Conducting A Sea Trial

A sea trial is a fancy term for a test drive, designed to test a boat’s seaworthiness. Surveyors use sea trials as an opportunity to test speed and maneuverability, as well as check for vibrations and observe other systems that can only be tested in the water.

There are established standards for sea trials leading to a vessel’s certification, but unless a buyer insists on a survey, a casual boat ride is usually all that is expected.

Serious buyers will insist on a sea trial before buying, especially if your boat is uncommon or complicated. A chance to get out and share the enjoyment of being on the water is a great way to sell the “dream,” which will help sell the boat.

Less serious buyers may just be looking for a joy ride at your expense. To avoid wasting your time, try to get a buyer to agree to a price before you leave the dock. For a larger boat, it would not be uncommon to retain a refundable deposit and signed contract with an “acceptance of vessel clause” with regard to a successful sea-trial.

Here are some tips to get the most out of a sea trial:

  1. If your boat is stored out of the water or has not been used recently, take your own test ride first to make sure everything is operating correctly.
  2. Keep the additional “riders” to a minimum.
  3. Choose a protected location, unless the buyer specifically requests open water.
  4. Give the buyer a chance to look things over before getting underway.
  5. Offer the buyer a chance to steer, assuming s/he has demonstrated boating experience.
  6. Show off the boat’s best features, but don’t highlight any known negative aspects.
  7. Answer all questions positively and honestly.

Unless other arrangements are made up front, the seller should expect to cover any expenses associated with a sea trial. And at all times, remember that you are in charge. If you do turn over command, remain close by in case of an emergency.