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Old 09-11-2014, 12:51   #1
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Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Getting close to the time when I'll begin the boat buying process, and have a couple of questions for the kind sailors here: Outside of the USVI, BVI, and possibly St. Martin, are there any other places you'd recommend a US citizen buy a sub-$20,000 boat? And secondly, where are the best sites to research such boats (we've looked on Craigslist, Yachtworld, Sailboat listings, and individual brokers' sites, but selection hasn't been huge, and we would really like to get at least three very good prospects in one easy location so that we don't waste a flight out).

The situation is that a friend and I will be buying a cheaper sailboat and intend to cruise the Caribbean from December to April. We have both been members of a sailing club and have done week-long cruises in the BVI and in New England, as well as a ton of overnighters and weekenders. We were originally going to buy in Florida and start with the Bahamas, but then thought that, in our price range, there might be a number of boats in the Caribbean that aren't worth the price of delivery back to the US and that the owners don't want to sail back themselves, and where the owners (or heirs) are in a hurry to sell. Initial research reveals that this might be the case, and that the best places to buy (greatest number of sub-$20,000 boats) are in those places mentioned above.

A few complications: We may bring the boat back to the US so would like it to be US-flagged in order to avoid import duties. Neither of us have ever bought a boat before and while buying US-flagged appears straightforward in the USVI/BVI with a cooperating PO, we have no idea what might be entailed in islands further afield, and whether a broker can ease that situation for us. Our goal is to sell the boat at the end of this small cruise without losing A LOT of money, we're happy to lose a bit though. This is the main reason we're looking at a sub-$20k price point, we could go higher if we thought we could sell it again quickly without a large ($5k+) loss at resale. If it doesn't work out, we may still just buy in Florida and focus on the Keys and the Bahamas.

Thanks for your help and hope to join you on the water soon!
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Old 19-11-2014, 06:22   #2
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Just wanted to bump this as I'm making a list of available boats in my price range to get a sense of what's available. All help is appreciated, thanks!
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Old 19-11-2014, 07:17   #3
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

I would contact the big yards like Spice Island in Grenada, Curacao Marine in Curacao and the boat yards like Power Boats in Chagaramus Trinidad. They might have reasonably priced abandoned/low priced boats on the hard.

I would make any deal contingent on the yard launching the boat and making sure the engine worked.
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Old 19-11-2014, 07:22   #4
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Rio Dulce Guatemala?

See SeaKist Yacht Sales | Boat Brokerage and Listings in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

And Guatemala Yacht Broker-Boats-sailboats for sale-Oldest brokerage firm on Rio Dulce GUATEMALA

And also private boats not list above for example Valiant 32 $14,000
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Old 19-11-2014, 10:10   #5
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Thanks for the tips! I was worried I'd have to change the subject to "best place to buy a sunfish in the Caribbean for a high latitudes circumnavigation" to get any responses.

I've reached out to the yards suggested, thanks for that! I also added Guatemala to my list of locations - there are, as you mentioned, many boats in my price range that seem in reasonably good nick. However, it looks like the first part of that cruise would be a pretty long beat to get back to the islands which of course puts a lot of strain on and old boat; that may be why the prices are lower there. I'll look into that passage, as well as whether it may be more fun to cruise Mexico and Belize. Thanks again for your help!
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Old 19-11-2014, 11:01   #6
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Might be fun to go throw in a bid on this boat:

C&C 115 Public Auction in Tortola on December 12th - ALL AT SEA

Persons Interested in the Vessel “Snowbird”
SALE BY PUBLIC AUCTION
TAKE NOTE that on Friday the 12th day of December 2014 the sailing vessel “Snowbird” will be sold pursuant to an order of the High Court of Justice in BVIHAD2014/0002 made on 13th November 2014.
The Admiralty Marshal will put the under-mentioned vessel up for sale by public auction at 9:00 a.m. at the High Court Registry, Main Street, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Name: Snowbird
Hull Identification Number: TEM38072J708
Registration number: 1209483
Registered Port: Maine, US
Location: Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour
Description: Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic Sloop built by
Novis Marine USA in 2007 as a 2008 model
C&C115 with approximate dimensions 37’9” x 6’8”.
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Old 19-11-2014, 11:10   #7
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Nothing like a seized property auction! I found an older C&C 36' Snowbird that was sold by BVI yacht sales, but nothing on a 2007/2008 model. If I'm in the islands then I'll definitely pop in for a look, thanks!
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Old 19-11-2014, 11:14   #8
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Can I just add: your plan sounds like a fantastic adventure and I'm very jealous. Hope it all goes well -- you get a great boat, have an amazing cruise, and then sell it for a profit. . . . Repeat as necessary.
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Old 19-11-2014, 11:19   #9
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Thanks Cormorant! Very few times in life I'll have a chance like this and it's time to jump! As for selling for a profit, that remains to be seen, but as long as I don't lose too much, I'm happy with the experience

p.s. I always hoped to see your boat in Provincetown the past two summers, but was never there at the right time. She looks beautiful! If I ever build a boat ...
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Old 19-11-2014, 11:28   #10
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Cool idea, that sounds like a lot of fun.

