Since part of the goal was to pull my mother into a more relaxed environment, I convinced her to commit to some time sailing with me. What I quickly found out is that it was far easier for her to say yes, than to truly commit. She did, though, need to make a decision so I could decide what boat.
I begin looking at cruising catamarans in the $200,000 range between 38-42 feet. Over time though, I realized Mom wouldn’t make the decision. And since my boat choice hinged on her – things were getting pretty frustrating. I tried to arrange a charter but had trouble organizing it and getting commitment from others. I tried sending her to a live-aboard catamaran sailing school. She went. Still nothing.
If she wasn’t going to come, I decided to drop down in budget to $100,000 for an outfitted, blue-water cruising monohull. Of course, that’s a huge shift. So I hedged, deciding to pursue a cruising catamaran in the $150,000 range between 36-38 feet. Hopefully when it became a reality, she’d come.
The First Offer
I put in an offer on an Fountaine Pajot Athena 38. It was exhilarating, and a huge wave of relief – to finally make forward progress. The seller was asking $179,000 and I offered something like $139,000. Big difference – but sometimes that works in the boat market. He wouldn’t budge much, I came up to $145,000 but the deal was off.
I already knew all the cruising catamarans in my price range, and knew we were getting to the bottom of the barrel. But we found a (my) Lagoon 380 catamaran in Panama for $159,000 – largely outfitted for cruising. We put in an offer at $150,000 with 30-day close and made it a “take-it-or-leave-it” deal, with wording in the contract precluding me from negotiating on price (both of which are very attractive to a seller). On the other hand, I could ask for repairs to be made. The offer was immediately accepted. If I had to do it over again, I would have come in at $145,000.
The next step was finding someone to look at the Lagoon 380, inventory it, photo everything, and give us a general idea of the condition of the vessel. I was very hesitant to fly a surveyor in from out of the country due to the expense. But I was open to suggestions. We weren’t able to find many suggestions, but a local Panamanian company named IME came up. A quick call from me and some other fairly positive feedback made me comfortable enough with them. The kicker was that my boat was on the other side of Panama from IME and they charged $65 an hour to drive there.
With such a short close date, I was quickly running out of options (and time). So I agreed to have IME do the survey. It wasn’t cheap – but (in theory) they’d give me some excellent feedback that I could use to decide to proceed or not. Either way, it’s way cheaper than me flying down there. We arranged, with too much back-and-forth, a date for the survey.
The day of the survey I got off work, returned home, and had a frustrating email in my inbox. IME was unable to complete the sea-trial due to the owner’s insistence on having the bottom done when the catamaran was hauled-out. Without a sea-trial, my survey was pretty superficial.
I wasn’t happy, but the upside was I got a fresh bottom-job out of the deal. Not all bad.
After receiving the survey results, I was underwhelmed. The catamaran looked fantastic, but the survey pegged the value way over market value, contained several obvious errors, and there were many places where the surveyor chose to rely upon the seller for critical information. What’s the point of hiring a surveyor, if you’re relying on the seller for information? Big red flag. A friend called the survey “completely and utterly useless.”
Nonetheless, I booked a flight to Panama and IME went with us for the remainder of the survey: the sea-trial. IME drove myself and my broker to the Lagoon 380 catamaran (located in Shelter Bay Marina) and performed the sea-trial. Again, I was underwhelmed by the surveyor. We found several deficiencies onboard, but even the final survey didn’t address them. Note: when I say “we” found deficiencies, I mean myself and my broker – not the surveyor. Not so spiffy. It was put-up or shut-up time, though.
I asked the seller to fix the deficiencies found, which he agreed to, and the deal was progressing.
At this point we had submitted 3 or 4 contract extensions – so everyone was ready to get the boat closed.
For escrow I was using Details Details, and for my marine documentation I was using ASAP marine documentation. Both of those companies were excellent to work with. Details Details finally sent me all of the necessary documents to close – both myself and my mother signed them (she’s co-owner, just in case). ASAP marine documentation sent me an equally impressive pile of paperwork to have signed and notarized – once again completed without issue.
It finally came time to wire the remainder of the money to Details Details. I built in 3 days for the wire transfer, to ensure that I wouldn’t need another contract extension. I went to the bank, singed the paperwork for the wire transfer, and received a stack of paper that served as a receipt. I double and triple checked everything – the pucker factor was high. I thought all was well.
The day before we were supposed to close (a Friday) – I received a call from my broker: there’s no money in the escrow account. Of course I revert to worst case scenario: my money’s in the hands of a Florida drug kingpin, my trip is ruined, I’m broke, the world is ending. Panicked phone calls ensued. It turns out, after some detective work, that my bank had (incompetently) failed to authorize the wire transfer (a significant sum) and (negligently) failed to tell me about it. Disaster. I started drinking at 3PM that day.
The seller and seller’s broker are, at this point, assuming I’m not serious. We need another contract extension (it’s Friday and the new wire won’t go out ’till Monday), and I’m terrified that my significant escrow deposit is now at risk. The seller eventually agrees to extend the contract again. Huge relief. The bank and I have a no-BS talk, and they eventually do what they can to make the situation right (hint: there’s very little they can do).
In the meantime I secure quotes from a few insurance providers and begin evaluating them. We weren’t done though. There was yet another contract extension so the seller could get some documents notarized at the US Embassy in Panama. Finally done, we closed. And I had insurance the same day.
Now the real work begins – wrapping up 30 years worth of loose ends in a couple of months. And learning to sail my boat. And physically accepting my vessel. And learning to plan and provision. And learning about every single mechanical/electrical system on my boat. Those are challenges I’m looking forward to though.
Now, finally, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the most liberating feeling I’ve had. Ever.
Reasons I Chose the Lagoon 380 Catamaran
- It was cheap (compared to other, similar cruising catamarans)
- It was big enough, but not too big
- Lagoon builds a nice cruising catamaran – not a speed demon, but comfortable and safe
- There’s a huge resale market for the Lagoon 380 catamaran, and it holds it’s value well
- My Lagoon 380 catamaran was priced below-market
- I found an owner’s version of the Lagoon 380 catamaran
- They’re functional, fun, and easy to single-hand
Companies I’d use again:
- ASAP Marine Documentation – hassle free boat registration/documentation
- Details Details Escrow Service – the escrow part of the Catamaran Company
- Coastal Insurance – compared boat insurance through multiple companies
- The Catamaran Company – specifically Staley Wiedman
Companies I won’t use again: