Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Art of a Speedy Sale

Every sailor who calls a brokerage company to list his or her yacht for sale has the same agenda—sell my boat for the highest possible price in the shortest timeframe with the least amount of hassle. With that common theme comes a range of mistakes that work against the seller’s best interests. Here are 10 things you should do to sell your boat quickly while still fetching the best price.

Good brokers sell boats; weak ones do not. Yacht brokering is a profession that requires a wide range of skills normally obtained over years of apprenticeship, often through the aegis of professional organizations such as the Yacht Brokers Association of America, the Florida Yacht Brokers Association or the California Yacht Brokers Association. Any truly successful North American yacht broker will be licensed and bonded in either Florida or California, and will likely carry the Certified Professional Yacht Broker credential from the Yacht Brokers Association of America.    

There is no question that you should only be taking advice from a broker who is in the market on a daily basis selling boats just like the one you are trying to sell. Familiarity matters—a broker who can’t confidently advise you on pricing or a potential buyer’s sailing requirements will be crippled when it comes to the final moments of a deal.    

As yacht sales are now a global business, look for a broker who works at a company that employs a wide range of marketing messages globally—boat show presentations, print, online and social media. Check the broker’s web presence, MLS listings and website traffic rankings to make sure your yacht has the best exposure.

Make sure your broker is a part of a skilled team that can assist him when he or she is out of the office.  Successful brokers travel often, so they need an expert team to support them when they are away.


If you price your boat too high, she will not sell. A professional yacht broker should provide you with a report of recent sold figures for boats such as yours, how they differed, and why they sold for what they sold for. He should offer you his advice on a proper retail price for your boat in the current market based on her condition, equipment, year, configuration and location    

Many sellers wrongly assume that every upgrade they make to their yacht adds value; sadly, this is generally not the case. While there are many items that do in fact add value to boats for resale, they seldom fetch back what they cost to purchase or install.


The time in which your boat sells is tied largely to her price and condition. But her location can also play a major role. In the U.S., the hot spots for selling are the major yacht cities of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Annapolis, Newport, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego. These cities are easy to get to and a buyer can often see several different yachts on the same visit. In the Caribbean we find that the Virgin Islands, St. Martin and Grenada are the best locations for sales. In Europe, the South of France and Turkey are easy to get to as well, warm enough year round to complete a sale, and have a wide range of large shipyards where a survey can be conducted.     

We always suggest that sellers allow us to produce a Catamaran Condition Index on their boat. With this report, we rate her overall condition in advance of a survey. Many buyers half a world away may be interested in your boat, but they have one lingering question: What condition is she really in? No buyer wants to take a long flight to learn that the boat he thought was a cream puff is really a worn-out charter boat.     

One issue that presents problems is when boats are located where it is not only hard to visit them, but hard to survey them. Have you ever tried to haul a 30-foot cat in Tahiti?  Cannot be done. Unless there are facilities to haul and survey your cat easily near her listing location, selling her will be doubly complicated.  


Whether you list your boat for sale in a popular location for showings or an isolated one, it is vital that you work with your broker to provide him with every scrap of information you have on her history, good and bad. Buyers want to know everything they can—engine hours, gen hours, brand of electronics, recent refit history, damage history, where you sailed her, who has owned her, charter history, etc.     

Getting very detailed information is even more vital if you are selling a lesser known brand or a custom or semi-custom boat. Who built it? Who designed it? How was it built? Can I stand up in the saloon if I am over six-feet tall?     

There is no question that we always want to have as many pictures as we can get of any yacht we have for sale. Whenever a boat is close to us, we take them ourselves, and we also do a video walk-through. Hopefully these pictures do not show a boat that is cluttered. While I personally believe that pictures are seldom a good way to determine a boat’s condition, many people on the Internet tend to disagree. The requests we get for “more pictures, please” is rather constant, so my advice at the start to any seller is the more the merrier. Videos are even better, as they give a good idea of the flow of the yacht


It boggles my mind how often yacht sellers fail to disclose accident history. I was recently involved in a sale where a few moments before I planned to send the seller an offer from a buyer I asked him pointedly, “Before we go into a survey, is there anything you wish to disclose to me?” After a long pause he admitted that he had a serious collision with a barge and his entire port hull had to be rebuilt.     

Such “failure to disclose” is problematic for several reasons. The first is that any serious damage history is almost surely going to be revealed in a survey, and the moment this occurs the buyer is rightfully going to be very upset and question the integrity of the seller and the broker. Secondly, in North America, failing to disclose any damage that might impact the seaworthiness of a yacht or her resale value is a violation of the law. I believe this is why so many sellers who are selling damaged boats do so in the Southern islands of the Caribbean where the standards are lax and consumer protection laws quite limited. In short, honesty really is in the best policy when selling anything.


