Looking for the ‘Next’ Boat . . .


I had some requirements in mind for the next boat . . . 28+ Feet, Twin Engines, Enclosed Head, these things were pretty much ‘must’ have’s. Canvas, windlass, and built-in GPS along with some other electronics would be nice-to-have as well.  I preferred to stay within the Formula product line, and had eyed the 280SS as a potential next boat.  My preferred ‘sweet spot’ for age is about 12 -14 years, as the boats are fairly well depreciated, but can still have some good life left in them.  So, 1995 - 2001 was a target range for model years.

There were a few Formula’s listed locally.  So, The Admiral and I went to see them.  First up was a Formula 31PC, then followed by a Formula 311-SR1.  These were older boats, but in pretty good shape for their age.

1993 Formula 31PC

Formula’s performance cruiser . . . This boat was in pretty good shape for being almost 20 years old, but we thought that the layout was not open enough for our preferred boating style, which is more day boating than overnights.

However, by looking at this boat first hand, we were able to eliminate cruisers from our future search.  I always say that you learn something with every boat that you see, and so was the case with this one.

1990 Formula 311-SR1

This boat (pic right) was a year older than my previous boat, so it was a bit dated, but being just a couple miles up the road, we took a look.  The boat claimed to be very low hours, almost incredulously low hours.  The attributes of this boat were the deep V hull (24 degree), combined with its 31 foot length would be awesome on the choppy bay.

Although it was a 31 foot boat, it seemed to have less cockpit space than my 24 foot boat, and the enclosed head was way too cramped to be used by even the smallest of adults.

As with the 31PC, we learned something by looking at the 311-SR1, and crossed off the “Go-Fast” boats from the future search.

There were a couple of Formula Sun Sports that had recently come on the market in the area.  So, we had some Sun Sport boats to see locally.

Formula Sun Sports - 280SS and 330SS

First up in the Sun Sport line was a 1999 330SS (pics above and right).  The layout was nice and we liked the space of the 330, but the size of a 33 foot boat was a bit concerning.  This particular boat was showing signs of wear and tear.  It looked as though it had lived a tough life, being ridden hard and put away wet . . .

We then looked at a 1995 280SS (pics below left & right).  The layout was highly similar to the 330SS, but everything scaled down a bit.  It felt cramped compared to the 330, but still a good upgrade in space from our current boat.  This boat had the engines replaced with Mercruiser ‘re-manufactured’ engines and closed cooling systems.  It also had the 5.7L engines versus the 7.4L engines that were in the 330SS.

The 7.4L engines are no longer in mass production, and the 5.7L are more available in the secondary markets.  This would be more of a long term issue, in case the engines needed to be replaced at some point.

There were not any other Sun Sports on the market in the local area, and not even any similar models in other brands that I would have considered, including Sea Ray and Cobalt.  So, it was a matter of expanding the search into the mid-atlantic states, where there seemed to be quite a few Sun Sports on the market.

Lower New England and New Jersey Trip

We lined up 5 boats to see over the course of a weekend; 3 in NJ and 2 in CT.  The boats included a 2001 280 BR (bowrider), 1999 280SS, 1996 280SS, 2001 280SS and a 2001 Cobalt 293.  Some pictures of the 280SS boats are below.  The 2001 280SS was the best boat that we saw that weekend, but the asking price was a bit high. So, I started to work a deal with the 1999 280SS, but did not get too far.  This boat had a fair amount of minor repair issues, and the seller did not want to accommodate those issues in the price.

Often, with buying used boats, you run into over-priced boats and the sellers have an unrealistic impression of what their boat is worth.  I find that it is best to deal with sellers who have their boats priced close to a realistic selling price.

More 280SS Boats

The search focused on several more 280SS boats in an expanded area, reaching as far west as Ohio and south as Maryland.  After a bit of dialogue over the phone and via email, I made arrangements to see another 1999 280SS in upstate NY (pics below).  This was a private listing, versus most of the other boats had been through brokers. 

I was given a demonstration ride by the owner/seller and the boat seemed to perform fairly well.  The owner asked me if I wanted to take a look at the bottom, by having it hauled out ?  “Sure” . . .

The boat had a quite visible rash of blisters running down the hull strakes, so I passed on this boat.