Category: Blog

Recycling end of life yachts

Recyling end of life yachts. Wood vs GRP

Nobody can say we at Wooden Ships are biased in favour of wood over grp for the construction of pleasure vessels. Every material has it’s ideal application, it’s advantages and disadvantages and wood and grp are no different.  Contrary to expectations, often belief and to some extent promotional material, grp is not a no-maintenance material for the construction of yachts. The material does not last forever in its original form and it is this structural deterioration that becomes it’s major disadvantage in the construction of boats. Add to this advances in design, changes in fashion and loss of value and there becomes a major issue of what to do with grp boats as they approach end of life.

On the other hand, wood is a natural material and left to itself will gradually return to nature – which of course is it’s major disadvantage as the owners of so many wooden boats know to their cost. However the difference between wood and grp in this respect is that even major structural repairs in wood are very possible and with care we can prevent or at least delay the deterioration in wood – my own Vertue is over 80 years old and as sea-worthy for it’s designed purpose as first built with few significant repairs over the years. Major repair or prevention of deterioration in grp is difficult, certainly for the average amateur owner. In addition, repair to grp inevitably requires grinding and sanding reducing the material to dust which has its own envornmental and health implications. And given that most yards are shore side the risk of this debris finding its way into the sea is inevitable leading to the plastics pollution and its effect on marine life so frighteningly identified by Richard Attenburgh and others.

In broad terms boats – wood or grp – have the same basic constituents. Machinery and systems are largely the same; rig and deck equipment largely the same (the main difference of course being wooden or aluminium spars); interior outfit is not much different although the grp yacht will invariably contain more synthetic materials.  This leaves the hull and deck – naturally recyclable wood or non-recyclable grp. So having reduced the grp yacht to its basic constituents what can be done with the hull which will be in any remotely way eco? And with no end of life recycling cost built into the modern grp yacht whatever is done to dispose of them risks being expensive for the owner.

Currently, the only legal constraint is what you can’t do, not what you can or must do. At the moment there appears to be 3 solutions. Firstly, take them to landfill. I for one have never seen a yacht in my local recycling centre and I am sure if I turned up with a boat in tow I would not be welcome. I don’t know anyone who has actually turned up at a land fill site towing a yacht behind the family car but I suspect you would be equally unwelcome.

Secondly, one hears of occasional accidents where a yacht has sunk and the sceptical will wonder about some of them. Sinking in deep water must be a tempting solution but fortunately the logistics of doing this are difficult enough to put this solution beyond the average owner’s ability.

And thirdly, we have all seen boats simply abandoned in boatyards and boat parks or even on moorings, a tempting and cost-effective solution. In the absence of obligatory registration owners can seldom be traced and even if a boatyard does know the owner, enforcing removal can be a costly business.

The good news is that help is on its way so it is perhaps appropriate that the French, as the major producers of grp yachts, should be the leaders in the field with an organisation called APER – L’Association pour la Plaisance Eco-Responsable – The Association for Eco-Responsible Marine Leisure.  And most telling, this association was founded in 2019 by the yacht builders themselves – The Federation of Nautical Builders. There is surely a lesson here for us?

Of course being French there is a fair amount of bureaucracy involved but broadly, the system works like this:

The owner sets up a secure personal account and completes a form requesting destruction and recycling:

The owner selects a recycling/disposal centre.

The file is passed to the Maritime and Customs Office ( an office which has no direct equivalent in UK – a combination of Customs and Excise and The Registrar of British Ships) and APER validates the request.

The owner delivers the boat to the centre.

The centre dismantles the boat, disposes of the results, APER takes care of de-registration and issues a certificate confirming disposal.

There are of course costs involved. The yacht is delivered to the recycling centre at the owner’s cost. The operation of APER and the recycling is paid for partly by the Maritime Customs Office ( see above) and partly by the industry. There is no restriction on the industry passing on this cost to the first purchaser – which of course is almost inevitable so at the end of the day it is the yacht owner who bears the cost. Perhaps a justifiable cost of the hobby.

