Clockwise from top left: Sea trials should be rigorous,
especially when evaluating recent engine or running gear
work; There’s no substitute for a trained professional mechanic
who’s working as your advocate; Mechanically controlled
engines should have their rpm verified using a handheld
and mechanics who appeared to simply be along for the
ride during sea trials, and more interested in chatting
than checking. You should make your expectations of
them clear and do so in writing.
Among other things, mechanics should, at a
minimum, inspect the engine and generator for full
compliance with the manufacturer’s original installation
guidelines (such compliance applies to new vessels
as much as used) to assure you that they meet these
important standards. Compliance with these guidelines
may spell the difference between whether or not
you have warranty coverage, as well as a reasonable
expectation of reliability.
Mechanics should check crankcase and exhaust
back pressure and strobe taching mechanical engines,
as well as exhaust plumbing and gas temperature. For
electronic engines, mechanics should come prepared
to use a laptop to retrieve error codes and monitor
I’ve worked with all
manner of mechanics
and in short, the value
of a savvy, experienced,
curious one cannot be
overstated. It’s one more
sharp arrow in your sea-trial quiver.
Before the vessel
ever slips her lines,
preparations for a sea
trial must be made.
Make certain you have a
note pad to record any
observations you may
have. A camera can also
be helpful, preferably
one that takes still as well as video images.
Begin by ensuring the vessel is ready to go to sea,
especially if she’s been dockside for some time, or in the
case of a pre-purchase trial, if the present owner rarely
puts to sea in anything other than benign conditions,
or rarely puts to sea, period. Vases and other glassware
as well as furniture, TVs, and other gear that might fall
or shift should be securely stowed. The appropriate
number of PFDs must be present, as well as a Coast
Guard-approved safety gear package, and those aboard
should be made aware as to their location.
Tanks, fuel, water, and waste should be at least half
full. Ideally, fuel and water should be full. Where tanks
are concerned, filling them will not only increase engine
load (particularly for semi-planing vessels), it will also be
more likely to reveal leaks. I’ve encountered tanks whose
tops were so badly rusted that I could pass several fingers
through the hole, yet, because they were not full they
didn’t leak during a sea trial.