Thursday, October 31, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed...

...try, try....try try again, right?  Well, we are yet again under contract on a boat.

So, where we left off we had a decision to make between two very different boats that we like equally for different reasons.  We didn't really have time to go look at these boats having just flown back from Florida after our last failed deal so our broker came to the rescue.  Pete went and looked at the boats for us, taking videos and pictures so we could get a good look at the boats without having to travel back down there on short notice.  Have I mentioned that our agent rocks?  Well, he does.

We review the videos and pictures, and then we review them again.  It was a difficult decision and in the end we were really struggling with it.  Well, while we were trying to decide, the Lagoon went under contract.  So, that pretty much made the decision for us...and we are fine with that.  We put in an offer on the Leopard and after a little negotiation, it was accepted.  Now we need to go actually see the boat in person.

While this Leopard is not quite as well equipped as the other Leopard, it does appear to be better maintained.  In the pictures and videos we were able to see some newer hoses and hardware that, in addition to our broker's comments, leads us to believe that the boat has been regularly maintained.  This was something clearly missing from the last boat.

This boat is not perfect and there are items in need of repair in addition to the refit items we are planning, but our hope is that this one is in better condition than the last one and will put us ahead of the repair curve we would have had with the last one.  So here we go "once more unto the breach"...

Update: Unfortunately I can no longer recommend the broker mentioned in the above post.  Numerous issues arose post-sale that require me, in good faith to my readers, to rescind the recommendation.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Hunt Continues

Ironically within days of the last deal falling through, in addition to a couple boats that were already on our short list, a couple new listings appeared.  One is a Lagoon 37 and another is a Moorings/Leopard 3800. This actually made for a bit of a we really seem to like both boats and can't decide which one to pursue.


The Lagoon 37 was at the top of our list for a while as we like the amount of space, the configuration of the bunks and the amount of storage.  After giving up on finding a decent Lagoon 37 and looking at the Leopard, we really liked the separate shower, galley up design and layout of the cockpit of it.  It seems for each pro or con we come  up with for one boat, we come up with one for the other boat.  As many people often say, all boats are a compromise...unfortunately it seems that, while each of these boats is very different, they each come up equal to one another in our eyes when all the dust settles.

Funny how life works sometimes, isn't it?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Strike Two

Well, it doesn't look like we will be reaching an agreement on the Leopard 38 "Catzpaw" that we had under contract.  There is just too much work that needs to be done to this neglected boat to justify the price that the owner wants.

When we put the offer in on the boat we took into account the things we knew about that needed work plus a little for unknowns for a boat that has been obviously sitting neglected for a year or more. Tape on two windows and a hatch were obvious indications that they were leaking and needed to be rebed. Hull damage from what appears to be a scuffle with a dock.
Taped window and hatch
Impact with a dock?
We were told the house battery bank was not doing well and would likely need replacement (an understatement, they wouldn't hold enough charge to run the chart plotter alone). Various light fixtures were broken, one of the AC units didn't work, and there were other odds and ends that needed work. The gel coat was in poor condition from baking in the sun for a long time without so much as a wax, and the fact there was a marine sanctuary growing on the boat bottom made the neglect rather obvious. But despite all of this we liked the boat and were willing to give the boat the love it had been missing to bring it back to reasonable condition, so we took these factors into account and made an offer that we believed was more than fair given the typical price range for these boats is $150K ~ $175K.

Well, along came the survey and we found that far more than we anticipated was wrong.  There were 51 items listed in the findings and recommendation section of the survey. The diesel generator would not work and had enough wrong with it that the surveyor highly recommended replacement ($8K), The water maker that was supposed to be pickled but was not and pumps were inoperative ($5K), the windlass would not carry a load when we tried using it ($4K), and the electric winch was inoperative ($3.5K).  That's over $20k just to replace the top 4 items found during the inspection.  Add in the non-functional refrigerator, seized through hulls, various electrical problems and everything else that needed work and it came out to over $32K in parts and labor to replace everything that was found that we weren't expecting to find (the total refit cost we estimated was between $60K and $70K including these new items).

We decided that we would split the difference on that $32K, an offer our broker said was more than generous. Our hope was that we could do much of the work ourselves and perhaps repair or find used and serviceable parts to help lower the cost. We are also getting a bit tired of going through all of this process just for the deal to collapse and that has a bit of value itself.  So our broker went back asking for a concession at time of closing to cover half of the cost of the stuff we did not know about that was found on the survey.

