Wednesday, May 30, 2012

13 Things to Consider When Choosing a Yacht Broker

Image courtesy of Denison Yacht Sales
I was originally going to post this article as a "Top 10 Tuesday" piece but then, after consulting with our friend Allen Schiller and his awesome co-wokers over at East Coast Yacht Sales, I realized ten line items was not enough.

As I wrote in my earlier post, boat brokering is a funny business and one that is often rife with misconceptions and shady characters.  There are, however, fantastic brokers who are not only good, ethical people - but excellent at their jobs to boot.  Here are some things to consider when looking for one to either represent your boat, or assist you in your search:

  1. Are they honest?  This one is tough to qualify, because honesty isn't something that you can usually measure.  For this I say: trust your gut.  If you meet a broker and he or she seems like they are hiding something or simply rub you the wrong way, move on and find someone else.  We had one broker in Florida who, after hearing what we were looking for, told us point blank the boat he was showing was not for us.  We still looked at the boat because we liked the model, but really appreciated his honesty about the condition of the boat up front.
  2. Length of time in the business?  You don't have to find a broker with twenty years of experience, but it doesn't hurt.  Does the broker have previous experience at other firms?  How long has he been brokering?  Did he work with boats in some capacity beforehand?  Do your homework, research the brokerage firm and look into the professional history of the broker in question.  While he or she might only have been a broker for a few years, they might have been a delivery captain for fifteen and that kind of experience can certainly count for something!
  3. Specialties of the firm?  Would you go to a hair salon for a root canal?  Heck no!  Some yacht brokerage firms specialize in power boats, others specialize in sail boats and some represent and list both.  Find a brokerage that has ample expertise in the sort of propulsion you are looking for - they will not only understand your needs better, but they might be able to offer you a vessel that you hadn't previously considered and will have a lot more know-how that can assist you along the way.
  4. Product knowledge?  Perhaps your broker has sold sister ships of the one you are looking for, or maybe they've done a delivery on a similar type of boat... For example, Allen Schiller has been sailing his entire life, and there is hardly a boat that we can present to him that he hasn't had some direct experience with.  He's done Newport-Bermuda races on Bristol 45.5's, sailed on many Brewer 44's and worked directly for boat builders before.  He understands nuances like tank issues, cabin layout pros and cons and deck problems more than someone who lacks this kind of hands-on experience.
  5. Reputation?  How the world got by before GOOGLE is beyond me.  As a former recruiter, it's amazing (and kind of scary) what you can learn about a person by doing a quick little Google search.  If you can't find anything on your own, ask for referrals and testimonials, if they don't have them - that might be cause for concern.
  6. Organizations they belong to?  There are seven main branches in North America (including Canada) of the Yacht Broker Associations of America.  Find out which one's your broker is registered with as some might be registered with several and this can be beneficial to you depending on where your search takes you.
  7. Are they accredited?  Are you dealing with a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB)?  The CYPB test is a three hour exam testing not only product knowledge, but legal and ethical issues as well.  While this does not necessarily mean you will be dealing with an honest and ethical broker - it's a good place to start.
  8. Are they patient?  Does your broker listen to your needs and really understand what you want?  Good brokers are interesting and sometimes might know what you want more than you do.  Allen, for example, is constantly asking us questions as to why we want this or that and reminding us that we might not need "x" but instead would rather have "y".  While he is listening to what we think we want, he is also always looking out for our best interest and making us think hard about what we are looking for and why.  This is the true mark of a good broker.
  9. Do they educate?  Particularly for those of you who are new to boat buying, does your broker explain thoroughly how the process works?  Allen told us that often times a buyer will tell him to find out a seller's bottom line, after which the buyer will decide if he can afford it.  It doesn't always work that way and jumping the gun like this often prohibits a broker from doing his or her job.  A broker does not always know a seller's bottom line and you never really know what a seller will take until negotiations begin.  A seller's ego might be set on "x" price but if they wait a year (or two) to get that price, what have they spent to keep the boat in the meantime?  A good broker will explain nuances like this to you and help you make wise decisions whether you are the buyer or the seller.
  10. Are they responsive?  Having been in sales before this is a big one for me.  A broker who is unresponsive or impossible to get ahold of might be a pain in the butt to deal with over the long run.  I recall one broker we who would not get back to us - we ultimately did not deal with this guy because he was so unprofessional it made us think the boat he was representing was no good.  Boat buying can be a very long, emotional and arduous process and you want someone who can answer your questions and get back to you promptly.
  11. Have you seen the paperwork?  Ask to see the purchase and sale agreements and forms before the deal goes down.  Have your broker walk you through the Acceptance documents.  Have them explain what a "conditional acceptance" is.  What happens after you accept the boat?  How is the title transferred? Is there a mortgage on the boat or any title liens?  It is your broker's job to walk you through all this and smooth out the process.  When we bought Rasmus, it turned out there was a lien on the boat from years and years ago and it was a very big pain in the "A" to get removed.  Had we had a buyers broker, they would have had that headache for us.
  12. How do they get paid?  It is important to understand how yacht brokers get paid.  Numbers vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but oftentimes, a broker will get 10% commission out of the selling price.  If there is both a selling broker and a buyer's broker at work the two will often split this commission 50/50.  Many brokers prefer to work as selling agents because it's a safer bet (which is why EVERY broker we saw in Florida was very keen on if, how, when and where we were selling Rasmus).  Brokers can do a lot of work for a buyer, only to have that buyer purchase a boat through a listing agent cutting their buyer broker out of the deal.  Good brokers, however, see value in the buyer because they know the industry is about repeated business and word of mouth referrals.  They are not afraid to act on behalf of the buyer because they know it's about building long-term relationships.  Most people don't own only one boat in their lives and a good broker who is in the industry for the long-haul (and not just the weekend warrior) knows this.
  13. Do you have good chemistry?  As with any relationship, chemistry is important here.  You will deal with your broker a LOT and if you don't like them or the way they do business, you're in for a long and bumpy road.  When I was recruiting sales people I always used the "drink" test to determine if I called someone back for a second interview - if I felt like I wouldn't mind having a beer with the candidate after the interview that was a positive sign.  If I couldn't stand the thought of spending five more minutes with the person, they were a no-go.  Find a broker who you like as a person, someone who you wouldn't mind talking to over a tropical slushy rum drink - hopefully on the deck of your new boat!
A huge THANK YOU to Allen Schiller, Linda Warren and Andrew Sheriff of East Coast Yacht Sales.  They really helped to educate me on their industry and asked for nothing in return.  These are a couple of the good ones folks!!