I wouldn't trust a broker to do the paperwork properly -- use marine documentation folks. If you need a place to start, 'ASAP Marine documentation' in Ft Lauderdale fixed a particularly complicated purchase for me.

You'll invariably have a list for your new boat. A liferaft, flares, a dinghy, or etc. For that, I am just a huge fan of St Maarten for getting boat stuff done. The chandleries are better stocked than San Diego or Ft Lauderdale, and easier to get to by dinghy. And if you need specialist help-- a rigger, machinist, diesel mechanic, or etc-- everyone I worked with there was on the ball and very go-go-go. So I feel there's a real advantage to starting there and being able to work through your list quickly.
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Old 19-11-2014, 12:06   #11
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

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Originally Posted by brownoarsman View Post
Thanks for the tips! I was worried I'd have to change the subject to "best place to buy a sunfish in the Caribbean for a high latitudes circumnavigation" to get any responses.

I've reached out to the yards suggested, thanks for that! I also added Guatemala to my list of locations - there are, as you mentioned, many boats in my price range that seem in reasonably good nick. However, it looks like the first part of that cruise would be a pretty long beat to get back to the islands which of course puts a lot of strain on and old boat; that may be why the prices are lower there. I'll look into that passage, as well as whether it may be more fun to cruise Mexico and Belize. Thanks again for your help!
It is not uncommon for cruisers to throw in the towel after reaching the Rio and I think its upwind to anywhere location contributes, but if you take your time and wait for good weather windows, and apply some local knowldege, its not bad...and if you return to the Rio for the off-season, as many do, then its downhill all the way home.

Abandonded boats are fairly common on the Rio, but are typically in really rough shape plus have paperwork issues.

The NW & SW Carib are great cruising grounds. Much less crowded and less expensive than the E Carib.

You might check Panama for similar reasons. Also confiscated boats are not uncommon there due to drug busts. I know of a couple of cats that were recently purchased from impound for pennies on the dollar and a Priviledge 44 which is still impounded.
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Old 19-11-2014, 12:33   #12
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

There are boats in the Rio that are far from abandoned and a good deal. Just last year there was a 44' ketch that some English guy paid $18K for and they set sail right away. It even had a working generator after a 15 minute repair job.
The trick is finding/selling one before it rots.
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Old 19-11-2014, 12:44   #13
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

I understand wanting to avoid a deliver cost, but also consider the cost of traveling to the Caribbean to shop, cost of accommodations and costs of addressing boat issues someplace far from home, where perhaps you need to rent a car.

There many great deals or ex-charter boats due to the great supply, but those are above the price point you mentioned.

A bought a boat in Florida several years ago - A Hunter 31, which I used for two seasons cruising the Bahamas, and then sold it. That allowed me to drive my own car to the boat location, drive to get boat parts, etc. I also felt comfortable sailing the Bahamas in a cheaper boat than I would have wanted for the Caribbean. Something to consider as an alternative with the budget you mentioned.
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Old 19-11-2014, 13:13   #14
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

Thanks everyone for the tips! I definitely need to do some more research on the Guatemala/Panama options, including looking into cruising there and whether that's something I might want to do.

Msponer - do you have any leads or resources for boats for sale in St. Martin from your time there? The only two viable options I found on sailboatlistings and Craigslist were an overpriced Vega (it has a mooring and trailer that I don't want) and a Coronado 35 (a roomy boat, but also one that's 40 years old with core under the waterline, and at the very upper limit of what I'd want to pay). So far the USVI looks like the "richest" (poor word choice? ) hunting grounds with some older Hunters and Pearsons.

Nautical62 - the Florida option was my original plan, and there's an Iroquois catamaran (18" draft) there that would be so perfect for a Bahamas boat (and my youth as a Hobie sailor). I'm just worried about getting bored in the Bahamas and then facing the upwind passage to Puerto Rico and the VI, and the necessity of doubling back to bring the boat back to the US. I figured by starting further south in the E. Carib I could take a more leisurely cruise, see more, have more beam and downwind passages, and be in the Bahamas later in the season when it's warmer. Plus, I've found the flights and hotels to be pretty manageable in the past, and I have a fair amount of frequent flyer points. Of course, for the right boat and the chance to load up on peanut butter and beer at Costco. Argh, I'm still torn!
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Old 19-11-2014, 14:38   #15
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Re: Best place to buy in the Caribbean?

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Msponer - do you have any leads or resources for boats for sale in St. Martin from your time there?
There's a Facebook Group for St Martin, maybe you could post there and ask? I bought my boat from Tony Brewer at Little Ship Company. He's based there and might know of a boat that's been sitting in a yard and not one of his listings -- I think in your price range it's more common to see a boat for sale on a bulletin board than on the Internet.
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