It is almost impossible to estimate with any certainty the number of grp boats of all types and sizes in UK waters but as an indication of quantities, in 2017 the hurricanes Irma and Harvey destroyed or seriously damaged around 63,000 boats throughout the Caribbean islands and it is in these French territories with limited landfill space that APER has first been introduced.

While this is all very commendable the question still remains of what to do with the recycled material. Fittings and equipment may well have a resale value and metals are readily recycled with current methods. However the French are a little vague about their recommendations and conclusions for recycling of the plastics although there are references to the cement industry and use of the debris for the manufacture of other products.

So what are the implications for the UK yachting business?  Many will know that for over 20 years I have predicted this issue of end of life disposal of grp yachts so this French project is very welcome and demonstrates that there is at least awareness of the problem. It is now surely up to yacht owners to make the powers that be in UK – both government and industry- that we the consumers are aware and want something done. And at the end of the day, the consumer is a very powerful person.


Covid-19 update

Covid-19 update.

In these unprecedented and difficult times, many businesses have been forced to close their doors, hove to and ride out the storm.  Here at Wooden Ships we are lucky, I have office space at home with everything I need to keep the business running, all the files, historical reference books, our archive and importantly good communications.

Therefore, even though we cannot conduct viewings and visit new boats we are trying to keep the business moving forward knowing that this will not last forever and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The office manned each day and we are fielding calls and emails.  Certainly the work load is a fraction of what we would expect at this time of year, but in the circumstances we are rather pleased.  It also gives us the chance to catch up with the more mundane jobs, such as updating the data base, that sometimes get forgotten when things are busy.

I also have my own boat at home, on her trailer, where I can work on her daily during the lockdown period.  I am hoping this will give me enough time to complete the refit so she is ready to sail this summer, if we are allowed out!  Photo above of my Folkboat, Wilma, currently in primer waiting for topcoat and varnish.

For many this has been a time for reflection, to look at the way we live our lives as a society, the impact we have on each other and the planet, to get some perspective and perhaps adjust our daily activities and future aspirations.  The planet seems to be healing rapidly so perhaps some of us will decide to take pleasure in the beauties of our own country rather than flying abroad every holiday, and if that means more people buying a beautiful classic yacht to enjoy summer breaks with their family then that will be just great for business!

2018 in review

Wooden Ships 2018 review

Without getting political, this has certainly been a turbulent year with many questions left hanging in the air, not only about the immediate future of the yachting markets but also the country as a whole.  Our general feeling however is that the political climate has not affected us as much as we feared it might and indeed it has been a successful year from a business point of view.  We have compiled a short video with many of the boats we have sold this year which can be viewed in the following link:

It seems the traditional seasons for buying and selling have blurred somewhat, and in 2018 the usual cold dark months of January and February when most people should be thinking about warm fires and pub dinners proved to be exceptionally busy and caught us rather by surprise.

Our explanation for this sudden explosion in business is down to the superb, if short lived, summer of 2017.  Many people without boats realised they had missed a great season afloat so set out to ensure they had a boat for the 2018 season, and once Christmas was out the way it left them only a matter of months before the sun pushed through the clouds and they wanted to be on the water.  Buying in the middle of winter is often a good time as it allows enough time to fit the new boat out before spring but it can sometimes require some imagination to see through the heavy winter covers, condensation and frosted windows.  After the incredible summer of 2018, we are hoping the new year will bring a similar rush to the start of 2019 and this time we are far better prepared, no leaving the office for ski holidays until March at least!

Business started to tail off through April and May and on into the early part of the summer but this appears to have been a trend across the board, however once the sun really came out we found ourselves handling sale after sale of small motor launches, sailing dinghies and rowing boats.  These small boats are an affordable and simple way of getting the family afloat, and our Small Craft section of the web site has proved very successful as one of the only places offering a specialist advertising board for traditional small boats.  It may not be big commission for us, but it all adds up and even the 8′ punts need a new home occasionally so we are happy to oblige and match dinghies with their new custodians.