What factors into your decision when choosing a broker?  Share your thoughts and opinions in our comments, we're learning to and we'd love to know!

Brittany, Scott and Isla

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Baffling Business of Boat Brokers

It's a virtual sea of yacht brokers out there - they can either make you sink or swim!!
If you are in the market for a sailboat, you will most likely (but not always) be dealing with a broker.  A boat broker is to a boat what a realtor is to a home - though the industry comparisons really stop there.  Before I go on, it is important to make the distinction between a "listing broker" and a "buyer broker" as the two will serve different functions in the boat buying process but are not always mutually exclusive.

When Scott and I find a boat we are interested in on Yachtworld (for example), we typically use the "contact broker" button and send them an email.  The broker we are contacting is the "listing broker" (also known as the "seller's broker").  He or she will usually respond to us within 24 hours and we will go back and forth with questions and, if things go well, it will be their job to show us the boat.  It is important to note that the listing broker represents the seller.  This is a relatively simple way to go about boat buying, however if you are not experienced in buying a boat or don't really know what you are looking for - it is very possible to end up buying the wrong boat at the wrong price this way.

While Scott and I have never used one, a "buyers broker" is someone that represents the buyer.  It is this broker's responsibility to find them the right boat at the right price.  A good broker can smell a bad deal from a mile away and can help pull back the reigns on an overly eager buyer.  It is tough to negotiate a deal for something you really want, and a buyer's broker will help temper this.  They can also provide crucial information about what boat's of a particular model have been listed for and what they sold for over the past few years.  This information (only available to yacht brokers) is invaluable to have in your wheelhouse when it comes time to make an offer on a particular boat.

Many people think that using a "buyer's broker" will be expensive.  Brokers only get paid when a boat is sold and their "cost" is simply a percentage of the agreed upon price.  It is a commission-driven job and if you don't buy a boat, they don't get paid.  The price of the boat is no different to you whether enlist the assistance of a buyer's broker or not.  In fact, if you have a good one, that broker will often save you money by helping you make a wise decision, advocating on your behalf and negotiating a better price on the boat in question.

We have a close family friend, Allen Schiller of East Coast Yacht Sales who - while he has never acted in an "official" capacity as our broker - has been a fantastic resource for us.  He is honest, extremely knowledgeable, an avid sailor (definitely helpful when buying a sailboat!) and won't mince words about boats we're looking at.  When we find a boat we "think" we like, he'll either tell us that it's a good idea to continue pursuing it or he'll tell us we're veering off course and why.  His unwavering guidance and objective perspective have been incredibly helpful throughout this process.  He has suggested boats and listings we might not have previously considered and helped steer us away from boats that, ultimately, wouldn't be right for us.

One aspect of boat brokering that is unique and often unclear, is the fact that no broker "owns" a particular client or boat.  Anyone can show you any boat - it does not have to be the listing broker.  Similarly, if you are dealing with a broker who rubs you the wrong way - you can step away from them at any time.  You owe them nothing.  For example, when we were in Florida we were dealing with a listing broker who was incredibly unhelpful.  He did not return our calls or emails and was very evasive with our questions.  We did not end up looking at the boat because of this person.  Had we had our own broker - or enlisted one of the other listing brokers in Florida that we met and liked - we could have asked him or her to show us that boat.  The listing broker still would get his commission if we had bought the boat, but we wouldn't have had to deal with him directly*.

You might find a broker you like who might also happen to have a listing that works for you.  In this case, the broker can act as both the "buyer" and "seller" broker.  Unlike the real estate industry, the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA) took a position that a broker can be a dual agent and represent both the buyer and the seller.  If you find yourself in this situation, you should make sure that you absolutely trust that the broker has your best interest in mind and won't try to sell you a boat that perhaps he/she shouldn't just to collect commission.  It is beneficial to be prudent and trust your gut.

Many people forego the use of a buyer's broker, but usually these people are knowledgeable about the boating industry, have bought a boat before and feel confident in their negotiating skills.  However, if you are not an educated buyer and have never bought a boat before - enlisting a broker to advocate for you is something you might want to consider.

Alright - it's back to for me!


Brittany, Scott and Isla

*While there are very few 'rules' in the world of boat brokering, the only move that is considered unethical is if you were to have a "buyer broker" show you a particular boat - and then cut him out of the deal by using listing broker as both the "buyer broker" and the "seller broker".  While this might not always be the case, some (unethical) people would do this to convince the listing broker to sell the boat at a lower price because the other broker's commission is no longer factored in.  You are free to cut your buyer broker out of the deal, but it is expected that you choose another one if that broker had already shown you the boat.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

You know what is cool? The fact that we have about a hundred brokers out there looking for boats for us!  So many of you have sent us some great listings both on Facebook and through email that you've actually kept us quite busy!

