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Old 19-11-2006, 22:31   #1
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Buying a Boat in Mexico - Advice Appreciated

Hello all,

Myself and 2 friends have had the dream of buying a boat and circumnavigating for the past 5 years. We all three went to university together, and have been working as engineers in Vancouver, B.C. We've saved every penny, and are planning on leaving in the spring. The one big obstacle in our way is a lack of boat. We've looked at plenty in Vancouver and Seattle, but everying seems over-priced compared to San Diego, Florida and Mexico. Or what we've seen on anyways. Our budget is tight, but I think it is realistic.

So one plan is to fly down to Mexico in January and look at boats there. Maybe set up some appointments w' brokers in La Paz, San Carlos, and PV. We've heard of lots of stories of people selling their boats for great deals in a hurry, if you can be in the right place at the right time. That seems a bit unlikely. We certainly aren't going to sit around a dock waiting.

So, my questions are these:

I'm going to call some brokers, but is it worth going down there in person without a specific boat to look at? I'm thinking 2 weeks in January. Then if we find something, head back in early April.

Where else other than La Paz, San Carlos, and PV should we go?

Is it more difficult legally to buy a boat in Mexico?

Other than yatchworld, are there any good sites to check out?

Any info would be helpful.

Hugh Patterson
Vancouver, B.C.
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Old 20-11-2006, 04:26   #2
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Location: Currently based near Jacksonville FL; WHOOSH's homeport is St. Pete, FL USA
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Hugh, I suspect you will find varied opinions on your 'Mexican Shopping Adventure'. Were I in your shoes, here are a few things I would consider:

1. The 'right boat' for your needs is dependent on where you hope to cruise. The more ambitious your collective cruising goals - and the more constrained your budget - the tougher it will be to find what you want. This in turn results in two suggestions for you: post your specific cruising plans here so more relevant suggestions can be fetched, and choose shopping plans with the assumption you'll need to see a large number of boats in a relatively short period of time.
2. While there will inevitably be some number of cruising boats for sale in Mexico, it is unlikely to be the easiest, most efficient place to shop & buy. Logistics when moving up/down the coast can be awkward. Some of the boats will not be well outfitted as hopping down from the LA/SD area isn't the same trip that is made by boats sailing to & in the Caribbean. And you'll then face the logistics of buying in a foreign country while registering back home, applying for your 10 year permit, etc. There will also be, to some extent WRT brokers and govt. officials, a language issue. Subsequent outfitting of the boat will inevitably need to rely on a USA-Mexican supply train, which is usually a hassle. All do-able but not as easy as buying in the USA.
3. Buying foreign avoids sales tax but, if you stage your purchase near your departure, the same can be accomplished in the USA, on either coast by prepping the boat and then shoving off. There are many threads on this topic.

Were I you, I would consider shopping in Mexico only if I were certain I was then departing for the South Pacific or wanted to remain cruising in Mexico for an extended period. If I was considering a spell in the Caribbean or departing to see Europe, I would shop in the West Palm to Miami stretch of Florida. Boat prices are among the lowest in the country, you'll find returning Caribbean boats in abundance with some level of cruising gear, air fares can be very cheap with lots of choices, no language barrier, you can register the boat in a no-tax state if you opt for that choice, and rental cars are very cheap there, as well. Outfitting and availability of trade skills is excellent, especially if putting the boat in a less costly area (e.g. the "Space Coast" area around Melbourne).

I would initially not be drawn to shopping in the E Caribbean. There is a wider selection of brands/models out there because many Europeans are eager to fly home after having their Atlantic Crossing 'fling'...but it isn't an inexpensive place to outfit/repair and, again, moving around the islands while shopping can get expensive.

A good broker can be a very helpful piece of the puzzle...but they are few and far between. Don't assume any broker will solve any of your problems for you, until you've had the person show you otherwise.

Good luck to you!

WHOOSH, Pearson 424 Ketch
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Old 20-11-2006, 11:58   #3
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Some echos

I have to agree with several of Euro Sailor's comments, and I'm in your region.

I've purchased several boats, and flown south a couple of times to look at specific boats. In my experiences boats down south are cheaper because they have more wear and tear, especially sun damage to woodwork, sails, and gelcoat. This doesn't mean they're a bad deal, just that the boat will either need more in refit costs or you're going to live with it in a somewhat rundown condition. Oh, and your costs to go see any boat has to be added into the cost of your final boat price, no matter if you bought the boat you flew to see or not. (Start tracking those fuel and ferry fees too; they could be saved and added to the cruising kitty.)