On a personal level it has been a successful boating year as we sold our Camper and Nicholson yacht, Zircon,  after 6 happy years of sailing out of Dartmouth with her.  We were delighted to hand her over to the deserving new owner and are looking forward to welcoming both boat and owner back to Dartmouth in 2019 for the biannual Classic Channel Regatta.  The replacement for Zircon was a Nordic Folkboat built in Sweden in 1954 called Wilma.  She is a little beauty and is currently undergoing a refit in preparation for next season, another little project which keeps us busy in the evenings and weekends.  The Folkboats are a joy to sail and will enable us to take part in many of the classic regattas as well as enjoying those sunny weekends on the Devon coast.  As well as Wilma, Peter has his beloved Vertue Caupona which he sailed to the Scilly Isles this summer and took part in the wonderful Sea Salts and Sails Festival at Mousehole, a superb event which feels very much like the early festivals in Douarnenez.

Our sales pontoon in Dartmouth has been a big success yet again this season with a good turnover of yachts from various parts of the country.  It provides a fantastic spot from which to show off yachts for sale and get potential buyers aboard boats which they would not otherwise travel to see so we are excited to see what boats we will bring to Dartmouth next year.

The big change on the horizon for us will be an updated web site coming in the next couple of months.  Our current site was first launched in 2013 and with a few alterations has served us well and receives much praise, however even the wooden boat world must move with the times so we are having the site overhauled with a fresh look and hopefully some clever changes to make the photos easier to view and in a larger format.

We are looking forward to an exciting 2019 season and hope for some more superb summer weather so we can enjoy many of the classic regattas and are hoping to see many of our happy new owners out on the water.



Second only to Dorade

Second only to Dorade

In any race it is the winner that gets all the plaudits while the runner up is consigned to history.
So it was on the 1931 Transatlantic Race when 8 yachts started from Newport en route to the finish line at Plymouth. The race was won by the 48’ Sparkman and Stephens yawl Dorade but the runner up was the 50’ Philip Rhodes design, Skal, which in so many ways is a more interesting yacht.
To start with she is a gaff cutter which even in 1931 was already an old fashioned rig. However it is a more powerful off-wind rig therefore considered to be better suited to this passage.

Skal and Dorade were more or less level pegging and indeed by 7 days off the finish line Skal had pulled ahead. She then took a more northerly route while Dorade on a southerly route found better winds and finished ahead.

While Dorade is regarded now as having the relatively narrow beam of the classics of an earlier period and indeed proved to be a fast yacht – though her rolling on the Transatlantic Race due to her narrow beam and the huge lump of lead on the bottom must have been disconcerting and uncomfortable – Skal has the extra beam associated with many American yachts and her more cut-away fore foot reduces her wetted surfaces, both features where the US was already ahead of European designers.

After the race Skal remained in UK. Her early days here are unknown but in 1948 she was bought on the Isle of Wight by Naval Officer, Cmdr George Heppel and for the next 40 years she sailed as a family yacht. Her rig was changed to the more family friendly bermudian rig but after Cmdr Heppel’s death she languished at the family home in Cornwall until sold by Wooden Ships in 2004.
In new French ownership she sailed to Brittany for a much needed refit. In the event the refit turned into more of a rebuild making her into a stunning yacht and a true classic example of the period of US yacht.

The original interior was very basic, built as she was primarily for racing but she now sports a newly designed lay-out, all in exceptionally fine joinery by Hubert Stagnol, boat builder in Benodet who was responsible for the majority of the refit work. Her wide beam carried well aft has allowed a totally separate, full head-room cabin either side of the companionway in addition to the forward cabin. The saloon has a wonderful feel to it with a very practical galley in the after stbd corner. Given modern navigation aids when it is rare to require a full size paper chart spread out, the chart desk in the after port corner has been kept quite small but with it’s unique seat is a private space for a navigator to concentrate.

