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post #1 of 15 Old 12-24-2009 Thread Starter
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Canadian buying boat in US

Hello everyone,
My plan is to cash in my life on the cold Canadian prairie and live alone aboard a 32-37 foot sailboat in the Caribbean.

I've posted lots of questions before about single handed sailing and living 'on the hook'. But it's come to the point in my plan where I need to get serious about finding and purchasing a boat.

Since my dream has me living on board on the Caribbean, my best bet at locating a good used boat would probably be the US market - probably Florida.

I've read a bit about the process - Sleeping with Oars, Robert Doty - Living Aboard a Boat, Mark Nicholas - and other websites. But I'd like a Canadian's viewpoint especially with regard to the nitty gritty of finding a US broker, arranging for a survey, registering the boat, taxes, transferring money to the US - stuff like that.

Are there any Canucks who frequent this site that have been through this process?

Thanks in advance for any comments!
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post #2 of 15 Old 12-24-2009
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Many Canadians have been buying boats in the US, especially lately with the strengthening of our dollar. Your plan to buy in the US makes sense given your ultimate objective to end up in the Caribbean.

On the other hand... don't limit your quest to the US. Friends of ours bought a new boat (Beneteau) in Guadeloupe (technically France) for a very good price, she's registered in Vancouver BC, but stays south year round. The advantage here is that there have been no taxes paid nor due until the boat actually enters Canada (not likely to happen)

I'd expect there are plenty of boats for sale that are already in the Caribbean chain... don't forget that you've got a 1000 miles to weather from Florida before you get the the Leewards/Windwards which is IMO the primo cruising area for the Caribbean.

Do keep a critical eye for any ex-charter boats, and for those that have been allowed to lie idle for periods of time.. the tropics beats up the exteriors pretty quickly...

Here's a link to a Victoria family that did this and beyond.. ultimately circumnavigating - they bought in Florida and if you can view the early episodes about originally buying the boat - their's is a cautionary tale.

Ocean Wanderer: Watch The Knight Family Discover The Planet

Ron

1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"

".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)
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post #3 of 15 Old 12-24-2009
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We bought our sailboat out of the Country. We looked for a boat that would hold a family of 5 by visiting local brokers and viewed several cabin layouts.
When we settled on a design we looked on yachtworld.com and found the prices to be a whole lot cheaper outside of Canada. Our boat was in Central America and we used a broker in Florida ( Wellfound Yachts) to make the purchase . It was very easy to do. I would also make sure that the boat has a recent survey ( everyone will ask for one)
You can register your new boat as a Canadian vessel by email. This is important to do if you plan on sailing to a variety of Countries.
We did not plan to take our boat back to Canada right away and did not have to pay taxes until we brought her back into Canada. If you by a US made boat or Canadian made boat you will not have to pay duty.
Ours was built in France and we were whacked pretty hard with the taxes once we crossed the boarder we had 48 hours to pay.
If I had to do it over again I would buy a boat in Florida. I would not buy a boat that had been sitting for a long time unattended outside of the US or near a pretty well equiped marine chandlery.
Good luck and PM me if you have anymore questions.
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post #4 of 15 Old 12-24-2009
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It is a long hard trip from Florida to the southern Caribbean south of the hurricane belt. We did it last year and the "Thorny Path" is not fun.

It is worth considering buying in the Carribean...What is your budget? I know of a good $20,000 39 ft boat in Grenada and there are lots of good boats in the $50,000 range.
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post #5 of 15 Old 12-25-2009
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Like some of the posters said, there are many boats for sale in the carribean, but you have to consider a few things. You'll be flying around looking at them, which will cost a lot of money and many of those boats have been sailed hard. You might want to fly to Florida and view many many boats at dirt cheap prices and make your choice there. Sail across to the Bahamas and start your dream. You can spends years exploring the Bahamas or head south and explore the chain of island.

Your best situation would be to buy a fresh water boat, but since you live in the prairies that might not be an option. As far as getting money to the US, you can access you Canadian bank account quite easily or wire money to the seller. That part is easy. You'll have to pay the State tax and only the Canadian GST and duty if you cross the Canadian border.