Since so many of you have been so kind to offer support and help during this process, I figured I'd let you know (after some gentle prodding from a bunch of you) what kind of boats we've seen and what made us tick (or not) about them.  I could obviously go into WAY more detail about each boat but, for the sake of time, I will not.  Consider these notes our initial views and not in-depth reviews.  All of the boats we looked at have a center cockpit, two private cabins, two private heads layout which have become a few of our "non-negotiables".  With no further adieu, here's what we've seen so far:

  • Amel 46 - As many of you know, Scott and my dad flew to St. Maarten and spent many, many hours inspecting an Amel down there.  The boat not only has a great pedigree and reputation, but this example was in fantastic shape and offered us just about everything we were looking for however, the price was a little high for us and despite going back and forth with counter offers - we could not come to an agreement with the owners.  When they finally did come back and agree to "our" price (after we said no to their "final" offer), we had already mentally moved on.  This boat also needed a few upgrades and it was largely set up with unfamiliar European systems so would have taken some getting used to.  We were sad to do it, but ultimately walked away from this boat and know we did the right thing.
  • Whitby 42 - we liked the general layout of this boat, but found it a little "cramped" for it's size.  Also heard it's sailing performance is not as good as the newer, more improved versions - the Brewer 12.8 and Brewer 44.  The one we saw was in OK shape but definitely not maintained to the standards we are used to so this boat was more of a project than it seemed in the listing.  Not for us.
  • Vagabond 42 - the "cool" factor of the boat was through the roof.  We liked it a lot and the one we saw was in fantastic shape having been totally refitted and meticulously maintained by it's owner.  However, the sailing reputation of this boat killed it for us.  It is notoriously slow and while we are not in this to win a race, we would like a sailboat that sails and performs well.  We also didn't like the teak decks as they were H.O.T. underfoot.  So hot that Scott could not walk on deck without his shoes.  That would NOT be good on little baby feet.  In addition, the amount of woodwork on the topsides of this boat was enough to make this little wood-worker cringe.  It definitely had plenty of room for a family and we loved the three cabin layout but ultimately, this is not the type of boat for us.  I think if you buy a boat like this - you really have to be in love with the style which we are not.
  • Moody 47 - I had high hopes for this boat.  It had a great layout that would easily accomodate a family of five and a decent blue-water reputation (though the fact that their quality was compared to Catalina -which are great boats, but known as "coastal cruisers" - made us nervous).  However, the particular boat we looked at seemed dark and both Scott and I felt like it was dated.  While the boat had many upgrades, it still needed too much work for our taste.
  • Wauquiez Amphritrite 43 - I was excited to see this boat, however we decided not to due to lack of communication from the broker.  We also heard from another trusted broker that this particular boat needed a LOT of work.  Had this boat been in Lauderdale we would have looked at it anyway, but it was 45 minutes away in Miami and we didn't feel it worth the trip.  Do like the general layout of this boat with it's extra pilot berth in main salon, and the builder is a good one with a solid reputation.
  • Bristol 45.5 - the broker, knowing what we were looking for, was very honest with us from the get-go and he told us point blank that our visit to this particular boat would be a short one.  The entire boat was in need of a refit and just about every system, line and sail on it was original and in need of an upgrade.  The interior, however, showed beautifully and I really, really liked the layout.  It felt open and spacious and this is another boat we'd like to investigate further.  If we could find one that needed less work we'd probably consider this boat more seriously.
  • Brewer 44 - the example we saw was impeccable.  Absolutely beautiful and expertly maintained.  The boat had many upgrades and every single wire and hose was run properly and in an organized manner.  The engine room was spotless and the exterior and interior were like new.  We were very impressed with this boat however it is not currently set up for long-term live-aboard cruising and lacks SSB, watermaker and solar and/or wind power (three "must have's" for us).  Adding these things - while not "deal breakers" for us - would cost a significant amount of money and this particular boat is priced too high for us to be able to add those things.
So where does that leave us?  So far - the Brewer 44 is in the lead as the most practical boat for us.  We love her pedigree, her lines and her reputation as being a solid, high performance blue-water cruiser.  There are a few more out there to look at and many other things to consider but we're honing in on what we think might be our next home.  In two weeks, we head to South Carolina and stay with good ol' Uncle Al and Aunt Willa! to look at a couple more boats!

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Things to Remember When Looking at Boats

Clean, bundled and organized - just how like we like it!
We had a fantastic weekend in Lauderdale - in fact, Scott and I were laughing about the fact that we packed so much into this visit that it actually felt more like a week!  Not only did the weather cooperate, but we got to check out some very cool boats and even met up with a few blog friends both new and old.  We also got a couple of big "firsts" out of the way for our little Isla; first plane ride (she was AMAZING!), first time on the beach, first time in Florida, and our first time traveling as a family!  It was great and we were so happy with the trip.