While she still has all her original bronze fittings, the owner has not set out to build a museum piece so has had no hesitation in incorporating the modern equipment on deck and in the rig which no doubt Philip Rhodes would have used had they been available In 1929.
And of course the accommodation has all the services one would expect in a modern comfortable cruising yacht – freezer, cabin heating, well designed lighting, comfortable berths etc.

In 2013 he took her to the Med where she gave him some really exciting, competitive sailing on the classic circuit. However age has it’s penalties and it is now time to let a younger owner take over.

One can only imagine the level of expenditure required to achieve this sort of style and quality but more important for this owner is a caring and appreciative new owner who recognises what he has put into this yacht. As of time of writing, the French Navy is very keen to have her as a sail training yacht, a future which would satisfy the owner but there are still a few weeks left for a private buyer to come in with a proposition.
We have known this yacht since Cmdr Heppel’s day and have been aboard a couple of times recently to confirm the quality and condition for ourselves so we can be sure to give a full up to date report on what is surely one of the most fascinating classic yachts of her size.

I name this ship…………………..

I name this ship…

Some time ago I bought a yacht with the most dreadful name. I can’t mention it for fear of
offending the owner or his descendants who gave her this name but suffice to say it is a spice I
really do not like – yet another good reason for changing it.
Changing the name of a vessel was always considered bad luck but I have never heard
any justification for this. Perhaps the myth stems from an attempt to deter a change which
could be seen as a deceitful if simplistic way of disguising a vessel which may have illegal
or unlucky associations. However myths are not gospel so if you really don’t like the name
go on, change it.
That official list of yachts, the Lloyds Register of Yachts was an annual publication
associated with the Lloyds insurance business and nothing to do with the Register of Ships
in Cardiff as commonly and mistakenly though t.As well as the marine insurance business
Lloyds was once a major source of information nautical. When making his famous crossing
of the Atlantic in the 25′ Laurent Giles Vertue 35, Humphrey Barton experienced a knockdown
with serious structural damage. He signalled a passing ship with the request to pass
a message to Lloyds, “Vertue 35. Some sea damage, crew all well.” A masterly
There was a time when every yacht had a copy of Lloyds on board so that you could look
up a passing yacht by name to find her designer, builder, dimensions and even her owner,
address and yacht clubs.
As the publication was annual up dating with change of name was not difficult and there is
even a section under the heading List of Late Names of Yachts. Sadly publication stopped
in the mid 1970’s. As brokers and with a whole shelf of Lloyds from the 1950’s to the
1970’s we often refer to them when researching a particular yacht which comes our way.
An earlier version, NorriesYacht List of which I have a 1935 edition also provides a
valuable source of information listed by yacht name.
Yacht names seem to fall into several distinct groups. There is the plethora of Greek and
Latin names although I often suspect that the owners seldom know the dubious deeds
done by dastardly dieties like Scylla and Medusa.
Then there are the subtle and often very clever names. A well-known yacht was called
Danegeld because she was built with money from the owner’s Danish wife – a romantic
gesture which will surely outlive the lady.
Another successful racing yacht of the 1950’s and 60’s, Uomi, only saved from the Silly
List by her race success obviously had keen associations for her first owner.
Stars are another plentiful source of names. When a good friend had a new yacht built to
replace his previous smaller yacht Silver Bear he called the new yacht Callisto, the
naughty nymph turned into the Great Bear by Artemis.
Here we go with myths again. I have often wondered why it is called the Great Bear or
even the Plough when it is patently if unromantically a Saucepan with 2 of its’ stars known
as the Pointers because they point almost directly to the Pole or North Star. That very
recognisable constellation has been the sailor’s friend since the dawn of seafaring so a
name reassuring to the owner of an expensive new yacht.
Then there are the names with associations personal to the owners or just plain nice. The
most famous yacht of all time, King George V’s Britannia is a classic example although you
probably have to be a king to name a yacht after your country.  The J-Class Velsheda was named using the first syllables of the owner’s daughters’
Ted Heath’s Morning Cloud is one of those really nice names recalling summer dawns of
the early morning watch.  The yacht Release, designed by 3 prisoners of war in Germany and built on their return home is an evocative name when you know the story.

