Decisions Made - at last

The search in reality continued for some time - hundreds of emails, web searches, but we finally got there.

The owner of the 98 SDA 270 had had the boat for some time, on his own piece in his backyard on Lake Norman.  The engine had been replaced by Sea Ray (out of wattantee), and had 60 hours on the replacement.  

As his grandkids stopped visiting as much, the boat started to see less use, so it just became time for him to part with her.  So far, entirely understandable.  He had some pretty good records of repairs, some of which were not so inexpensive (engine, steering cables, depth sounder transducer, new canvas, …).  My general impression is he certainly paid out some big $ to have things repaired, but certainly in some cases wated until something went wrong before acting on it, then caught up on ‘the usual stuff’ during those repairs.  

1998 Sea Ray Sundancer/SDA 270

So what do we do?

Let’s see where we can get to.  I’ll say this - I’m fair but not stupid.   I don’t like used car dealers trying to put pressure on. I was looking for a new-to-me few year old car with cash in hand in my early 20s, went to a few dealers and said - I am not buying today so don’t bother. I’m here to look at a few cars and will go look at a few others. If I like what I see, price all in, I’ll be deciding within two days. Play games and I’m gone - your call. So, most were OK, but was considering a turbo Eclipse, and the guys kept playing the ‘what does it take to close today?’ game. I was nice - I gave them 3 warnings, then walked out in the middle of yet another ‘out the door price total’ leading to the nonsense of trying to ‘convince me’ of what I already said I won’t be doing - leaving with it that day. Bought my first Miata 2 days later elsewhere, and drove it through their lot and made sure to wave to them and smile.

Upsides and Downsides

A new engine and some expensive types of maintenance or replacement had already been done, which is good, but what else was going to crop up?  It needed an HVAC system and possibly a lower.  I’ve been working on cars since before I was legal to drive them, so have little doubt I could do at least a fair amount of the work, HVAC replacement included, but the goal here was to have fewer big projects, and some ready R&R - at least for the first season.

Time to get serious


I asked the broker to find the purchaser of the last survey and told him I’d give him $50, noting it doesn’t matter what he paid as there is zero chance a survey for the boat he didn’t buy having any type of long-lived value. He started at $500, and eventually I said fine, I’ll give you $100 with a reminder of $100 is a lot better than $0, and I got it. While I think the survey cost was overblown (he did pay $1K for it- I mean that IMO he paid a bit too much $ for what he got), it was pretty complete. No structural issues noted, although I would have been happier if he’d done some more sounding or moisture measurements. Mechanicals generally good, although a couple of gauges inop, didn’t touch the HVAC and noted corrosion on the lower.

We went back for a sea trial and more inspection. Surprisingly, the boat made it to 40MPH+.  Much fun, although brief, was had. Meanwhile, we’d come to the conclusion she probably needed a lower, as she was losing gear oil, and had the broker’s mechanic confirm it. I spent some time talking to the mechanic who had worked for Sea Ray directly for a number of years, Kevin, who actually turned out to be a solid guy.

So, not picture perfect by any means, but I had some leverage. I wanted the lower and HVAC fixed, and ideally the gauges and a couple of other things, but also knew ‘the other things’ weren’t likely to happen. I priced out the options. I was willing to come close to current asking price, but he eats the costs of repair (not insigificant - rebuilt lower is $4k in parts only) followed by a re-inspection and sea trial. Offered a deposit refundable in the event it fails re-inspection of work to help offset the cash layout.

Eventually, we got her done…not my ideal, probably nor his, as he wanted me to pay for the HVAC and lower repair, so more risk for me = less $ for him, but we got there, and I am now a boat owner…pending repairs, but I’ve got until spring to get the slip and repairs sorted.

Oh boy - still need a trailer

TrailerWheels web

So, almost done, right?  Well, not quite, as I also need a trailer.  Brokers all around Lake Norman have tons of trailers, but a majority of them are ‘working trailers’ meaning they use them to pick up and deliver boats, moreso as many of the locals have lakefront property and have their mecahnics or marina haul them out as needed - so many not even own a trailer of their own.  Further - a good number of the broker trailers may not easily be transferred and titled, so - it can be a problem.  

I called all over creation before closing on the boat, sorting I really needed a triple axle trailer for the 7500# dry weight, finding out that new ones start in the $7-$10K range, which would have blown the deal out of the water for me, especially as we plan to slip the boat and only pull her out and back in at season end and start except where absolutely required for maintenance.  

Thankfully, Justin was able to make something happen and came up with a 30’ tri-axle, aluminum (my preference), for around $2K, and I added the trailer checkout to the list of items to do before final delivery.  

At this point, the boat has a fair markey value of ~$27-$30K including trailer assuming all systems are in good operational state.  
I was into it for $10K for boat and trailer... 

Let’s see how it goes..