Whats a better boat?
December 10, 2007 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Im looking into buying a boat... 17-18 foot bowrider... I dont know too much about them, i found a 1999 larson sei with the 3.0litre volvo penta and only 22 hours for $9000usd, its just across the border (im in canada)... its either that or a bayliner which sem to be very popular... has anyone had good or bad experiences with these boats and could reccomend one or the other? (or something else) Also anyone imported a boat into canada from the states and have advice on what to watch out for? Thanks all :)

One more question... ill be using it in the ocean... do i need to upgrade or change a boat that has only been used in freshwater?
posted by frogger12 to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bayliners are very popular here in GA, but many people consider them sort of starter boats because they are cheap. I have seen a lot of them that look pretty rough after a few years. I am mostly a freshwater boater but I do know that one difference between the two is that saltwater boats use sacrificial anodes to prevent corrosion.
posted by TedW at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2007

Like TedW said, Bayliners are considered starter boats and the quality of the fitments, assembly and general seaworthiness tend to be lower. The good news for you is their resale value goes to sh*t, and if you aren't too concerned over the name you might be able to find a great buy in a used Bayliner (esp. in a private party transaction.) I don't have direct experience with Larson.

I think you're doing this already but if this is your first boat I'd go for used over new -- boats lose their value much, much quicker than their usability and depreciation can be a real heartbreaker.

I'm assuming the Larson is an I/O. Be sure to have a qualified mechanic go over the drive before you make an offer. Lower unit problems are common, especially if the previous owner has deferred maintenance, and can be expensive to repair. For that matter, at the price you're talking it wouldn't be out of hand to get an inspection from a marine surveyor specializing in small boats; it shouldn't be too expensive and give you some peace of mind. Also take the boat out and look at how she rides, and for handling problems. I would replace the fuel lines and filters, get the gas tanks cleaned, and double-check hoses and belts just to be safe. Getting stuck offshore is no fun.

Ocean vs. fresh? Yes, anodes (your boat shop/marina will know what to do.) Also bottom paint if you aren't dry-storing it. And if the original owner never took it anywhere but landlocked water, there's a chance the lighting and safety equipment aren't up to regulation. So familiarize yourself with the local and national requirements and make sure you meet or exceed them.
posted by Opposite George at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2007

The Volvo Penta's a fairly solid engine in my experience. I don't know anything about the Larson's, really, but I'd stay away from Bayliner. I worked for a search and rescue outfit in St. Petersburg for 4 years and we were plucking Bayliners out of trouble left and right, both due to user stupidity and mechanical/structural failures. That may be largely because there are so many of them out there, but it's pretty commonly accepted that they're tacked together with little thought to longevity. Still, if the price is right...

Re: the ocean, Opposit George hits on the most important -- sacrifical zinc anodes on all the metal that in contact with the water, be it outdrive, struts, shafts, etc. Depending on how the motor is cooled, you'll need to flush it with fresh water after each use.

Other boats: Sea-Rays are solidly built. Boston Whaler and Mako are two other excellent brands. Aquasports are pretty good as well (these, as you might guess, are the makes we had in our fleet). We also had a Cabo, which was a great ocean boat.

Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:07 PM on December 10, 2007

Boston Whaler.... every single time..

I've owned a 17 foot Bayliner, about 1994 I think... a nice boat, but the fit/finish was marginal.

I now own a 13 foot whaler and just love this boat!

The key point here is that you intend to use it in the ocean... I wouldn't take a 17 foot bayliner with a single engine out on the big water for love or money!

Look around for a used 17 foot Whaler... these are used in the ocean all the time.. I would also look for a twin engine, so much safer!

Whalers are unsinkable..can fill with water and be driven until they are dry...

Great used Whaler site at ContinuousWave

/end of whaler ad!
posted by HuronBob at 3:49 PM on December 10, 2007

Had to post once more, to reinforce HuronBob's recommendation. A Whaler was one of our fleet and it was a fantastic boat -- a 22' cuddy cabin. Re: durability... it was in use as a training boat for new drivers and was driven up onto a piling during low-speed maneuvering. The full weight of the bow settled onto the piling, flexing the chine at the bow and creating a hairline crack.

