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Beware of Used Charter Boats

By badriance - Published January 05, 2009 - Viewed 3156 times

Anyone looking to buy a used boat, especially a larger sailboat or trawler, will quickly discover that former Caribbean charter boats seem to be a really good deal. Asking prices are significantly less, at least a third less, than comparably equipped boats that were never chartered.

Is that because former owners have made a lot of money chartering and can afford to sell the boats for much less? Don’t be naïve. Charter boats lead hard lives. According to Jim Schofield, who manages the BoatU.S. Cooperating Marina Program, for every year a vessel spends in charter in the Caribbean, it ages three years. That’s the rule of thumb he used when he worked as a yacht broker in Florida, and as anyone who has spent much time in the tropics can attest, it’s not far fetched.

For example, if a trawler spends 37 weeks a year in charter with the engine running about 15.5 hrs./week, it will quickly get you up to 500 hours. If the boat is in charter for five years, that’s 2500 hours -- a lot on a five year-old engine. But it’s not just the number of hours -- they are also hard hours. On some boats, diesel propulsion engines may be run at slow speeds to power an air conditioner. Running a diesel at idle speeds (low-load operation) builds up carbon that fouls valves, injectors and piston rings. It also glazes cylinders and forms harmful condensation inside the crankcase.

Salinity is high and the sun is more intense as you get closer to the equator. Metals and gel coats take a beating. Finally, Jim McCrory, a marine surveyor in Miami, notes also that a lot of the charter boats he inspects have been run hard aground. Some clues that a boat has been grounded hard: gouges in the keel or skeg, leaking keel bolts (sailboats), shifted bulkheads and doors that will no longer open and close easily.


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