to fix the problem.

Boat care fundamentals

It is worth thinking about a few fundamentals of what’s involved with caring for a boat.

Firstly, there are major differences between the work involved with “maintaining”, “repairing” and “refitting” a boat. These terms are often used fairly loosely and can lead to a fair amount of confusion. Here are some definitions to consider:

  • Maintain – to keep something in good condition.
  • Repair – to restore something that is damaged, faulty or worn to a good condition.
  • Refit – to replace or repair machinery, equipment and fittings.

A boat’s history

It helps a new owner to know as much as possible about their boat’s history, preferably before committing to buying it. Clearly, if you buy a brand new boat then this won’t apply, however you will still need to do the checks and keep records for the future. All the various systems and equipment on board will need servicing according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. There will be plenty to get your head around in the first year or two of ownership.

For the rest of us who own older boats then knowing their history will be a help when looking after them and making plans for their future. I made the mistake of buying a boat some time ago that had virtually no records. In the end I deeply regretted this as I discovered after I bought it that it had been seriously damaged in the past and was no longer 100% seaworthy.

I made the mistake of not commissioning a full survey but instead only having a lift out and hull inspection done by an engineer who was not a fully qualified surveyor. This was a big mistake. I later discovered that although it had been repaired the hull was no longer sound and to have it stripped back and repaired properly was going to cost thousands. I decided to sell the poor old boat as soon as I could and lost money as a result. The two big lessons I learned were:

  • Only ever buy a second-hand boat that comes with detailed records as you need to know what you are letting yourself in for.
  • Always have a full survey done by a qualified surveyor.

A final word of warning is that even if you spot a bargain or negotiate an excellent deal with a seller, the purchase of a boat is just the beginning. The costs of maintaining and keeping a boat are significant and should never be underestimated.

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