Investors call it “irrational exuberance,” the mania that drives demand higher than it really should be. But it’s not just limited to stocks and real estate. It can also show up in the used boat market.
Adam Pederson knows it well. A lifelong boater, he’s fallen prey to it himself from time to time. “I’ve certainly bought a few boats over the years that were driven more by passion than by rationality,” laughs Adam, the co-owner of Eleven North Marine.
“But there’s a difference,” adds Nicole Pederson, his wife and business partner. “When Adam buys an old boat, he knows exactly what he’s getting in to, and he doesn’t buy something that can’t be restored.”
The same can’t be said of all boat buyers, particularly since the pandemic began.
One typical scenario is that someone sees a boat for sale – listed online or parked at the side of the road – and snaps it up. Then they bring it to Adam so he can get it running.
“It breaks my heart, but sometimes I just have to tell the new owner that their boat is beyond repair,” he says.
Falling in love with a boat and buying it on sight can happen to anyone. But this past year, pandemic-related supply issues mean that many new boat manufacturers have sold out of boats, with some saying they won’t have any more available until 2022. On top of that, demand for boats has never been higher: deprived of travel and other outlets, more and more people have discovered boating as an amazing way to spend some delightful summer hours.
Together, these factors have made a perfect storm of boating demand: irrational exuberance.
Although the fear of missing out can be strong, Adam and Nicole advise caution when considering a used boat purchase. The best option is to buy from a reputable dealer like Eleven North. If you’re buying something privately – particularly if you’re eyeing an older boat or one that has been in storage for a while – it’s wise to arrange a pre-purchase inspection.
“There are certain weak points in every boat, mechanical systems that will fail over time or that can degrade if the boat wasn’t stored properly,” Adam explains. “We will start by looking at those.”
Inboard-outboards (also known as stern drives), for example, have several sets of bellows, flexible housings that seal the connection where various components exit the hull. There’s typically a set of bellows at the exhaust, the U-joint, and at the shifter cable.
“Because bellows are flexible, they can dry out over time and crack. Or they can be nibbled by rodents while they’re sitting in a barn or under a tarp,” says Adam. This allows water to enter the boat.
The damage is easy to spot but replacing them means removing the drive. And that can reveal other problems, including worn bearings.
Outboards and inboards will all have different weak points that should be inspected. And there are even model-specific factors to consider. “Adam’s been doing this so long and is so passionate about it that he can look at a particular model and know that this line of boats was prone to steering problems in the early 2000s, or they had a weak point in their electrical system in the 2012 model year, or what have you,” says Nicole. “Knowing that really helps to zero in on potential problems.”
Maintain what you have
If you’re fortunate enough to already have your boat, Adam and Nicole offer another key piece of advice: maintain it.
“Many new boaters think that winterizing your boat is just a matter of ‘drain it, dry it, put it away,’” says Adam. “But winter storage is also the time to do repair and maintenance work to ensure that your next boating season goes smoothly.”
“When we take boats for winter storage, we always inspect them for damage and wear and tear,” says Nicole. “We’ll look at the number of hours that were put on it over the season, and discuss fluid replacement and proactive maintenance, then do that over the winter so the boat can be on the water and ready to go for the spring.”
If your boat was new to you last year – particularly if you don’t have service records – it would have been wise to do a full inspection and change the oil and other fluids.
If that didn’t happen, there’s nothing wrong with scheduling it mid-season.
“You can bring it to us, or we can come to you,” says Adam. “A lot of maintenance work can be done while the boat is in the water, so you’re not interrupting your boating season at all. We’ll bring a service truck or even our service boat right to your dock, do the work, and ensure that you get to enjoy the full season on the water.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN