How do you know when you’re about to be scammed by someone trying to sell you their boat?
The first sign happened when I got out of the car and my wife turned to me and said, “Ben, I just saw him pump a ton of water from the bilge.” I told Teresa to keep quiet and have an open mind. Boats sometimes have water in the bilge and it’s not a big deal. “I’ll try,” she replied, “But it doesn’t make sense. The boat is on the hard.”
We climbed up the ladder and onto the boat. The owner was a middle-aged family man. He sailed his boat seasonally and kept it on the hard the rest of the year. The three of us walked together around the deck. He told me about the sails, rig, and how she handles. I asked the usual questions about the age of the rig and how she was stored over the years.
I wielded my camera and snapped pictures of everything; swage fittings, anchor chain, spill pipe. Then in the cabin I photographed the bilge, engine, berths, galley, electronics, hoses, thru-hulls… everything. Teresa and I review the pictures later and talk about what we each learned about the boat.
As soon as I enter the cabin I can see a lot of water damage around the ports. “Have these ports been re-bed recently,” I ask?
“Nope, they haven’t needed it,” the owner replies. I take silent note and move on to another question. But Teresa, who is much more candid than I am, interrupts me.
“Well, they have tons of water damage around them. All these darks spots and peeling teak is from water seeping in,” she says.
“The ports aren’t leaking,” he smiles at her politely and giggles, “we just sometimes forget to close the ports when we sail and the water splashes in.”
“Oh,” Teresa replies. And then with an effort to speak quietly she turns to me and says, “That’s worse than leaky ports! If he doesn’t bother to close the ports, maybe he doesn’t bother changing his oil either.” I ignore her comment and move on to other questions; Where are the thru-hulls? Water and fuel tanks? What are they made of?
She makes her way around me and into the head. “Benji, come here,” she says. I poke my head into the head. “There is a giant mushroom growing over there in the corner.” I look where she is pointing and sure enough, there is a mushroom sprouting up from the floor. “It looks like there is some water damage in the head,” I say to the owner. “Maybe there is a leak somewhere.”
“Naw,” he replies with a laugh, “I just never got around to putting a shower curtain up. A little cleaning and it’s good as new.”
Teresa and I crawl into the v-berth to check out the chain locker. “There is something weird about this boat,” she says.
“Shhhh,” I snap, because she never realizes how loud she is talking. I think she understood because she doesn’t say anything more. Instead she takes the camera from me and proceeds to photograph every piece of dark wood in every corner of the boat. The owner shows me the engine and answers my questions. Usually Teresa likes to see the engine too, but instead she photographs drips from the ceiling and soggy floorboards in detail. When she is done, she sits in the cockpit and watches the birds. I know she has already made up her mind because she doesn’t ask any more questions and doesn’t bother to lie down in every bunk like she usually does.
An hour after we arrived, we are walking back to the car. “I think it would need some work,” I say optimistically, “What do you think?”
“I think that boat sunk.”
This post is not designed to instruct you in how to buy a boat, nor in identifying a sunken vessel. It’s just a funny story. We don’t know if the boat actually sunk. However, the post does have pictures of water damage. That part is true.