Mark and I arrived early at Lake City Marina on Lake Pepin in Minnesota, around 11:30 or so. The boat is scheduled to arrive around 12 noon. We have been exchanging several phone calls with the truck driver with updates on his estimated time of arrival. This day had been scheduled and well orchestrated in advance with the coordination of transport company, marina, rigger and our work schedules, all converging to come together at the same time.

This has been a great journey, so far, through the buying process and in many ways our journey is just beginning. We are so excited to see our boat in MN and with her here…it will finally seem real for us. Up until now, we keep having to pinch ourselves to see if we are just dreaming.

And, here comes the truck…..

Wow, she looks great! We had the yard in Florida put on new bottom paint, wash, wax and compound the hull and re-paint the blue strip at the water line before she was shipped. Boy, did they do a great job.

We had several of the guys from Lake City Marina helping us unload her from the truck and get her positioned in the lift to splash her in the water. They clearly lift, haul and splash boats into the water all the time and are quite good at what they do, however this process still seems anxiety provoking for a boat owner to watch.

Took about 6 guys to lift the mast off the truck (about 300 – 400 lbs? and 54′), they positioned the mast in an out of the way area in the parking lot for us to work on reattaching everything to the mast that was removed for transport.

Lots of work to be done over the next few days for sure, however we couldn’t be more excited to dive in and make her ours.

We bought a boat!

We bought a boat! (To the tune of I’m on a boat)

Yes, today is the day! It’s boat closing day! All we have to do is sign a bunch of papers and then, of course, there’s that pesky issue of wiring some money.

Now….where are my swim trunks and my flippy floppies?

We bought a boat!

Survey and Sea Trial

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, a marine surveyor is someone you hire to inspect a boat that you are looking to purchase. Something like a home inspector, who will come and look at everything, assess it’s condition, function and value and then provide you a written report of their findings.

This step for us is an important one since 1) we are looking to invest a fair amount of money into this boat and 2) we don’t have a clue what some of those things under the floor boards are

So, we were up bright and early today to meet our surveyor and the broker at the boat to conduct our survey.

We spent an exhausting 10 hours today going through every nook and cranny of the boat. Our initial excitement gave way to fatigue and a sense of overwhelm as we think about all the boat systems and what we will have to maintain.

On a positive note, this boat has a ton of storage. On a not so positive note, all the storage areas are full and we had to take everything out of every area in order for the surveyor to do his job.

On a positive note, boy does this boat come with lots of great stuff. On a not so positive note, we have no idea what half of it is.

On a positive note, we had an exhilarating sail during the sea trial, complete with dolphin swimming off the bow of the boat (good sign, right?). On a not so positive note, we grounded the boat during the sea trial on the intercoastal waterway.

On a positive note, the broker said it was the most exciting sea trial he has been on in quite sometime. On a MORE positive note, I think we really like this boat!

Personal Inspection

Well, today is the day…we get to see the boat that we have placed an offer on for the first time. Have you ever seen the movie Captain Ron? I have visions of showing up at the dock to look at the boat for the first time to see what the Harvey’s saw in the movie Captain Ron…I believe the quote was “What would she be worth if she was…in less than perfect condition?”

The picture I included in this post is the boat from the movie Captain Ron…not the boat we are looking to purchase, just in case anyone was confused.

Well, good news, things are never as bad as you imagine them to be. No, in truth the boat met our expectations. We looked in every nook and cranny of the boat with a flashlight, looking for evidence of water leaks and gaining a sense of the general condition. Yes, the boat is a little dirty from sitting on the hard, but I think we can see past that. To our untrained eyes, it would appear that we have passed the personal inspection phase and will now move on to someone with a more trained eye to give us the run down and opinions about the condition of the boat and all the systems.

We are off to Florida

Here’s where we are headed. Fort Pierce, Florida. The boat is lying in the Harbortown Marina just waiting for us to come take a look.

We have scratched a few more items off our list. Purchased plane tickets to Florida. Arranged a date and time for the survey and sea trial of the boat to occur. I mentioned previously all the steps we took to select our boat surveyor, however there were a few other points of coordination involved. We needed to align all the stars to ensure the boat was available to be surveyed – currently the boat is on the hard (meaning on land, not in the water) – it is incumbent upon us as buyers to have the boat either hauled out of the water or in this case, into the water, so the boat surveyor can perform his full survey.

