How not to buy a boat
After a decade of dreaming, a few years browsing yachtworld.com at work, and a week of negotiation, we signed a contract to buy ourselves a boat, the boat, sight unseen. She was a 2004 Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 423, and the owner had sailed her across the Atlantic before a heart attack forced him to sell the boat and head home to attend to his health.
Against all advice, we didn't hire a boat broker to help us, so it was on us to figure out if the boat was a lemon. This meant either flying to Antigua to inspect it, or hire a guy to do the inspection for us. Since it would be cheaper to hire a professional, and they would probably do a better job anyways, we scoured the internet for chartered boat surveyors in Antigua. There was only a week before the contract went firm, so we needed the boat inspected fast.
It turns out there are only four chartered boat surveyors in Antigua, of varying qualifications and experience. My first choice of surveyor was "off island" for the month - scratch him off the list. I called our second choice, but he was too busy with other jobs. The third guy on our list turned us down for the same reason. That left us with the guy at the bottom of my list. He was young guy, maybe 20 years old, who was newly certified with almost no experience, and had the least reputable certification of them all. Alright, we've got our man!
Despite my reservations about the surveyor, I thought he did a pretty thorough job. He even subcontracted out the rigging inspection to a third party, which I took as a good sign that he knew his limitations and wasn't just taking our money to write up a fluffy report. A hiccup came when the boat broker told me that the surveyor had stolen all the wine bottles from the bilge, which I felt I had to confront him about. Things got crazy, but to make a long story short: I accused the surveyor of the theft (and thus soured our relationship with him), only to find out later that the bottles had actually been removed by the previous owner's wife. I then tried to sincerely apologize for the false accusation, but the young surveyor was understandably pretty cold for the duration of our interactions. Oops!
If the survey report was to be believed, the boat only needed a sanding & painting of the hull, some new lines (ropes), and new sheaving (the gear inside the boom). So I drained my savings account, and we were now the proud owners of a sweet new-ish boat!
Despite having not even seen it, not using a boat broker, and getting our last choice in surveyor, we still managed to pick up a boat in really good shape, for a great price. Little did we know the largest hurricane in the known history of the Atlantic Ocean was about to smash straight into Antigua & Barbuda...