08 Apr

How to Buy a Boat or…

A Fool and His Money are Infinitely Amusing

Part III


Since I seemed to having a bit of luck on the private side, I stopped bothering my broker and continued to scan as many private listings as I could while I was still talking with the Nauticat’s owner.

And on a whim one day I looked at the Alberta listings of Kijiji and CraigsList since I knew a lot of Albertans owned boats in BC. And not unexpectedly a search of Calgary’s Kijiji boats-for-sale listing came up with an entry for a 2003 Hunter 386 listed for a low, low price. I mean a low price. Low. There was one picture, a brief description, it floated the possibility of a partnership and that was it. I was immediately sceptical. I am a firm believer in the too-good-to-be-true maxim. So I sent an email off to the lister with a request for more info:


Do you have more specs for Rainbow Hunter?

Genoa, dinghy, engine hours, heater, full enclosure etc?

We have a year off and are looking to liveaboard for most of it, then maybe sell. What kind of deal were you thinking about with partial ownership?


This is what I got back:

Hi Bruce, Rainbow Hunter is completely equipped for all-weather sailing including full enclosure.

2300hrs on Yanmar 40HP. Heating throughout boat. We sailed Rainbow all the way to the top of Glacier Bay, Alaska in 2011. She is equipped with a complete suite of navigation gear with Raymarine Seatalk interface. If you are interested call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. We can discuss to see if your needs can work in with our plans.


So this is where the phone aversion comes back in. There was no way I was going to phone him with so little incentive since what I had really been looking for a full spec sheet like one would see on any typical boat listing. A quick google showed that Rainbow Hunter had been in charter with Desolation Sound for the past few years and they had tried selling it at a much higher price with no luck. So between the lack of communication, the failed sale and the suspiciously low price, I decided it was a bit too sketchy for a novice buyer like me and put the boat out of my mind and continued my search.

Rainbow Revisited

It was starting to look like I would have to get an older boat. A boat built in the 2000s with sufficient length/volume to be comfortable during the long winter and the all important comfortable berth were all about $20,000 to $30,000 beyond the top end of my range—which eliminated the charter possibility. And with an older boat I would have to have enough cash reserves to do whatever upgrading would be necessary to make our adventure comfortable and pleasant. My list of upgrades for some of the boats I was looking at exceeded $10,000 and a fully equipped, I’ve got everything I want, boat looked like it was going to be $60,000 or more on top of the purchase price. Boat things are expensive.

So I sent a few more notes and enquiries on to my broker and got the now expected monosyllabic responses and none were too encouraging. The biggest issue I had was I wanted faith/knowledge that whatever boat I got would be mechanically sound enough for us to get a few months of holidays in before we needed fix anything. And that is a hard thing to judge from the internet.

Then one day when I did a search on Yachtworld looking for new boats listed in the last 3 days, I came across a listing for Rainbow Hunter at one of the Granville Island brokerages. At the much higher price. It hadn’t been there the day before. It had lots of pictures, a full spec sheet and hit almost everyone one of my must haves and wants. And as a 2003 it still had the possibility of going into charter. I felt the inkling of oh-oh.

So I checked Kijiji and the listing was gone. Desperately I sent another email off to the lister and he responded that he had just listed it with the broker. And then he wrote “Call me (xxx-xxx-xxxx) if you are really interested and I can see if I can cancel the listing.” So I called. I’m stubborn but not an idiot. OK, not that much of an idiot.

What a nice man. In his early 70s they were selling because they needed some ready cash and he was eager to see her go to a good home. The boat was in Comox and we could fly out on the weekend and see her if we wanted. Otherwise he had to deliver her to Vancouver for the broker. We talked for almost an hour and he promised to immediately call the broker and see if he could cancel the listing. The price we talked about was up a bit from his original Kijiji ask, but nowhere near as high as the broker had listed it for. I was officially excited. I sent a note off to Leslie at work and told her what I was getting us into and she seemed fine with it.

Missed it by That Much

A few hours later I got the expected call back and alas, sadly no, the broker wasn’t going to cancel the listing and had advised strongly that the owner stick with the new listed price. And who could blame him. But we had another nice long conversation and I was more and more convinced that this was the boat that everyone suggests you look for: one that was well maintained, well loved and kept current. Up until now they had seemed to be a bit of a mythical beast. Even the Nauticat had looked like it would need at minimum upgraded electronics and a few new doohickies and doodads. It was suggested I call his broker direct and go from there.

