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April 22nd 2013. By Patrick Lane.

How To NOT Sell Your Boat: Our Top 20 Tips

If you have decided to sell your boat - but you really would prefer not to – these 20 tips will make sure no one buys it.

1. After the last sail of the season, make sure your anchor and rode are still covered in the mud that you collected after anchoring. Don’t coil the rode, just leave it crumpled up and mud-caked in the anchor locker. If the anchor is rusty, all the better.

old boat for sale

She may be for sale, but maybe you are not quite ready to part with her just yet – no worries, we can help you NOT sell your boat!

2. Make sure the jib is furled and left on the forestay for the winter. If it has a bit of tatter on the edges, that will be satisfactory.

3. Under no circumstances should you polish the stainless stanchions and railings. And don’t even think about reaching for fiberglass wax or polishing compound. The worst thing you could possibly do? Watch these videos on boats.com: Getting Tough Stains Out of Gel Coat, and How to Restore Faded Gel Coat on a Boat.

faded gel coat on a boat

Not maintaining faded, chalky gel coat is an excellent way to not sell your boat.

4. Leave all the dirt collected after shrink wrapping and/or storage.

5. It would be preferable to leave the mast up and the main on with a bit of mold showing through the mainsail cover. If you have a roller furling mast, make sure the triangle of main left unfurled is not tight—let it flop around a bit.

6. Never empty your lazarette. Make sure you leave all the moldy life jackets and extra lines in there. If possible, fill it completely so the bottom portion cannot be inspected. An alternative would be to leave just enough stuff in the lazarette so the bottom can be seen, but if you choose this option, make sure the items were left wet at the end of the season.

7. Leave your dodger and Bimini erected, but not secure. A little flapping around is always desirable.

8. Shrink-wrapping for winter is not the way to go. Purchase an extra large blue tarp and tie it with a small, easily breakable line. Better yet, purchase several small tarps and tie them together to make one large one. Hopefully by the time potential buyers arrive, there will be gaps between these tarps.

9. Always leave some water in the bilge. This promotes mold and bacteria growth, which produce the smells that are necessary for success.

10. Never completely flush your head. Always leave a small bit of liquid in the bottom of the commode in order to fully complete the aforementioned bacteria creation.

11. Never remove your cockpit cushions for the winter. Instead, place them—preferably damp—on top of the salon and cabin cushions.

12. Make sure your companionway hatch boards have a slight leak. The streaks that are created on the teak inside of the boat should be left alone and allowed to deepen, in order to show the prospective client exactly where the leak is emanating.

13. Make sure all your cupboards, compartments and all stowage areas are as full as you can make them. (After all, you’re going to use the boat if it doesn’t sell, and you would just have to bring all that stuff back aboard in the spring.)

14. Always leave your toothbrushes, toothpaste, sunscreen, and used tissues in the supplied stowage areas.

15. If your boat has a garbage chute, leave the basket full of refuse. I’m particularly fond of crumpled, stained paper towels, although nose tissues run a good second place.

16. Always leave all your cleaning materials on the boat. If you can, place them on the countertops in random order. That way when they’re moved, accumulated circles of dirt will be visible.

17. If you are fortunate enough to have a cast-iron keel on your boat, then never re-finish it before listing your boat. Make sure plenty of rust on shows through the bottom paint.

rusty paint

Rust streaks and caked-up bottom paint are a big bonus when trying not to sell your boat.

18. Speaking of bottom paint: Leave all previous coats on the hull, and let it build up so much you can measure it with a ruler. If it has already started to peel, so much the better.

19. Make sure your propeller shows some rust and a ding or two. Never, ever, polish it.

propeller inspection

That prop looks way too nice – better go out and put some dings in it to keep this boat from selling.

20. Your rudder should have very little anti fouling paint left on it. If you have a stainless-steel rudder shaft, make sure there’s excessive play in the shaft and cutlass bearing.

If you have the fortitude to perform these necessary tasks, your attempt to not sell your boat will succeed.

For more tips on How Not to Sell Your Boat, read the Annapolis Yacht Sales newsletter. 

Patrick Lane
After 25 years of selling power and sailboats, Patrick Lane has firsthand experience undoing the work of hundreds of owners who have taught him the methodology described in this article. He’s currently a yacht broker at Annapolis Yacht Sales.