Friday, 14 September 2012

The joys of buying a yacht in Spain – Part 2

June-July 2012

It had taken seven days but we now had deal to buy our dream boat in Mallorca and sail off to begin our cruising life as owners. We may have had a deal but we didn’t have a contract, the boat was yet to be put under the microscope of an out of the water survey inspection and sea trial, we didn’t have insurance organised and we didn’t actually have a name to re-christen her with yet so we had enough to keep us busy while she was in the hands of hopefully her final charterers. It was a little irritating looking out over the harbour from our room and watch ‘our boat’ head out for a sail each morning and return that evening with someone else at the helm.

It was time to get organised though. First up we decided as nice as the view was, we just could not put up with the nightly noise at our backpackers any longer. We had to find somewhere else to stay. Once more the three of us trawled the internet looking for somewhere cheap but acceptable to stay. Marc won the google award this time having discovered an apartment available from a private British owner which looked very nice and was actually fractionally cheaper than what we were paying for our two rooms at the hostel. It looked fine so we booked it for a week which would take us through to Wednesday of the following week, hopefully long enough to either wrap this thing up or we’d be walking away in any case.

We moved house the next morning and discovered our new home was an amazing renovated apartment in a heritage building right next to the cathedral in the centre of the old part of the city. It was only a five minute walk to the marina where the boat was moored instead of thirty five from the hostel. With air-conditioning, high speed wfi, great views from the roof terrace and very little noise at night it was perfect. We certainly wished we’d found it sooner.
View of the magnificent cathedral we enjoyed from our roof terrace.
Cathedral on left and Royal Place to the right
Royal Palace watch tower

Then we were back on our electronic devices in research mode, firstly chasing information on removing the boat from the Spanish register. We quickly decided the boat would have British registration. This could be done online at very little cost as soon as we bought the boat. While we two proud Aussies weren’t thrilled with the idea of looking at a British Ensign flying from the stern every day the alternative was to enter a typically Australian bureaucratic nightmare.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority handle registrations. AMSA requires the original or certified copies of the purchase and deregistration documents (scans emailed or faxed are not acceptable). Any documents in Spanish, such as the contract, have to be translated to English and certified. Physically getting the paperwork to Canberra would take a week via Fedex or DHL and is not cheap. Then you wait for the wheels to turn for who knows how long before you have another week to get them back. Finally for the cruncher, to register the boat as British, which can be done on-line remember, cost the equivalent of thirty-eight Australian Dollars. To register her in Australia would  cost almost $1000.

We were also searching for the best insurance options. An immediate stumbling block was that one of the first pieces of information required on all the online forms was the name of the boat. Bugger!! We didn’t have one yet. So that decision got moved up to the top of the priority ladder.

We had always planned to call the boat we eventually bought ‘Dreamtime’. While we intended to be ‘living the dream’, the name also was intended as a reference to our Australian heritage of the ‘aboriginal dreamtime’. However this boat was not just our boat. It was Marc’s as well and we didn’t feel the name we’d decided on years ago should be hoisted on him. After trawling the net for name suggestions and not really coming up with anything we really liked it was Marc that came up with an idea asking ‘What’s the aboriginal word for dreamtime?  A good question that we explained there would not be a single answer to as the original Australians were many different peoples spread across a vast continent with an equally vast array of languages and dialects.

We all started a new search. Karen instantly looked for information regarding the language of the indigenous Stradbroke Islanders, her great, great grandmother’s people. Unfortunately it appears there was not a single word for the dreamtime in their culture but rather a very lengthy phrase. If we went with this one we’d need a lot bigger boat to fit the name on it. Eventually Rob stumbled on information on a book published in the 1800’s by an anthropologist who had spent a lot of time with aboriginal people in what is now the Northern Territory. He was the first European to write of the dreamtime and its legends. The people who were the subject of his book referred to the dreamtime as Alcheringa. Further googling found many more references to Alcheringa as being  widely accepted as an aboriginal word for the dreamtime.

It instantly struck a chord with all three of us. So now we had a name. Our boat would reflect the nationality of her owners. Alcheringa would sail under a British flag with London listed as her home port but would have an indigenous Australian name. Perfect.  Rob then went to work on creating appropriate artwork for our boat's new name.
Amongst all this boat activity, we found time to enjoy our surroundings in the old city and were treated to a bird’s eye view of the changing of the guard in front of the royal palace opposite the cathedral. Apparently the royal family still use the place for their holidays. Why not. It’s a very impressive weekender.

Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace

We also joined in the fun in the town square watching the final of the Euro 2012 soccer on a huge screen with thousands of jubilant locals as Spain thrashed Italy to take the title. They love their football in Spain. Especially when they’re winning. It was a little raucous in town that night with much singing, drinking and celebratory fireworks going off all over the place. This included a number of parachute distress flares fired from building tops. Naughty, naughty. The favourite form of celebration though seemed to be packing a small car with four too many people then all hanging out windows waving Spanish flags and screaming ‘Espania! Espania! Espania! Espania!’ while the driver hurtled around the streets at break neck speed with one hand planted firmly on the horn button. It was a great win for the Spaniards and great fun to watch.
A big crowd packed the square to watch Spain in the 2012 Euro Cup Final
They were a little restrained until the result was beyond doubt then the party began

The week passed very quickly. We met with our agent Patricia again and got further advice on clauses we should have included in the contract if things proceeded. The boatyard and surveyor were booked for the Monday morning and we sorted through the widely varying insurance quotes we were then supplied and chose Pantaenious who offered clearly the best value cover after close examination of the policy inclusions and conditions.