Keep reading the info on this site, you'll find many good answers.
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post #6 of 15 Old 12-25-2009
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The Lauderdale/Port Everglades used to be a good area to look for larger blue water criusers. Many Europeans would sail thier boats across and after cruising in the carribean sell them on this side rather than ship them back. There also used to be a U.S. tax advantage to sell at at a certian for prople who had bought boats to use/charter (like the CSYs) I got a HR 41 a long time ago at a good price. I think that market would be a good palce to google for a boat. It may take more than one trip to make a deal. Be prepared to check out a number of boats while you're there, exxpect that the top one on you list may not live up to expectations
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post #7 of 15 Old 12-26-2009 Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for your advice and experiences regarding this!

I'm a little worried now about my original plan to buy in Florida and work my way down to the Leewards. I'm not an experienced sailor, and I'd be very interested in any further details about the hardships of sailing from Florida to at least the USVI. I suppose harsh weather is the major concern, until you get out of the main Hurricane area? If necessary, I would hire a crew to help me get where I need to go.

Yourksailor - maybe you could expand on the problems you had. What type of boat do you sail? My budget is $100k maximum, more realistically about $70-80k leaving me some cash to fix and fit as needed. I'm looking at heavier displacement boats like Tayana or HC - a boat that will forgive my inexperience a little and also be best suited as a liveaboard. ie. larger water/fuel tank capacities, storage space etc. I don't want to spend a lot of time in slips.

Faster - I couldn't find the videos in the link you provided regarding the Victoria Family. I'll keep trying.

The tax info was very helpful. I'm wondering if I would have to pay Florida tax if I couldn't get the boat out to sea quickly enough - such as having to do some repairs or fitting a windvane. Does anyone know what the tax would amount to and how long you have before they would apply if your intention is to leave the State?

Thanks everyone for your help!
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post #8 of 15 Old 12-26-2009
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Originally Posted by Tanny View Post
Thanks everyone for your advice and experiences regarding this!

Faster - I couldn't find the videos in the link you provided regarding the Victoria Family. I'll keep trying.
Yeah. sorry, I didn't follow that far enough... this series - "Ocean Wanderers" has been broadcast on PBS, our Knowledge Network and a few other independent channels so maybe watch your TV listings for that. The earliest episode deals with their arrival in Florida to find their 'new' (to them) boat on the hard half full of water and needing 6 months and another $100K before they were ready to go. But ultimately go they did, and over a period of several years did circumnavigate. I'm surprised they don't have a blog up....

Out of hurricane season I don't think 'harsh' weather is necessarily the right term, but from Florida to the Island chain you do need to do a lot of miles pretty much upwind, at times in the occasionally boisterous trades. This would be a fairly challenging 'break-in' for an inexperienced crew on a new-to-them boat.

At least you're not trying to do this on a $10K budget . If you've not already done so, I'd consider spending a bit up front chartering a boat in the islands somewhere, similar in size/type to what you're considering for yourself. It may well cost you a few K, but you'll get some idea of what's involved boat-handling wise and get at least a few miles under your belt that way. For example, the 50 nm beat from Nevis to Antigua could be a good introduction to what you can expect heading out from Florida....

Ron

1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"

".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)

Last edited by Faster; 12-26-2009 at 09:06 AM.
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post #9 of 15 Old 12-26-2009 Thread Starter
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Faster,
Yes - good advice about chartering somewhere to get a better idea about what I'm getting myself into.

Regarding that, I'm taking a 10 day Ocean Sailing and Navigation course aboard a 52' ketch in the USVI this April. It includes a night sail from St. Croix to St. Thomas. It's a much bigger boat than I'm going to be able to buy, but I'm hoping it will combine some needed instruction with the experience you are suggesting.

I figured the comment about the difficulty getting from Florida to the islands was trade-wind related. I'm not as fearful of having to sail into the wind as I am about getting the heck out of the hurricane area. I don't want to doddle in the Bahamas for a year like someone suggested, but I also don't want to limit myself to buying a boat already in the Caribbean.
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post #10 of 15 Old 12-26-2009
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Before we bought our boat in Mexico, we made offers on two other boats, one in Annapolis and another in South Carolina. In all cases we found the boats using Boats.com and initially relied on the local broker to provide info. In two cases we made the deal before going to see it, leaving an opt out clause in the offer for virtually any reason. We arranged for surveys to be done on these two boats and we ended up buying one of them. The other boat never got past our initial offer.

We also used an agent from Montreal to facilitate the offers and looked after the details in the purchase of the boat in Mexico including title search, Canadian registration etc. He was also the payments middle man and importantly held our deposit in escrow. His fees were reasonable and well worth the peace of mind it afforded.

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