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To Buy a Boat

You know you want it...

Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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The 75ft Peter Spronk – designed catamaran Ppalu has, since her launching in 1978, been my favorite sailing yacht in the whole world. With her tiny transoms and ketch rig, clipper bows accented with lap-strake topsides, comfortable high speeds, large deckhouse and deck space, there could be no other.

I was at her launching in St. Maarten when, together with two hundred others, we carried the yacht from the boatyard and into the waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon. From that day on, I tried to buy that boat. But 20 years of serious negotiations failed until a miracle happened.

Wood Rot!

Chris and Karen of BVI Yacht Sales
Chris and Karen of BVI Yacht Sales

Negotiations were always my fear. Luckily, I found Chris Simpson. Well, I didn’t find him, my girlfriend, HQ, found him for me. She works in a lighthouse/museum in Ponce Inlet, Florida, and one day a very yachtie-looking chap came in to peruse the museum. HQ started up a conversation and he explained that yes, he owned a yacht and had just purchased it in Tortola. HQ told him how, for 20 years, I had been trying to buy a boat that was based there. He in turn said to contact Chris Simpson at BVI Yacht Sales as the man knew every boat that was for sale and each of their stories. He then produced a telephone number.

When Does Title to a Vessel Transfer

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I called, and a warm and friendly English accent replied. I explained my quest. Chris said there should be no problem and that he knew the nephew of one of the owners.

Small world, I thought.

It took a year. In the scheme of things that was not a long time; after all, they had not even listed the boat for sale.

The owners agreed almost immediately. The price was right. The yacht’s Captain, Odell, recognized the dire need to save the boat through restoration. “She is a part of Caribbean history,” he would say.

The owners wanted to finish out the charter season and I agreed to fly down for an in-water survey. However, at the end of the season they balked and I was back to square one.

Chris Simpson continued on the job and the following season confirmed the go ahead for the sale. I arrived and surveyed the boat with Geoffe Cooke from the Workbench at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour.

Ppalu was sound enough and forward went the sale.

Boat Buying Guide: Part 6 How to Find a Boat

Ppalu – never give up on your dream
Ppalu – never give up on your dream

I really didn’t think it would happen but Chris Simpson did. Contracts and extension, accompanied by signatures, went back and forth by email. I sent a 10% deposit just to show that I was serious.

After the third extension I was going to give up. With two days left, I knew nothing would transpire when low and behold an email from Chris Simpson’s wife Karen arrived stating that all the paperwork had come together. She had been unbelievable in her title search.

Thirty years of West Indian paperwork is not that easy a trail to follow. Producing the documents is altogether another story. But the deal was a done!

HQ and I immediately changed plans and flew to the BVI where we found all the paperwork supplied by the buyer in order. I signed a one-page agreement and that was it. Game, set and match; the boat was mine.

It is never supposed to be that easy. I love BVI Yacht Sales! Oh, I did have to pay a pittance to cancel the registration of the owning company but that was the only ‘extra’ of which I was so afraid. I must admit I had asked Chris Simpson if there would be any more details to take care off. He said probably not although he did warn me about a possible fee for the paper chase … It didn’t materialize. Having lived in the West Indies for 35 years, I had my doubts but Chris’ words were accurate. “Kudos to the honest broker,” is all I have to say.

There you have it. If you are a madman like me and find yourself enamored with a famous yacht, well, patience and perseverance is the key. Twenty years is a long time to chase, I must admit. Had it not been for Chris Simpson, I would still be chasing that dream.

The moral of the story: If you want to buy a boat … get a good broker.

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  1. Cap. Randy and I knowledgeable each other since donkey ages.
    We met on Croix in early 70’s and he was one of my share holders at the ‘Wreck Bar’ in Gallows Bay. He and I had the same dream of owning a ‘Spronk’ cat, and which I became the proud owner of ‘Shawary’ after Geoff pitch pole it. The wife said… “De boat or me”. The rest is history and ‘Patouche11’ became competitors of ‘Ppalu’. But Randy and I will always meet again..some day and have a Cruzan to sheriff old times.
    Cap. Frenchie


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Randy West
Randy West
Randy West is a professional yachtsman and the author of The Hurricane Book: A Sailing Captain’s Memoirs.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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