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While you don’t need to sea-trial every boat you ponder, once you’ve narrowed it down to make an offer, the deal can be contingent on a successful demo ride.

5 tips to consider:

  1. Power Type
    With a used boat, the power installed is what you get. But for new boats, demo a boat with the same make and model engine as the boat you may buy. The trial boat will be virtually empty with a minimal crew. If the boat lacks pep, it may have trouble pulling friends, family, and gear.

  2. Dashboard Electronics
    Activate all the electronics at the helm to make sure they work and check the visibility from all angles for problems with sun glare. Check the depth sounder at cruising speed and the sounder signal while in the shallow water of the marina.

  3. Passenger’s View
    Act like a passenger and sit comfortably in several places around the boat while someone else plays captain. Find out if you can easily move from the cockpit to the cabin. Look for sufficient handholds and feel for excessive vibration in different seating areas. Cushions should not bottom out at cruising speed.

  4. Proper Propeller
    Run the engine up to wide-open throttle and note the rpm on the tach. The recommended range is outlined in the owner’s manual. When a boat is being tested, it’s not loaded for use yet and should be on the high end of the rpm range. It will lower when it’s weighted down with gear and crew. If the boat has the wrong prop installed, it causes serious damage over time.

  5. Get a Survey
    This is recommended for used boats, but new boat owners can benefit from a marine surveyor report to find “glitches” with new models before delivery.


Falvey, K., 2017. How to Sea-Trial A Boat, https://www.boatingmag.com/how-to-sea-trial-boat-0

Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors Inc.
(SAMS): marinesurvey.org

National Association of Marine Surveyors
(NAMS): namsglobal.org

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