Here's my "crappy list" of things to watch out for when buying a production boat - particularly an express cruiser.
I will come back to this and add things to the list and include some photos, too. If you can think of anything on your boat to add, let me know and I will type it in here. These are characteristics common on many production boats - considered "throw-away boats" in the USA.
Now let's face it. These boats have to be pumped out quickly and in good numbers off smooth-operating production lines to justify manuafcturing costs. The boat builders are operating in competitive markets and need to keep their workforce going year in, year out. There is therefore very little if any regard as to how the boat is going to be maintained and serviced. That's not 'our concern once it leaves our factory,' they'd argue. But my line of thought is that you have marine mechanics, electricians, upholsterers, plumbers and other tradespeople working on your vessel. They are a form of marketing and what do they tell their friends at the pub over a beer about different brands of boat after a hard days work at the dock?
Here's a starters list of things to look out for and be wary of:
- Fuses located in difficult or near-impossible-to-access places: like hidden underneath a mountain of wiring up under the helm station, where you find yourself lying down on the deck in a contortionist act to test and or replace them!
- Cheapskate quality bimini, covers and clears: that will need to be replaced within a couple of years. You know when you can see the sun shining through them they ain't real crash-hot! Also be careful of using chemical cleaning agents on clears: they can actually do more damage than good! And zips...zips!!! Zippers do NOT belong on boats! A constant source of annoyance and guzzlers of vasoline, they are best replaced with any type of button or clip you can use as a more-reliable alternative.
- Lack of side decks: a big one on many express boats. You generally only have access forward through an opening hatch in the wind shield or forward deck hatches. But these can be cumbersome and somewhat more dangerous under certain conditions such as rolling seas or with wet decks.
- Fresh water pumps fixed on top of fresh water tanks and right up underneath decks where it is difficult or near-impossible to service the filter or the pump with any ease.
- Shower sump pumps bolted to bulkheads and again up and under decks in places where you simply can't access the filter without breaking it off or breaking something else!
- Stereo systems: with a myriad of wiring buried loosely in head liner and behind cupboards, ducting systems and bulkheads. None of it contained in wiring looms and all of it an absolute nightmare to replace. Then there's the speakers wired into radar arches etc. Have fun with that, guys!
- Cramped engine rooms: are perfect for midgets, but not necessarily the rest of us average folk. Production boats use every spare inch of space, which is great when you are trying to fit every conceivable appliance and gizmo known to mankind in the boat and market the advantages to buyers! But not so good for 'the chosen one' who has to venture down into "the pit" to help keep the boat running for your enjoyment.
- Wiring...wiring and more wiring. Honestly, is it just done to annoy the hell out of us boat-owners? It's never labeled, there are no wiring looms for anything and it's always a big bill if you cannot or will not do the work yourself. Man, just try tracking back 30 foot or more of electrical wiring throughout a boat and see how many expletives you utter before task-end.
- Windscreen wipers: are great when they work. But try replacing one on an express cruiser when its seized motor is mounted up under the deck, behind a cabinet, in the head compartment. Ask someone you really hate to do the job for you.
- Lots and lots and lots and lots more vinyl. Those flashy new seats look fantastic! But in places like California or Queensland in Australia you seriously need to work hard and have good quality covers to protect them from the harsh UV rays of the sun. Once they start to deteriorate, it's an uphill grind to keep them in good condition.
- Plastic deck hatches. You gotta love plastic. Where would we be be without it? You could not imagine companies that make them running into financial difficulties. I mean, for such a small area of plastic they charge into the hundreds or even a thousand or more dollars! And that's before you pay someone to install it properly. They let good light in below deck, but once again the sun wears them down over time. They crack, they are difficult to reseal reliably, the seals wear out, the hinges, latches and gaskets need constant lubrication. You realise you didn't pay enough attention to what seems such a straight-forward, out-of-sight-out-of-mind item until a problem arises!
- Bow rails, deck cleats and other docking equipment bolted behind, underneath and up-and-under deck-to-hull joins etc. Great fun...for someone who knows what the hell they are doing! Agitating, mind-boggling, annoying, infuriating for anyone else trying to replace, repair etc.
OK, the market dictates what is produced in terms of all styles of boat. And the numbers of production boats indicate they have been a massive success for boat builders for the last decade or two. But has much changed in terms of attitude as to how they are constructed? It's a fine line to try and balance when you are in the business of building boats for a profit.
As a boat owner, you have these and many more issues to tackle that you weigh up against all the fantastic times you have out on the water and the wonderful experiences you enjoy. And all these little (or slightly big) imperfections have to be taken into consideration as part and parcel of being a boat owner.