In the West Country it is common to name a fishing boat with the prefix Girl or Boy or
sometimes Our. Thus we have the Girl Sybil, Boy Mark and Our Boys.  Scottish fishing boats have some lovely names, sometimes a girl’s name, often a plant.  The Flower of Caithness comes to mind – what a lovely innocent name that is – or Bluebell or The Lady Rose. Are these names reminiscent of home when tossing around on a dark November night off the Hebrides?
Lastly there is the Silly List with classic examples such as Dunpaying, Gophorit and
Tonzabunc. Many years ago we sold a boat called Quick Thinker which inevitably became
known in the office as Slow Sinker. When I last heard of her she was thankfully still afloat
and hopefully with a new name.
With marinas full of modern yachts with silly names and all looking exactly the same it is
no wonder changing a yacht’s name is no longer unlucky.
So what have I chosen? With fingers firmly crossed I have chosen the name Hope, that
lovely old name from before the days of satnavs when hope was a significant factor in
navigation. Not Hopeful or Hopeless both of which might be more appropriate but just plain
Hope. And secretly I hope Hope will remain Hope for many years.

So you want to buy a boat – 4

So you want to buy a boat – 4

Following our previous look at buying a boat we near the end of the voyage as you come to the moment of change of ownership. The actual procedure should be in the initial contract but in case it has not been specified in detail the major points to look out for here are firstly to ensure that you have clear title to the boat and secondly to work out a way to pass over the money in exchange for the title documents – and of course the actual boat – having the assurance that the boat is in the same condition as at the time of survey and that everything you think you are buying is on board or available to you. And there are logistics in this to assure a smooth transfer which again the broker will help with.

In a private deal hand-over can be tricky and you will have to do your own due diligence. Modern banking methods can make for almost instant transfer of cleared funds while you sit in the pub ready to pass the papers across the table but anything else could require a degree of trust. We hate being asked to clear up the mess after a private sale.

The broker will have a Client Account to hold your funds in the exchange interval so that the seller can meet you and hand over the boat knowing the money is there in cleared funds. The broker will also take on the work of due diligence bringing a degree of knowledge and expertise to the job so that when the moment comes both parties can proceed with confidence.

Finally comes the moment of hand-over.  Although surprisingly it does not always happen we strongly encourage you and seller to meet on board and examine the yacht and we may well be there to umpire. You have probably met at your early inspection but this is the moment to ask all the operational questions – where are the sea-cocks, how does the engine work, how she handles at sea and any special tricks the seller may have like what he does when the mainsail sticks in the track,  which way does she kick in astern, what points to put the slings for lifting her, will she dry out on the beach or against a wall, how to unblock the heads or the cock-pit drains, how to stop the fore hatch leaking, what antifouling and other coatings are on her, what work might the seller contemplate if he was keeping her  and no doubt a few tales of adventure and mishap will come out. A good hand-over will ensure that you have a relationship which will allow you to ask more questions at a later date.

With all this in mind you should be able to go into a boat purchase with some confidence but remember your broker is there to help so never be afraid to ask even years later.

So you want to buy a boat – 3

So you want to buy a boat – 3

Survey is the next major hurdle and absolutely essential.  Even for an experienced yachtsman, a time-served boat-builder and with money to spare we are all prone to an attack of starry-eyes. But get it all down in black and white by an independent observer, good points as well as bad, and hopefully your feet will come back on dry land and you will make the right purchase.

However the whole business of surveys has potential for controversy and is a subject for another time.

