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Buying and Selling a Boat, Modern Style!

Wild Card awaits a new adventurer to take her helm.
Wild Card awaits a new adventurer to take her helm.

Every time I tell someone I’m going to buy a new boat, they get excited. They gush. They chortle, even!

“Oh, Fatty, it is such a buyer’s market,” my super-knowledgeable sale advisors gurgle. “They are selling boats for almost nothing these days… giving them away for less than a pound of cheese! No offer is too low. If you see a Swan 46 in pristine shape, offer $14 bucks and two Archie and Veronica comic books! Just be careful – you might have to tote the boat away on the spot!”

This always makes me want to vomit.

“It doesn’t matter how well-built a boat is, how great the design, or how illustrious their history,” they continue. “All sailboats are selling for what an early-Hunter-with-a-cracked-stem would normally go for. And the owners are so desperate, they will do anything to unload her – anything! I know one buyer/looker who, for sadistic fun, makes ‘em change the topside color, and then gleefully backs out of the deal saying, ‘Naw, the pink Awlgrip ain’t right. I liked it better white!’ ”

It isn’t easy getting a word in edge-wise with some of these ‘I know the scene well’ guys.

“Another one of my bored friends demands they add gear to their desperate-for-sale sailboats – like foredeck machine guns (to transit the Gulf of Aden), fenderboards with railroad spikes sticking out of ‘em (for anchoring among the French), and/or built-in keel safes (for the wealthy Americans or Greeks hiding their money from the tax man).

“It is so funny watching the sellers spend the money-they-don’t-have fixing up the ol’ gal – before they realize she’s a completely worthless, multi-ton, block of post-use-by-date fiberglass!”

Ultimately, I can’t take it. So I blurt, “The only reason I don’t buy a boat is because I have to sell one first!”

This immediately halts them. “But that’s impossible,” they say, totally serious. “Well, unless you can sell it for a pittance to the Somalis for ‘yacht boarding practice,’ or the pursuing U.S. Coast Guard for gunnery practice. And, even then, it has to be in Bristol condition – even if it is, ultimately, to be used as an artificial reef!”

“I was thinking of donating it to the Boy Scouts of America or some such do-gooder group,” I say lamely, “until I realized I don’t need a tax break because I haven’t had a job since, like, the 1960s!”

“I know a solution!” my advisor pipes up gleefully. “They are doing a huge causeway project in the Simpson Bay Lagoon of Dutch Sint Maarten in the Antilles – and instead of using rocks to prevent shore erosion, they are inviting the local yachts to be driven ashore during a hurricane and disposed of completely free of charge!”

“Hmm,” I muse. “They must have developed this concept after Hurricane Luis in ’95 which demonstrated how cost-effective million dollar yachts can be for landfill.”

It was damned discouraging. I’d heard about the mega-yachts of movie stars abandoned in Monaco – their nattily uniformed crews sneaking away in the dead of night (after spray-painting over the name). Many formerly uppity Feadship skippers were now working as bus drivers in such trendy locales as Portofino, Papeete and Palm Beach.

“This new ADLY trend (Abandoned Deserted Left Yachts) is completely unexpected,” says Richie Sukup of the IPPPY (International Private Privileged PrissyYachts) group who now owns most of the marinas on the planet. “We’ve had the situation where, in the middle of refueling, mega yachts are abandoned by their suddenly-dismissed crews. It’s sad, really, watching them attempt to sell their yachting caps and mortarboards outside the yacht club – and, yes, we have compassion for our fellow marine industry brothers – but, regardless, we’re stuck with the abandoned vessel and its removal costs.”

Even the U. S. Documentation office is getting concerned. “It has dawned on us that, perhaps, as many as half our yachts over 200 feet might be abandoned, might be registration-less, stateless ‘ghost ships’ if you will,” says Rear Admiral Ben Dover. “And we’ve had reports that a few with ‘underwater’ mortgages have been intentionally sunk in navigational channels – to block off transit of the not-yet-but-soon-to be-abandoned yachts. In essence, from a legal standpoint, it is a very, very fluid scene!”

Of course, a lot of the ‘gloom and doom’ reports are hard to verify. Sure, the Maltese Hawk hasn’t been sighted in the Med for a while, but that computer-controlled floating whore house anchored off Jakarta can’t be her!

… the Royal Yacht Britannia can’t be charging for treasure hunter tours of fat American tourists with metal detectors to scour her rusty bilges in hopes of finding the Hope Diamond or some-such misplaced royal bauble.

… there is no way all the ICAA boats have been converted to Brazilian tuna seiners!

… or that Russell Coutts is now a ticket-taker for Duck Boat tours of Auckland.

… or that Canada broke up its replica of the Blue Nose to use the lumber to make more souvenir hockey sticks!

Yes, globally, the picture is bleak, but I’m an honest, selfish man who is only interested in myself. Thus, I went to a broker to sell my boat. “There must be someone left on this planet dumb enough to buy a boat,” I tell him, “an individual who is so out of touch and tune with the rest of the world that they don’t know boats are currently worthless.”

