The Survey

Pat will do the survey. He is a qualified shipwright and marine surveyor, has built his own aluminium boat, hates wood, and has a 'reputation' amongst yacht brokers. Sounds like he's my man. Before the survey Pat goes through all the photos, the inventory and the plans so he knows very well what to expect. I'm expecting that he will find a few things that I haven't.

I fly down to Hobart for the survey. Steven, the broker, has arranged everything perfectly: the boat is already out of the water, the bottom has been cleaned and there she stands on the hard. Wow! The bottom looks perfect! Steven introduces me to Pat, whom I've only spoken to on the phone, and his business partner Denis and they assure me that they haven't found any issues with the hull. They put the boat back in the water and we go for a 'sea trial'. This is a serious-sounding title for a bunch of guys out sailing on someone else's boat while everyone else is at work. Pat and Denis crawl around in the bilge, rev the engine, look at the sails, take pictures of everything and ask questions of the owner, David, who is also aboard.

I am remote from it all. It's unreal being out on the Derwent on a beautiful day sailing a great boat — a boat I've spent years trying to find. They're all doing one thing or another and I'm just listening to what everyone is saying, looking at things, absorbing it all and relying on my intuition and experience to alert me to anything that doesn't look right. But more than anything else I'm floating on air just being on a sailboat again.

The steering is the main problem. It is stiff. So much so that it is impossible to get a real feel for the yacht's handling. After a bit I seem to be able to distinguish between the binding in the steering mechanism and the pressure of the rudder itself. I am not worried. It's a bearing or a bush or something that is relatively easily fixed. It's years of neglect. Just a pity not to be able to feel the balance of this wonderful boat.

Pat takes me aside to ask how much I'll be paying. I tell him. "A fair price" he says "Wouldn't pay any more though."

"Well, so far I haven't found any problems you haven't already identified" he says. I am a little disappointed. I was hoping he might find a few small things I'd missed, and that I could use to negotiate a lower price. On the other hand, I am glad that I nailed it by myself.

A week later I am back home and Pat's formal survey results arrive in the email, as expected. This boat is everything I anticipated, good and bad. I deposit a bank check for the balance into the broker's trust account and get a receipt. The boat is mine.

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