May 13, 2014

Caveat, all you emptors

PEOPLE LOOKING FOR BOATS TO BUY find lots of good advice in the yachting magazines, such as where to look for rot and how to tell if the rigging is still serviceable. But I’ve never seen any advice on how to tell if the seller is honest.
I must admit that most of the boat owners I’ve ever had anything to do with have been fine, upstanding members of society. But not all. One in particular comes to mind occasionally.
I met him after he advertised a boat for sale, a sweet old Camper & Nicholson 32. She seemed to be going for a reasonable price, so I called him to make an appointment to see her.
“Yes, yes,” he said enthusiastically, “I’m the one who advertised her. Do come and see her.”
The boat happened to be quite a long way away, in Canada, in fact, so June and I decided to make a two-day trip of it. We dusted off our passports and drove north on Interstate 5 to the Tsawwassen terminal in British Columbia and took the car ferry for 1 1/2 hours to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. From there we drove south toward Victoria to connect with the highway running north to Port Hardy. When we had gone far enough north we came to a small town called Duncan, where we booked into a motel for the night.
Next day, after some false starts, we found the tricky way to Maple Bay Marina, where the Nicholson 32 was lying. The owner welcomed us aboard and showed us how everything worked. On the outside, she looked in reasonable condition for her age. She certainly was a pretty boat, and we knew her splendid reputation for seaworthiness. But when we stepped down below we fell in love with her immediately. She was all varnished teak, but bright and lively, with a proper chart table and everything.
The owner left us alone for a couple of hours and we explored thoroughly, becoming more and more excited as we discovered the fine workmanship that had gone into this gorgeous boat. June and I looked at each other and just knew she was for us.
When the owner came back we said excitedly: “We’ll take her.”
“Well, there’s just one little problem,” he said. “She’s sold already. Someone has put down a deposit on her.” But, he added brightly, if we cared to make a better offer on her, he would find an excuse and cancel the sale to the other person.
My first reaction was anger. How could this man have let us come all this way to see her, knowing that she was already sold? What sort of criminal con-man was this? Why couldn’t he have told us on the phone that she was no longer for sale? June was as disappointed as I was.
But my next reaction was simply to flee. I wanted nothing more to do with the man.
“We don’t do business this way,” I said curtly. We turned on our heels and stomped ashore.
We drove all the way home wishing that man nothing but ill and feeling very sour about our futile visit to Canada and the loss of that lovely Camper & Nicholson 32.
Today’s Thought The best-laid scheme o’ mice and men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain, For promis’d joy! — Burns, To a Mouse
Tailpiece Dick Was sick. In his delirium He mentioned Miriam, Which was an error For his wife was a terror With the name Of Jane.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Anonymous said...

I was on the other end of a similar deal. I had already bought a trailer hitch and added the trailer to my insurance when the seller informed me that he'd sold the boat to someone else after we'd shaken hands. I'm still bitter.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a Trailer Sailor "Catilina 23" evrything that was of normal concern looked clean and bright, which raised my concerns. The owner said that he had carried out some maintenance before deciding to sell her, Mmmm!! been the trusting kind of person I am and dealing with someone that looked trustworthy, I purchased her. 1 1/2 years later I am still carrying out repairs and is becoming costly, with my wife raising her eyebrows at these extra costs as i have exceed my original budget plan.