“That’s right!” says Broker Bob, “and I’m the guy to find that guy, no matter how ignorant they may be! And all you have to do, Fatty, is sign on the dotted line!”
Brokers these days want ‘centrals’ above all else. Eons ago, when brokers actually served a useful purpose, they showed boats. If they showed enough boats to enough people, some of those boats sold.

Nowadays, any eight year old with a computer who can spell Google can find any boat in the world. There is no need for a broker to ‘find’ you a boat when it is easier and quicker to do so yourself via cyberspace. Suddenly, there is a flood of unattractive stay-at-home yacht brokers who get seasick. I asked one of them about his favorite sale.

“My favorite sale was an Argentinean schooner which I sold to an Omanian who lived in Paris, and the money went through a bank in the Caymans.”

“What did the boat look like?” I ask.

“I dunno,” says the broker, “I never saw it.”

“What did the owner look like?”

“I dunno. I never saw the owner,” yawns the broker.

“So what did you see if you didn’t see the boat or the owner?”

“I saw the money,” smiles the broker. “It was green, which is my favorite color.”

I sought a second opinion.

“Stop being so old-fashion, so cave-mannish,” rants Broker Betty, formerly of Snotty Yachts and now with Arrogant Industries. “The service industry isn’t about service anymore! That’s so pre-internet! It is now about gaffing the money while pretending! That’s the modern way. It is far more efficient and cost-effective to just scam! The international business leaders of tomorrow are just getting started as cyber spammers in Nairobi today! They realize this concept of ‘customer’ is passé, and that ‘victim’ is a far better, more accurate word. I leave the actual physical work to those self-righteous, grubby folks with calluses on their hands and dirt under their fingernails. The new business model has dismissed the actual work as a distraction. Marketing isn’t just important to business, it is business. And the international cyber world is a clean one – especially when we’re cleaning out bank accounts!”

“But what about morals?” I ask.

“They just slow you down. That’s point No. 1. Point No. 2 is that business moves at light-speed in today’s global market place, and we really don’t have time for such old-fashioned niceties.”

All of which was interesting, but not terribly helpful. I still had a boat to sell. I try everything: advertising it as a mobile home, house trailer, and/or waterfront vacation cottage and then, only at the last moment, muttering something vague about it floating.

“Think of it as buying some ‘mobile real estate’ that doesn’t lock you into any single, specific location,” I’d attempt to explain before my ‘sales prospects’ flee.

I decide my price might be wrong. I wanted $40,000 for my 38-foot vessel, which was fully fitted and had just returned from its second circumnavigation.

“First off, you’re using the wrong buzz words,” says Pricey Peter of Price It Right, Please, Inc. “The word ‘price’ is too concrete. We talk instead of ‘price point’ because it is much more fluid and adjustable sounding. We’re interested in the deal, not the details. And, yes, I need cash-up-front to advise you, Fatty. I know you yachtie types – the moment your vessel sells, you ain’t around no mo’! No fixed address, am I right? And I learned from a friend who is a bankruptcy lawyer – if you take a personal check from a chump, you lose!”

Damn, selling a boat is a demeaning process.

Once my money is paid, Petey really lights into me. “$40,000 is a stupid price! You want to sell your boat to an idiot, don’t you?”

“Sure,” I say, “but…”

“No ‘buts’!” says Petey. “Idiots don’t know that $39,999 bucks is close! They think they save $10 grand!”

“… really?”

“Moving on,” says Petey. “Next we need to come up with the lowest possible price you’ll sell the boat for, given the fact that you know how crappy a vessel it is and that there are no buyers on Planet Earth, period!”

“I’d hate to sell her for $30,000,” I say, “but…”

“No ‘buts’ about it,” repeats Pricey Pete. “So $15,000 is your real bottom line!”

“No,” I sputter. “$30,000!

“Don’t be silly,” Petey says. “Nobody likes a holdout. You gotta work with me, Fatty. We’re goal oriented, and our mutual goal is to sell your boat, even if you don’t see a penny of the money. Am I right?”

“Well, I’m not sure …”

“Indecision killed the cat!” says Pricey as he cuts our Skype connection and is gone, cloaked for eternity in cyberspace, my only memento of our brief consultation is a Master Charge debit.

So there you have it. I still have a boat to sell. She is a super buy, and can circumnavigate today as easily as she did in 2000 and 2005. But, alas, she isn’t a gadget-ladened dock queen. There’s no hot water, indoor shower, or refrigeration. She’s just a sailing machine – aimed at transoceanic sailing, not marina-malingering. So she sits. And sits. And sits.

“When are you going to sell the boat,” my trophy wife keeps asking, calling me on her fancy cell phone as she gets a pedicure.

“When hell freezes over,” I say. “When the mouth of the Mississippi wears lipstick. When politicians don’t lie. Or when you stop nagging, whichever comes first!

Fatty and Carolyn are currently in the Caribbean, attempting to sell/give Wild Card away. Google ‘Hughes 38 Wild Card’ or go to sailboatlistings.com for more (pathetic) info.

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