Boat buying tips for the Providence Boat Show


So you are thinking of buying a boat. Now is the time to start your research at the Providence Boat Show this Friday through Sunday because you can see a number of boat types and manufacturers all in one place. You can also take advantage of special show pricing and financing manufacturers in place for the show.

Like many boaters, I am always looking at boats to see what styles and features are available that fit my needs. I am generally so excited when going to a boat show that I have to take a moment when I get there, sit down with a cup of coffee and the program guide and mark those booths, boats, exhibits and seminars that I am interested in seeing. I find this a productive way to work a show. If I don’t take the time to specifically identify what I want to see I end up wandering the show and not being very productive with my search.

If you are interested in buying a new or used boat, the Providence Boat Show is a good place to start. In addition to over 130 new boats on display, a number of boat brokers will be at the show sharing information on used boats they have for sale.

Tips on buying a boat… first determine use and boat type

First, determine what you want to use a boat for… water skiing, sailing, fishing, family outings, swimming, weekend cursing or a combination. The use of the vessel will dictate the type of boat you buy.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has a great online tool at to help identity needs and suitable boat types. It is helpful to determine boat type early in your search because it points you in the right direction…which boats to see at the boat show, do internet research on, or which boat dealers to visit.

Test drive

Most importantly, before you purchase, take your desired boat for a test run. If possible, test the boat under adverse conditions so you get a feel for how it handles. Operate the boat in the mode you are likely to use often – for example, fast speeds if you plan to ski, slow speeds if you fish and often troll. Most boat manufacturers and boat dealers at the show will be arranging sea trials of the vessels they have on display, so don’t hesitate to ask them for a test drive.

Should you buy new or used boat?

Like automobiles, new boats come with warrantees. If something goes wrong (and with boats something often goes wrong) you want a warrantee behind you. Old boats have a high frequency of repair and you may need more time to prepare for the season. A higher frequency of repair means more time off the water, which is something I try to avoid at all costs. If you are not a handy person and do not enjoy repairing things, an old boat may not be for you.

Used boats also cost less, which is a big advantage; however, they may need updates or repairs. So, consider these costs in addition to the purchase price.

Boat surveys

A helpful way to determine repair cost on a used boat is to commission a boat survey. A boat survey is similar to a home inspection. Surveys are conducted by certified surveyors who closely examine the vessels hull, structure, electrical system and engine(s). Surveys will not only tell you what is wrong (and right) about the boat, but they give you estimates on repairs, which can be used in price negotiations.

Four years ago, I bought a used boat. The money I spent on a survey was well worth it. When the vessel was out of the water, the surveyor did a land inspection, which gave him good access to inspect the hull and structure of the vessel as well as a comfortable way to do a complete survey of every boat system. The surveyor then held a sea trial, operating the vessel under normal and extreme sea conditions. All systems were tested at sea under operation. Oil and transmission fluid samples were taken for lab analysis. In addition to the surveyor checking the vessel, I was able to get a second ride to make sure I felt comfortable piloting the vessel and making sure it met my expectations on criteria such as visibility from the helm, ease of operation, responsive handling and in my case the fishability of the vessel.

Fishing seminars at the boat show

Capt. Jack Sprengel, who has managed to restore much of the excitement and adventure in fishing for his charter customers, spearheaded the effort to select the topics and presenters for boat show fishing seminars. Presenters at the boat show will talk about bottom fishing to big game fishing. Visit for a complete listing of seminar topics, speakers and times they are offered.

I had a chance to speak with Capt. Sprengel Monday night when he gave a presentation on shark fishing at a R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association meeting. He was very excited about the lineup of speakers for the boat show. I asked him why customers want to go shark fishing. Capt. Sprengel said, “Many customers have had a desire to fish for sharks since they were kids, it’s the hunting instinct. But you know, shark fishing is a building block for big game fishing. Anglers use it as a transition to get into big game fishing. What you learn when shark fishing can be applied to tuna fishing and fishing for other species. When you have a fish at the boat you go though much the same process or drill no matter what species it is.”

The Providence Boat Show is being held this Friday, Feb. 3, 12 noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to over 130 boats on display, a full range of boating and fishing seminars will be held each day. Admission for adults is $15, children 12 and under are admitted free and there is a special family pack of tickets for $30.

Used tackle sale Feb. 4

The Annual Narragansett Surfcasters’ Surf Day Used Tackle Sale will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Narragansett Community Center, Mumford Road, Narragansett. For information, contact David Giuliano at

Where’s the bite

Cod fishing

has been good, but last week boats did not get out due to high winds and rough seas. Party boats sailing for cod this time of year include the Frances Fleet at, the Seven B’s at and the Island Current at

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit his website at


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