It’s about time we update the blog, huh? How long has it been? Never for me. I built this website about 2 years ago with the idea we would post everything from our lead-up to buying a boat to the cruising lifestyle. I hadn’t seen a lot of people outlining the process of finding their boat, and I thought that might be useful to others looking to take on this journey. Having lived the last 2 years looking for boats I think I can see why people don’t write more about it; it’s awfully boring.
Looking at boats goes something like this. Check Yachtworld, then 10 other boat listing sites including auction sites. We’re looking a both cats (catamarans) and monos (monohulls) so I’ve come up with my own best way to see the boats I’m interested in. After you sift through the ones you’ve seen before and find a new one the inspection begins. What does it have? What doesn’t it have? Can I picture myself living on this boat? Does it have a good reputation for blue water cruising? Where is it located? OK, so it doesn’t go in that exact order. We’re finding that just as in real estate, where the boat is located is a big deal, at least to us.
But, it’s a boat, you can move it wherever you want? That’s kinda the point, right? Well, that is the point and yes you can. But (there’s always a but), we’re not comfortable buying a boat sight unseen or un-surveyed, and all of that adds to the cost. Also, our current thinking is that we will USCG register it in the US and insure the boat. I feel like that’s a lot easier to do with a boat that is in the US already. I guess we could get a boat in the BVI (British Virgin Islands, a very popular boating playground) and never register it in the US or pay taxes, but a US registration makes the most sense to us.
OK, back to finding a boat. After piling through listings, contemplating the good and the bad. Upping the price, lowering the price, catamaran, monohull, super-cheap, budget-buster, and dreaming about what we would buy if we won the lottery. You can go through the full gambit of emotions in one yacht world sitting. Then an hour later feel like you’re right back where you started and have accomplished nothing. But you did, you burned another hour before you feel like you HAVE to find a boat.
So far we’ve looked at a Robertson and Caine Leopard 38 Owners version. It was a 1999, so it had some age to it, but when we first saw it everything looked like it was in decent shape. The engines had some history of troubles, so we knew that going into the survey, but other than that everything seemed manageable. A big plus to us for this boat was that it didn’t have a lot of systems. No air conditioning, no generator, no water maker, no solar/wind generation, not even a dingy. That was good news for us, because whatever we added we would understand it was installed and worked. If we replaced the engines from the start then we would basically be replacing everything but the hulls and the standing rigging, it would be like a brand new boat!
Sounds awesome right? We thought so, too. So after our first visit to see the boat we did some research on a surveyor, found one, did some price negotiating, signed a pre-purchase agreement, sent a deposit, and scheduled a haul out, sea trial, and survey. We were excited, and nervous.
The survey day came, and I felt like a boat owner almost immediately. Everyone showed up early, and conversations about the schedule started. The haul out facility was just across the bayou from the boat’s slip, and the boat was out of the water before I signed paperwork in the office. Then we immediately started paying more than we had planned. Turns out the boat had more growth on the bottom than the surveyor would like for doing his thermal imaging, that’ll be another $100 for power-washing please. Power washing took an extra 30 minutes giving the surveyor only about 20 minutes to do his thing, because an hour haul out really only means 45 minutes because they start putting you back in the water at 45 till the next hour. A 20 minute hull survey on a 38 foot catamaran?! Want an extra hour? That’ll be another $150 please.
I didn’t balk at paying. I had made up my mind before we got there that the day was about getting the best survey possible, and it turns out that extra $250 was the best money I spent that day. After a lot of banging and photos and poking and prodding and hiding from the hot Florida sun the surveyor called me over. “Sit down here beside me.” he asked. Beside him was a puddle of anti-fowling from the power washing and the day was a little young to get boat-yard dirty, so I did my best one legged squat while holding a camera. He pointed up “do you see that?” He was sitting under the starboard hull, just in front of the skeg hung rudder, facing forward. Cracking. Y shaped cracking. I don’t know a ton about boats yet, but geometrical cracking was something I had read about before. “I’m going to get a bunch of pictures on my digital camera and on thermal, it’s also under the keels and it’s on both sides. This is something I’ll be focusing on during the sea trial as well.” he said. “It looks like the boat was improperly blocked at some point or beached, which it isn’t designed to do, and the stress ran to the tabbing and cracked.” My heart sank, the day was young and we had already found a major issue. What else will we find?
“If I find anything else like this, any major issues, I’ll be sure to call you over and show you.” That’s encouraging. The rest of the day went off without a ton of drama. Boat went back in the water and we headed to the bay. Some engine issues were found, bigger ones than we thought we had, but other than that nothing major. Back at the dock the checking of every system continued, and the day ended with engine oil and gear oil samples being pulled for analysis. All in all it was a good day on the water. The cracking left us feeling no more ready to buy this boat than before, but no less either.
It took longer to get the survey back than planned, but after numerous conversations with our surveyor we canceled the purchase agreement and got our money back. Once I got the survey I sent it over to the owner, since I had already explained that we were not going to move forward.
All in all it was a good experience, and everyone that we delt with was great. The chances of us getting this cat are slim, as I suspect the owner would never agree to a price we are willing to pay, so it’s back to yacht world, and the ups and downs of dreaming about boats.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I plan to do a better job updating this space and explore documenting our journey a few different ways. Feel free to call me out on that.