The cheapest and best thing you can do to sell your boat is to have her professionally buffed, waxed and detailed, and to have her cleaned once a week until she sells. It continues to amaze me how few of our sellers do this. The next most important actions are to have your engine rooms detailed, to have all rust removed, and to repaint any bow or stern lockers that are dirty or mildewed. Finally, remove all clutter, store only what you must, and have her looking spotless inside, with all beds made up nicely and with good ventilation running at all times. Cosmetics con-tinue to matter more than anything else—frankly, a lot of buyers are simply not experienced enough to see past a boat that needs a good buff and wax and detail.


Boats go market dead pretty fast. If you place your boat in a location that makes her hard to get to and you see no activity, you need to move her—fast—to a location where she can sell more easily. If your boat still isn’t selling, you need to lower the price until you start to see some offers. It is always better to turn down offers that are too low than to get none at all.     

Every boat has a value, whether she is on top of a reef or brand new off the shipyard floo. As long as she is priced properly for the current demand, she will sell.


Yacht sales often get a bit too personal, and sometimes sellers assume all sorts of ill intent from a given buyer when there is none. When I get into a sale I have no idea how a buyer or seller will behave in the heat of negotiations. But if there is one thing I have learned, it is this—anger is never helpful or profitable in business.     

If you get an offer, you can accept it, reject it or counter it with the terms and price you can live with. If you find an offer upsetting, simply refuse to counter it. If you are selling the boat for far less than you had hoped, that is not the buyer’s fault. You may have paid too much for her. You may have added on options that are not bringing you back the money they cost to install and purchase. The market condi-tions may have deteriorated since you bought her.  

The only advice I can give to sellers who are upset about the price they are getting for their boats is to ask them to recall all the months or years they spent on her, then to consider what it would have cost them to charter for all of that time, and place a significant value on that. We buy boats for life enhancement, not as investments.


Never allow your boat to go into a survey unless you have had her props and bottom recently cleaned, her oil changed, and all of her engine and generator fluid stopped off. If something is broken prior to a survey and it needs to get fixed,fix it or it will show up as a negative in the survey. Many deals fall apart because a piece of equipment did not work and the seller knew in advance but did not tell his broker. Now is not the time to be cheap.     

It is always a good idea for the seller or his skipper to be present at a survey to answer questions, explain operations and examine any potential defects the surveyor points out to the buyer. Should negotiations need to take place after the survey, there is nothing more helpful than knowing exactly what the problem was and what the surveyor believes is the best way to correct it.


After you have an acceptance of yacht, it is vital that you focus on the many details of transferring the title with your broker. Remain in easy reach by phone, email and courier express services. I am often surprised at how many sellers take off to far-flung places after the survey, where it is nearly impossible for them to work closely with us in expediting the closing process.    

There is no reason at all why the process of a yacht sale should not be pleasant for the buyer, the seller and everyone else involved. While issues may arise that require serious negotiations, they should always be carried out in good faith and with a pleasant attitude. Yacht sales are often emotionally charged events for buyers and sellers.  Keep the process positive and a positive result is far more likely to occur.      

Andrew Holland is the Sales Manager of The Multihull Company and oversees 50 to 60 catamaran sales a year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What They're Saying: The Latest From Sailing Mags

Here are few items from this month’s sailing magazines! Good stuff everywhere and no shortage of
great images, but see if any of these quick items grab your attention.

Sailing World‘s march issue has a great TECH REVIEW by Dave Reed on what they call an “appealing
simple” Tactician APP for iPhone. This one is free, so even better. This allows you only to record and display wind readings, a sort of “electronic Wet Notes pad,” jokes the reviewer. Over time, as you put more headers into the system, the APP will start to do some basic computations for you. There will be updates on this APP over time. Check it out racers especially.

We all agree catamarans are the best, but you have to give big points on the romance scale to tall ships.  April’s issue of Cruising World has the dates for the kickoff of a series of port stops by an international fleet of tall ships. The ships are here to help celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Here are some dates for your calendars : New Orleans: April 17-23; San Juan, Puerto Rico May 9- 14; New York May 23 to 30; Norfolk, Virginia June 1 to 12; Baltimore June 13 to 19; Boston June 30 to July 6 and New London, Connecticut July 6 to July 9. Check out
www.opsail.org for more details.