Your shopping will be more efficient, and you'll be able to estimate costs and time more accurately, in your own region. Your refit will be faster and more to your spec if you do it locally as well. This is because you have local knowledge and can leverage that, which you can't do in a foreign port. If you do purchase in San Diego or further south, it may be cost effective to ship to Vancouver to refit. Especially when you include your travel/hotel/food costs.

Do not sail to a schedule. I would discourage the idea of buying a boat, outfitting, and departing on a circumnav in less than 6 months if none of you have any offshore experience. There's a learning curve, and you will have gear/systems failures, so it might be nice to spend a year improving the boat, the cruising kitty, and your experience. (Also, you could time your departure to be over-lapped by the 2008 Vic-Maui race, giving you some fellow sailors to talk with.)

If you are planning a circumnav, it's not a bad idea to have a good shake-down cruise - preferably as the first leg of the circumnav. That's not really possible from Vancouver, as the first leg is usually a really big jump to Hawaii. You might consider circumnavigating Vancouver Island as a shake-down, and taking your departure from Victoria (after a few days of decompressing, and assessing how it went.) I suggest counter-clockwise, and try doing the west coast in one jump well offshore, even if you will then miss some fabulous gunkholing.

Finally, you might consider the cost benefits of purchasing new. If you factor in the insurance costs (which are likely to be outrageous) and plan to sell immediately on your return, it can sometimes be a good financial plan. The goal is to lose as little money as possible, but you will not break even (which is sometimes possible with a used vessel.)

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog anchored in a coral atoll.
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Old 20-11-2006, 17:38   #4
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Hello Hugh P:

I must say that it is almost always a bad idea to go against Eurocruiser's advice. He has well thought out answers. Here is my exeperince with buying a boat in a foriegn country. First was an Islander 36 that I went down to San Carlos, Mexico to look at. Boat was misrepresented from the broker. It was a real fixer like the rudder needed to be rebuilt the keel bolts were crumbling there were soft spots on the hull and skeg. Anyway I wasted about $750 and a few days looking at the boat that I was told was in good shape.

Next experience was buying a boat in Vancouver BC. It went pretty well but when I bought local it was much better. the boat that I ended up buying in BC was not ready to be sea trialed and I had to make a second trip up to do the sea trial.

So here is what I learned. Hire a local surveyor to look at the boat and give you an opinion of whether the boat is worth coming down to see or not. (I might be able to give you a name in San Carlos and he can give you names in La Paz and other Mexican towns) Perhaps you can hire him for a day to look at several boats. It might cost you a few bucks but it is better than flying to Mexico (or wherever) and being disappointed. Of course if you want to go to Mexico and drink beer and have fun that is different.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
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Old 21-11-2006, 22:59   #5
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Hi All,

Wow, thanks for all the in depth replies! I really appreciate it, thats lots of useful things to think about. A good reality check.

I'm going dig around the message board for more info on purchasing and legalities.

It is certainly our preference to buy locally so we can stay working for a few more months and cover any potential unforeseen (and I know there will be) costs. Also through my work I know plenty of welder/machinists and can do quite a bit of that work myself. If we did buy locally we would definitely do a trip around Vancouver Island to sort out the bugs. I've done the trip in my families boat once already.

As far as destinations, we did want to go to the S.Pacific for sure. If and when we make it 360, that's when we'll see the Carribean. That being said, a cruiser who has spent a number of years down there recommended Trinidad as a good place to look for boats to buy. Apparently lots get left there because it is out of the hurricane belt and down wind, so it harder to leave. And the marine services there are pretty good. But flying somewhere seemed even more ridiculous than driving. At least if we went to Mexico, we would have our vehicle and could bring some gear.

I'll keep posting at the story unfolds!
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Old 11-12-2006, 11:19   #6
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Northstar 80/20


I just looked at a boat that's perfect for you, a Northstar 80/20 center-cockpit ketch that's in Puerto Vallarta. It's fully equipped, in good shape and sails well.

I sent you an email via the cruisersforum service with more detail (I don't know how those email work - whether they get sent to you or if you have to notice there's a message waiting when you log in to cruisersforum).

Good luck.

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