We also had to coordinate dates and times with not only the surveyor, but also the broker, who is typically present during this time. Coordinate ourselves and our work and kid schedules. Coordinate flight times, hotel, etc. Typically the current owner or seller is also in attendance at the time of the survey and sea trial as well, however in this case, they were not able to make it.

So, the stars have all aligned and we are soon to be on the plane heading to Florida to see the boat for the first time! Much excitement!

Well, with the offer step out of the way, we have some work to do…

One of the next steps is to find a qualified yacht surveyor. A surveyor is something fairly equivalent to a home inspector. You hire them to come and inspect or survey the boat with the hopes of finding out the true condition of the boat and any material defects that would influence the purchasing decision or the final selling price. Notice I said, “with the hopes of finding out the true condition…” This would be dependent on the qualifications and quality of the person you hire to perform the survey. But no pressure….. Big decision that we are spending significant dollars on, so we hope we have found someone well qualified.

Not a fan of leaving such big decisions to fate, we start the process of systematically finding, what we hope, is a qualified surveyor.

1) First we asked our broker who he might recommend for a surveyor. Of course, this is not going to be our only step. Asking and accepting the recommendation of the broker, who is motivated to close the sale of the boat to make his commission, regardless of the true condition of the boat, is a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket. So, we hear his opinion, will validate his opinion and move on
2) We called the local boatyard where the boat is currently slipped and asked boat mechanics there who they would recommend for a local surveyor. Those who work in a local boatyard typically see and work on boats issues that have been identified by surveyors and have opportunity to perhaps understand who is doing good survey work and perhaps who isn’t
3) We checked out the certification agencies who certify boat surveyors
4) We checked online boat forums for opinions from those who have had boats surveyed and who they used and who they recommend

We now have a list of 3- 5 surveyors that are under consideration. From this list we did the following:
1) Call each and ask for a sample survey
2) Find out their availability to perform a survey on the dates we require
3) Talk with them about their approach to survey and what we as buyers can expect. Specifically telling each that we intend to look over their shoulder as they perform the survey, not to get in the way, but for us to better understand the results of the survey and what they found. Those who are not comfortable with our involvement in the survey are automatically removed from the list.

Through this process, we were lucky to find one surveyor in particular that was mentioned by all that we talked to, as the best in the state of Florida. The boatyard told us they would not recommend anyone else.

Well one item taken care of on the list – surveyor….check

We made an offer!

Well, the title says it all, yes we did make an offer on the latest Island Packet 380 located in Florida. Things are moving fast. We were with some close friends for dinner tonight and borrowed their scanner to scan all the documents that needed to be signed and sent back to the broker. We have had a lot to think about over the last few days. What constitutes a good offer? We have understood for quite sometime what we are willing to pay, however we really like this boat, so what are we willing to do to make it ours? Will we need to make any compromises?

We have begun to think about things like needing a boat surveyor, insurance, where to dock the boat, we need a slip, we need transportation to ship the boat from Florida to Minnesota. We will need to travel to Florida to see, inspect, survey and sail the boat prior to purchase. When will we be able to get down to Florida to do this? We need to purchase airline tickets. When will we close on the boat? What kind of time frame will work? Oh and then there’s the pesky issue of money. I guess we have to think about the deposit and ultimately the funds to purchase the boat.

Lots to think about, so I do what comes naturally to me…made an excel spreadsheet (those who know me will laugh about that one)

So, off to the broker went the papers once again with our signatures at the bottom. This time I really didn’t let myself get excited and reserved my excitement for the verdict regarding the offer.

Drum roll please…………….

Inside of 24 hours the broker called us to let us know that we have an agreeable contract with the sellers. Now this is getting exciting!!!! We have agreed upon price, contingent upon personal inspection, survey and sea trial. Now we have to get those items accomplished before we determine if this boat is ours or not.

Well, it’s been sometime since our initial 2 boat offers. I think after that experience, we decided that perhaps fate was telling us we should slow down a little bit and not get too far ahead of ourselves. So, over the summer of 2011 we enjoyed our current boat – Hunter 260 that we have had on Lake Minnetonka for the last 11 seasons.

We keep talking about boats and we keep looking at yachtworld everyday, still focused on Island Packet 380’s.

