Sea Trials: Part 1

One of the best parts of buying a new boat is the series of sea trials that accompany the purchase.  The sea trial, also known as a shakedown cruise, is a way to test the boat to make sure that you know if you’re buying the one best suited to your needs.  Here are 4 points to check out quickly:

Speed: Check out how the boat comes on and off plane, review its top end speed and how it handles, and look for areas of sluggishness. Bear in mind that boats with perfect performance with you and a salesman on board run differently when you have your crew of family and friends.  Run your trial with about as much weight as you will normally carry to make sure you’re buying the right model.

Construction: Make sure to match your boat with your conditions.  Aluminum boats in salt water require more maintenance than do fiberglass models.  Along those lines, the boat used in a sea trial will be brand new, so ask to see a similar model with some age to gauge how it will be over time.  Also, check out the components. 

Carpet in freshwater is nice, but it gets slimy in the salt.  And high quality stainless steel is a must in the brine while aluminum is enough for the fresh.

Maneuverability: Most boaters run the boat backwards from a slip and forward to leave the harbor. But you’ll want to zig zag in a sea trial.  Run the boat across a wake to be sure she’s not sloppy.  Test the boat in a variety of conditions from calm days through windy days.  Maneuverability will be different when running through white caps versus flat water.

Seaworthiness: Sea trials reveal your boat’s seaworthiness. Deep Vee Hulls are preferable for the ocean or lakes, Modified-Vees are good all purpose boats and are great in mid-depths, while flat bottom boats are fine for skinny, calm water.

The best part of a sea trial is that you can mix and match and see what you like. Read up on boats before you take one for a cruise.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at