Damage is not always obvious….
The lady on the phone was adamant. This was the cleanest, nicest, best-maintained 2004 30 foot Rinker she and her husband had encountered thus far in their boat search. The deal seemed straightforward on its face, and I’m not sure what about it was causing me to question it or to sense that something was not right.
Perhaps it was the absolute surgically clean appearance of the boat in the photos, or the claim by the dealer that the boat had undergone an exhaustive certification process. Or maybe just the general rush to judgement and buy it based on the cosmetic appearance of things.
However, I also recalled that I had, about a year before, encountered the exact
make, model and year vessel as part of a damage survey assignment following that boat crashing head long into a steel breakwall while entering the marina channel.
About 15 minutes of digging through computer files and photos led me to what I was looking for, which was a file of damage photos that I had taken the year before of, you guessed it, a 2004 Rinker 30 with three feet of the bow sheared off and the interior blown apart. A few more clicks and I had homed in on the Ohio registration number on the raggedly truncated bow.
The reason for my initial hesitation was immediately revealed as the Ohio registration number on the wrecked boat and was a precise match with those on the surgically clean one in the photos.
Apparently, either by negligence or design, the 99 inspection points in the exhaustive inspection that the boat has recently undergone did not include checking to see if it had been wrecked and declared a total loss by the insurance company, then patched back together and put back on the used boat market.
The lady on the phone went from being unbelieving at first, to being incredulous, to being angry. I think that she was even mad at me (that thing about “shooting the messenger”) which suggests how she felt about the seller at the moment.
Fortunately, scenarios like this, while they do occur, are thankfully rare. The underlying lesson in all of this is that it is best to do your homework first, sometimes even before the first dollar is put down on deposit.
A wreck and repair history can often be discovered through research and diligence before the vessel is even physically inspected or surveyed.
It is better to know what you are dealing with up front, then to have unpleasant
surprised crop up later.