We have been looking at one particular Island Packet 380 that has been on the market for about 2 years now. We have gradually watched as the list price has dropped to something close to the price we are willing to pay. We have casually discussed this boat and reviewed the photos and information multiple times.

Mark, came home from work today and said “ummm, honey, I talked to the broker…” Remember that Island Packet 380 we have been looking at? Well, I called him up to see what the deal was with this boat since the list price had just dropped again.

Well, as you can imagine, the rest of the evening was spent in discussion about this boat, what did we think, did we want to make an offer, is it the right time to make an offer. Wait, didn’t we just send in money for our boat slip for the 2012 summer season? Can we ask for our money back? (Remember that part about getting ahead of ourselves)

Well, we spent the better part of the next 2 – 3 days talking more about this boat and the what ifs. Placed a few more calls to the broker to ask some questions and ultimately decided…..

(more to come, you didn’t think I was going to give it all away in one blog post, did you?)

Offer #2

Lately, we have been narrowing our yachtworld searches more and more specifically to include Island Packet 380’s. I think we have, with some degree of accuracy, determined that this boat would be a great boat for us and meet our needs and wants.

We are starting to get a better sense of the various features and options that are included on Island Packet 380’s and have regularly done some comparison shopping of one IP 380 to other IP 380’s, going so far as to create a spreadsheet that compares features and options of all the IP 380’s currently on the market against our previously stated purchase criteria and our want list. This has served us well to better guage the list price against what the boat has to offer and ultimately what we are willing to pay.

Today, we contacted a private owner who is looking to sell his Island Packet 380. Who knew that offer #2 would come only 4 days on the heels of learning that we were not successful on offer #1. I guess once we started this ball rolling, it has gathered some speed.

This particular Island Packet 380 is a fresh water boat, which is a very attractive feature. It means, less wear and tear on the boat and it’s components overall from the corrosive effect of seawater and salt air. This boat doesn’t have any much optional equipment aboard as the previous boat did however and at a slightly higher price point. There is merit however to not having alot of extras aboard. This means that there may be less changes or alterations to things that might not be the way we would prefer they be and we have the time to add our own customizations and equipment as time allows.

Buying a boat is in some ways no different than buying a house. You aren’t going to find the one that has everything you want. Any purchase will be weighing the features and the necessary compromises.

So, we send an email and have a phone conversation to discuss the boat and price with the owner. Ultimately, this round is a fairly abbreviated experience since the owner is firm on his price and it doesn’t match what we are willing to pay.

Offer #1

Well, making the decision to actually place an offer and generate an official document with our signatures on it, with our proposed price, is an exciting and scary step. If you have been following along, clearly we have been in the “shopping” mode for a few years, however making an actual bona fide offer…well that changes things a bit.

We contacted the broker that we have been causually chatting with, who happened to have the listing for this particular Island Packet 380 that we are about to embark on down the path of purchase.

Being new to this boat purchasing process, we kind of entered into this thinking that we would ultimately own this particular boat, never thinking that things do occur along the way that get in the way of that happening. So, you let the excitement build, only to learn that perhaps it’s better to contain the excitement until the papers are signed making her ours. It’s really hard not to be excited, don’t you think?

Well, a few specifics about this particular offer. As I mentioned, we made an offer on an Island Packet 380. This particular boat has just come on the market, has been out cruising, been well-maintained and has the word “New” on many items on the listing. And, I might add, at a list price that is actually reasonably close to what we are willing to pay.

Because we live in Minnesota and have a limited opportunity to go view a particular boat prior to making an offer, we understand that what is going to work, for us at least, is to place an offer on a boat sight unseen. We feel comfortable doing this because once you have seen an Island Packet 380, all others are similar and only vary in condition and features. Now condition can play a huge factor, however we will take our chances and deal with this in the process of personal inspection, survey and sea trial.

So, we put in the offer with the broker….now, we wait to find out what happens next.

Then, the phone call comes, this boat has generated alot of interest. There are 3 similtaneous offers on this boat in the short time it has been on the market and we are not the highest bidder.

We have a couple of things playing in our favor 1) we are not in a hurry to purchase 2) we know what we want to pay and aren’t willing to go much over that due to # 1 and 3) there are many other Island Packet 380’s out there.

So, for this round, we learn more about the process and learn more about our tolerances and what we want, in what time frame and take that knowledge with us to the next time.