This was an article that I had to write after reading about how difficult it is to buy a boat overseas, Multihull Solutions propaganda, blah, blah, blah.
To all the readers of Australian Multihull World I would just like to say that the issue of purchasing a boat overseas is not as bad as some make out. We did it, reaped the benefits and had the most excellent adventure chucked in.
My wife, Jen, and I went to the USA in September 2009 with a list of 20 catamarans, Fountaine Pajot Lavezzi 40’s, Lagoon 410’s, although I was pretty damn sure I would never buy a Lagoon due to the self opinionated wanker salesman at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in 2008, and a couple of Privelege 44’s.
I had been watching the net with two brokerage companies in particular, The Multihull Company and the Catamaran Company and after speaking with representatives from both decided on a bloke by the name of Darrel McDaniel from the MHC in Fort Lauderdale. He came across pretty cluey and didn’t seem inclined to shaft the other brokers, although he spoke a bit funny.
We tee’d up some dates and then I hunted down a place to stay in Fort Lauderdale, booked the flights and a couple of months later we arrived in Florida, jet lagged but pretty keen to get into it. We had allowed ourselves 3 weeks to find what we were after and I was quite prepared to fly down to the BVI’s if needed. We scored the best accommodation available right on the New River at Sail boat Bend in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Penthouse condo with all the gear looking over the city and the river, pretty flash and compared to a hotel, pretty bloody cheap. There was one drawback, at 0400 every morning a train would pass through Fort Lauderdale and sound its horn all the way through the city precinct to let the poor buggers doing it tough sleeping on the tracks to get the hell out of there, but the daily viewing of megga yachts, The River Queen and the bridge raisings made up for it in spades. We got to know the owners and ended up becoming mates with them, Jude is an absolute ripper.
Next day Darrel rolled up in a dinky toy, Mazda something, but we came to an arrangement that we would use the V8 Dodge Charger I had rented and he would pay for fuel and drive. This worked well and we set off to see some boats. The first one was at a marina up the New River, only 5 minutes from home, this catamaran according to the advertisement on the web had just completed a circumnavigation and had undergone an extensive refit and was ready to go again.
I took a look at it, stuck my head inside and had a sniff, climbed down and got back into the car and said, “next”. I explained to Darrel that that was not what we were looking for. That day we looked at 6 cats, all from the adverts I had seen.
First lesson learnt on the first day, things that shine in photos are not always shiny. For some reason some Floridians don’t seem to look after their things as we do, put it this way I would have at least washed the boat down and aired it out if someone was coming to have a look. It made it easy though, you could tell which boats leaked, how they were cared for and how they were maintained. If a leak was to hard to fix servicing an engine would probably be impossible.
Day 1, 6-0.
Next day we headed up to Stuart to have a look at a 2004 Lagoon 410, which ended up being a pretty good looking boat. A couple of oldies had owned her for ever and they had done some miles in her. We went over her from top to bottom and 4 hours later were quite happy with the boat but not the price, $345000 US, we were in no hurry yet.
Day 2, 7-1.
Next day was a lay day as Darrel needed to tee up a couple of boats to look at up at Saint Petersberg and he had heard of another one that he hadn’t seen which was on the way, in Cape Coral.
Next day we were off heading up Alligator Alley at 80mph then across the Everglades to the east side of Florida. Good freeways and if you stick to 80 it is all cool. On the drive over Darrel was telling me about this boat his mates had had a look at and how good a nick it was in, he also let me know the asking price was $425000 and the owners had just dropped it by $75000 to get some interest. I didn’t have anywhere near $425000 so it seemed like a waste of time to me, but he persisted and as he was driving and shouting lunch at St Pete why not. We arrived at a house, snuck around the back and out onto the jetty on the canal. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a Perry 43, it was gleaming and it was called Boomerang. We went over her pretty hastily as I did not have enough money to buy this beauty. As we were leaving the broker that she was listed with rolled up and his last words were, make an offer. I said how’s $330000 sound and looking at his face all I could see was contempt. I said to Darrel see I told you so let’s get out of here.
We hit the road and checked the 2005 Lavessi 40 and another Lagoon 410 after lunch and a swag load of beers.
The Lavessi was in not to bad condition but needed a good polish, it had no radar or Autopilot and was used for small charters around the local waterways with the owner skippering. This was the boat of choice for me and it looked pretty bloody good for $290000. It was better than the Lagoon and we may have been able to get it down to $270000 if we were lucky.
We left our names with all the brokers and headed home, about a 3 hour journey at 80mph, where else can you get away with that, awesome . Day 4, 10-3.
Over the weekend I had time to think about it and judging on what we had seen it was down to the first Lagoon in Stuart or the Lavessi up at St Pete. After a few days Darrel came back to us with the news that the owners of the Perry had asked for an offer in writing and it had to be more like $400000. I was a bit shocked as I had pretty much forgotten about them, so we sat down and wrote out an offer of $340000 and sent it off to them. They came back saying they wanted more but we stuck to our guns.
As we were now into our second week we needed to get the ball rolling so we headed out to Stuart again and were sitting in a crab king for lunch, sort of like the old pizza huts but with crabs, when the phone rang and sure enough it was the Perry broker, I took the phone from Darrel and said we have not got anymore more cash and we are just about to put an offer on another boat to which he replied, give me 5 minutes. He rang back about 10 minutes later and said it was a deal. I was dumbfounded, it didn’t really sink in until we were sitting in the pool back at the condo. What a bargain.
The next part of the process is the paperwork, which is pretty simple, I put a clause in to allow me as long as I could to pay as the Aussie dollar was on the rise and we needed as long as possible to get our acts together with getting back to sail her home due to the 3 month rule, which requires the boat to be out of Florida’s waters in, you guessed it, 3 months.
Then the survey had to be organized, this is where Darrel came to the party, he organized a surveyor he knew and a date was set when the tide was low enough to get Boomerang under the bridge to Sanibel Island on the way to the Gulf Slip-yard. On the chosen day it was all plain sailing, although the VHF Ariel on top of the mast scraped on the bridge, the owner was crapping.
It was just all too unreal for us, we are talking a beautiful boat, I was grinning like a dead fox. The survey took about 5 hours and the boat was given a big tick by him. We took the boat back out under the bridge, pulled up the sails, new jib, flogged out main that the broker called a perfect delivery sail, and in 8 knots of breeze we were doing 4 to 5, it felt superb. We tacked and jibed then they took her off me and let the owner drive her home for the last time. His wife was balling her eyes out and the tightarse brokers didn’t bring anything to drink, lucky there were a couple of Aussies on board and the Coronas and bubbles went down a treat.
As there was nothing to be repaired we signed the paperwork there and then, transferred the deposit to MHC’s escrow account and agreed to let MHC do all the paperwork and arrangements for the US Coast guard, registering in Australia, an extension of 3 months on top of the 3 you get before it must be out of Florida waters and any other settlement matters. It went smooth as silk and was not bad at $1500 plus any transfer fees. We accomplished all that we needed to in person before we left and that was that. We spent a day with the owners, sitting on Boomerang and floating around in their pool, although I had to put my foot down when they suggested swimming in the nick, only in America, where were they coming from?
In the end we had a great holiday in Florida, I can walk around marinas and check out boats all day any day, we got to see Key West, become a local at the Pirate Republic Bar, drove an airboat in the Everglades, almost got arrested for driving through a red light, watched a Gators game and bought a filthy yacht.
We arranged for the owner to look after Boomerang on his jetty where she had lived all her life. At three hundred dollars a month until we got back to sail away seemed a pretty good deal. Then we flew to New York for a few days with the job done and dusted, how hard was that.