Purchasing a yacht/boat overseas

(Alana Rose under sail)

Purchasing a yacht overseas 2007

If you have read my blog pages ‘Sailing from Caribbean to Australia’ you will see we have had a bit of an adventure by purchasing a catamaran overseas and bringing it back to Australia. The place we started was the place of purchase Marigot Bay, St Lucia, in the West Indies, Caribbean. We learnt very quickly the two most important things everyone runs on island time (slow pace and late for everything), and to be polite and patient with authorities.
At the moment we are nearing the end of our voyage and we have found that island time and authorities are very similar throughout the Caribbean and the Pacific. From the Caribbean through to French Polynesia they have siesta time, everything closes from midday or earlier until 2 or 3 pm. However, they do open earlier and close later in some places.
Dealing with authorities:
Through these countries you may have language barriers unless you can speak Spanish or French, I cannot do either I have enough trouble with English. To make things easy I had noticed that all authorities ask for the same details so I made up a format that had these details and a few more to help in clearing in and out of ports. The form that I made up improved as I visited the different ports as some authorities needed more information. It started as the crew list and grew as the needs changed; see sample, usually printed A4 Landscape.

Detail sheet for boat

This format has settled some of the toughest officers which were the French Gendarmes. This form answers all the questions authorities will ask and will help break the language barrier.

We purchased our catamaran through The Moorings Charter Company in St Lucia but had to deal through the Moorings Brokerage in Florida which is no problem other than delays in paperwork.
One problem we did have was that we had to have documents notarised so that we did not release the original documents. People that could normally do this in Australia like a bank manager, police officer; justice of the piece etc. is not available in St Lucia. We first went to the bank manager, she asked if we had an account there, we said we did not and she replied that she could not do it then. Next we visited the police, no they will not sign, and this was the same for other government officials. We were about to employ a solicitor and had help from the Marina Manager, he was going to take us to his solicitor when he had time. Then we went to our favourite bar, Chateau Mygo and visited Doreen we explained the problem we were having and she said Vandyke can do that for you I will ring him. Vandyke turned out to be her cousin and a Barrister practised law in England, America, and St Lucia. He was a very nice man and signed the documents with his seal for us. The price was to ensure everyone new that the people are very nice in Marigot Bay, they certainly are, and I think I have promoted that fact in my other blog.
One thing to be aware of is that an Australian purchasing a boat overseas has the responsibility to register it in Australia as soon as possible. Provisional registration can be obtained from Shipping Registry Office in Canberra and Mr. Baker in this office is very helpful.
If you FedEx the notarised documents to this office you can get full registration and not have to pay provisional.
Once the paperwork was out of the way it was time to get going but we had to get some things for the catamaran. One has to remember these boats are in bare-boat charter, this means it is not equipped beyond the requirements of the laws in the country it operates. We however, are taking this yacht half way around the world. So on top of your purchase price allow at least an extra $20,000 for other requirements namely safety gear.
The yacht came with bedding, galley equipment, towels, cups, plates and some safety equipment etc. enough for ten people. They had harnesses and life jackets, the life jackets are the bulky type, we purchased inflatable jackets the slim type very comfortable to wear. The main items we purchased other than these were as follows:
Additional flares, Epirb 406, life raft, HF Radio, grab bag, additional torches, more first aid equipment, additional fuel and water containers, additional ropes and spare blocks/pulleys. If you are using GPS ensure you have a spare, you should carry one in your grab bag.
Navigation items such as charts, I purchased more than $2,000 worth of paper charts before leaving Australia and had to purchase more. You cannot buy charts anywhere; I had to order some in from Australia. As a matter of fact do not rely on anyplace to get what you want. I could not purchase the HF radio in St Lucia, Grenada had one and I purchased it after a friend said do not rely on buying one in the Panama. They were right Panama did not have one. Panama is a cheap place for items but they do not always have what you need.
You will require spares, nuts, bolts, screws, fuel filters, oil filters, oil, hoses, hose clamps, light globes fuses, tools, additional power source e.g. portable generator, or solar panels.
We found it easier to by a portable generator as with island time it takes forever to get work done and if you have a schedule it will drive you mad and give delays in departure.
Naturally if you are not a DIY person you will have to pay someone else to fit the equipment for you or try and find a friendly yachty to do it for you. But don’t stretch the friendship. Once you get sailing you will meet up with other yachties that need a hand and everyone helps each other.
You can make it enjoyable if you treat the process like a holiday but again this costs money some places are cheaper than others.
Once fitted out, fuelled, watered and stored its time to set off but first plan the voyage, this plan may be changed from time to time as was as, this can be due to weather and sea conditions, but make sure you have some planning ask other yachties about the trip may have done it before or know someone that has already arrived and have received radio contact or emails with information.
Find out what radio networks are about many boats start a net to check each others safety and obtain information from yachts ahead of them. There are weather nets that can be useful I will list some of them later.
Make sure you get as much information that you can about the places that you are going to and information about the passage route. In the Caribbean for instance you will meet yachties that have been sailing these waters for years they are a wealth of information.
One important point yachts do have breakdowns even new yachts, we are putting these items through the worst environment, salt water, during the dark hours it is best to close the hatches if it is a damp air moisture will find its way through everything. Keep all wiring connections coated in WD40 or similar product.

Ready to set off:
Before setting off you have to clear out with Customs and Immigration, you will need the clearing in document for the yacht when it arrived in the country, the local Moorings Manager forgot to give it to us, and we had to go back and get it from Marigot Bay and clear out from there. Some countries have a departure tax that you will need to pay.
It is a good idea to get a couple of copies of your clearing out document, your ships papers copies of your passports etc. Some countries demand two or three copies of documents, if you do not have them they get upset and then you suffer the long waiting game. As I mentioned before it pays to be polite and prepared. Do not offer any other information other than answer the questions they ask. You can pay a price for being too friendly, you give them information that they can build on and cause them to ask questions that they would not normally ask. Once you have your paperwork it is required to raise your Q flag until you leave in some places. Do not overstay your clearing out time, you nominated the time of leaving make sure you go at that time. If for some reason you cannot, unexpected bad weather or something broke down go and see the authorities and tell them.
Getting underway:
We have found that it is better to sail later in the day, this helps with the settling down of crew off watch sleep patterns, set sail in the morning no one will go have a sleep, but they may have a nap in port. We all get a little excited when we first set off out of a port. It can take three days to get used to a new routine of watch keeping. This can depend on how many crew you have and how long the shifts are. In our case there were just two of us, but I have heard of crews of four saying the same thing.
In our voyage we saw many of freighters, they are very large and quite fast, and they can be out of site ten minutes later they are on top of you. Do not take it for granted that they will see you in some cases they will not. Shipping lanes can get rather busy. In some cases where you are not in shipping lanes you can come across other ships. We had the closest encounter in the open seas between Galapagos and Marquesas, 3,025 nms between ports and no other lands. A Japanese fishing boat came out of the setting sun on the exact opposing course we took the evasive action and had passed him within 100 metres. The person on watch was out on the open deck and only noticed us after I radioed him. He was only the second ship we had seen in those 3,000 nms.
Guide books and pilot books:

There are a lot of guides that you can purchase as we did and we have used them and found them very useful. A thing to remember is that the latest book has information that is at least four year old. Places can change dramatically in four years. Search the internet you will find some people like us that run blogs or websites that have more recent information that will help.