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Old 10-10-2013, 09:28   #1
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Buying a boat outside U.S.

In my search I am seeing a few very attractive boats that are for sale outside the U.S. What is the process for purchasing outside U.S. specifically in the Caribbean NOT Europe? How can I ensure that the sale is legitimate and that I actually own the boat?

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Old 10-10-2013, 10:20   #2
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Re: Buying a boat outside U.S.

We bought our second boat oversees in Thailand from a British owner through a local (foreign-owned) yacht brokerage there. What I learned from this would probably apply anywhere.

First, the boat must have clear title. Ours had Admiralty papers attesting to that and a US documented vessel has the same (US documentation + title). Title is often confused with Bill of Sale. <Also, any lawyers out there correct me if I muddle this up>.

Essentially, you need to hand over money to get that clear title which will be represented in a new bill of sale. The broker has to be reputable as in many places he also acts as the escrow, ie, he holds all the money until the deal is completed.

We had a Thai lawyer officiate it to make everything legal under Thai law (and the Thai lawyer was provided by the broker - again, must needs be a reputable broker). Post purchase with new Bill of Sale in hand we de-listed the boat from the Admiralty register and applied for and received US documentation.

We then sailed her for three years going through many countries until winding up in Spain where I sold her. Paperwork and ownership was never a problem.

Yes, there are some great deals to be had overseas particularly in "cruising cul-de-sacs" where cruisers wind up after a long voyage and have an even longer one ahead of them. Many just run out of time or steam and are keen to sell.

Good luck.


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Old 10-10-2013, 10:31   #3
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Re: Buying a boat outside U.S.

First step is to find out and confirm ownership and country of registry. Then search that country's equivalent to Central Registry, simiar to USCG documentation records. Then search for leins and encumbrances against it in the country of registry and country where the boat is berthed. Once you are satisfied the owner is who he/she says they are, sign a conditional sales agreement based on clear title and registration search, survey, mechanical and sea trial. Complete all searches then go to a Notary Public or Marine documentation specialist and have them recommend any missed steps they can think of.
Set up an escrow account for financial transactions and once you are satisfied all conditions have been met, release the funds and register/document the boat in your name. Have a hold back in the escrow based on your success in registering/documenting in your name. The Documentation service can give you guidance on how much holdback is customary.
This procedure may vary some depending on the country in which you are buying the boat and where you are registering/documenting.
This process has worked for me buying a US documented boat for a foreign national in Mexico having first removed it from USCG documentation prior to sale. Phil
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:47   #4
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Re: Buying a boat outside U.S.

When doing the mechanical portion - make sure the engine is cold. Some disreputable owners and brokers will have the engine warmed up prior to inspection. If this happens - run away!

We have cancelled several surveys on this single reason. They are hiding something. We have found oil in the bilges, oil being pumped over the side, cracked transmissions - a whole lot of problems had we bought.

I keep my survey people on speed dial, as we are always looking for good deals.
Capt Bert Q
taking some time off - Falkland Islands
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