Selling a boat is like running a gauntlet
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.
‘IT’S TOUGH TO TELL A DAYDREAMER FROM A SERIOUS SEEKER’