Aside from all the fun we had, we did learn a few things that I'd like to share with you in the event that you ever find yourself in the market for a boat.  Some of this might be common sense but either way, here are

10 Things to Remember When Looking at Boats

  1. Line up more than one boat to look at.  It was one particular boat that ignited the trip to Lauderdale - however my dad gave us some solid advice when he said, "You might as well look at several boats while you are down there".  Good advice!  Why spend all that money traveling only to look at one boat? Scott and I hit our favorite boat listing site,, and lined up five others to look at that fit the basic profile of what we are looking for.  We looked at a couple of boats that we knew weren't "the" boat - but we thought the make and model could be.  There is always something to learn on ANY boat and you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised!  The more you look, the more you learn what you like or don't like, especially if you are in the market for your first boat.
  2. Be organized.  Organization pays off - especially when you cram five boat visits into one and half days!  Before we left, I emailed all the brokers of the boats were were interested in - asked them a few questions and lined up specific times to meet them.  I printed out all the listings as well as the string of emails that went with them, which included the broker's name and direct number.  I also printed out a detailed map with directions to each boat from the previous boat so that we didn't waste any time getting lost.  All the preparation certainly paid off!
  3. Have a list of general questions to ask the broker.  Why is the owner selling?  How was the boat used? How many hours does the engine have on it?  Age of the rigging - both standing and running?  Have hoses and seacocks ever been replaced?  How old are they?  Condition of the electronics and their age?  Age and condition of all sails?  How long has it been for sale?  Stored in water or on the hard?  Type of refrigeration?...etc (more on this in a later post).  Make a list, bring it with you and take detailed notes for every boat because you WILL forget to ask questions and you WILL NOT remember every boat despite what you think! At the end of the day you'll find yourself having conversations like this: "Wait...was the Brewer the one with the roller furling main?? Or was it the Whitby?  Was the Wauquiez the one with the engine driven refrigerator or was it 12V?" It gets very confusing, very fast.
  4. Understand the broker may not know a thing about the boat.  It never ceases to amaze us how useless some boat brokers are (others, however, are wonderful - stay tuned for a post on the subject!).  If you get on a boat and the broker doesn't know where the water/fuel tanks are it's safe to say they do not "know" the boat despite their claims.
  5. Learn how to "look" at a boat.  When we get on a prospective boat, we get down and dirty.  Things we like to look at: storage  - all of it: under floorboards, in cupboards, under cushions, on deck, in lazarettes, in drawers...we literally pull it all out.  We closely look at windows for any signs of water damage and/or leaking,  we check the battery bank, we check behind the electric panel to see if the wiring is a mess or if it's labeled, zip-tied and done properly, we look at the rigging on deck and see if it shows signs of age and wear and tear, check the deck for anything amiss like cracks, pools of water...etc.  We also look at the engine room extensively; access, corrosion, general cleanliness - you can learn a lot about a boat from how good the engine room looks!  Don't forget to bring a camera and take pictures of everything.  It's easiest if someone does the "digging" and the other acts as the photographer.
  6. Set aside at least two hours to view the boat(s). Doing all the above takes some time.  Set aside 2 hours per boat for your initial visit.  You might not spend all of that time on every boat you see (we looked at one that we knew was not right for only 20 minutes but it was still worth it because we found we loved the model) but if you find one you like, get in there and use every bit of that 120 minutes information gathering.
  7. Don't be bashful or shy.  Do not worry about "bothering" or "offending" the broker with questions or the fact that you want to dig around.  If they have a problem with you doing either then you should probably wonder what they are trying to hide.  Along the same lines, be honest with the broker about what you want - if you get on a boat and see that it's not for you - go ahead and tell them that.  
  8. Research the boat(s) before hand.  Whenever I find a boat I think I like, I hit the forums.  Cruisers Forum and Sail Net are a WEALTH of information about all things boating.  I just do a search about the boats in mind and see what people are saying about them.  You will get clued into all sorts of information like build issues, maintenance issues, sailing performance and more.  It will also help you formulate the questions that might be specific to the particular make and model.  In addition, we really, really value Mahina's list of boat's to consider for offshore cruising.
  9. Clearly define what is important for you and prioritize.  Recognize what are deal breakers, and what are not deal breakers.  Learn to define the "must haves" and "might adds".  For example, Scott and I know that a must have for us is a center cockpit boat.  Solar panels would be nice but if a good boat didn't have them, it would not be a deal breaker.  Scott and I are clear on the things we want in our next boat and it makes boat shopping a lot easier and less overwhelming when you know what you are looking for!  
  10. The price might not be right.  When you are shopping around, it's tempting to want to buy the boat that is the cheapest.  However, a "cheap" boat will most likely require work and it will not take long to put the cost of that boat right back into her when doing upgrades (we learned this first hand)!  Boats, unlike homes, do NOT appreciate and there is no positive return on investment when you upgrade them.  In today's market you would be considered lucky to get 50 cents to the dollar on any upgrades you do.  We're looking to be on the other side of that fence this get a deal on someone else's efforts.  Sometimes, it might make more sense to pay a more upfront to pay less on the flip side.
So that's how we look at boats these days - what have we forgotten?  Do you have any tips for prospective boat owners? Share in the comments!  Keep in mind - this list is for an initial visit.  If you like what you see, follow-up visits will ensue and should include more in-depth digging, a proper marine survey and a sea trial.  

Brittany, Scott and Isla

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane!

The good news is we're headed to Ft. Lauderdale this weekend...the bad new is, the picture above is the forecast.  Either way, it's very exciting because we're looking at five or six very cool sailboats that, lucky for us, can be viewed come rain or shine!  We've packed our rain jackets and are super excited to crawl around on some really interesting boats...I'll keep you all posted via our Facebook Page so make sure to pop over there for pictures of boats and our thoughts as the weekend progresses!

We'll give a detailed report on what we learned and the boats we saw next week!

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Friday, May 18, 2012

Boat buying...the Second Time Around...

Our next boat?  Not likely. I took this in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten.  It's the biggest sloop in the world!
Buying your first boat is easy.  You have no idea what you're doing and you really don't know what to look for.  Okay, that's selling most of us a little short, because you, like us, probably did (or do) a ton of research as to what you think you want in a boat.  None of it, however, is backed up by any real, significant cruising experience.  Sure you might have chartered a few boats in the BVI's or crewed in a couple distance races...but playing on a boat and living on a boat are two very different things, as Scott and I have learned over these past two years.