I never know if I should feel amazement or upset when yet another youngest sailor ever record is broken
by a teenager. I leave the judgment to you, but check out the blog written by Laura Dekker who sailed
around the globe in a 38-foot ketch appropriately named Guppy. Ms. Dekker is highlighted in April issue
of Soundings magazine. She soloed 27,000 nautical miles into the history books – at least for now. She
was 16 years old. Read all about it here: www.lauradekker.nl

Seems like pirates are everywhere these days and now Latitudes & Attitudes is keeping track of the
reported incidences with a short police blotter of international crimes. Just this year, eight armed
pirates boarded a bulk carrier 11 nautical miles south of Logos, Nigeria. Twenty shots were fired and
one sailor died as a result of trying to escape. Another case was reported near Cailan Outer Anchorage
in Vietnam. And of course, there were more incidents off of Somalia. The Volvo racers had their boats
lifted onto carriers to avoid trouble spots courtesy of the race organizers this year as well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Keeping Upright!

Ugly (thanks Joe from MarineMotion for photo)
I have been a cruising cat fanatic for quite a while now, since the early 1990s. In my years as a yacht broker, one question that has often been raised, then easily dismissed, has to do with the offshore safety of cats–particularly the discussion of capsizing.
There was a time when the first words out of my mouth when confronted with safety at sea were “no cruising cat over 45’ has ever flipped.” Whether or not that was more hyperbole than fact, most early cruising cats were really heavy, slow condomarans. There is still a huge amount of these types of boats out there, and there is a great likelihood that none of them will ever flip. So digest that…if your aim is to safely cruise, you love the comfort and footprint of a cruising cat and you might make a passage every few years (and even then, you are fine with slow, methodical and lots of motoring), stop right there! There is nothing wrong with boats like that–in fact, 80% of the cruising cat industry is based on that thinking, and you don’t need to concern yourself with what it will take to stay upright. Just watch weather and carry plenty of fuel, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. The reality is, most big comfortable cruising cats will break their rig a whole lot sooner than they will capsize.
Ever since guys like me got into this game, though, there has been a clamoring for performance cats–faster, lighter and more powerful. And a funny thing happened. They appeared. More and more, better and better, and pretty soon, there were a lot of fast cats out there. Enough that old Murphy’s Law had to intervene somewhere. And frankly, there are so many catamarans cruising the oceans now that sooner or later, bad stuff was going to happen–even to big heavy boats. It’s a numbers game.
So, to sell some magazines later, I am telling you now that I will write an in-depth article about this topic in an upcoming Multihulls Quarterly. I will examine what has happened, hypothesize on user error and talk about what could be done to stay safe at sea in a performance multihull. I will discuss pitch poling, evasive maneuvers, using sea anchors and drogues, weather and routing, as well as design issues that contribute to disaster. But for now, let me ask your opinion: Of recent cruising cat problems, are there any that simply could not have been avoided? Conventional wisdom says that when it gets really bad, go downwind. But what is your boat like going 22 knots unbridled down a 30 foot wave? And what happens when you reach the bottom? Sounds like time to drag something, right? Have you practiced that? Thought not!  What about heaving to? When a 25’ wave goes vertical, what then?
Then there is the discussion of apparent wind. All those Orma 60 trimarans that capsized are a result of coming down a big wave going absurdly fast, getting to the bottom, having the leeward ama stuff and the apparent wind swing back to true–which is aft of the beam–and wa-bam! Over they go.
Last two thoughts…not every catastrophe can be prevented, but a great percentage of recent disasters could have been avoided. User error? You be the judge. The other thought: If you go out and buy a Ferrari, then drive around at 180mph, your odds of survival certainly are worse than if you drive around in your Suburban at the speed limit. Just sayin…