I don't know if sellers have way too much emotion tied up in their boats that they can't see the true market value, if they are wearing the rose-colored glasses I mentioned in the previous post and see the boat as it was when they bought it and don't see how time and their neglect have reduced it's value (I think the listing from when the current owner bought the Leopard can be found here) or what the reasons are that some owners have over-inflated sense of worth of their boats, but in this case, the seller was only wiling to concede $5K.  That is less than 1/10th of what we believe the boat needs, one sixth of what it might cost to fix the items we did not know about and 1/3 of what we asked in concessions.  Needless to say, that is not going to happen. So much for being generous.

I'm starting to wonder if people selling their catamarans have been out baking in the sun too long (much like some of their boats). I'm also starting to feel a bit bad for my broker.  I know he put a lot of work into trying to make this deal happen and neither of us can believe that this is happening again. Well Pete, what did you once say to me..."they are always making plastic boats and another one is right around the corner."

And on that note, a new boat has come on the market that we might be interested in. The owner of the Tobago we saw during our last shopping trip has also reduced his price and, unlike this one, was an obviously well cared for boat. So, the shopping continues...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Survey and Next Step

Finally got the survey report back on the Leopard 3800 we have under contract.  What was it that I said in a reply to a comment on the last post..."I don't think surveys ever come back with good news...just varying degrees of bad news".  Of course, this is really what you want in a know what the problems are.  After all you are probably viewing a boat purchase with those rose colored glasses that are coloring your view with all the anticipated fun you intend to have with it.

For those who aren't familiar with a survey report, I believe the reports are in a pretty common format as they are typically used to get insurance and financing on a vessel as well as telling you what condition it is currently in. There are typically sections for general information about the model of boat, one that describes the various compartments and systems, findings and recommendations, evaluation, and summary.  Oh, and we wouldn't be in America without the usual legal disclaimers. They can also have various appendices with additional information (I don't know if it is typical, but Jonathan usually includes a variety of pictures as well).

The particularly interesting sections are the "findings and recommendations" section, as it lists any deficiencies that the surveyor found in the boat and the "evaluation" where they come up with the estimated value and replacement cost of the vessel. The surveyor actually sent the "findings and recommendations" section a day early so we had a bit of time to research the issues and cost of repairs.

In a word, ouch.  We knew that there were some issues with the boat that we would have to address, and to a certain extent this is expected of any used boat (and probably, to a lesser extent, most new ones as well). We, of course, based our original offer on the items we knew about.  Well, the survey uncovered a pretty long list of other items that we had not anticipated. And the worst part, some of the items, such as the generator, are rather expensive to replace.  On the bright side, there don't seem to be any structural issues that make the boat unsafe, so it is all just a matter of the cost to restore the boat to working order.

This is where the whole boat buying process is a bit annoying.  When we first look at a boat we can look around but it is generally frowned upon to go around testing systems yourself (understanding some electrical setups alone need the owner to be present to explain it all).  So, some system issues just aren't found until the inspection.  But the offer takes place before the inspection, so you have to make assumptions about the systems.  Then, like in the situation we are in now, you have to go back and ask for concessions to the originally agreed upon price to cover these things that were assumed to be OK but are not.  And if we can't reach an agreement now, a lot of time and money has been wasted getting to this point.

And that is where we sit now.  Trying to determine what is fair to go back and ask the seller for.  It would have been nice if we had been told ahead of time that the generator, refrigerator, water maker, windlass, etc. were not working so the initial offer would have been more accurate.  We will now need to either reject the vessel or send a conditional acceptance of vessel with conditions that include a credit at closing. Boat buying can be a real emotional roller coaster.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leopard 38 Survey and Sea Trial - Second Attempt

We didn't get back to the hotel in Marathon from our pre-sea-trial repositioning sail until around midnight. Fortunately, the rescheduled haul out wasn't until the afternoon, so we did sleep in a little bit. We checked out of the hotel just before 11 am and made our way back to Key West.

We met our broker, Pete, and briefed him on the prior days trip. He had been worried when he hadn't heard from us last night (until my 10pm text that we had indeed made it). I think his biggest worry was (since he knows I'm not one to put up with a lot of B.S.) that something might come up between me and the selling agent and some of her, shall we say, creative explanations. No worries Pete, I'm pretty sure I can restrain myself from pushing someone overboard...and we all got along fine (except for a couple minor spats between the selling agent and the hired captain).