When Scott and I bought Rasmus we were total, utter newbies when it came to boat ownership.  Fast forward to now - two years and 5,500 nautical miles later - we have a literal boat load of experience to draw from and boat buying has morphed into whole different beast.  How? It's a heck of a lot harder.

Then it hit me.  Buying a boat is not unlike dating...

When you buy your first boat, you're buying what you *think* you want.  You look at boats with wide, excited eyes, and often underestimate the amount of work that needs to be done.   You, more than likely, will look at a pretty boat and imagine yourself sailing off into the sunset on her; trimming her sails on a nice broad reach as you glide effortlessly across the fine blue waters of the Bahamas or Caribbean.   Her glossy teak deck accents will bring out the romantic in you, the nice and cozy interior will make you swoon.  Her electronic suite will be a bonus,  her rigging will be an afterthought and her newly painted hull will shine with perfection in the will be smitten and, despite what the experts tell you, you will fall in love...

When you buy your second boat, you buy what you *know* you want. You'll look at that same pretty boat with skepticism.  Sure, she looks nice on the outside...  But you know what?  It's what's inside that counts.  You'll imagine sailing away on her all right, but you're going to want to look at those sails and find out how old they are and if they need to be replaced.  You'll visualize how that very boat will treat you in a nasty squall and you'll picture how that cozy interior will react in eight to ten foot seas.  That exterior teak?  It will make you cringe as you imagine the many, many hours of maintenance you know it will require to maintain.  Those electronics are going to actually matter and you'll want to see if wires are zip-tied properly behind the electric panel.  You'll go through an old survey with a fine-toothed comb and you will inspect the rigging, engine and hoses with the precision of a CSI detective.  You'll look at that glossy, freshly painted hull and wonder "What are they hiding?"

You see, boat buying gets progressively more difficult with each and every boat as you start to really learn what works best for your situation and you discover what you really want.  You become more specific, more picky, and you learn to see past the slick exteriors and broker B.S.  You don't want to waste time and rush into anything that isn't going to last, you want to make sure you make the right choice for the long haul.  After all, you put your heart and soul (and a lot of blood, sweat and tears) into your first boat and when the time comes to buy your second, you just want to go sailing in something that will treat you well and keep you safe.  You're not interested in a fixer-upper any more.

As most of you know - Scott and I spent over a year refitting Rasmus.  She got new sails, new electronics, a new engine, a new watermaker, new rigging, new boom and the list goes on...she went from a great weekend boat to a tried and true blue water cruiser that we put a ton of TLC into.  We had a blast doing all the work we did to her and wouldn't trade the time we spent with her for the world.  After all, she is our first love and she'll always hold a special spot in our hearts.  But you know what?  We don't want to do it again.  Plain and simple.  Sure, some work here and there on our next boat is inevitable - but a total refit is not something we are interested in.  We're smarter, more mature and a lot more experienced this time around.

Like any first true love, Rasmus is going to be a very hard act to follow, we know that.  But our next boat is out there, we can feel it.  We've still got a lot to learn and I'm sure we'll fall in love again, but we're going to court for a good long while before we do and - until we find the right one - we know there will always be more ships in the sea.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Things We Want In Our Next Boat is your friend when looking for boats!
This weekend Scott, Isla and I are heading to Ft. Lauderdale to look at a handful of prospective new boats for us which is very exciting because a) it's our first "vacation" with our little monkey and b) we'll be looking at some super cool boats.  What boater does not LOVE looking at other boats?!?

Lots of you are wondering what we are looking for, so I've decided to sum it up in a nice, even Top 10 List.  While we might not get everything that we are looking for on this list - it's good to know what you want when you are looking, otherwise you'll be quickly overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of choices out there.  It's interesting to look at how this list differs slightly from what we were first looking for and stay tuned for a post on how buying your second boat is much harder than the first!...With no further ado, here are the