Fast forward a few weeks and we've taken it out about 8 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, pounding through steady 3-4 foot waves. We hooked up to the vessel in distress and tow it back in to a local marina. We notice about halfway back that the cabin has 2 feet of water in it, so we set up our dewatering pump and continue the tow, getting the vessel safely back to port and getting home to our own dock with no problems, except that we couldn't get the boat on plane with the additional water in the hull.

The waves had blown out the chine at the bow and rammed so much water in that the outer layer of fiberglass delaminated from the hull. Poor boat was never the same again, but it sure as hell wasn't going to sink.

So, as Bob said -- Boster Whaler, every single time.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2007

I had a Bayliner, used in freshwater for a few years. Even with light use, it kept needing work to keep it going. After awhile I noticed that the manual that came with it was a generic boat manual, with a number of points not correct for my boat! I would avoid Bayliner.
posted by richg at 4:34 PM on December 10, 2007

Well, if we're getting into Whaler country then hell yeah. Also seconding Grady White (opinions are more mixed on these but some swear by them) and Mako. I don't know too much about Sea-Ray. Anyway, we're talking about solid, solid boats that can take a real pounding. And yes, Whalers are literally unsinkable -- lookie here (scroll down.) These are all boats that the hardcore fish-killers here on LI Sound choose -- each has his favorite brand -- and these are the guys that go out into inlets when it's especially snotty as that's when the fish get active. And LI Sound is pretty shallow, big and rocky so rough conditions can be very, very rough.

Okay, though, here's the thing. I have no idea what current prices are in your neck of the woods but in general these are all boats that, in good condition and with solid mechanicals will run you big bucks regardless of age, and, around here anyway, usually don't go long before finding a buyer. A Grady, Whaler or Mako at a price at par with an entry-level boat (we're talking used boats now) will be either: A) Significantly smaller or B) More suspect mechanically (e.g., engine with many more hours on it) than the entry-level boats. If you see a Grady/Whaler/Mako at a too-good-to-be-true price, chances are there's something very wrong with it. Even more so if it's been on the market a while.

Another point: Used Whaler/Grady/Mako > (better than) New Bayliner.

A lot depends on what you're going to do with the boat. If you're only planning on going out in relatively sedate conditions, keeping an eye on the weather, and not asking for too much performance from your ride an entry-level boat can be a good starter. If it turns out you like boating, you'll almost certainly be looking to trade up in a couple years anyway. As I suggested previously, be sure to get the hull checked out, as the cheaper brands are more likely to delam or crack and a waterlogged hull is one thing you really don't want. Expensive boats can have these issues too so like I said, get it checked out either way.

If you're fishing off shore or near shallow-bottom features or inlet running at peak tidal flow and want to get into the rough stuff and drive your loved ones nuts with worry then an entry-level boat isn't such a hot idea. The three brands above, in the size range you're likely interested in, are most probably going to have outboard powerplants. These can be more expensive than inboard/IO setups but more reliable as long as you feed them clean fuel and keep up on the maintenance. If you plan on beaching the boat (intentionally) a lot then solid, sturdy and outboard is the way to go.

Also keep in mind that if you don't need comfort features like a cabin and just want a pure fish-killing machine then you can go smaller on a Whaler than other boats and be just as secure, if less comfortable. Also a center-console Mako or Grady will run you less than a heavily-outfitted version and be more functional at ichthycide as it's real easy to walk around the boat with Nemo on the hook.