But I had a bit of a quandary. One of the questions that I had asked my broker, and received no answer to, was the nature of the contract or obligations between him and I. In real estate you sign an agreement for a term and that covers that and there was the time I’d gotten between two car salesman when buying a car—a scary experience I didn’t want to repeat. But since I wasn’t all that enamoured of my current non-email-savvy broker and didn’t really want to complicate things if I didn’t have to, I decided to send an email to the seller’s broker and ask him about obligations etc.

He got back to me with a reasonably detailed email and followed it up with a more detailed voicemail absolving me of any obligations to anyone. Good enough for me. We’d bought our first house using the seller’s broker and I had no problem with doing something  like that again. You either trust the industry or you don’t. I’d rather have faith than be paranoid.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

So I talked to the broker. On the phone. Hell, I was on a roll with the owner so why not? I retold the story of Kijiji and the ‘much lower price’ and was met with a professionally slick mixture of humorous disdain, in-joke camaraderie and sympathetic salesmanship. Surprisingly it didn’t rub me the wrong way at all. Maybe I am growing as a human being. Or maybe he was sincere enough to get away with it. After all it was my own bloody fault. Then he told me that he had “3 or 4 clients” looking for this type of boat and that they were coming in on the weekend to their “Customer Appreciation” weekend. I checked and there was indeed such a weekend listed on their website and I had no reason to doubt him when he said there was a shortage of these boats around. I knew very well there was a shortage since I hadn’t had any luck finding one. So I said give me a day to consult with Leslie and we’d get back to him tomorrow. He agreed.

Right around then I started doing the math between the original Kijiji price and the new broker-listed price. It was bad. Real bad. I had screwed up royally. Like 25% royally. Because I hate phones. Sigh. Still, now we had a broker to help with the survey and sea trials and to do all the paperwork; that ought to be worth something? And I could still make a lower offer right? A fool and his money… well, I always did like motley.

I talked it over with L and she said do what you need to. The listed price wasn’t unreasonable, within our budget and the boat looked like it would need almost nothing to get her ready. Despite the fact I wanted to call the owner and discuss it with him, I decided against putting him in that awkward a position and determined to call the broker the next morning. And so the next morning the owner called me. I love the way the world works sometimes. We talked for another hour and while I am pretty sure he didn’t intend to, he absolutely sold me on the boat: hook, line and anchor. Every question I asked came back with the answer I wanted. If all of what he said was true it was as close to a turn-key boat as I would be able to find. This really was the boat for us.

After I hung up I found a message from the broker on my cell and called him back. This phone thing was getting easier … as it usually does. We talked about the mechanics of making an offer and then I made one. Not laughably low, but low enough for my own sense of fairness. He filled out the paperwork and emailed the offer for my signature. I filled it out, wrote out a $5000 deposit cheque, scanned it and the signed document and sent them back. I had officially made a formal offer on the boat. We were committed, with the the only conditions being subject to sea trial, survey and mechanical inspection. That night we dropped the cheque in the mail and then we waited.

The next morning the broker called with the expected counter. It was close, but not too close. High, but not too high. We were officially quibbling now, so I said c’est la vie and accepted. And that was that. I had a boat. Subject to survey, sea trial and mechanical inspection of course. Which is scheduled for the 9th of April. I’ll fly out in the morning and be back before bed time.

Note that I seem to have acquired said boat sight unseen. Which is appropriate I guess because the previous owner bought her sight unseen as well and had her trucked all the way from Chesapeake Bay. Hell of lot bigger leap of faith than I made. But I will see her soon enough.

And that’s the long version on how I (we) came to be the proud owners of a 2003 Hunter 386.

Desolation Sound -  Otter Island anchorage - Rainbow Hunter 2


I got off the phone earlier yesterday with the broker. (I might give him a name after the deal has closed.) I had been doing some spreadsheets and was starting to get appalled at the number of things we need to buy to equip the a boat, so had asked for a brief inventory.

Seems the owner has set out to spoil us. The galley is fully equipped with cutlery, dishes, pots and pans. There is a handheld vhf, boat accessories like boat hooks, tons of spare parts and belts, custom bedding for the aft cabin, bug screens, winch covers and much much more. At this point it looks like I will have to pick up a few more charts and replace any outdated flares and extinguishers and that will be the sum total of outfitting needed.


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