There’s a lot of smack online about yacht brokers. I suppose it’s like any sales profession: there are good ones and bad ones. Personally I have rarely been afraid to walk away from a bad vibe; my borderline misanthropy and innate distrust of other people’s imperatives generally makes staying in a bad relationship worse than the fear or embarrassment associated with walking away. On the other side of the coin there are a lot of good people out there and a lot of them are in the field of facilitating other people’s dreams. Leslie and I have had some good luck along the way, and the trend seems to have continued with our venture into the world of yacht brokers.
Leslie and I met a lot of brokers the last two trips out to the Vancouver Boat Show. My favourite was a fellow who worked for Fraser Yacht Sales. Actually I recall him saying he didn’t work for Fraser but like helping out at the shows which is probably why he stuck out as my favourite; he had no horse in the race. I don’t think he remembered us from year to year, but we remembered him. The only thing I don’t remember was his name. My second favourite was a fellow we met only this year. He (Julian Clark) had relatively recently started working for Specialty Yacht Sales after he had left his boat (a Beneteau) in the Grenadines to come back and be with family. Talking with him was informative, fun and encouraging. He left us with a sincere offer to talk sailing regardless of whether or not we actually wanted to buy a boat. Also this year, when we visited the floating show with Dave, he introduced us to Len Baronit, one of the partners in Yacht Sales West. They sold Dave his Tartan and are also the Catalina dealers; it was a chance to talk about boat styles and the difference between North American sensibilities and European designs and even the economics of brokering boats. Very enjoyable, although it turns out Len doesn’t do much in the brokering field anymore. It also turns out I favour North American designs.
While one or two did give off that high-pressure sales vibe, there are some nice brokers out there and they genuinely seem to want to open up the world of boating to anyone curious enough to ask. Which brings us to the fellow we eventually found ourselves dealing with.
Oddly enough if I was to have picked a broker from just the advertisements and print materials that abound in boating magazines, I would’ve made some completely different choices. It is odd because of my profession. It’s just that slick and professional often leaves a different impression when people are trying to separate you with large sums. I’ve generally tried to stick with the (relatively) smaller mom & pop business, even when we built our first house. I look for a company with a good solid brand identity, but without too much ostentation and hint of personality or individuality. But if you’ve read the lead up to here you will remember I didn’t exactly pick the broker we worked with to buy our boat. So my impressions or criticism of their marketing materials really never factored into it.
So who was it? Since the ink is dry and the deal is done I am now less reluctant to name names—I’m not sure why I was reluctant in the first place but I was…maybe it was a jinxing kinda thing…. In fact I suppose I really should be singing some praises right about now. Throughout this weird and complex process, Lawrence Fronczek, owner of Specialty Yachts has been everything I could have wanted as a business partner. While his primary responsibility was to the seller, there was never a moment I felt he wasn’t on the lookout for both parties and trying his best to make sure everything was fair and equitable. I suppose it helps that ‘driving a hard bargain’ isn’t my thing and that the owner and I had already gotten on good terms before Lawrence was added to the mix, but I doubt it changed much about the way he did his business.
If you judge them by their brand and their presence in the market place, Specialty Yachts is one of the bigger players and with that comes, I suppose, a bigger commitment to the health of the industry. Well it showed through. But the service was also personal and pleasant. And I suppose its possible I will be swearing a blue streak this time a year from now about some detail or another but I know Lawrence will still be in his office on Granville Island and I am pretty sure I can out-run him so we’ve got that covered…but really I don’t forsee it happening. His advice has been solid, the explanations pretty thorough and the ‘high pressure sales tactics’ have been limited to the occasional “Well if it were my boat I certainly would…”. And my judgement on his judgement of me is pretty positive. I like someone who reads his clients well, it makes for a much more comfortable experience.
So ya, all in all, I am pretty happy with the experience. And I would definitely recommend the use of a broker if buying a boat and recommend Lawrence in particular. Now I just want the work to be done so I can actually go sailing…