Saturday, May 11, 2013

Still trying to buy a boat

Well, despite all our efforts thus far, we are, as yet, still boatless. People have been asking me for an update, so here it is.

My trip to Florida was reasonably successful, with the reward for the effort being the chance to see a number of different boats, and confirm exactly what we want. Despite the large number of boats out there, it is amazing how our list of requirements quickly narrows things down to only a few boats that are possibilities. For those who are interested, here is what we are looking for, and why:

1. Catamaran – if you want to get into the arguments between the advantages of catamarans and multihulls, you could spend the rest of your life arguing one over the other (and a few minutes looking at the cruiser's chat rooms will confirm that people do exactly that). Bottom line for us is this – catamarans are more comfortable, have more room, and are more pleasant to be sailing on with a family. It is true they are also considerably more expensive. To us, the difference in comfort is worth the difference in cost.

2. 4 cabins – given that we are going to spend at least a year using this boat as our home, we want all the kids to have their own bedrooms, so they at least have some shot at a little privacy when they need it. Happy kids, happy wife. Happy wife, happy life (or so I've heard. Seems to be working out so far).

Interestingly, this really cuts down the number of boats for us to look at. Most of the cruising catamarans for sale are what they call "owner's versions", with one hull dedicated to an owner's suite (big cabin and bathroom). This is mainly a function of the most common cruising demographic being retired couples, with money and time to take on a cruising lifestyle. The 4 cabin versions out there are mainly charter boats, set up to have 4 couples on them at one time, for a one week vacation.

3. 2 heads ("bathrooms" for you non-boaty types. Or restrooms, toilets, johns – you get the idea.) As I mentioned above, though, this is difficult to find. In fact, it looks like we will probably have to give up on this one. Most of the 4 cabin charter boats have 4 heads. Apparently when you are on vacation on a charter boat, it is preferable to have your own tiny bathroom than to share your bathroom with someone else, even if it means twice as much room. Who would have guessed? For us, it seems a real waste of space to have an individual bathroom for each cabin, but we may have to go that way, since that is what is out there.

4. Location – east coast of USA. This is not carved in stone, but we have done a lot of thinking about logistically where our trip would be easiest and most interesting to start. We've decided that getting all 5 of us to the boat would be easiest if it was on the east (or west) coast of the US, and outfitting the boat would definitely be easiest in the US in terms of cost and availability of parts and expertise.

And that's really our list of "must haves". Of course, there is a dollar value limit as well, based on our budget, which further rules out a bunch of boats. There are also a lot of "nice to have items" which largely revolve around cruising gear that we will probably need. Most of the stuff you need to live on a boat long term is not present on ex-charter boats, and given that we are focussing on 4 cabin boats, we are seeing a lot of those. We can add all the cruising gear we need after the fact – it just adds a lot to the expense and time needed to get the boat ready to go.

So anyway, with that list of needs and wants, there were a few boats in Florida that came pretty close to filling the bill, with the differences being in the details.

In fact, I saw one that we liked enough to make an initial offer on it. Shortly after I made the offer, I became aware of another boat, of the same make, but 5 years newer, with a couple of big ticket cruising items already installed. It was a bit more expensive, being newer, but still seemed to be a good deal compared to other similar boats out there. Unfortunately, this boat is located in the BVI.

Anyway, it looked like the seller of the boat in Florida and I were going to end up pretty far apart on price for the first boat, so I decided to pursue the second one instead (sorry to the owner of the first boat – who knows, we might be back).

And that is where we sit today – I have put in two offers on the boat in the BVIs (first was low, and countered). Our final offer went in yesterday afternoon, but because of the time change to the East coast, I guess it didn't get to the seller until yesterday evening (if his broker was working late). As far as I can tell, boat brokers don't really seem to work on weekends, so it looks like we will have to wait until Monday to see if we can reach a deal on price.

If we do, I still need to find the time and money to get to the BVIs and see the boat for myself, as well as have a professional survey done. I am hoping to do that all at the same time, since I don't have a lot of time off from work between now and when we leave in August.

If we end up buying the boat, we then need to decide if we want to bring it back to the US to get it outfitted for cruising, or just start our trip in the BVIs (lots of pros and cons there – I'll leave those to a separate post). If we don't buy it, it's back to the drawing board. The good news is, now we know what we like, so hopefully we can use that hard won knowledge to move things along more quickly either way.

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