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Golden Oldies

Navigating the used market for a versatile sportfisher.

I recently outfitted a 20-year-old 37 Bertram that had never been fished and was in exceptional condition. The boat served as a cruising vessel in its past life. Converting this one to a fishing boat would be cost effective, I figured, after looking at other offerings on the market. For the more expensive components, I found used items of good quality. Much of the work I did myself.

I located and installed a pair of used Rupp outriggers, as well as a refurbished, like-new Nautical Design fighting chair. Fresh- and saltwater washdowns were easy to add. On the bridge, I installed an electric
downrigger for a teaser reel. The boat needed a new transducer installed, and for electronic instruments, a NavPod. I installed lower controls and a bait freezer. There were other small projects.

I don’t anticipate a positive return on my investment, but am looking forward to blue marlin trips to the Abacos and winter sailfishing.

Making the Jump

If you, too, are thinking of moving from a center console or other small boat to a vessel of this class, you should approach the used market with cautious optimism.

Well-built boats from Bertram, Blackfin, Cabo, Hatteras, Tiara, Topaz and others will provide a solid base to work from. A good example is Bertram since there are Bertram cabin boats from 28 feet and up. In December 2010, Yacht World listed 92 Bertrams for sale from 28 to 38 feet in Florida alone. Prices started at $4,900 for a 28 that needs diesel engine work and went up from there providing a very good selection of sizes (28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38) and prices.

Once you have zeroed-in on a size and price range, decide what power is acceptable and go from there: gas or diesel in the smaller boats, and diesel manufacturer preference in the larger boats. When you go to look at the boats, remember that gel coat can be wet sanded and buffed, cushions can be recovered, but the heart of the boat is in the engine room so that is the first test of whether to consider the boat or not. Well-maintained diesels with 3,000 hours may be a better choice than neglected engines with low hours.

Make your offer subject to hull survey, engine survey and sea trial. Don’t let the little stuff hold you up; be sure the foundation and engines are good. Major projects such as repower always cost more than anticipated.

Factor into the total cost the level of finish and amount of updating you’d like. Make sure you don’t over-improve to the extent that you’d incur a great monetary loss if you had to sell. You shouldn’t plan on getting all of your money back, but the fun you have fishing makes up for that. About 15 years ago, I purchased a late 1970’s Bertram 35 that had been repowered, put 2,500 hours on her and sold her for the same price I had purchased her for. Insurance, dockage, upgrades and maintenance meant it was no free ride (and the boat sales market is tougher now than it was then) but with little depreciation left it worked out pretty well. FS

  • Charlie Ellis

    Just had to chime in here on the topic of buying a used sportfisher having watched several friends put themselves through endless engine repair misery the past few years in the charter industry.

    if you have the intention of operating a fishing charter or fishing at least three times a week recreationally from a sportfisher – know what you are getting into financially and be advised there is no return on investment to be had. The B.O.A.T model ( break out another thousand) goes double (likely triple) if you move from a center console to a sportfisher. Whatever budget you’re allocating for engine, electrical, fiberglass, generator, transmission, upholstery, plumbing, and the countless other miscellaneous repairs that come with a used sportfisher – double it. If you’re considering repowering an older vessel and are just purchasing a hull with junk engines – get your head examined for brain damage. :)

    Fuel costs are another consideration when switching from CC to a larger class of vessel – it’s doubtful we will see a drop in gasoline or diesel prices anytime in the near future (fuel in coconut grove, FL is $5.35 at the dock for non-ethanol 91 octane gasoline).

    Making sure your offer is subject to an engine survey, hull survey, and sea trial is priceless advice…and never, under any circumstance, be in a rush to purchase a vessel which needs engine work.