Top 10 Things We're Looking for in Our Next Boat

  1. Space - we're looking for a monohull in the 42'-46' range.  While Rasmus certainly could accomodate Scott, Isla and I - we do plan on having more kids in the near future so would rather get a boat that leaves us a little room to grow.  More storage space, both on deck and down below, would be fantastic as well as Isla comes with some gear and Scott has a new obsession with kiteboarding and bought all the kit for it.
  2. Refrigeration - much to the amazement of many of our friends and followers, we spent the last two years cruising without cold food and cold drinks.  We earned our stripes.  We'd like to have it on our next boat!
  3. Cutter Rig - safety is now going to be our #1 priority and having more sail options, in our opinion, will make sailing safer.  We like the idea of being able to roll up our large headsail and roll out a smaller one if and when the wind kicks up.  We're also open to ketch rigs for the same reason (more options), but a cutter is preferred.
  4. Solar/Wind Power - we want a boat that is already energy efficient and can operate "off the grid" fairly well, we would rather not have to spend time calculating amp hours and installing these items if we don't have to.
  5. Center Cockpit - we LOVE our center cockpit.  It is safe, deep, cozy and dry.  We also love having a little aft deck to hang out on when we're sailing and loading stuff on and off of our dinghy.  This, so far, is a non-negotiable for us especially since we'll have little Isla crawling around in no time and the inherent protection offered from a center-cockpit is something we really like.  A large, comfortable and roomy cockpit is a must for us.
  6. Windlass - we loved our windlass, it made anchoring a breeze and we'd like our next boat to have one as well.  Isla won't be strong enough for that kind of work for a long time anyway...
  7. Swim Platform/Cockpit shower - we did not have a swim platform on Rasmus and always talked about putting one on.  Many cruising boats have swim platforms and they make life at anchor more pleasant.  Not only does it make getting in and out of the dinghy much easier, it's great for swimming and bathing as well! As for the cockpit shower - we LOVE ours.  It's by far the best way to bathe in the Caribbean and it's something that we do not want to do without.  You can read why we love the cockpit shower so much in our post titled: Hygiene on The High Seas.
  8. Two Heads/Two Stateroom configuration - we are a small family that loves to have visitors. Scott and I love the privacy of a separate cabin for friends and family.  We would also love another head for the same reason as well as a little more storage and the option to shower down below.  Not to mention the fact that we'll be potty training in the near future...
  9. SSB/watermaker - We'd like this boat to be fairly well set up to go cruising because we don't want to spend months and months in a boat yard doing a refit when we could be having fun in the sun with our baby.  We'd like our next boat to be outfitted with SSB as well as a watermaker because we really enjoyed having both of these on Rasmus.
  10. Rig/Plumbing/Wiring in good shape - these three are a BIG deal and can cost a LOT of time and money replacing in the yard.  We re-did all three on Rasmus and this time around, we'd rather have a boat that someone else fixed up.  Wishful thinking?  Perhaps - but a girl can dream!  Having any of these three in really bad order will make what looks like a good deal, bad.
Obviously there are many, many more considerations to be made when buying a boat (like low engine hours, davit system, draft, nice interior...etc) but these are some of the biggies for us this time around.  There is no such thing as the "perfect" boat and it would be a small miracle to find a boat that has everything that we are looking for but eight out of ten ain't bad!

We'll let you know how the trip to Lauderdale goes and tell you more about the boats we looked at next week...

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Boats and Babies: Products that Unite the Two?

Bringing a five month old baby on a boat requires a little...creativity.  When I got pregnant, Scott and I vowed to raise our children with "simplicity" in mind.  Our goal is to try and raise our babies without having to fill an SUV with pack-n-plays, swings, bouncy chairs and god knows what else every time we go out somewhere.  This sounds easy enough, but take one trip to a dedicated "baby store" and suddenly you are in a world where excess is not the exception, but the rule.  From prenatal "educational systems" to gadgets that analyze your baby's cry...the makers of baby stuff have left no stone unturned.  It's ridiculous, really.

I remember vacationing with some friends in Mombasa, Kenya many years ago and they brought their beautiful little son with them from Australia who, at the time, was probably no older than 6 months. You know what they brought for him?  Aside from the essential gear like diapers and a few clothes (and not too many of those either!), they brought one toy.  Yes, that's right - ONE toy.  It was a little wooden train.  I was amazed.  This little guy was so content - no portable DVD players, no "Baby Einstein" stuff - he needed nothing more than an empty water bottle or a paper towel role to get his imagination going.  He was such a happy little man and I remember vowing on that trip that I would raise my children in the same way.  Residing on a boat with limited space far away from places like "Buy Buy Baby" will certainly make living this way easier because - let's face it - we simply will not have room for excess, but it will still take effort not to buy into all the hoopla.  For our little Isla, the world will be her playground.