We moved the boat over to the marina lift and...YES, it fits. We walk the boat into the lifts slip and up she goes.

Haul-out at twice normal speed.  This video has been stabilized by YouTube
to see the original shaky one (with out the wavy artifacts) click here.

Then begins the process of evicting the sea creatures from the boat's bottom.

Boat bottom or coral reef, you decide.
A "little" scraping and a pressure wash.
Not perfect. but way better.

After the cleanup, Jonathan does his inspection and sounding (tapping the hull with a hammer) looking for delamination and water penetration issues. It really is amazing what you can see with the boat in the lift straps that you cannot see when it is in the water...even the parts of the hull that sit above the waterline.

We did find one large patch in the forward hull that was of some concern, and a number of chips down to the fiberglass that will need to be touched up as well as some other odds and ends, but it was definitely more positive than our last hull inspection that sank that deal.

After the hull inspection, we put the boat back in the water for the official sea trial. Now one might think we got quite a sea trial the day before, but in addition to the sea trial being a bit of a test drive, it is also a chance for the surveyor to inspect the engines, sails and rigging under load. The winds were about the same as they were the prior day and we had seas in the 3 to 4 foot range and this made for a good sea trial. I was definitely a welcome change to see that the boat was able to do closer to half of the wind speed on a close reach with the cleaner bottom and no engine assistance. In fact, I was having enough fun with it that I was a bit disappointed when Jonathan said he was done and we could head back at any time.

Once we get back to the dock, there were a couple last checks that Jonathan had to perform.  He took oil samples from the engines to do an oil analysis* and to go up the mast to inspect the rigging.

By the time we are done, it is around 6pm on a Friday night. We very briefly talk about a few of the bigger issues with the boat, but to get the full report will take a little time and Jonathan needs to head back home.  Our AOV (Acceptance of Vessel - basically the last day I have to reject the purchase based on the survey, sea trial, and personal inspection) is tomorrow and there is simply no way I will have the report in that time.  So, the last thing we do is get with my broker to submit paperwork to the seller for an extension of the AOV so I will have time to review the results of the survey and make informed decisions.

And with that we begin our drive back to Ft. Lauderdale to check in to a hotel near the airport so we can make our early flight back home.  Yet again we fail to get to sleep before midnight...guess getting to bed early just wasn't going to happen this trip (well past the "cruisers midnight" that I assume will become part of our lives).

The AOV extension was accepted, now we just wait...impatiently...for the report from the surveyor. I know it will be a pretty long list, but hopefully not insurmountable.

*I know there is a great amount of debate regarding the usefulness of oil least there is in piston aviation engines. If an engine is tearing itself apart the metal is often larger than what is caught in suspension in the oil.  I wonder if an oil filter inspection looking for metal would be a better option for surveyors to try (an inspection that is usually done in piston aviation engines).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Leopard 38 Survey and Sea Trial

So, here we are, our second attempt at a survey and sea trial on a boat that we think could be ours. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on what is starting to feel like a regular commute except it was at midnight due to flight delays. Drove to a hotel in Florida City (so we would miss the morning traffic through Miami) and spent a few hours trying to get some sleep. We then continued on to Marathon for the 9am appointment at the boat. Of course, in true Florida driving fashion, our plan to miss traffic problems failed as someone managed to close the Overseas Highway by wrecking their car somewhere between Florida City and Key Largo. In the time we have spent in Florida we have seen quite a number of single car accidents on straight, flat roads in good weather and knowing the stretch of Highway 1, assume a similar situation has occurred. I do hope the people are okay. business idea...maybe I should open a driving school...

We arrive at the boat a little late due to the extended commute time and find our surveyor was already there (he apparently made it through just before the accident that detoured us). He briefs me on the issues found thus far; some through hulls don't work, some electrical issues including the generator, and a laundry list of other items in addition to the stuff we already knew about. Apparently the owner's broker had one engine running when he arrived so he couldn't do the usual cold start checks on it, and the other engine wouldn't start so they had to call for a mechanic. The mechanic came, found the somewhat hidden breaker in the engine compartment and made a temporary fix to the alternator, and we were good to go haul out the boat.

