Buying at different ends of the scale.

Here at Wooden Ships we like to have a wide range of boats on our books, boats from all parts of the scale in price, size, condition and age.  It is this variation that makes our business not only attractive for buyers but also for us here in the office.


There are two such boats we have for sale that represent very different ends of the scale entirely, but both are attractive propositions in their own right, and although neither are suited to everyone, both will find passionate and excited new owners.


The first is ‘Ezra’ an Isles of Scilly pilot cutter built by Luke Powell, launched in 2006 and featured in his book which was released last year.  Her lines are similar to those of all Luke’s boats with inspiration taken from the Scillonian pilot cutters.  When drawing her lines Luke and the first owner had in mind the adventures of Bill Tillman, with a plan to take her to the far north and beyond, she had to be a strong and seaworthy vessel, capable of taking on any weather.  These characteristics are inherent in the nature of any pilot cutter as these boats would spend days at sea in often horrendous weather conditions with a small crew, so evolution of design has left us a superb seagoing legacy, a boat that will take on any weather, can be easily handled and most of all are very pleasing on the eye.  The question, as always, is can the crew take it, not can the boat take it?


Ezra has spent the years since her launch chartering on the west coast of Scotland, carrying guests on sailing holidays, often with a focus on mountaineering in the rugged and remote Western Isles.  Unfortunately in life things don’t always pan out the way they were planned, and now Ezra is being offered for sale, complete with the charter business, its web site and contacts.  She has an up to date MCA Code of Practice certificate, licensed to carry 6 passengers plus crew with capacity for 10 day passengers.


The ‘pilot cutter revival’ as it has become known, has blossomed in recent years, due partly to the construction of what is a relatively large number of new boats, and of course with the rebuilding of the remaining older cutters.  We now have a large fleet of 35 pilot cutters or pilot cutter derived yachts, many of whom will be gathering in Fowey and Falmouth from the 30th May to 2nd June 2013 for the “World Championships” to indulge in a bit of racing and a lot of celebrating, with takings behind the bar in St Mawes increasing tenfold!


We often hear remarks that Ezra is an expensive boat for her size, but this is out of ignorance of the situation.  She is basically a new boat, has had all the teething problems ironed out and is a lot cheaper than the cost of a new build boat today, plus she has a good earning potential that would offset the purchase cost greatly.  Many of the new build cutters have been put to work in the charter industry, most of them very successfully, and Ezra of course was no exception.  To many the idea of chucking in the day job, throwing off the suit and buying a pilot cutter to charter is the ultimate dream, sailing around the beautiful islands of Scotland or exploring Brittany, but this is not a decision that should be made lightly as it definitely does not suit everyone.  You need to be a particular type of individual to run a successful charter boat, not only being able to sail a gaff cutter extremely competently, but you need the relevant qualifications and bits of paper.  You need to be a half decent chef, an entertainer, a teacher and a host.  You are the person who will make or break the guests holiday, and most importantly if you succeed they will come back again and again.  We have often turned buyers away from the idea of purchasing a boat for charter as it is obvious from the outset that they are completely the wrong individual and will never succeed, but for the person with the right attributes this can be the dream life.


Ezra is a boat that has all the potential to offer that way of life in terms of the traditional charter route.  However, we think she has the potential to provide a platform for what is a relatively untapped resource, day sailing charters.  There are many barriers to this game, it is very seasonal, weather dependant and has no guaranteed income, but in the right location and run the right way we feel could be rather lucrative.  This is something we have suggested to potential buyers who have wanted the boat as a private yacht with the ability to offset their running costs with a little summer charter work.  This would not work everywhere, but in a busy tourist port with an available quayside, a boat like Ezra will attract a phenomenal amount of attention, and for most holiday makers the chance to have a three hour trip around the bay on a traditional boat is a once in a lifetime experience.  This is not going to make the owner a wealthy individual, but it will pay some costs which as we all know is what boat owners are most concerned about these days.


As you can see, when you break it down, at £265,000 she is not actually an expensive boat, and although not in everyone’s price range, she is more accessible than one might initially think and has advantages that may not be clear at the first glance.  Ezra will be sailing to the south coast this summer from her usual berth in Skye, taking part in several classic regattas and cruising around Devon and Cornwall so if you see her out and about give Sam a shout and go and say hello.


The very opposite end of the scale is a boat we are about to put on the market, designed and built by Percy Mitchell in 1932, she is a bermudan yawl with rather noticeable Westcountry lines.  She has been in the same ownership for many years, and is now very sadly an executor sale, so is in the guardianship of a very distressed widow who was not expecting to be in this situation at all.  She is 27’ on deck planked in pitch pine and will be going on the market at £7,500.


This is a lovely little boat in a very distressed situation, so it is nice for us to be able to help by offloading one burden for the family.  This type of sale is not our bread and butter, but as I said before, it makes Wooden Ships interesting for buyers and for ourselves.  A boat like this is going to get a family out sailing for not a lot of money, and although a new owner will undoubtedly want to do some work to the boat, there are only a couple of areas that require immediate attention, otherwise she is just as she has been for years, sailing around the channel every season with no problems and providing a lot of fun for her owners.


Although not to everyone’s taste, somebody will love her again and she will have a new owner just as ecstatic and content as the new owner of Ezra will certainly be.  As they say, whatever floats your boat!