Saturday, 22 August 2009

Buying a Sailboat on the Internet - Pitfalls and Dangers

The internet is a great and wonderful thing where you can find out just about anything you want to know and purchase anything you want.

However, when it comes to investing in your dream sailboat, it pays handsomely to be very cautious and thorough before going ahead with a purchase. And remember, that boats like cars, often look much better in a photographic image than in reality!!

The following is an extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' and is very much a cautionary tale of a real life situation I came across in Papeete, French Polynesia.

........'It is at this point our crew are joined by an Australian yachtsman slowly working his wayback to New South Wales. They first met him at the Balboa Yacht Club in Panama. His is an excruciatingly painful account and worth repeating here as a cautionary tale.

Some eighteen months previously he had purchased a sloop, by private sale, on the internet. It was 'laying up' on Mystic River, Connecticut, in the USA. He arrived there to discover that the boat was in far worse condition than he had been led to believe. He spent the whole winter working and living on board in freezing conditions preparing it for the voyage.

Imagine waking every morning with ice hanging from your moustache and
having to crawl out of your bunk, climb down the ladder, trudge through a foot of snow to the ablution block, re-climb the ladder, and begin the days work with fingers that will hardly move, and brain numbed into lethargy from the cold. For an Australian raised in the warmth of NSW it must have been soul destroying.

During that period he spent more on the craft than what he had originally paid for it. This was not part of the plan!
Finally setting sail, his trip to date had been one disaster following another – too many to repeat here, and too depressing to contemplate. The last news our crew had of him was here in Papeete. He had arrived under sail as his engine had seized up completely several days out of Tahiti, and he had been told the required parts would be five weeks in coming. He was fast running out of funds and still three thousand nautical miles from home.

Visiting him aboard his boat the next day, our captain and sibling crew could not believe the appalling conditions in which he existed. The boat was dark, damp, and quite chilly, despite the warmth of the Tahiti sun. The smell of mould and dry rot was almost overpowering and after a short chat and looking around at his many problems, our crew manage to winkle him ashore to a warm and sunny café for an obligatory Hinano. Here, his glum outlook brightens somewhat as the amber liquid takes effect.

A respectable time later, they make their departures, waving cheerily as he disappears back down the dock toward his boat, no doubt to stare once again at the overwhelming number of things to be fixed before he sets sail again.

As at the time our little ship departed Tahiti, his parts had yet to arrive and he was never heard of again – he had a vhf radio on board but it was ineffectual at best.

From time to time his name came up in conversation as to his possible progress and whereabouts, but not having any means of contact, our crew could only suppose what and where.
There being no reports of vessels sinking or missing during the next six months or so,they could only assume that he finally did make it back to Australia – any prayers that went up to ‘the one who made us’, for the safety of sailors at sea, would hereafter have his name on the list.'

Extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana'

Hybrid yacht image courtesy

The moral of this story is never part with any money on the internet for any vessel before an inspection by yourself and also preferably by an authorised marine surveyor. If you are going to go cruising offshore for extended periods you want to know that she meets your criteria and is going to be able to stand up to the sometimes tough conditions you are going to meet along the way.

Best practice would be to use the internet only as a search tool to locate the vessel which fits your needs and then put into motion a detailed and strict procedure which you follow rigidly.

This will ensure that when you are competely happy and arrive at a point to negotiate a price, you are comfortable with your position. Ideally, you will agree on a price with the seller, pay a deposit, with the balance payable on delivery.

By following this procedure stringently you will finish up with a well found vessel that will give you many happy years of sailing and that will take you to many of the wonderful cruising grounds of this earth of ours.

You can learn more about planning your offshore cruising adventure in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

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