Marathon Boat Yard Lift

We head over to the marina in Marathon where we were scheduled to do the haulout. When we get there, we look at the lift and wonder if the boat will fit. We had called to verify it would, the selling agent claimed Leopard 38s (maybe even this particular boat) have been hauled out here before and we did see a Manta on the hard in the yard, so we slowly ease the boat toward the haul out slip thinking it will be close but will hopefully fit. Well, guess doesn't fit. The selling agent "tries a little harder" and wedges the boat between the bumpers...hope she didn't just damage the hull.  Have we just wasted a trip down to see a haul out that isn't going to happen?

After some phone calls, the selling agent finds the closest marina that claims they can haul out this beamy cat...but it is in Key West (the next best option is in Key Largo). The seller's agent then tried to tell my broker that we would need to help cover the cost to reposition the boat...which Pete quickly dismissed. It is the current owner's responsibility to provide the captain for the vessel as well as the costs for the sea trial and movement to an appropriate haul-out location and the buyer's (my) responsibility to pay for the costs of the haulout and surveyor (as stated in the contract). After getting everything squared away, the agent and captain might just have time to sail the boat down for a haulout the next afternoon.

Since the only reason we were in Florida was for the survey and sea trial and we had nothing better to do, we asked if we could tag along for the sail down to Key West. Just trying to make a little lemonade from the lemons we've been handed. They agreed, so the captain grabbed some provisions (sandwiches and water) and did some checks and made the boat ready for a short coastal trip. The current owner also decided to come along. So, the 5 of us head off to Key West.

Have I mentioned that this boat had been sitting in the water but had not been sailed in quite a while?

If this is a dockline, wonder what the bottom looks like
My broker and surveyor as well as I wondered how successful this attempt to reposition a boat that had not been used in a while would be, but did agree that it would also be a great opportunity (and pretty rare chance in boat buying) to really get comfortable with the boat. When we started moving the boat, it left a trail of the aquatic life attached to its hull in its wake. Someone joked that we might need to get a permit for messing with a marine habitat in order to clean the bottom. It was one dirty bottom boat, a fact that was confirmed by the 8 hours it took to make the trip from Marathon to Key West with an average speed of just about 5 knots using both the engines and sails on a very broad reach.

Toward the end of the trip, when the captain was looking for a whisker pole that the owner once thought was on board, he discovered an asymetrical spinnaker sitting under some chain in the anchor locker. Other than a rust stain (no idea why it was stored there... but if you have a boat, remember that the appropriate place to store a sail is not under a rusty chain in an anchor locker...the chain does not need a multi-thousand dollar pillow) it was in good shape, so we decided to give it a whirl to expedite our progress. Between the bits of reef that we were slowly knocking off the hull and the light air sail (the captain and selling agent had a disagreement over the precise type, so we nicknamed it bigsail [pronounced bigs'l] because it sounded less pretentious that way), we did manage a little over 6 knots toward the end of the sail with winds estimated around 15 knots. We arrived in Key West just a bit before 10pm. I'm not exacly sure when we left, but estimate it was a 7 to 8 hour sail.

So around 10 pm, we start the drive back to Marathon to check into the hotel for the night. Looks like it will be after midnight before we have a room for the second day in a row on this trip. Tomorrow, the haulout and official sea trial will hopefully occur.

While the inability to complete the survey today is a disappointment, I do have to say that I really, REALLY appreciate that those working on my behalf have been so great in the face of these frustrations.  Both Pete my broker and Jonathan my surveyor have had to deal with this extra day for the survey.  The surveyor has an appointment so he has to drive back to Ft. Lauderdale and then return to Key West tomorrow afternoon.  My broker had to change his plans so he could spend the night in Key West.  And both have been there to cover my back when needed. Still can't say enough nice things about these guys.

Update: Unfortunately I can no longer recommend either the broker or the surveyor mentioned in the above post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Leopard 38 Video

Ok, one last set of videos for now.  This is the Leopard 38 we have under contract.

This is the port hull starting in the forward berth (the beds are almost chest high), passing through the mid-ship head and on to the aft berth (which sits lower and seems just a bit larger than the forward one).

The bridge deck moving from port side where the galley is (the refrigerator is top loading under the counter on the starboard side of the U), moving across to the starboard salon side.

Finally, the starboard hull starting in the separate shower stall aft (which includes a sink but no head) then moving forward to the berth that contains a "half-bath" head .

Well, that's the quick video tour of the interior. Hopefully the survey and sea trial go better than the last one.  We know there are some relatively minor issues that need to be addressed (a couple ports/windows need to be re-bed), but hopefully there isn't anything structural or mechanical lurking behind the scenes. Keeping our fingers crossed.