Sell­ing a boat is like run­ning a gaunt­let

Yachting Monthly - - COLUMN - DICK DURHAM

Seller be­ware… For now, the days are get­ting lighter, the long and the short and the tall of the pur­chas­ing fra­ter­nity are head­ing to boat­yards at all points of the com­pass. But who among them will kick the tyres of the travel hoist and never be seen again? I’ve lost count of the num­ber of hours I’ve spent over the years at the whim of the boat­buy­ing time waster. The trou­ble is, with­out a Mas­ters de­gree in psy­chol­ogy, it’s nigh on im­pos­si­ble to tell the day­dream­ing dilet­tante from the se­ri­ous seeker of cap­tain­hood. You have to treat all as if they are the lead­ing author­ity on gel­coat de­cline as they sniff around try­ing to find os­mo­sis blis­ters. We sellers must ac­cept that the fel­low with the paint-spat­tered deck shoes sat at the adze of Noah as he sticks a blade in your poor boat’s gar­board, or may be de­scended from Cook as he rub­bishes your con­fined nav sta­tion. So much for the ex­perts.

Next come the vir­tual sailors. These are al­ways clad in the lat­est, very ex­pen­sive foul-weather gear, and as they go through your boat, peel off var­i­ous lay­ers, al­ways re­veal­ing an­other brand name. They also have ex­pen­sive cam­eras. ‘Would you mind if I took a few pho­to­graphs of the in­te­rior?’

‘Please do,’ I say, go­ing on deck and leaving the cab­ins va­cant so as not to spoil their il­lu­sions of own­er­ship.

Then, it is as if a sur­vey is tak­ing place: ev­ery locker is opened, ev­ery bunk cush­ion lifted, fend­ers thrown aside, charts un­folded, as the click and flash of foren­sic im­agery is made. I can only as­sume that when they get home, they down­load the im­ages and recre­ate the in­te­rior of my boat on a bed­room wall, ren­der­ing un­nec­es­sary the need to ever put afloat and cer­tainly never to, as they al­ways prom­ise, ‘get back to you shortly.’

And while we’re at it, what about the day trip­pers? I re­call, some years back now, a jolly chap turn­ing up at the boat­yard car park along with his wife and a sail­ing pal. They took an age to un­load a col­lapsi­ble chair, blan­kets and a cool­box. After mak­ing their in­tro­duc­tions, the wife was guided to a part of the sea wall out of the wind, where the chair was erected, the blan­ket laid on grass and the cool­box placed be­side it.

‘Okay dear? Shan’t be long,’ said the po­ten­tial ‘buyer’. The hun­gry wife then got stuck into her pic­nic while I rowed the prospec­tive new owner and his pal up­river to the boat, which was on a swing­ing moor­ing. As I slugged at the oars against the fierce run­ning ebb, my ro­tund pas­sen­gers took great in­ter­est in pass­ing fauna.

‘Look, Bert, an egret,’ said the ‘buyer’ ex­cit­edly, at which Bert swung round with his binoc­u­lars, up­set­ting the bal­ance of the dinghy. ‘Can you trim the dish?’ I asked as nicely as pos­si­ble. The fel­low swiv­elled back into po­si­tion, ‘Is it much fur­ther?’ he asked.

Once at the boat, I rowed them around her to give them a full view. No com­ment was made, mainly be­cause they were look­ing the other way at a sheep on the sea wall. ‘Need for a shep­herd there, Bert,’ said my ‘buyer’.

On board, they both sat in the cock­pit, train­ing their binoc­u­lars on the world around them. They didn’t go be­low and they didn’t ask a sin­gle ques­tion.

‘Seen enough, then?’ I asked with barely con­cealed ir­ri­ta­tion.

‘Oh, yes, thank you very much. Will you join us for a sand­wich?’

Ac­cord­ing to the boat­yard man­ager, they spent the rest of the day doz­ing on the sea wall, un­til dusk when they repacked the car and drove away.

Then come the Mem­ory Lan­ers. If you own a boat with his­tory, you will meet all sorts of peo­ple who once sailed on her as a kid, or who re­mem­ber those who did. That’s a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence un­til the time comes to sell – then you will find them re­turn­ing, like sell-by-date zom­bies to re­visit the scene of their youth. In­evitably, the damp cabin was re­mem­bered as a much big­ger space and in any case, the lay­out has been al­tered or the varnish re­moved and re­placed with paint, or ‘What have you done with that won­der­ful old Primus stove?’ as one per­son who thought he wanted to buy her once said to me as he stared at a gas hob. ‘It came with the boat,’ I said limply. ‘That’s a shame. How well I re­mem­ber those morn­ings with the smell of paraf­fin an­nounc­ing break­fast. It was so ro­man­tic. Any­way, it’s been so nice meet­ing you. Look after her for me, won’t you?’

It’s time the YBDSA de­vised a dreamer-de­ter­rent course.


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