As well as confirming your hopes on the condition of the boat an insurer will require a recent survey report to encourage him to take on the risk. There is no legal requirement to insure a boat but most ports and inland waters have local bye-laws obliging at least Third Party and rather ominously, Removal of Wreck. Yes, it does happen as it did in Dartmouth last year when a much-travelled, well known boat sank on her mooring, quietly and all by herself one night and the cost of raising her from just 30’ was eye-watering.

I often think that too much emphasis is given to the condition of the boat and not enough to the skipper. Give a fool a good boat and he will sink it but give an experienced sailor a wreck and he will get it home in one piece.

Remember to have your insurance in place when you take possession. If you are going to have a problem it will probably be the first time you let go the mooring! However again, insurance is a subject for another discussion.

Looking for a lifestyle change

Charter Sailing on a Pilot Cutter

Sailing is one of the great escapist past times and allows people to dream of a different life which is as far removed from their day to day monotony as it is possible to be.  Some people in their younger years step into the world of super yachts where they polish brass on a floating hotel, and some people simply throw in the towel later in life, buy a yacht and go off cruising.  These options however aren’t for everyone as most of us are too old to become super yacht deck crew and not all of us want to sail over the horizon and leave friends and family behind.

There is however another option which has just reared its head on the classic boat market, an option which will allow the new owners of this fine yacht to own a proper boat, a boat to be proud of, to sail as much as they like but not to have the ongoing running costs and organisation of a big yacht, but how is this possible?

The answer is Amelie Rose, a 44′ Pilot Cutter built by Luke Powell in 2009 for the present owners and operated ever since as a hugely successful charter business.

Running a charter boat is not for everyone and the skipper needs to be not only a highly competent sailor but also very confident with handling a gaff rigged boat.  He or she has to be a chef, a leader, a teacher and above all a really nice person who the clients feel comfortable with and happy to be around.  This may not be everyones cup of tea, but the new owner of the boat doesn’t necessarily have to be at the helm on a week by week basis, there are some good people around with a lot of experience of running and handling gaff rigged charter boats so it would be possible to place a full time skipper aboard the boat to manage her week by week, which would have the added benefit of allowing the new owners to sail with their own skipper whenever they use the boat.

Purchasing a yacht and placing a skipper aboard her is only a small part of a successful charter operation, the difficult area is to ensure the business is managed and run correctly, the marketing is carried out and the boat is kept full.  The benefit of taking on a boat such as Amelie Rose is that, with a little extra negotiation, she comes with the complete business including the web site, data base and good will of a very well known and respected name.  The boat is booking up fast for the 2017 season so if new owners stepped in this winter they will have a flying start into their first year of trading with a boat that is largely full for the summer with an itinerary and logistics all planned out.

An opportunity like this is not for everyone, but there are many people out there who possibly have not even considered the idea of owning a charter business for whom this solution could work very well.  It is difficult to justify any yacht purchase as an investment, however this is as close as you will come and would enable the busy professional family to own and run a superb yacht without the worry of maintenance and running costs.

It would also be possible to hand over the management of the yacht entirely which would obviously suck away at the profits but would allow the new owner to not worry at all about the day to day logistics.  Here at Wooden Ships we have the skills, contacts and knowledge to manage a boat such as this and there is a specialist company based in Cornwall who could successfully market the boat and keep her full throughout the season.

The possibility of breaking away from your day in day out routine may not be as far away as you think and owning a traditional sailing vessel such as Amelie Rose doesn’t have to be on the conventional terms, why not invest a lump sum of cash into a project like this and start to enjoy the high seas in a real boat!

So you want to buy a boat- 2

So you want to buy a boat- 2.  

The Second installment of Peter Gregsons notes on buying a yacht

Last time, we looked at buying a boat privately or through a broker.  Following the broker route, keep in mind that up to the point when you decide on a particular boat the broker is there to offer you advice and help you towards the right boat, especially if you are a novice but as soon as you decide on a particular boat do remember that essentially the broker is acting for the seller in any negotiation and he is paid by the seller.

