Everything went smoothly, landing in Panama at 1PM. Customs was a hassle, but I was wandering around Panama City looking for food and beer by 4PM. Not bad.
After some back and forth, I managed to arrange a ride to the Caribbean side of Panama for Saturday. Great.
ATMs, Prostitutes, and Logistics
About midnight that night I managed to get WiFi again, and found an invoice for this sea-trial in my inbox. The only payment option was cash, so I headed to the nearest ATM – the casino at Veneto (a Wyndam hotel). Immediately when I walked in I noticed a horde of scantily clad women milling around the casino floor, but I was too tired to put much thought into it.
I quickly found out that my maximum cash withdrawal was $250/day, which wouldn’t cut it. So I needed to call my bank. As I headed back to my hotel, I quickly realized that those scantily clad ladies were, in fact, working girls. It seems that a white male going to the ATM is something akin to a dinner bell in their line of work. It was pretty hard to believe how many ladies were present, and how openly they were operating. Don’t believe me? Scan the TripAdvisor reviews here. I managed to get out of the hotel, call my bank, and finally got the cash for the sea-trial Saturday.
After breakfast Saturday my boat broker met me in the hotel lobby, and we got a ride to meet our surveyor – and then headed across Panama to look at the boat. We got lost several times, but eventually found it. Eventually.
When we pulled up I spotted her right away. Not the biggest catamaran at the dock, by far, but she’s a looker.
With everyone onboard (buyer’s broker, seller’s broker, seller, buyer, surveyor, and a kid to help with the lines) we took off. The surveyor wasn’t incredibly helpful, but we managed to check all of the basics, sail the boat (into the wind) and get a feel for the boat. It performed better than expected. The engines started right up, the watermaker worked, the fridge and spare freezer were on-point – all in all, a successful sea-trial. Turns out, I really like the Lagoon 380.
Back on the docks we took a deeper look at all the systems – two generators, the shore power, lights, inverter, alternator, etc. There were some (fairly minor) issues. The highlight was the dinghy running out of gas with the surveyor and seller onboard. Hilarious. Them rowing back to the dock was priceless.
We found several issues, and the boat isn’t cosmetically “perfect” – but in the used boat market, you pay handsomely for “perfect.” Not my plan.
My broker and I discussed the boat over a couple of beers, the conclusion was:
- I’m getting a solid boat, way below market price (we estimate about $50K below market)
- There are issues on every boat – used or new – this one had some
- None of the issues affected the integrity of the hulls, engines, rigging, or saildrives
- I could, if I wanted, jump on the boat and safely cruise without adding anything
- The seller was a good boat owner – performing maintenance regularly and upgrading when necessary
- I want the boat
We outlined what we wanted fixed and headed back to the boat for a final round of negotiations and to check on a couple of outstanding issues. It was dark, we started the long drive back to Panama City.
We finally got back to the hotel – and it was clear. This Lagoon 380 is the boat. Super exciting, and a huge wave of relief. But we also needed to try to get the outstanding issues corrected before I officially take ownership.
As I’m writing this, I’ve signed the Buyer’s Acceptance of Vessel – with an addendum outlining all of the known issues (and that the acceptance was contingent upon fixing them). We hope they’ll be able to complete those repairs, but expect that there will be some minor things that I need to fix myself. No biggie, as I’m pretty stoked about this boat (and boat maintenance is something I’ll need to get used to). The mantra is that cruising around the world is “boat maintenance in exotic locations.” Any voyager can confirm that.
Officially, it’s not a done deal. But unofficially, it looks like I’ll be taking possession of the boat in the San Blas Islands at the beginning of next month. That’s f*cking crazy. Oh, and did I mention that I liked the seller? Good guy. 73 and doesn’t look a day over 50 – swears that it’s sailing that kept him young. I hope he’s right. To top off what I think is a really great deal, the seller agreed (unofficially) to spend a few days in San Blas showing me exactly how to work every system on board. And showing me all of his dive spots. Not bad, huh?
Boat buying (on a tight budget), in a foreign country, while trying to get ready to leave, and working full-time isn’t for the faint of heart. But neither is sailing around the world.
The next steps are big: let work know I’m leaving (done, and went over surprisingly well), sell everything (will take some time), and say goodbye to everyone I care about (don’t even know where to begin).
But enough of that.
About the Lagoon 380 Sailing Catamaran
The boat is a Lagoon 380 Sailing Catamaran, year 2000. It’s the smallest Lagoon Catamaran, but that makes it more manageable and cheaper to maintain. I ended up with the owner’s version, with a (more desirable) 3 cabin, two-head layout. Rather than the 4th cabin it has a separate head and stand-up shower (to starboard). The boat has 27HP Volvo engines and saildrives and a pretty impressive list of upgrades (for a later post). Here’s the layout:
LOA: 37’ 11”
LWL: 37’ 11”
Beam: 21’ 5”
Draft: 3’ 9”
Sail Area: 851 sq feet
Here she is out of the water. She’s not a small boat.
Not bad bridgedeck clearance either. Note: she’s fully loaded with most (if not all) of the cruising gear I’ll need.
All in all, I’m really, really satisfied with the outcome. Good boat, great price. Great resale value. The right size for me. I can finally sleep again.
And that feeling of “getting nowhere fast” is finally (I hope) behind me. The whole process seemed pretty huge, overwhelming at times. But there’s nothing like real progress to wash that feeling away. Those nagging doubts are becoming smaller and this goal, this huge dream, is finally taking shape.
The real question is: how soon can I get out of here?