Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Do You Buy A Boat From 1000 Miles Away?

This is a question I've been grappling with for quite a while now.  The middle of Colorado is about 1000 miles from the nearest ocean.  The largest bodies of water in the state are what I'm sure many in other places would call ponds.  Needless to say, there aren't a large selection of boats you (or at least we) would consider living on full time.  Even if there were, we would still need to get it to the ocean where we want to be.  And I don't think we could sail it down the creeks we call rivers here (even though a few rubber ducks may fit).
Rubber Ducks on Boulder Creek
The internet certainly makes some research much easier.  Since we decided to go with a catamaran we've been looking at various boat specifications, plans and pictures online.  A task that would have been much more difficult 30 years ago without the web.  But I'm still a visual person, and I really need to see these boats in person.  What I see in a picture and reality often differ.

Of course, trying to see every possible boat that might work would only lead me to singlehandedly fund the US airline and hotel industry...and not something I can do for long if I actually want to buy one and sail away.  So we've got to narrow things down a bit.

The "longer list" of catamarans that might work (basically every catamaran that we could find that were sufficient to live aboard and under 40ft) are:

I know there are a few readers that have some knowledge or if you have any insight on what you would choose (or have chosen), I'd love to hear any thoughts.  We're looking for a coastal cruising liveaboard boat that may make occasional longer passages and can accommodate 2 plus 2 dogs and guests. Oh, and while the more reasonable the price the better, I'd better throw out a cap of $180K or so.

Right now the top 3 on our list seem to be the PDQ 32 & 36 LRC versions, and the Lagoon 37.  While some boat-specific items were considered, most of the appeal of the above is based on the creature comforts.  So, to my friends and family reading, feel free to click thru the links above and provide any thoughts you may have as well.


  1. Mike,

    Just found your blog and really like it. Seems like you are doing a lot of research to make your choice. Here are a couple of thoughts I have on your search.

    Get a Buyers Broker - This might be a little hard given your geographic location. I would pick an area you would like to start from and find a broker there. I would recommend someplace on the east coast like Florida or on the Chesapeake. Where ever you find at least one boat of what you like on yacht world.

    Get on the boats you think you like. We went on a few different designs before we purchased Smitty. Once my wife stepped on board Smitty, then Norm's Place, she knew that was the boat. Often finding the right boat is a love at first sight type of thing. You may also find there are somethings you don't like when you see the boat in person. For us, the main birth was the biggest deal. We didn't want to climb over each other to get in bed. So we had to find either a walk around birth or one where you enter from the end. Not exactly easy to find.

    Assume at least 10% less than the asking price on Yacht World. If you don't make that assumption, you may miss out on a boat that is listed just above your cap but could be had for within your budget.

    Assume approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of your purchase price for upgrades, repairs and maintenance to get the boat ready to sail. So if you are setting a cap of $180K, that means you could easily spend between $45K-60K on the boat before she is ready to leave. This sounds crazy but it happens to most of us.

    Good luck and fair winds.


    Oh, by the way, I recently posted about sailing with dogs; there might be some good information for you there.

    1. Hi Jesse,

      Thanks for commenting and all the great tips! Glad you like the blog. Yes, I'm doing a lot of "book" (ok, internet)'s the one thing I can easily do sitting in Colorado. Our goal is to pair down the list and then see if we could find a single location where we could see most of the "short list". And right now it looks like Florida is a likely target, maybe Maryland as a second choice.

      A buyers broker sounds like they would be very helpful. I'll have to see if I can find one. Happen to have any recommendations in Florida or Maryland? Building on other purchases I assume it is probably best if they aren't also a sellers broker.

      Read your post on sailing with your dog. Lots of good info there as well. One of our dogs recently had knee surgery and has been in physical therapy. I mention this because the PT place has a doggy pool and our pups will soon be getting some swimming lessons. So, a recommendation on life vests is very timely.

      I can see what I'll probably be spending my time reading this evening.

