December 13, 2012

How best to buy a boat

PEOPLE WILL OCCASIONALLY ASK ME for advice on buying a boat. I can’t understand why. I don’t know anything more about buying a boat than the next man, perhaps a lot less.  What most people don’t realize is that I have twice bought boats by mail, sight unseen (well, just photographs). As a matter of fact, on both occasions the deal worked out fine, but it’s not something I would recommend to anyone else.

What I do urge people to do is find out everything they can about the kind of boat they want, and then go hunting for one.  It’s not necessary to wait until a particular boat is advertised for sale.  The idea is to find the boat first, and then persuade the owner to sell it to you. That’s the method I’ve used for every boat I’ve ever bought, apart from the two mail-order brides.

You need to be patient if you adopt this approach, but it works more often than not.  You simply find out who owns the boat you desire and then you start bugging him to sell her to you.  If you’re confident enough, you can sweeten the offer by agreeing to take her off his hands as she stands.  No haul-out, no survey, no sea trials.  It’s an offer few owners can resist.

The minute you make your first approach, something starts ticking in the owner’s mind.  Consciously or sub-consciously, we all think how nice it would be to own a bigger boat, a faster boat, a better boat, a boat with a new engine . . .  One of the things that stops us is the thought of all the hassle involved with selling our present boat.  If someone comes along and offers to take her off your hands with no fuss, no bother, your scheming mind sees a direct pathway to the boat you’ve always dreamed of. You start looking around. Opportunities arise. Boats you’d never thought of owning before suddenly become possible.

I worked on one owner for six months before he would sell me his pretty little C&C 28-footer. He enjoyed her, and she wasn’t for sale, but that little worm was eating away inside his head , and I encouraged it with the occasional phone call to ask how things were, and if he was ready to sell yet, and if I could have first dibs if he was.

Then one day, out of the blue, he called and said: “Okay, you can have her.” He was a lawyer, and he sent me a letter, written by hand on one page, that was our sales agreement.  I sent him a check, and that was that. It was a wonderful way to do business, and I loved that boat.  I only sold her because I needed a slightly bigger boat to cross an ocean.

I found the one I wanted. The owner was up to his ears in the middle of a refit.  “Will you sell her to me?” I enquired. 

“Can I stop working on her?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I said.

 And once again, that was that.

Today’s Thought
There is no such thing as “soft sell” and “hard sell.” There is only “smart sell” and “stupid sell.”
— Charles Brower, President, Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.

A New York scent manufacturer has invented a man’s cologne that drives women crazy. It smells like money.

 (Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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