Despite wanting to be as "bare bones" as we can - we don't want to go completely without baby gear as some of it will make life aboard a little easier.  Here are some products we have that we think will help us to unite our baby and our boat, without going too over-the-top:
  • ERGO Performance Baby Carrier - our good friends on S/V Sarabande love theirs and little James was a happy camper when hiking with them in it.  I trust just about everything Alicia tells me so when she advised we pick up one of these things, I listened.  We have yet to use ours because Isla is too little, but this will be useful on long hikes and visits to the market.  She can interact with the world around her and we can walk in comfort - hands free! (Are you seeing a trend here?) [Editor's note: we swear by this, and used this a LOT on shore excursions.  A must have in our opinion].
  • Okkatots Travel Diaper Backpack - when you go ashore to run errands, a backpack usually comes in handy and travelling with a baby requires a little extra prep as well.  This backpack is awesome - it has plenty of room for our stuff as well as lots of room for things like diapers, wipes and whatever else little Isla will need.  It also has a small cooler section to keep a bottle as well as a travel changing pad.  It is on the large side for everyday land use - but for when we're going from sea to shore, this will most definitely come in handy.  Rugged and functional! [Editor's note: we ended up not bringing a diaper bag ashore with us, instead we used our Sailor Bags Back Pack and stored both our items as well as baby items in it.  We travel as light as possible.]
  • Inglesina Fast Table Chair - since a high chair is definitely out of the question on our boat - we opted for this collapsible travel chair.  It is awesome.  It can fit on just about any table and folds flat.  We use it ALL. THE. TIME. here on land. [Editor's note: We did find this useful when we went ashore for dinner as hardly any island restaurants are equipped with high chairs, but on the boat we preferred to use her Bumbo seat with the tray (see below)]
  • Phil & Teds Traveller Crib- we went back and forth about getting one of these and when we found one on sale for a steal we decided to get it.  So happy we did.  At only 7 pounds this is light and easily stow-able and a great place for Isla to sleep when we are not on the boat.  When we are on the boat, it's a great place to put her where know she can't get into any trouble.  It has a UV shade that zips in the top and the feet have holes where you can secure them with line (to the boat) or with pegs (to the ground).  Isla loves it in here, and we love knowing she is protected and safe. [Editor's note:  This, in our opinion, is a must have item.  Unfortunately the new generation models don't have the side zip like our old one, but Isla at almost 2 STILL sleeps in this travel bed.  Best baby purchase ever for us.]  
  • Umbrella Stroller - It is HOT down south so "baby wearing" isn't always the best way to go.  We love being able to take Isla on a walk in her Maclaren Globetrotter stroller.  It has a big shade, is durable and still small enough to keep on the boat, but rugged enough to endure lots of miles. [Editor's note:  while we preferred to "wear" Isla in the baby carrier mentioned above, we still used this stroller quite a bit and while we wouldn't consider it "essential" it is nice to have.]
  • PaciGrip Pacifier Holders An item goes in their hand, goes in their mouth, then goes on the floor.  This pattern can repeat an exorbitant number of times.  As such, it's important to keep things attached to baby.  I have found that these paci grips are great for more than just pacifiers: toys, sunglasses, hats...while things falling on the ground isn't that big of a deal, things falling in the water is.  These will help to keep her affects on board. [Editor's note:  Love these. Period.]
  • Infant Life Jacket - despite the fact that it is very likely our little Isla will learn to swim before she walks, wearing a life jacket will be a must for her when we're on the boat and going from sea to shore in the dinghy. [Editor's note:  Isla wore her lifejacket in the dinghy and on docks, but on the boat was almost exclusively in her West Marine infant tether and harness.]
  • Floating Activity Center with Canopy - it's cheap, stores flat, blows up, provides shade and lots of entertainment for when we're playing in the water.  Isla will feel at home both in a pool or in the ocean when she can sit in one of these! [Editor's note:  This was great fun for a while, until it popped.  We found the Stearns Kid's Puddle Jumper much more useful once she was a year and over. Be sure to check sizing as some are larger than others.]
  • Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym - Isla LOVES this activity mat and when we place her in it, coos and giggles begin.  She works on hand eye coordination, tummy time, and scooting around on her but in here.  This one is cheap, folds flat and will provide lots of fun play time for little Isla on rainy days or when we find ourselves inside the boat for long periods of time. [Editor's note:  This was great when Isla was under 6 months, but by 6 months she was crawling, and by 10 she was walking so this had a short shelf life.]
  • Bumbo Baby Seat - Yes, we know these were recalled but we still love ours.  When we are not underway, this seat will be great for Isla to sit up in and interact with mommy and daddy.  Babies don't want to lay on their tummies or backs ALL the time and this chair will be great for those times when she wants to sit up and look at the world around her without being all strapped in. [Editor's note:  This was another baby essential on board for us.  It was her high chair on the boat (with the tray addition), it was her seat in the cockpit, and it was - in general - one of the most used pieces of baby gear we purchased.]
Yes, despite wanting to simplify things - we still have a pretty adequate list of baby gear that doesn't include all her clothes, sun hats, sunscreen and stuff like that.  While this might seem like a lot to those of you without kids - trust me, this is NOTHING compared to what most new parents in the Western world have for their babies!

I know that some of you out there are mom's with babies on board so if you have other suggestions or tips to make boating and babies fit together, we'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Caribbean Boat Yard

Rasmus getting a power wash before she's chalked for the season.
It's hard to believe we are almost half-way through our time as landlubbers.  In almost exactly four months, we'll be returning to the Caribbean to resume our life as live-aboards with our baby girl (and possibly, a new boat!).  It's exciting to think about - but for boaters who are already cruising down south there is another time of year is fast approaching: hurricane season (June to November).  

For some, this is a time to stay put on their boats in some hurricane hole like Luperon (Dominican Republic), Salinas (Puerto Rico), St. Georges (Grenada) or Chaguaramas (Trinidad) (to name a few)...Certain brave souls continue sailing while keeping a watchful eye on weather while others choose to put their boats up "on the hard" and head home for a few months to catch up with family and friends and refill the cruising kitty.   Some of you might recall when Scott and I were deciding where to store Rasmus before we headed back to Chicago to have our baby, Isla.  Our choices were to either keep the boat in Grenada or sail her down to Trinidad - we opted for Peake Yacht Services in Trinidad for a number of reasons.  These ten factors weighed heavily on our decision.  With no further ado, here are our... 