      Take care,

    2. On the buyer’s broker, it works just like a real-estate agent. They split the commission with the selling broker. They can be a seller broker too, but they would work for you as a buyer broker. They don't have the same restrictions as real-estate agents so you do have to be careful at finding the right one.

      Unfortunately the only recommendation I would have is based in New England and there are not many multihulls up here to make this a viable spot for your search.

      On the equipment, as Deb mentioned below, don't trust that everything works and that it will be there when you take possession of the boat. Get a list of the equipment that will come with the boat from the seller.

      On the survey, there are a lot of good surveyors out there but there are some bad ones too. My cousin was buying a power boat and it took me less than 2 minutes looking at the survey report to recommend he get a different surveyor. He did and the second surveyor found the entire transom was rotted and needed to be replaced. The first guy completely missed it. You also want to be there for the survey, as Deb said. A good survey should take most of a day just for the land portion. Then you need a sea trial and engine test.

      Good luck!

    3. Hey Jesse,

      I've seen a couple cats up in the Maryland area...truthfully it doesn't seem like there are a whole bunch around anywhere. I think a lot of traveling is in my future.

      Otherwise sounds a lot like buying a house. I definitely won't feel timid about flipping switches and poking around. I've picked up a couple books on buying a boat, so I'm slowly learning what to look for...but a good agent and surveyor seem like must. Other than flexing/creaking where there shouldn't be any...I'm not sure how one would detect the rot.

      Will be looking for a broker this evening.


  2. Mike,

    There's a pretty nice 93 Lagoon 37 TPI on, listing # 31915. We came pretty close to buying one of these but it was just out of our price range. this one is in the BVIs so you could schedule a vacation to go look-see. They're asking $125K.

    Don't believe any pictures or any statements of features. Pictures are often staged or out of date and equipment, though there, is often malfunctioning. Pardon the pessimism, but since you've been lurking on our blog you certainly realize the difficulties we went through. Don't trust a survey either - make sure you're right there looking over his shoulder as he does it and ask a million questions.

    S/V Kintala

    1. Hey Deb,

      I think that Lagoon is on one of our spreadsheets. ;-) Unfortunately the boats we think we are interested in seem to be all over the place. Just to see an example Lagoon I think there is one in St. Petersburg that we might look at first (FL currently seems to be the best place to see as many different models right now).

      We haven't bought a boat before, but we have bought a couple houses. So I'm familiar with questionable home inspectors and misleading pictures. Guess I assumed that this might be the case. One of the reasons I'm trying to do as much research as possible...know what to look for myself and what questions to ask. No one will look out for your interests better than you, right. I still hope to find a trustworthy surveyor. I'll definitely go back and review some of your older posts.

      Thanks for the tips,

  3. Would highly recommend Rich Kahn in Annapolis. He not only helped us find the right boat and a surveyor that was dead on and required me to go through it with him, but has been a continuing friend and source of information. I also know he works nationally
    Mike Reed
    S/V Zoe

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look him up this evening.

  4. Mike, I think your commenting system doesn't work on Safari for some reason, when logging in with a Google account.

    A surveyor is essential to give you the benefit of years of experience of looking at boat, and a well-connected broker will be able to sometimes find boats before they make it to Yachtworld, in addition to having access to sold price on YW.

    Contact me if you have any questions about the PDQ 36, I'm an owner.

    1. Hey Steve,

      Given Blogger == Google, you'd think they would make sure that works. I don't have a Mac but will see if I can find one locally to troubleshoot. Thanks for letting me know.

      While I'm reasonably mechanically inclined, I just don't have experience with boats so we will definitely be using a surveyor...hopefully we find a good one. And thanks to the advise from blog readers such as yourself we are currently on the hunt for a buyers agent to help us with the search. :)

      Thanks for the offer, I may take you up on that if you don't mind. The PDQ 36 (an LRC version) is one of the few that my wife and I have actually seen in person. It's one of the reasons the PDQ's are at the top of our list now.