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Some general guidelines to help the prospective buyer.  This list is meant to give you some guidance in deciding whether or not to proceed with a professional survey.   
  1. Center the rudder amidships and look from aft, lining up the rudder to the keel.  Does the rudder line up with the keel by sight?  Check to see if the keel appears to hang down straight from the hull.  Look at the keel where it attaches to the hull.  Fine hairline cracks at the joint are likely fairing putty.  Larger cracks, especially if there is a trail of water or discoloration from the joint downward, are a sign of water in the keel/hull joint and can cause corrosion of the keel bolts. 
  2. Look at the steering gear, quadrant and cables.  Are these accessible in case the rudder needs work or new bushings?  If the fasteners are all corroded, it makes removal that much more difficult.
  3. Examine the bottom edge of the rudder for signs of leaking.  A blister of paint with water inside may be a sign of water in the rudder.  Carefully inspect the hull several inches above the water line adjacent to the keel area.  Are there any longitudinal cracks?  Inspect the area just forward of and aft of the keel.  Any signs of cracks or repairs?  Both of these are signs of a possible hard grounding.
  4. Lift up on the rudder from the bottom and check for play.  Try to move the rudder side to side, checking for play in the bushings and bearings.  Anything up to 1/16” side-to-side play in the rudder bushing is ok.  More play is not necessarily a major concern; however it might indicate the need for new rudder bushings.
  5. Sight along the hull, looking for any irregularities such as depressions or pronounced high spots.
  6. Carefully inspect the bow for evidence of collision damage.
  7. Inspect the engine compartment and bilge for grease and oil.  A dirty, greasy bilge is one sign of an engine with oil leaks.  Also, oily bilge water gets pumped overboard, which is illegal.
  8. Look for signs of owner-installed electrical gear and, if visible, the neatness of the wiring runs and connections.  Are all wires firmly attached? 
  9. Wherever possible, look at nuts or bolts attaching deck hardware, especially owner-installed items.  If the fasteners below deck appear corroded or oxidized, it is an indication of leaks.  Leaks at hardware on cored decks are a major source of core degradation and of annoying interior leaks that are hard to locate and stop.
  10. Inspect the chainplates where they attach to the bulkheads inside.  Are there any signs of water staining?  If so, are there any signs of damage to wood bulkheads where the chainplates are attached?
  11. If the wire rigging has plastic covers, remove one and check for oxidation (gray or greenish colors). Stainless rigging does not like to be deprived of air circulation.  Inspect the tangs and clevis pins where they pass thru holes – are the clevis pins the correct size and clean?  Sight up along each shroud and stay, looking for kinks or broken strands.  Don’t forget to do the same to the headsail furler.
  12. If the mast is keel-stepped, inspect the base of the mast and the mast step for any signs of corrosion.  If the mast is deck-stepped, look very carefully for signs of a slight depression on the cabin house just under the mast step.  Note – any minor depression in that area could indicate moisture in the core structure.

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