Top Ten Considerations When Choosing a Boat Yard in the Caribbean:
  1. Location - Where you end up will most likely have a big impact on where you keep your boat.  If you are in St. Thomas, for example - you might not want to sail all the way down to Grenada to store your boat.  However, great attention must be paid as to the location you keep your boat.  Keep in mind where the hurricane belt is and know the risks of storing your boat in a yard that might get caught in a storm.  
  2. Safety - Some islands are considered more "safe" than others.  This should be factored into your decision because where there are thugs, there is theft.  Trinidad is considered a pretty volatile place comparatively, and it was definitely something we considered when we were going through our decision-making process.  However, the many pros we discovered outweighed this con (for us).  
  3. Security - Just as I mentioned that safety should be a concern, so should security.  Even on the "safest" islands there are accounts of theft.  Make sure the boat yard you choose has adequate security.  The boat yard we were considering in Grenada had not only had some very serious break-ins in the last year (one boat lost over 30K worth of equipment) but the "security cameras" they had didn't seem to be working when the thefts occurred.  This was a huge factor is why we decided to move our boat to Trinidad.
  4. Scuttlebutt - The cruising community is many things, and being tight-lipped about sharing information is NOT one of them!  Ask other boaters about their experiences, listen to what they have to say and make an informed decision.  Word of mouth is the very best form of advertising and when a third boat told us not to store our boat long-term at the yard we were considering in Grenada, we listened.
  5. Access to facilities - No matter what you think, when you put your boat in a yard it means one thing: boat work!  Whether it be something simple like painting the bottom or a more complicated project like installing refrigeration - you're going to want access to a yacht chandlery.  If the nearest boat/hardware store is ten miles away, your project is going to take a LOT longer to complete.  In addition,  you might need to stay off the boat a night or two while you are working on it - make sure there is a cheap hotel nearby.  The yard we chose in Trinidad not only has a yacht chandlery on site, but also has a nice little hotel at the harbor as well.  In addition, there are loads of other boating specific businesses within a two mile radius of the yard there in Chaguaramas.
  6. Quality of work - Many boat yards will have a staff that will work on your boat if you hire them, others will provide you with a list of preferred vendors.  Do your homework to make sure these folks do quality work.  Asking other boaters for their experiences and/or referrals is a great way to do this.
  7. Storm contingency plan - Most islands in the Caribbean fall in the hurricane belt, and even Grenada (typically considered "outside the box") has been hit by nasty storms in the past.  Many, many boaters keep their boats in places like St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic - but it should be known that all of those places are likely to be hit by at least one storm during a season.  You want to store your boat in the safest way possible - some of these yards will dig a hole to drop the keel of the boat into and provide you with very secure tie-downs.  Talk to the yard about their storm contingency plan and if you have it, make sure your insurance will cover you if you are in the "hurricane box", as many will not.
  8. DIY friendly - Scott and I try to do as many projects as we can on our boat.  Experience has taught us that this is not only a great way to learn about your boat, but a great way to save money as well.  Some boat yards do not allow boaters to do work themselves so if you are planning on rolling up your shirt sleeves, make sure you find out the yard's policy on this.
  9. Professionalism - A HUGE reason we chose Peake Yacht Services in Trinidad was by and large the incredible professionalism they displayed when dealing with us.  They responded to our emails quickly (usually the same day, often within the hour!!... which is not common in the Caribbean!) and their staff were all articulate, friendly and knowledgeable.  When you are leaving your boat somewhere for months at a time - you want to make sure someone on the other end will answer your call or email quickly. 
  10. Cost - Of course, cost will play into your decision.  While Scott and I try to save money where we can, we also believe that "you get what you pay for" so we chose a yard that was slightly more expensive but in turn offered us more peace of mind.  More expensive, however, doesn't always mean "better" and some islands are cheaper than others.  Do your homework and do a little cost analysis!
Leaving your boat thousands of miles away is daunting, to say the least.  Make sure you leave her in good hands!  Speaking of, we just got an email today from the company that is watching our boat with new pictures and confirmation that she has been washed down and all is well on board (no bugs, no mildew, bilges clear...etc).  Sigh.

Brittany, Scott & Isla

Friday, May 04, 2012

"We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.."

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
I love that famous line from Jaws.  It's a line we've become very familiar with over the past few weeks...

As many of you know - we are currently in the market for a new boat.  Many of you wonder what our Rasmus is "lacking".  After all, we did so much work to her; why on earth would we want to sell our beloved beauty?  While there is no such thing as a "perfect boat" (or home, mate, job, life...etc) Rasmus was as close to perfect for us as we could get.  Our situation, however, has changed and the one true thing we are going to need in the very near future is space.  We love our Rassy and while the thought of seeing our very literal labor of love go to someone else, we know we'd like more room to be more comfortable.  For Scott and me, Rasmus was about as "perfect" as she could get - we never wanted for "more" - but now that we have our little Isla (and she is certain to have a little brother or sister in the next couple of years), we want a boat that will be able to accomodate that kind of familial expansion and be our "home" for the next 5+ years (at least).

A few months ago, Scott put an ad in All at Sea Magazine (free of charge) stating that we were looking for a Hallberg-Rassy 42 or similar.  We were contacted by the owners of the Amel Maramu 46 and, despite not having considered that make and model previously, after some initial research we decided to take a closer look.  In a word - the boat, make and model is fantastic and would definitely afford Scott, Isla and me the space that we crave with a few added perks (like refrigeration and total roller-furling sail set up, including the main).  There is, however, no such thing as a "turn key" boat and this particular vessel - while in great shape - would still need some tweaking and upgrading to rise up to the standards that we have grown accustomed to.  New sails are in order, the SSB would need to be configured to send and receive, we would want to install a chart-plotter and there were some cosmetic issues that would need to be addressed.  All of these things require time and money.  Not to mention, we would be the owners of two boats - one that might potentially take a while to sell.  All of these things had to be considered when it came to offering a price.

They say the very first rule in boat buying is not to fall in love.  When it comes to purchasing a boat, love is not blind - but blinds.  Love can force a buyer to make a rushed, rash decision that they might later regret, it can cause a buyer to overlook issues that a more discerning eye might catch and it can close the door on lots of other great options.  Just as one person's trash can be another's treasure - when it comes to boat buying, a boat's worth is totally subjective.  I will not get into the specifics of cost and what not because, to be honest, it is nobody's business but our own.  We put in what we believed to be a very fair offer on the Amel (about 90% of the asking price) - knowing that it could be a great boat for our family.  However, what we believe the boat is worth (given the economy, the money we'd need to invest in her and our situation) is not synonymous with what the seller believes she is worth (based on their investment and their situation).  We completely respect the sellers (who have been more than accommodating during this process) decision to turn down our offer - their reasons for doing so are just as legitimate as our reasons for not accepting their counter offer.  Like I said, this boat could be great for our family.  It is not "the" perfect boat for us.  While there is no "perfect" boat, there is a "perfect" boat at the right price in the right situation.  This particular situation, and therefore boat, is not ours - and that is okay.  So we're folding our hand and choosing to walk away.

We've got a pretty great boat waiting for us in Trinidad...but we'll keep a keen eye out for our next "home".  After all, there are more ships in the sea!!

Brittany & Scott
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