Boat buyers seldom understand what to look for on sea trials. The biggest misconception we hear is on the various rides of boats. You should understand that there are advantages to the hull design when you are originally looking at a boat. A deep vee is 100% going to ride better into a head sea. The disadvantage of pushing that boat through the water is that it is going to take more fuel to push it, and it is going to roll more when you stop to fish. A flat bottom boat is going to not ride well into a head sea, but is going to burn a lot less fuel, and will be more stable when you stop to fish. The characteristics that vary from boat to boat is the variations on how much “V” there is in the hull, construction methods, the reverse chine to control how wet it is, and the layout of the boat.
Customers constantly ask me how a boat will ride in 4 to 6 foot seas and I have a fairly standard answer, “like shit”. An experienced boater that has been out in 4 to 6 foot seas realizes that unless you have a top of the line boat with a deep V that is over 40’, nothing will ride good when it is rough. In addition, unless you are a tournament fisherman, there is no reason to go out in 4 to 6 foot seas.
A sea trial should take place where you can run the boat in smooth water to make sure the engines turn up to the proper RPM, and where you can hit some waves and maybe a little bit of chop so you can feel the integrity of the boat, whether it rattles, and if it absorbs the wave or pounds. There is no reason for more than a ½ hour sea trial, and there is absolutely no reason to go out on a day with 4 to 6 foot seas unless you will be regularly operating in these conditions and are very experienced. Every day is different on the water, and when comparing two similar quality boats, on two different days, it is rare they will ride the same.
I always suggest going with your instinct. You made an offer on a boat based on its reputation, and the design characteristics you were interested in. I have seen more deals go bad on sea trials then at any other part of the transaction. A majority of the time, the deals went bad for incorrect conclusions and many times they later regret the decision to decline the boat. Research the boat you are buying on forums such as The Hull Truth. Go on the sea trial with an open mind, trust your instincts, and I always recommend hiring a surveyor.