Oh, and if you're status-conscious, then a Bayliner's definitely a bad bet. As for Pants' experience with having to tow a lot of them ITA that a lot of that has to do with them being disproportionately owned by new boaters, who tend to do really stupid stuff like run out of gas or get themselves grounded. Sometimes it's just a natural lack of experience and judgment that leads to these problems, sometimes that's compounded by too much alcohol. Don't do anything stupid and especially don't overdo it with the booze/brews. Take a good boating safety course (try the CPS/ECP,) and maybe a course on coastal piloting. Supplement the above with good local knowledge and at least two additional sources of navigational information (e.g., paper charts AND GPS) that you know how to use in your sleep. A fishfinder/depth gauge is another, oft-overlooked navigation tool (when used in conjunction with an up-to-date chart) that can really keep you out of serious trouble in coastal waters. New boaters often don't appreciate how much reliability depends on religious maintenance, or cut corners on same because they don't appreciate how the cost of the boat is more an initiation fee to the club than a dues payment. If you have to choose between a new bimini and getting a lower unit service, well, I hope you look after the mechanicals first.

Anyway, I'd guess up in the Great White North this isn't peak boating season so you probably have lots of time to make a good deal. And if you're only going out a few days this season (you probably won't use the boat as much as you think) it can be cheaper to take your courses now and day-rent boats to get some practice in while you get a better idea of what you really need.

Wow. That was long. Look, just don't rush into anything. Sleep on every decision you make with regard to this and you're much, much more likely to end up having fun.
posted by Opposite George at 8:13 PM on December 10, 2007

Response by poster: thanks everyone... especially George, that was beyond the call of duty and much appreciated. To answer a couple questions, i hope to not beach my boat at all... will use it more for sking in good weather than fishing in bad, and dont plan on taking it too far from home. Most likely will be stored dry especially if its a major PITA to make it saltwater friendly. I'd always rather buy used than new... im not really status concious but to want to like how the boat looks (i do want a bowrider). The Glastron MX175 was another in my pricerange and conveniently close by... a boating licence is now mandatory in canada and i'll be getting mine along with any friends that think they have a chance to drive my new boat:)
posted by frogger12 at 12:48 AM on December 11, 2007

Sorry -- can't stop myself -- if you plan on using the boat for skiing then make sure the cleat/pylon/where ever the tow rope attaches is glassed in very, very well. Also, a swim platform or swim ladder will be a big help.

Saltwater-friendly shouldn't be a big PITA at all. Anodes go on the lower unit (or shaft on an inboard) and trim tabs if you have those and take less than an hour to install. There are also anodes in the cooling system, and other metal on the boat in contact with the water (e.g, exhaust and cooling system,) but I think all boats, not just saltwater ones, have those (my experience is limited to coastal boating.) Make sure you keep an eye on all of 'em, replacing as necessary. This is a good intro article. Also, if you have a choice, get a boat with a fresh water cooling system to limit engine rot (though honestly, if you aren't putting more than 50-100 hours or so a year on it it shouldn't be a deal-breaker, and most of the boats you're looking at will probably use raw water cooling or outboards.)

Somebody else said it but I'll repeat it: if you care at all about engine life flushing the cooling system with fresh water every time you pull the boat out is a necessity.

Bottom paint should be about 2-300 bucks if somebody else does it (shop around,) less if you do it (the paint itself is very expensive) -- if you're dry-storing the boat, not putting it in the water that often and power-washing the hull every time you pull it out you might be able to get away without bottom paint but it's less hassle to just get it done. If you keep it in the water you need to get the bottom redone every year; you can probably get away with doing it much less often if you dry-store.

You'll see the term "local knowledge" batted about in terms of navigation and piloting but it's also helpful to know how the locals handle maintenance concerns (these vary depend on climate and conditions.) Make friends with/hang out around old-timers -- small boat clubs and tackle shops are a great place to find these guys -- and try to find out what the fishermen do as they often go for the most value-friendly but practical solution (a/k/a "ugly but it works.")

Glastron is another make that would fall into the "good for calm conditions/tooling around on nice days" category. They are popular recreational boats and you see a lot of them come up on the used market, so don't feel compelled to jump on the first one you see. You see a lot of really, really old ones still on the water, though I don't know much about the build quality of more recent ones.

Okay, I swear I'm done yakking. Have fun.
posted by Opposite George at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2007

Response by poster: bought the larson... got a few months before it gets nice out to get it ready for the ocean... thanks again evryone
posted by frogger12 at 9:37 PM on January 4, 2008

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