That said, in any negotiation on price and conditions the broker although formally acting for the seller is best placed to ensure that at the end of the day the seller’s instructions to sell the boat are achieved  which means finding a fair deal for all parties. The negotiations and the logistics of the deal are the broker’s job, that is what he is being paid for and that is what you should look for, never mind whose side he is on.

Some points to think about will be the time schedule of the deal, who will move the boat to the slip for survey, where you will take possession, the equipment to be sold with the boat and much more. The broker will help you with all this if only because he does not want to spend time later sorting out problems. And he has been there many times before.

A verbal negotiation will be followed by getting it all down on paper, hopefully in a proper legal form as this deal invariably involves a lot of money.  Confrontation is not the name of the game, what both you want as buyer and the seller is a clear path to follow, what happens and when. And of course you must ensure that there is some back-up in terms of what you can both do if something goes wrong. While you don’t have to have a complicated document the back of an envelope or worse a hand shake in the pub is unwise and the broker will invariably use a formal sale agreement. If you are doing a private deal you can download a suitable document from the net. Either way it is essential that you both know exactly what to expect and when.

At this stage the broker will ask you as buyer for a deposit with your signature on a contract. The purpose of this is firstly to concentrate your mind on the deal you are entering into and secondly to protect the seller. We have seen a buyer string out the whole deal, even go to the length of signing a contract then disappear meanwhile the boat is off the market and the seller could well have refused other offers.  Alternatively we have seen the boat slipped for survey, stripped down and opened up, paint and varnish scraped off all for the surveyor to gain the access he wants then the buyer disappears leaving the seller with a wreck on his hands and a big bill. It has happened!

Up to this point it is probably best keep the seller at arm’s length giving yourself more room for manoeuvre but build a relationship with your broker.

It’s not a battle, at the end of the day you all want the same thing and never forget that yachting is a sport and a hobby and should be enjoyable from the start.

So you want to buy a boat?

So you want to buy a boat

Peter Gregson, who started Wooden Ships Yacht Brokers nearly 40 years ago, will be writing a series of blogs entitled “So you want to buy a boat?” about the process of buying a yacht, what to look out for and how to make the whole process as smooth as possible.  Part 1 of this series starts below.


Sometimes the most obvious things are right in front of us and we don’t see them. I was recently asked “How do I buy a boat”? A simple question but for the beginner it can be more complicated than just handing over the money.

The basic procedure is straight-forward enough but there are pitfalls, easily avoided if you know in advance.

Finding a boat is a discussion for another time so for the moment let us assume that you have found a boat you like, you have been aboard and perhaps even been for a sail but first let’s go back one stage – the boat is either for sale privately or for sale through a broker.

It is rare that you have to buy a boat but it does happen that a seller has to sell but let’s start with a willing buyer and a willing seller. Inevitably buyers think that they will get a better deal buying privately and these days the internet gives sellers ample opportunity to get their boats out there. However it is often not as simple as that. The boat you want is never on your doorstep so travelling to see it will cost time and money. Before you invest you will want to know a lot about the boat – hull, rig, machinery, equipment – and you will want to know as much as you can about her history – where and how she has been sailed, past maintenance and any significant issues past or present. Of course most of this will – or should –  come to light in an in-depth purchase survey but you could spend a lot of money on a survey only to be told something obvious if only you had thought to ask or be told.

Alternatively you can buy through a yacht broker. Sure, there will be fees to pay somewhere down the line directly or indirectly for his services but not many people provide services pro bono in any field of work. The trick is to make sure you get something for your money, be you buyer or seller.

The broker route has several advantages. You will find a selection of boats under one roof, you will be able to speak to someone who is not the seller, who has seen the boat, who can provide an accurate description with lots of recent photos with an inventory of what is being sold and who should be able to give you a reasonably independent picture of what to expect if you decide to visit. But remember, the broker is not the surveyor so don’t expect a survey report.