Join Date: Jan 2000
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Long Distance Multihull Purchase
We found our second multihull in the classified section of Multihulls Magazine. The description of the boat told us it was the right type (a seaworthy Prout), the right size (31 feet LOA), had the right accommodations for a family of five (three double cabins), and most importantly it was in our price range (around $45,000 US). The only trouble was that the boat was located near the northeastern corner of the Dominican Republic.
The logical approach to buying a boat in the Caribbean would have been to hire a marine surveyor with expertise in multihulls to meet us down at the boat so that we could make an intelligent purchasing decision. We could inspect and test-sail the boat while the surveyor checked the various systems and the structural integrity. But operating on a limited budget, we were hesitant to spend a lot of money without knowing we would definitely benefit from the experience.
When it comes to major decisions, Nan and I most often operate on instinct rather than logic, especially those decisions having to do with travel. Our sense of adventure and insatiable travel lust, combined with the fact that our children's education and my employment aren't tied to a school or office schedule, has encouraged us to take a low-budget family trip each year. Instinct told us that there was another way of looking at this situation. Why not combine the opportunity to buy a boat with our annual family sojourn?
The idea began to take shape. We contacted the owner and after several lengthy phone conversations, as well as a review of detailed photos of the boat, we made an offer based on a personal inspection of the boat. If the sale went through, our family would take immediate possession of the boat and spend two months on her between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands. If the sale didn't go through, we'd simply switch gears and explore the Dominican Republic on land. We couldn't see a flaw in this arrangement.
Early in February, we took a charter flight to Puerta Plata, spent the night in what surely was a brothel, then hired a taxi the next day to take us down the coast to the port of Saman. On our arrival, we scanned the harbor for a Prout cat, and finally spotted her among the cruising fleet. Most of the boats were either wintering over in Saman or waiting for favorable winds before heading east. We shouted and waved until Ray, the boat's owner, saw us and began to make his way toward the inflatable dinghy trailing astern.
As Ray began rowing toward us we had a chance to take in our surroundings. A broad, main boulevard in a serious state of decay was the result of an inspired but poorly executed government project to make Saman a first-class tourist haven. Nonetheless the natural beauty of the setting told us we could happily spend time exploring this area.A good while went by before we noticed Ray's slow progress rowing across the harbor. When he finally arrived at the jetty we noticed something odd about his oars: there were no paddles on the end, just two worn places where they used to be. This gave us some insight into Ray's laid-back personality, which we were soon to discover was one of his many endearing characteristics.
When we finally made it to the boat we found her to be structurally sound, but neglected in many ways, partly due to Ray's bachelor lifestyle his laissez-faire philosophy on things like boat maintenance. The boat's bottom was thick with barnacles and the interior messy and cluttered. Nan, who doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve, took one look around and burst into tears. Had we made a horrible mistake flying here with our twin sons without knowing more about the boat and her owner?
After a rather frightful first impression, we began to warm up to the boat and to our situation. We had a short family conference and decided that we would go ahead with the offer if Ray was willing to make a few concessions. Somewhere during our negotiations we told Ray that our plan was to find a partner to share expenses and time on the boat. Ray confided that ultimately he didn't want to sell the boat, and before we knew it we were talking about co-owning this boat.It took the better part of a week to hammer out the details of a partnership, during which time we stayed in a small hotel and became acclimated to Santo Domingan culture. Ray flew back to British Columbia and we moved on board and began to fix up the boat. Scraping the barnacles off the bottom was the worst of it, but finding parts and supplies came a close second. Even simple things like accurate charts were almost impossible to come by. Slowly, however, we made progress. A month later we were ready to take her across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico, and after hauling out there to paint the bottom and make other repairs, we spent a month cruising the Virgin Islands. Our family will never forget the experience of buying a multihull in the Caribbean. It wasn't easy, but it was certainly worth the effort and perseverance.
Suggested Reading List
- Buying a Catamaran by Kevin Jeffrey
- Affordable Multihulls by Kevin Jeffrey
- Catamaran or Trimaran by Kevin Jeffrey
- SailNet Buying Guide - Roller Furlers