Thursday, 18 October 2012

Engaged to a Westerly

Well, controversially, I’ve got myself engaged to a heavy old girl, she’s sound and as solid as you could hope for, a bit long in the tooth and she needs some time in a beauty parlour. I hope she scrubs up well. Please don’t assume I’m talking about Susan here! Actually, my engagement is with an old Westerly boat – a Nomad. Her name (for the moment is ‘Sea Spray), a name I’ll probably change when the relationship is fully cemented.

I say my engagement is controversial because in my last post I asked for opinions on the deal. Well, I certainly got them but there was no real consensus. The arguments however, seemed to polarise and I’ll summarise them as best I can. Sorry, if I’ve misrepresented or misunderstood a particular point of view.

Firstly there are those who advised I walk away from the deal. The argument seemed to be that every boat, no matter how well maintained has a top value. A real low cost cruising person should know this value and then calculate the cost of bringing that particular boat back to that state. Once you have determined that cost, you can calculate the value of what you are looking at – this should be your top offer. If you can’t achieve that then you should walk away. There are lots of other boats out there. Do not get wedded to a vessel that will simply eat your money. Putting this argument to my situation, some would say that a Westerly Nomad in excellent condition may be worth 6,500 Euros. The cost of getting this one to that condition may be 4,000 Euros (more or less depending on what I can do myself and what I expertise I need to buy in). On that basis the offer I made was insanely generous.  

Others argue that this approach, whilst commercially sound, is a bit hard nosed, the kind of logic that a house developer might use – logical if your aim is to buy renovate and sell on without incurring irredeemable expense. They seem to make a number of points some of which are a bit on the romantic side, but here they are. Firstly, if everyone took that hard-nosed view, then no-one would ever purchase a new car. In the UK at least a new car loses at least a quarter of its value the day you take ownership of it. You will never recover your money on a new car. Boats are actually a better investment in that they depreciate more slowly.

Second argument (probably where I am coming from) I need a boat with certain qualities so she can do what I want of her. The list of qualities, meant that several writers wondered whether a short list could ever be achieved – few boats are built to those specs anymore, and those that are, are either horrendously expensive – Cornish Crabbers or lack comfortable accommodation Shrimpers for example. Now in assessing the cost of purchasing a suitable boat there are other expenses – I wouldn’t want to purchase a boat unseen – so to visit UK boatyards I would have to cross 120 miles of the English Channel, with a car and cover all the associated costs of food and hotels – in the hope that I would find what I was looking for within the space of a few economical days somewhere along the south coast. Car ferry alone would be in the region of 600 Euros per return trip. You wouldn’t have to make many of those to be seriously out of pocket. Then I’d need to arrange delivery, and that would require additional ferry charges if I could tow her – or a professional delivery service which would cost even more.

So, the price you pay for a boat is only one aspect of the cost of her purchase and delivery.

Stainless Steel charcoal heater - bonus!
This particular vessel could use a paint job on her hull. Internet research tells me that price and quality of finish are variable – but in my neck of the woods 30 Euros per foot seems to be the going rate. Some yachting chat sites suggest that DIY hull painting is fine as long as you are prepared to stay 10ft away from the hull afterwards. If you make a closer inspection, all the blemishes due to lack of skill and suitable working environment become obvious.

So, the deal I struck was to purchase a boat, have her professionally painted and delivered. The cost to me 6000 Euros, but instead of paying for the three items separately to three different individuals or companies, the payment will be made to one person who will undertake the work. I think I have made a reasonable deal to buy this boat – given my location and the costs associated with looking wider afield – and yes, the seller, by undertaking the painting and the delivery, has made close to his money by providing those services.

The alternative, I guess would have been to purchase another boat locally, but there is a real question as to whether she would have met my checklist of requirements.

There were other comments – which I try not to subscribe to – such as ‘well everyone knows, that boating is like standing under a cold shower tearing up bank notes’ and all boats are simply holes in the water that you pour money into. So what’s your problem whatever boat you buy will try to bankrupt you.

I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle of the road, I can’t imagine stopping the transformation of this little vessel into a comfortable long term (semi live-aboard) cruiser simply because the outlay won’t be recoverable but there again I can’t afford to throw money away.

So, the jury is out – different people have different philosophies and approaches and I’m not here trying to change anyone’s views – it’s been a good discussion though and lets see how things progress.

Actually, she doesn't look to bad from here
One view sent to me, which I saved to the last, was that there is no economic sense in owning a boat at all! Charter, what you want, where you want, when you want it - in truth you’ll only be paying for a boat when you use it and you have none of the responsibility of ownership. Well, no thanks, I can see the point of view, but no boat can compare with the one you own – she’s yours, she’s an extension of your personality, she talks to you and looks after you. Even guys who never leave the slipway will say that there is something primitive about boat-ownership, the relationship pre-dates scientific economic theory by a few thousand years. Ah, the idiot old romantic is surfacing again!