Join Date: Jul 2004
We bought a power catamaran from a charter company, and what we saw was not so much that engine hours were excessive, but that as clean as the boat was, there were lots of little problems that could have long term applications.
First, engine hours. I think that the charterers would use an engine more than an owner, and possibly better. Charterers don't care how many hours they put on the engine, and they'll run the engine at the higher revs that the engine should be run at. Usually a charter cat has a generator, so the engine(s) are not used to charge batteries, which is a good thing because charging batteries alone doesn't put enough load on the engines. Too many owners don't have a generator and so use the engines for charging their batteries as well as moving the boat when there's no wind. However provided an engine is well-maintained, that shouldn't be a concern. Diesel engines are supposed to be run, and certainly workhorse diesels can run for tens of thousands of hours, given proper maintenance.
What we found on our boat was that the boat was pretty much spotless, but in order to achieve that, the cleaning and maintenance practices were the most expedient, not necessarily the best. For example.
The interior lining on many areas of the boat were fiberglass panels with bright gelcoat surfaces.
The maintenance fellow used "green meanies" to clean everything, leaving tiny scratches on those panels, dulling them.
What could have been a big problem was that the charter company never replaced the fuel filters in the engines and the generator. At that time the engines had 1330 hours on them, the generator 900 hours. When we took possession of the boat in the Spring of 2005, we brought it from Florida up to New York for the summer. After 60 hours of running at recommended but not high revs, the port engine stalled, over and over again. We had a mechanic look at it which is when we discovered that the fuel filters had never been changed (the filters had engine paint overspray on them, indicating they were in the engine when it was originally painted).
For almost two years we had recurring problems with that engine stalling due to being starved for fuel. Slow learners that we are, it took that long before it occurred to us that the neglect of the fuel filters had hopelessly clogged the primary fuel filter housing (Racor). We replaced that and all our engine problems disappeared.
Lots of other minor things, such as bent railings, nicks and scratches indicating that docking was a contact sport, at times done by ear. Nothing else major, but little things that we noticed as we lived on the boat. And our boat was only in charter for a year and a half!
Charterers generally don't care about the boat, and misuse it in silly ways. For example, the galley counter had been used as a cutting board by a few people - whether because the charter company didn't provide a cutting board, or just laziness on the part of the charterers, I can't say.
We've talked with owners of boats that had been put into charter and were appalled at some of their stories of neglect and incompetent maintenance, much, much worse than anything that happened to our boat.
I believe that a boat bought out of charter can be as good or better than a boat bought from an owner that used it rarely, but a bit more care has to be taken in looking it over. Look in the bilge very carefully for bits of wire, washers, stuff. Look at hose clamps very carefully. Look to see if you can tell if the fuel and oil filters have been changed regularly. Look at the oil - how dirty IS it? (our oil filters were changed frequently and regularlly, fortunately).
If it's a sail boat, be sure the surveyor looks at the sails, particularly by sailing with them. See if the mainsail has striped UV damage indicative that the sails were not regularly covered when furled on the boom.
These same things must be addressed when surveying a boat that has not been in charter. A friend's boat is in far worse condition for its age than most charter boats we've seen, but most of that is due to the fact that the sails have never been taken down, even when the boat has been stored on a mooring for several years with very occasional use. The clew of the headsail is rotted. The trampoline net is rotted and dangerous. Lines are starting to go. This boat has been maintained poorly and neglected severely. Poor boat deserves a more caring owner.
However, if you buy a boat that has circumnavigated, I would suggest that you take 10 to 20% or more off its asking price just because the boat has circumnavigated. That boat has taken far more punishment and hard use than any boat sitting in charter.