Weighing Options

Monday, May 01, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

Normally, this is what life looks like for us this time of the year.
Any other year and we’d be dropping our lines today: Cambria would be filled with six months of provisions. The jerry cans would be topped off with extra diesel. The truck would be in storage. Our sailing routes would be (generally) laid out. And we’d be moving north. But not this year.

This year we’re weighing our options instead of our anchor . . . and it sucks. 

We had a plan: With the help of a yacht broker we’d put this amazing boat, located in one of the world’s most beautiful cruising grounds, on Yachtworld. At the same time, David and I would advertise in parts of the world where the Westerly name is well-known – England, New Zealand and Australia. And then we’d wait.

We had no illusions of a quick sale, so we were going to spend the summer months cruising around more populated areas (like the city of Vancouver). That way if anyone wanted to see the boat, we could accommodate them. When October rolled around, we’d tie back up in Kingston for the winter. It wasn’t a great plan, but it worked.

But the Port keeps offering us opportunities: They decided to extend winter moorage until the end of June – yes, please! A sublease for a year became available – no thanks, too much of a commitment. Another sublease for a couple of months opened up – maybe we should think about sticking around . . . . And now we can’t seem to make up our minds.

Maybe we have too many choices. Maybe we’re afraid of making the wrong one (the dreaded “analysis paralysis”). Or maybe we’re just clueless despite all of the research and preparation we did leading up to this moment. Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same – nothing.

Nobody ever said selling a boat was easy. And it isn’t.

To start, there’s the price. How do you objectively value a boat? A boat that’s been your home for the last 13 years. A boat that has taken you to some of the most beautiful places in the world? A boat that’s been your protector and kept you safe. A boat that you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into. It’s not easy. And finding the balance between a price that will attract a potential buyer and one that meets our needs is even harder.

Brokers are a great help when it comes to fixing a price and selling a boat: They know the market, they’re familiar with the comps and they’re not emotionally invested in the deal. But they cost. And 10% is a big chunk of change when it comes to a boat like Cambria. They’re also the best chance for a faster sale and every day that we own Cambria, it’s costing us money. If the process extends out to a year or more, a broker could pay for itself.

And then there’s the location.

Boats in the Pacific Northwest command a stronger price than some other parts of the country (by about 10%). The market in Australia and New Zealand is even stronger. But that doesn’t mean much to the person looking through Yachtworld. At the end of the day, the buyer wants the best deal . . . and so does the seller. The trick is finding the “sweet spot” between the two.

Then there’s the “location within a location dilemma”. The Port of Kingston is off the beaten path. Anyone who’s seriously looking for a boat isn’t going to be walking the docks here. They’re going to go to the brokerages in Seattle. So if we want to attract foot traffic, that’s where we need to be. But moorage at a brokerage is more expensive and most of them don’t allow live-aboards, which means we’d have to find a place to live for a while. And, at the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that spending the extra money will result in a sale.

Fortunately, our indecision hasn’t cost us anything.

The Seattle area just broke a 122-year record for rainfall for the months of October through April, and it’s put a real damper on the market. That’s about to end. The Pacific High is battling its way north. It’s still squally and wet for the most part, but a change is coming. When it happens, people will start looking at boats again so we’re feeling a renewed sense of urgency with the clearing skies.

The good news is that we’re close to making a decision . . . several of them, actually. And the days of wanting to pull our hair out in frustration will be behind us for a while. In the meantime, we’ll be sitting here in the Port of Kingston watching the rain fall.

They say the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. What do you think?

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  1. I'm not sure. When we bought our boat, it was really stressful and we weren't sure it would work out for us. I'd say the happiest days are the days spent at anchor, knowing we love our life! But yes, when the boat is sold and you can move forward and have all the stress behind you, I'd say that's a pretty happy day!

    1. I think that's right. At least for us. This has been a lot more stressful than we imagined. When it's over (particularly if it goes on for more than a year) we'll be very happy to put it all behind us. I think the tears will come once we're able to take a step back and gain some perspective.

  2. Is a boat like Cambria really an impulse buy for people walking the docks? I would stay in the cheapest place while she is for sale. After all, she is well represented on line. We drove to Oregon to buy our boat, and many people looking for cruising boats travel much further. You have an excellent boat, and anyone who is not familiar with Westerly boats will do well to do a little investigating. Kingston is reachable by ferry, after all, from Seattle. You can also always cross the water and meet potential buyers at the guest dock somewhere. I think the hardest part is you are still living aboard. I remember looking at boats, and those with owners still living aboard were the hardest to see. They had their owner's 'mark' all over them, and also it was harder to schedule a viewing. Since it's going to cost you every month you still have Cambria, may as well stay in the cheapest place.

    1. We're leaning towards getting off the boat for a while this summer for that very reason, but are still waiting on some information before we make a final decision. The hard part is every time we think we've got things figured out, it turns out we don't! But why should selling a boat be any different from owning/maintaining one.

  3. I agree, Stephanie. It took us a long 18 months to sell the boat, and we were quite happy the day we drove away for the last time. We have seller's remorse at times, especially when we talk about our travels, but all in all, no regrets. I disagree with your evaluation of Kingston. We had a lot of people walking by as they were waiting for the ferry. I would recommend that you get on a public dock and not one locked behind a gate; or anchor out during the week and head into public marinas on the weekends where you'll see more boaters who know of people looking. That might give you both the quiet away that you desire mixed with a common sense approach for getting more visibility for the boat. Just our thoughts. You know we were never shy about sharing our opinions. ;-)

    1. Great to hear from you, Nancy! We sure do miss having you and Jerry as neighbours, but "Cloud Nine" came in for an overnight visit last week. They tied up at the end of the dock, but there was no mistaking it was her (looking good).

      Thanks for the input. It makes a lot of sense. They're extending winter moorage here until the end of June (can you believe it?), so we're leaning towards staying until then. It's what's next that's giving us trouble. We'll get there, though. We always do. :-)

  4. I've been through this 5 times in the last 30+ years.

    It takes time [and $] but a well maintained and quality vessel like Cambria will have no problem attracting a qualified buyer [and you only need one...]

    It is just a matter of timing; when is that one buyer ready?

    A seller's broker will save you from all of the dreamers wanting you to finance their [not always well considered...] plans, and those not yet qualified to purchase their dream.

    The decisions you face are difficult, but at least you can enjoy your vessel in the interim. I learned long ago not to wait at the dock for a buyer; the serious, qualified one will wait for the boat to return...

    We spent 2 years as cash buyers looking at [very specific] boats on both coasts before finding our [last?] boat. And even then we spent months corresponding with the [now] previous owners [who have since become lifelong friends...] going over every detail including pictures, etc.

    Wishing you all the best with this next phase of your cruising life.

    Cheers! Bill [on SV Denali Rose]

    1. That is so true, Bill. And exactly our thoughts before we started this process. It's turned out to be a little more complicated than we anticipated (it's been a while since we've been sellers), but that's not surprising considering the nature of boats and boat ownership. It sounds like the trick is to stay calm, have a good plan, and be patient.

      Thanks for sharing your first-hand experience -- it really does help.

  5. First, I totally agree with the expression at the end of your blog. Second, I agree with the fact that there are just too many options out there to choose from! And, that nobody wants to make the "wrong" decision. But, it is a fortunate thing to have choices, and sometimes, you just have to follow your heart, or make a list and come up with the most logic solution, the one that ticks most boxes. I'm sure you will come up with a great plan for the summer! Hopefully one that doesn't cost too much money and that will either lead to a quick sale or that will put your minds at ease a bit. :-)