3 Considerations When Considering a Cruising Cat

high clearance and light
Ok, so you’re looking for a cruising cat. Or, you already have one, and you know what is good, and less than good, about that cat. The following are some discussion points that everyone hears over and over. Do they really apply to you? You tell me!
1.       Bridgedeck clearance. Hey, there are a bunch of boats out there for sale that have lower than advised bridge clearance.  You can get a relatively great deal on one of these boats. So how much does clearance REALLY matter?
Answer: A lot if you plan to go offshore, or sail upwind frequently. A cruising cat with low clearance pounds relentlessly, and is incredibly uncomfortable. A pounding cat ruins your sailing experience, and will relegate you to early insanity.
HOWEVER! If you sail 90% of the time in coastal or protected waters, one of these boats can be a great deal, and make a perfect liveaboard. Even if you plan to move the boat long distances once in a while, the tradeoff might be worth it. There are many South African cats in this category.
2.       Weight and payload. This boat is going to be your home, and you want to have all the amenities of home. How big of a boat do you need to allow you to carry what you want, and still have your boat sail?
Answer:  Before you buy, you need to reconcile what is acceptable performance, and what you need to bring with you to live comfortably. Do you need to have air conditioning, washer/dryer and a generator?  In the 40-foot range, there are going to be compromises, but it is possible to have a boat that will sail acceptably and carry a well considered amount of home amenities. If you want a boat that will sail 200 miles a day and have three cabins, entertainment stuff, and carry all your toys, you need something larger—maybe 46’, 48’ or even 50’ plus.
3.       This is a buyer’s market; you can “steal” a boat these days!
Answer: There are great deals out there, absolutely. The part of the market that is particularly vulnerable is in ex-charter boats. So, if you think you can accomplish what you want with a boat that has been in service for a while, you are in business. Here is the problem. In the evolution of the cruising cat, many buyers are now looking for a dream boat with more innovations and performance. For cats that are un-chartered, owner versions, with daggerboards and high bridgedeck clearance, the deals dry up a bit. Each one of those points increases desirability and limits the inventory of boats out there. Owner version boats are worth at least 20% more than their charter version counterparts, and often much more than that. Daggerboards are worth 15-20% over keels, and for many are mandatory. It goes on and on. SO, the truth is, the buyer’s market is there, but well-designed owner version cats have not devalued at all in the recent recession

Rigid Wings…on Cruising Cats?

The next and previous America’s Cup yachts are equipped with rigid wing sails. I keep thinking about whether there may be a practical application for this type of sail on a cruising boat. So far, I don’t see it, given the issues with sailing on anchor, need to reduce sail quickly, and general unwieldiness. Still, in our game,  one common objective is to be able to sail greater than 200 miles a day consistently, without running an engine. As that ambition becomes more and more of a focus, rigid wings do begin to get a longer look….
What do you think?

Summer Charters

In 1999, I owned a 48′ Privilege Cat, and we sailed her here to New England to do charters. After going through getting a Jones Act Waiver (a good story for another day), every minute we were willing to work, we worked. It was great!
Most people seem to like going on charter in the winter as a getaway. But summer chartering can be such a good deal—less travel cost, great places to go. Get in touch with your favorite charter broker to see what’s available.
For the ultimate summer charter, how about a trip to the Med? The south of France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and current fan favorite Croatia are all great places to sail. Sunreef has two 100+ foot luxury cats available in the Med. Check ‘em out here: http://blog.poshmedia.ca/sunreef-suparyachts-ipharra-and-che-for-charter-this-summer-posh-media-inc/

Gaining Offshore Experience

Many people who are considering going off cruising wonder how they can gain offshore sailing experience and credentials.  Whether your dream is to sail your own boat offshore,  to do deliveries, or to captain for others, how do you get the background you need?
First off, try to get on a crew. Most boat owners, sooner or later, are desperate for crew. The biggest thing is to find them. Get your name out there. Visit the Caribbean 1500 rally’s website (www.carib1500.com). Get signs up at popular marinas on either end of your passage route. Know that in the spring, and again in the fall, there are many opportunities. Let us know that you are looking. Talk to brokerages. These days, social networking will get you where you want to go.
I have been known to instruct offshore sailing too
If you have enough sailing experience, consider a USCG license. There are a number of ways to prepare for one, including sailing schools. I did it by reading a book, floundering mightily the first time I took the test, then being advised by the Coast Guard on how to study, what to know and what I had to memorize. I passed the next time.
Consider this as well. The ideal crew for a passage includes 1. a captain,  2. a cook,  3. a mechanic, and 4. a monkey (someone young and crazy who will climb things, etc).  Figure out your best strength, hone it, and your desirability as a crewman will be much improved.
Take at look at a sailing school and see if it fits your need. Here is a list of just some sailing schools and opportunities out there:
Offshore Passages Opportunities in Huntington NY (matches crew with boats) – www.sailopo.com
Blue Water Sailing School (does offshore courses) – www.bwss.com
Offshore Sailing School (Doris & Steve Colgate run several offshore and live aboard courses) –www.offshoresailing.com
San Francisco’s Modern Sailing Academy (runs several long courses in monohulls) -  www.modernsailing.com
John and Amanda Neal’s Mahina expeditions (a highly respected learn as you go offshore sailing program) –www.mahina.com