Australia, Destinations, Oceania, Sailing

Buying a Catamaran: A Tale of Delays

Ten months later, I can almost say we have officially bought a boat! Though when I say almost, well, that’s a bit of a longer story. See, in October 2021, after almost four years of saving money, we quit our jobs in Geraldton to buy a sailboat. We sold or got rid of almost everything we owned, packed up the rest of it, and flew across the country, then across the ocean, but that bit was just for family, and then we flew back to resume our sailboat search on the east coast of Australia after two months of getting fat and happy in the US over the holidays. Cue many months of scouring Yacht Hub and Yacht World, annoying brokers, and wandering through marinas. As most of you already know, our boat search did not go as smoothly as planned, but really, what does? Then literally a day after I wrote this, we called a broker about buying a catamaran he had listed and things changed. The listed boat, Two Dogs, was already sold, but he had another boat that hadn’t come to market yet, but it was above our budget. Her name was Avalon Spirit and she was about $50,000 more than we wanted to spend.

After two fraught days of writing and rewriting budgets, we decided that the budget stretch was worth it for Avalon since she was about 10 years younger than any other boat we’d looked at and had most major systems refit. So, on August 3rd we put in an offer $25,000 under asking price, crossed our fingers and toes and every other body part we could, and waited. The next day the broker called to let us know that our offer wasn’t accepted…but it wasn’t declined either. We were in this weird limbo where the owners wanted to wait for another couple from Sydney to view the boat the following Thursday, before they would consider our offer. So we waited some more. I may or may not have paced a track in Leo and Soph’s living room while alternating between cursing the owner’s lack of consideration for my nerves and bemoaning the fact that somehow we’d ended up on the losing end of negotiations twice now, but for opposite reasons (we did not offer on the first boat I fell in love with, a Manta 42, before we saw it in person and lost it because of this, so we decided to offer sight unseen on Avalon, but, at this point, that didn’t seem to be working either).

A rather tense weekend ensued and I tried to make peace with not getting the boat. On Monday morning, I posted on Women Who Sail Australia (a very helpful and inclusive Facebook group I’m a part of) to see what other boats in our desired range were available, then, less than an hour later Kane’s phone range. The owners had accepted our offer.

Our stunned silence gave way to cheers and rather embarrassing victory dances around the kitchen; then it was time to madly pack our car for the 1000+ km drive north to Airlie Beach to actually see the boat we’d just offered a sizeable lump of cash for. So, on Tuesday August 9th, Kane and I drove 13 1/2 hours straight to view what we hoped would be our boat. Fueled on breakfast sandwiches sourced from roadhouses and bad coffee, we pulled into Airlie Beach the day before Airlie Race Week started, the single biggest sailboat race week in the area. While everyone around us was discussing the wind and race strategy, we were contacting insurance, looking up berth availability, and the myriad of other middling tasks involved in buying a catamaran (note to future owners, the task list always takes longer than you think it will).

We were very hopeful when we arrived. We thought that eight days was more than enough time to inspect the boat, complete a survey and sea trial, and finalise the sale before we needed to be in Cairns to meet Laura and Joe for their Australia trip.

We were wrong.

Turns out the previous owners were what I would politely call even more inexperienced than us. They took all naming decals off the boat (a big fopaux in the nautical world), continued to sail without any identification, then the rudders fell off. Now I’m not saying the rudders fell off because they pissed off Poseidon by halfway changing the boat’s name and not completing the required ceremonies, but I’m not not saying it, if you know what I mean. If we’re being logical electrolysis is to blame, but given these previous owners were the type to forgo a $5 fix of a sail bag zipper that would have protected their $10,000 asset (the main sail), well I’m not convinced they didn’t piss off the god of the sea.

Anyway, superstition aside, the fixing of the rudders has become our personal nightmare. First the boat yard said they would be ready by the Thursday of the week we arrived, then they pushed it to the Monday and I had to train to Cairns while Kane stayed and hoped that things would be sorted with the boat so he could be there for survey and sea trial, then the rudders still weren’t on for the haul out and survey. By this point, the rudders were two weeks past when we had been told they would be ready and Kane gave up and drove back to the Sunshine Coast to meet Laura, Joe, and I so we could all enjoy the week they had planned for the Sunny Coast. The results of the survey showed an old (repaired) collision with a navigational marker and a few other minor, but not cheap, things to fix, so we had to decide, do we walk away from this potentially amazing boat or negotiate on price? This is just a taste of the emotional distress that buying a catamaran involves; it’s many, many high stakes decisions in a short period of time. In between doing awesome things like diving the Great Barrier Reef and visiting Australia Zoo with friends, we decided to negotiate. A couple days of back and forth ensued and, then, finally on August 26th we had a contract signed with the new price (yay for saving $10,000).

Phew. At this point we’d been through three weeks of serious limbo in buying a catamaran and I was ready for it to be done. We had the contract signed, we sent the money to the broker where it would sit in an escrow account until the rudders were put on the boat and then we’d take possession. So, when Laura and Joe headed off to the airport for their flight back to the US bright and early the morning of August 28th, Kane and I were crammed into our car with all our worldly belongings and heading north, again. We’d booked the weekend at the best backpacker’s in Airlie (which by this point, we had grown all too familiar with) and hoped the rudders would be on for Avalon to splash (be put back in the water) Monday August 29th.

That did not happen.

Instead, it is Monday September 5th now and as I writing this, Avalon is still on the hard in the boat yard. However, we have seen the rudders, they are done, and we have spoken to the head of the yard. He says that Avalon should go in the water this afternoon, if no additional problems arise when putting the new rudders back on. So, we cross all our fingers and toes again, and wait, again; but this time it feels really likely now. Anyway, I hope she goes in as we have checked out of the backpackers and booked a spot in the marina, so if she doesn’t go in the water, we’ll be sleeping on a dock.

The delays in buying a catamaran haven’t been all bad. Since we’ve had so much more time on the hard than expected, we’ve been really able to familiarise ourselves with Avalon, learn her systems, fix/change things as necessary and slowly move our stuff aboard. We’ve spent almost the entirety of every day this past week going through all the old stuff the owners left on board, organising, throwing away expired/unnecessary stuff, and updating what we need. We’ve changed the anchor from an old rusted CQR to a second hand, but brand new Sarca Excel 5. We’ve removed and replaced bad lines (ropes). We’ve sealed small leaks. We’ve cleaned mould and practised our boat yoga to stop a coolant leak in the hot water system. And, most importantly to Poseidon, we got Avalon Spirit’s name decals put back on.

Buying a catamaran is generally not a simple process, but our buying experience was made all the more complicated by a large project being completed during the sale. I will be very happy to have brand new rudders when it’s all said and done, but I am really looking forward for this process to be done, for Avalon to splash, and for us to move aboard, because somehow sleeping on a backpacker’s crappy bed is just that much more annoying when you know you have a beautiful berth in your very own Seawind 1160 that you could be sleeping in, if the damn rudders were done already. On a positive note, Avalon is looking great, the rudders are looking great, and we are much more familiar with the boat and ready to move on board than if we’d done all this last week. Now let’s just get her back in the water where she belongs.

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