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Sea Trial and Error

Ever call a broker on his or her cell phone? I do that often, and most of the time I reach them. That’s because the phone is a huge source of business—good brokers know a missed call can sometimes mean a buyer is on to the next boat. It’s also why I sometimes speak to brokers while they are conducting sea trials, simultaneously telling me they’d be glad to give me a ring back shortly. Even if I happen to be calling from my dreary office, this can brighten my day, and I think it would have the same effect on all but the most hard-hearted of us. At least someone is drawing near to the purchase of a boat.

That sea trial can be an exciting day. Think back to what you were looking for on your last sea trial, then think about what the broker wants you to get out of it.

Jon Burkard, Allied Marine

“Buyers should be prepared,” says Jon Burkard, president of Allied Marine. “If I’m going to buy a boat, I’d like to go for a sea trial with a surveyor, because understanding what the rpm settings are on the engines is key, and understanding what she should really perform like is really key to purchasing a boat.” The best illustrative example of this is, of course, when the opposite happens.

“One of our brokers in here in Stuart named Cookie White,” Burkard explains. “She’s also a boat captain, and the other day she got a call from a friend saying, ‘Hey can you help these people out? They need a captain for the afternoon on their 61 Hatteras motoryacht that they bought three months back, and they can’t really find anybody.’” White is in sales now and not captaining too much anymore, but for her friend she said she’d do the job. So she met the friend’s acquaintance to move the boat.

“So the boat’s only running half as fast as it’s supposed to go, and she said to the guy, ‘Is this always like this?’” Burkard says. “And he says, ‘Yeah when I bought it this is how fast it went.’ It was going 11 knots when it’s supposed to do 21. And then she says, ‘Does this always smell like this?’ And the guy says, ‘Yeah it’s been like that since new.’ And meanwhile the battery charger’s cooking and his batteries are literally frying in the bilge. He’s got all these problems with his boat and he’s even had captains just run it and not say anything. Well that’s not the kind of person she is, so she tell him, ‘This boat needs all these things.’ The guy bought the boat directly from the seller and didn’t have it surveyed, and he’s stuck holding the bag.”

“People sometimes say ‘I’m going to buy it direct and I’m going to save the commissions,’” Burkard explains. “Well those people usually end up overpaying for the boat and getting something that isn’t exactly what it should be. Using a broker to me is such a key thing, and I hear all the time ‘You guys make too much money’ or ‘You shouldn’t be involved’ or whatever, and I stand there and shake my head. If you’ve got about five minutes or ten minutes or even a couple of days I’ll sit down and tell you all the stories.”

The stories seem pretty funny af first—I’ve heard a fair number of them myself. Of course, they’re not really funny—they’re eye-opening. Be sure to keep your eyes open on your next sea trial.