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Old 06-11-2012, 08:05   #1
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Buying a boat in Cuba

Hi all,

I have been tempted by an enticing opportunity, but the whole situation sounds very fishy to me and i need some confirmation that it's probably better to walk away...

A U.S. citizen has a U.S. registered trimaran named Eros, sitting in Varadero, Cuba. According to him, he overstayed his visa there and was deported by plane back to the Florida Keys. He is now selling the boat at a bargain price as the buyer would need to bring the boat back from Cuba to Florida.

I am a british citizen, however, apparently we cannot simply transfer the title in florida to me and then i take the boat on to mexico or bahamas - all the papers are on the boat, but more importantly, it would involve complications with cuba authoroties. Supposedly, if i go over there with written permission from him to be a delivery skipper, they will have no problem releasing it (as long i settle the slip fees). Only once i arrive back in the US can we then transfer the title.

The seller says he has made the 97mile crossing many times with no issues from US authorities after a white lie concerning his port of origin.

I am not convinced.

How does this sound to everyone? Considering, if i am able to successfully get hold of this boat, at the price he is offering, it would be an unbelievable deal....

To me, it sounds like the old too-good-to-be-true-so-it-probably-is situation
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:10   #2
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Run, run run. Do not look back or to the side just run away as fast as you can.
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:17   #3
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

This sounds very, very suspicious to me. Might be worth investigating but I would be extremely careful and would not give anyone a dime (or even a ha-penny) until I was absolutely, 100% certain that the seller could insure you a clear title.

If you really want to give it a go I would offer to deposit the money in an escrow account of my own choosing with papers and protection drawn up by a solicitor also of my own choosing and allow transfer of funds only after the boat was removed from Cuba and a clear title obtained and verified by the proper legal authorities.

If the boat is US owned and documented you can research the title with the US Coast Guard. Maybe a place to start is to ask the seller for the USCG documentation number, the boats documented name, his address, etc. You can then enter the name on this web site Office of Science and Technology and it will show you the owner's name and registered address. Next step is to check with the USCG documentation office to verify clear title, no leans, etc.

Good luck and be careful.
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:28   #4
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

I gave the guy a $500 deposit to buy some time (which at the moment i have accepted i won't be seeing again).

I then contacted a local broker in florida (i am based in the UK for now) and he did some research. The boat IS coastguard documented to the sellers address and the seller agreed to set up an escrow account through this broker, which would guarantee sale of the boat to me once it made it into florida.

However, it still requires a big investment from my side as i am not experienced enough yet to bring the boat across myself - i would need to hire someone to do it. I am worried about three things:

a) pay money for myself and a skipper to get there and the boat is being held by cuban authorities. I don't speak spanish, so dealing with that wouldn't be easy.

b) Make it out of cuba and the US authoroties seize the boat.

c) Even worse, make it out of cuba only to be found with this guy's contraband onboard and spend time in US prison.

To be honest, i had pretty much come to the decision to follow Cotemar's advice above, unless someone had some very relevant experience going from cuba to the US that would convince me otherwise.

It's a 52 ft trimaran going for $5000. Thats why i haven't given up so easily. The way i see it at the moment, i've spent $500 to buy time to do some research, better than losing $5000
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:43   #5
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Hmmm reminds me of
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My rich Nigerian uncle passed away and left you in his will.......
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:52   #6
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

All valid concerns. You should also consider that the boat may be trashed or wrecked and not worth $5000.

On the USCG web site the only documented vessel named Eros around 52' is a 1976 50.8' GRP documented to Raymond Schwartz in Tampa FL If that is the one a vessel that old I would question the condition.

Since you are British is there not a Cuban embassy you can contact? Make inquiries about any legal entanglements in Cuba? Maybe contact the marina or dockmaster where the boat is docked to find out what they might know. I think if there is some legal hassle with boat someone at the marina would certainly know something.

Please note, not saying you should do this just giving some ideas on how to approach it with minimal risk. I have seen killer deals on boats with issues like this but also killer scams. When I was a yacht broker in Ft Lauderdale I sold a 53' Spencer that a smuggler had purchased and stripped out the interior. Boat was structurally perfect, rigging and sails excellent but all the interior furnishings were pulled, I assumed to build secret compartments or something. The owner was in jail for some other deal and his wife was trying to sell the boat to raise bail, fast. The boat with interior in shape was easily worth $250,000. It sold for $25,000. If I had known how cheaply it would sell I would have bought it myself.
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Old 06-11-2012, 09:07   #7
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProjectElandra View Post
Hi all,

.. i need some confirmation that it's probably better to walk away...

A U.S. citizen has a U.S. registered trimaran named Eros, sitting in Varadero, Cuba. ..
I wonder if this is the same dismasted trimaran called Eros that is mentioned in In Cuba '08-'09.. If that is correct there may be a long list of violations of US rules enforced by the Departments of Commerce and Treasury (OFAC and BIS) and this may be enough to turn you off even if you do not need a boat that can be taken to the US.

