Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ETUDE Galley

  Posted by Picasa

Etude Salon Starboard

  Posted by Picasa

ETUDE Here She Is

  Posted by Picasa

ETUDE The Boat We Bought

Etude is a 1977 Heritage West Indies 36, designed and built by Charlie Morgan. She is 12’ wide, draws 5’ of water, weighs 17,000 pounds, and has most of the conveniences of home, as well as a superb wardrobe of sails and inventory of navigation electronics. Power is from a recently overhauled, strong, reliable, Perkins diesel. We will be pulling a 13 foot sailing dinghy converted for rowing and fishing.
We haven't aced this Blogger site yet, so photos will be in following posts.


It took three trips, to Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina, to find our boat, and one more to close the sale. On three different offers (on 3 boats), brokers inhibited the sale.

I thought I was pretty well prepared for this. Selling encyclopedias in college, selling and buying real estate, buying cars…these develop some sales resistance and awareness of how markets work. But boat brokers have their own peculiarities.

‘Listing brokers’ get away with generous misrepresentation of the boat for sale. They frequently omit serious problems. The boat we bought had at least ten material differences from the listing. However, once I was there looking at it, I put aside the listing and considered it for what it was. Never even complained, ‘But you said . . . !’ As in real estate, boat brokers are paid by, and represent, the seller. In real estate, it’s tough to get a sales agent to estimate the value of a house. They’ll say “Make an offer, and we’ll try it.” Boat brokers, though, would regularly say “Oh, it’s listed at $60 thou, but I think you can it get for $55. Lets try an offer of $52 five.” I learned that most used boats sell for about 20% less than list price. We bought Etude for 25% less. Much less even than the broker had suggested.

When house shopping, you usually look in a fairly small locale, which makes it reasonable to have a ‘selling broker’ with you to look at houses offered by ‘listing brokers’. You can do this with boat brokers, as I did in Florida with Skip. He was very helpful. With boats, however, the next prospect may be a thousand miles away and brokers are reluctant to go that far to maybe earn a $2,500 commission. I wanted Skip to handle offers from Florida even when I got to Maryland. It didn’t work well, and eventually I felt he couldn’t see our best interests.

In Maryland, I learned you can get a boat surveyor (usually a very knowledgeable professional) to look at a boat with you for a fee of $100 to $200. I did this on six boats which I had found on internet listings. Two in Maryland, which I had seen first. Two in Virginia, which I had not seen. And two in North Carolina, where the surveyor and I saw the boat for the first time together. In Maryland, the surveyor reversed my opinion of which boat to make an offer on. In Virginia, he saved me a trip to look at one boat. He liked another boat, but when I looked at it, I found a serious problem that he hadn’t mentioned. It might have been possible to get past this problem, but I didn’t care all that much for the design. And I had several more good boats to look at.

On the first boat in North Carolina, the surveyor spotted several defects that I would have missed. The second boat also had several defects I would have missed, but looked good overall, and he gave me several points to use in making an offer. We got a contract, and went to a full, all day, $500 survey. His extensive report gave me ammunition to beat the price down another $2,000. The original contract was quite vague on several key points, so I retained an attorney experienced in boat transactions to help me expand and refine the contract.

Summary: we started with the experience of numerous charters, and poring over Practical Sailor’s volumes on boat buying. A yacht designer, Robert Perry, was retained as a consultant (invaluable for my confidence). Then I identified an area with a lot of interesting boats and found a broker I liked. Skip worked with me to locate and look at several boats. I later learned to pick two to four, and go back with a surveyor to select the best for an offer. Then retain an attorney to write the offer. The broker may tell you he can help you select the best boat and write the offer, but I would use the surveyor and attorney. If you know boats fairly well, and do research on, you can possibly omit the first broker, but he may know of unlisted boats for sale.

Are the extra professionals needed? Some people spend years driving around looking for the right boat. It surprised Donna that it took me as long as twenty-four days. My expenses ran something like $3,000. The designer, surveyors and attorney ran about $1,400. They saved me more time and money, helped us make a better choice for less money, and learn much more about the boat we bought. Consider also that the seller paid out expenses over $4,500 to sell the boat. We came out about even with him.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

At last--a BOAT

Donna thought I could make one trip to the coast and come home with a boat -- but it don't work that way. There were trips to Florida, Maryland and North Carolina, twenty-five prospects, three offers, three surveyors, and two contracts to buy. Add one attorney and verbal abuse of the broker and we have a boat. Etude She's a Charley Morgan-designed Heritage West Indies 36 with great equipment on board. Current location; Beaufort NC.

So the plan (gotta have a plan) calls for a final selloff/giveaway/trash dump of STUFF, sell condo and head east with cat in box sometime in May. Southern sojourn to include stops in Hot Springs, Memphis, and Nashville, famous birthplace of esteemed Japanese boat boy Neill-san.

Fate of the Ace-mobile is unclear. We'll figure something out. Get on Etude, make her seaworthy and head north. We'll cruise a week or two in the Carolina sounds, and two or three weeks in the Chesapeake. This will allow sorting out the boat before we test her in open water to New York and a lovely pass called Hell Gate. I don't think Ms D will be satisfied just waving at the Big Apple, (damned straight! I want to see Martha!) so we may spend a night or two there, and a week working up Long Island Sound to the famous Block Island. A leisurely stay in Narraganset Bay (Wickford?) will give us time to visit Len & Kim & Buster Boy, and maybe get Len's help with all things electrical/electronic.

Neill-san says he's scared. Donn-O remains fearless (blond ignorance, no doubt.) Tesla is still learning to love the pet carrier.

Look here for regular postings, now that our logistical constipation has ended. Our e-mail address is still What's new with you? Gonna be on the East Coast this summer? Let's attempt a rendezvous!