The big question is why does the owner want you to take the boat to the US instead of transferring title in the high seas or a place that does not tax boat sales (as many former British colonies in the Caribbean). Strange..
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Old 06-11-2012, 09:18   #8
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

I'll be in Varadero for two weeks starting Dec 8. I can walk on over to the yacht club and have a look, take pictures etc. It won't answer all your questions, but at least you'll know there is an actual boat and what condition it's in.
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Old 06-11-2012, 09:34   #9
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

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Originally Posted by svlamorocha View Post
I wonder if this is the same dismasted trimaran called Eros that is mentioned in In Cuba '08-'09.. If that is correct there may be a long list of violations of US rules enforced by the Departments of Commerce and Treasury (OFAC and BIS) and this may be enough to turn you off even if you do not need a boat that can be taken to the US.

The big question is why does the owner want you to take the boat to the US instead of transferring title in the high seas or a place that does not tax boat sales (as many former British colonies in the Caribbean). Strange..

Yes! it must be that boat! because the seller mentioned that it does not currently have a mast (another reason for the low asking price). I clicked your link but the page has expired, or at least, i can't seem to access it. I would be very curious to see this list of violations.

I am currently in contact with the seller and i suggested transferring titles in the US, then i take the boat from cuba to mexico and on south for my travels, rather than deal with the hassle of bringing it into florida. He wanted it to come back to florida because all his personal items are onboard, including his motorbike (apparently the cuban authorities did not let him return to his boat before sending him out by plane). I suggested buying the bike from him too and he can collect his clothes/laptop etc from mexico.
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Old 06-11-2012, 10:12   #10
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

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Originally Posted by Efraim View Post
I'll be in Varadero for two weeks starting Dec 8. I can walk on over to the yacht club and have a look, take pictures etc. It won't answer all your questions, but at least you'll know there is an actual boat and what condition it's in.
Hi Efraim,

That is very kind of you - thank you.

If i haven't walked away from this whole thing by then, then i would certainly like to take you up on that offer.
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Old 06-11-2012, 15:54   #11
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Check the price of having a mast and rigging, and maybe sails shipped to Cuba, and Ill bet the boat is not a bargain at any price. Add in the set up costs if you are not an experienced boat owner. I think you just got a 500 dollar learning experience. 500 dollar loss is cheap compared to what you can get yourself into with a siezed, derilect, damaged boat in a country that has rather intolerant laws. As has been stated before,RUN as fast and far as you can. Just my opinion._____Grant.
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Old 06-11-2012, 17:51   #12
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProjectElandra View Post
I gave the guy a $500 deposit to buy some time (which at the moment i have accepted i won't be seeing again).

I then contacted a local broker in florida (i am based in the UK for now) and he did some research. The boat IS coastguard documented to the sellers address and the seller agreed to set up an escrow account through this broker, which would guarantee sale of the boat to me once it made it into florida.

However, it still requires a big investment from my side as i am not experienced enough yet to bring the boat across myself - i would need to hire someone to do it. I am worried about three things:

a) pay money for myself and a skipper to get there and the boat is being held by cuban authorities. I don't speak spanish, so dealing with that wouldn't be easy.

b) Make it out of cuba and the US authoroties seize the boat.

c) Even worse, make it out of cuba only to be found with this guy's contraband onboard and spend time in US prison.

To be honest, i had pretty much come to the decision to follow Cotemar's advice above, unless someone had some very relevant experience going from cuba to the US that would convince me otherwise.

It's a 52 ft trimaran going for $5000. Thats why i haven't given up so easily. The way i see it at the moment, i've spent $500 to buy time to do some research, better than losing $5000
I intentionally quoted your post above so that you could re-read it and ask yourself a very simple question -- "Does this sound like a good idea -- really?".

In addition to the long list of potential problems you itemize above (and probably an even longer list that you don't know about yet), there is the basic fact that cheap boats are typically not a good deal. Ask you self this too "does 5K for a 52' boat sound like a realistic price? -- really?". Just read the forlorn posts here of the unfortunate souls who have made the mistake of buying "cheap" boats. If I saw a 52' boat listed for $5K not only would I give up easily -- I would run in the opposite direction. (See this thread: I'm Walking Away from my Boat).

Since you are not an experienced boater let me put it this way. If you saw a $1M home listed for $10K, with a long list of legal and structural issues, would you buy it?

If your answer is "yes" then PM me! I have some "deals" I would like to discuss further with you!
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Old 06-11-2012, 18:56   #13
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

This is way to "iffy" when you consider how soft the used boat market here in the States is. I also wouldn't chance getting into trouble with either government.
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Old 06-11-2012, 19:34   #14
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Huye chico, huyele
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Old 06-11-2012, 20:57   #15
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Re: Buying a boat in Cuba

Unappealing. For all the reasons listed. There is no way to predict how the boat will be handled by US, but if OFAC has issues with this guy, a coast guard documented boat would be low hanging fruit for seizure. I think it is more likely it will go badly, as our policies have not changed much towards visiting Cuba. This is a US flagged vessel, and they'll harass the hell out of you no matter how you are flagged it seems.

I'll be in the Veradero/Matanzas area just after New Years too, and my interest is piqued. I'm just curious what is growing on the bottom of the boat!

Good luck, and I agree $500 is cheap entertainment compared to the shi*show of:

A) Dealing with the Cuban gov't
B) Dealing with the US gov't
C) Getting a large, one-off tri ready for trans-atlantic
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