Over the weekend we played tourists and checked out the beach etc but we also couldn’t help ourselves and spent a bit of time in a café/bar beside the marina from which we could sit and stare at what we hoped was going to be our boat.

We were on the dock bright and early on Monday morning and went with Juan as he motored the yacht the short hop over to the boatyard. We were booked to be lifted out at 8.30am but in true Spanish style it was closer to 10 by the time we watched the slings placed under the hull and all 13 tonnes of boat rise up out of the water on the travel lift. The hull was relatively free of marine growth having been last anti-fouled in January. However below the water line was pressure washed and then it was time for Ian, our surveyor, to get to work.
Juan, Karen and Marc waiting for the lift out

Karen and Ian, our surveyor watch on as the boat comes out of the water

He was very methodical in the way he went over every inch of the hull looking for damage or signs of osmosis, a problem where moisture enters the fibreglass then causes layers to delaminate and separate.  Where the keel is joined to the hull came in for extra attention as he searched for any signs of movement or cracking. Next all the brass through hull fittings for the boat’s various plumbing were closely inspected and all found to be in excellent condition. Attention then moved to the stern and the condition of the propeller, prop shaft, electrical anodes and rudder. When all were found to be in very good condition the boat went back in the water and was returned to its mooring where Ian continued his inspection above and below decks.

He was using a micro voice recorder to make all his notes and an indication of how thorough he was in his examinations is the fact that the written report he delivered to us 24 hours later went for many, many pages. Like any boat, new or second hand, a few minor things popped up but overall he was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the boat in light of the fact she had been in the hands of charterers. The last time he had surveyed a charter boat on this dock he’d found so much wrong in the first thirty minutes, the prospective buyers pulled out there and then without bothering to have the survey finished.

We then took a late lunch break at a local café that caters for the boatyard workers. They provide a ‘Menu of the day’ for Nine Euro ($11.50 Aus) which includes three courses, mineral water and a bottle of wine on the table. No wonder the Spaniards still have siesta in the afternoons. They need the three hour break to eat all the food and get over the booze before they go back to work. Having said that, the café did become one of our regular haunts when in Palma. It was great value and after a lunch like that we rarely needed more than a very light snack for dinner.

We threw the lines off and headed out into Palma Bay in the late afternoon for our sea trials. There was a modest 10 to 12 knots of wind blowing which was ample for us to test all of the boats running rigging and navigation systems etc. Once more a few minor things were discovered such as the boat’s log (speedo) not working. Only a few years ago this would have been a major problem but in the era of GPS, electronics provide a much more accurate indication of true speed over the ground rather than the speed through the water shown on the log. In addition the little drive wheel that spins to provide the log with its information often get stuck by sea weed or other foreign matter and is not usually a big issue to clean out and get spinning again.
We wished the sea trial could last a lot longer

We all had a play on the helm to get the feel for how she performed and really just enjoyed being under sail again. We were actually a bit disappointed when Ian said he’d finished everything he needed to do and we could go back to the dock. We would of happily sailed around for another couple of hours in the long Mediterranean daylight.
The boat sailed very nicely in a moderate breeze showing a fair turn of speed

On shore Ian provided us with a recap of his overall impression of the boat and said we’d have the written report the next evening. Of the list of minor issues he’d found he indicated which he felt should be addressed straight away and which were things we could look at in due course. Things such as a broken hinge on an underbunk storage locker were hardly serious safety issues but the missing screw in the anchor swivel could see us set adrift at most likely the worst possible moment in the worst possible place.

Time for round three with Juan. Yes we’d like to buy the boat but need a few things fixed first. We could fill a few pages with the back and forwards on this but suffice to say haggling with a Spaniard is always far from straight forward. Various issues we raised were ‘no problem. You just do this and it works.’ Our point of view that we wanted things to work the way they were intended to, such as by flicking a switch rather than reaching into the bilge and lifting a sensor, held little sway. If something could be made to work by any means it was fine by Juan. He did agree to fix the safety issues such as the anchor swivel but to the issues with the boat we’d describe as the minor irritations he came up with a final play. ‘No problem. I’ll fix everything you want on the boat. You pay me 135,000 Euro plus tax.’

The smug look on Juan’s face showed he knew he had taken the points in round three but Rob couldn’t resist a last counterpunch, “OK Juan we can fix the little things but we have a more serious problem and can’t buy the boat until it’s fixed.  Juan’s expression changed quickly to concern as Rob strung him out for effect. ‘We still have no contract. Our accommodation here runs out Thursday so we need to move onto the boat on Friday. The contract will have to be signed by Wednesday for you to have the first transfer in your account by Thursday and the rest on Friday. We need to have the contract checked before we sign it and time’s running out.’

He then assured us he’d call his solicitor straight away. We returned to the apartment exhausted but relieved that the boat had come up well in the survey. We talked through every detail of the deal and threw in some devil’s advocate scenarios just to make sure this was really what we wanted. The boat didn’t have some of the things we would like but they could be added later. We’d have some work to do to get her looking exactly the way we wanted but that was also all achievable. She was not perfect but if we walked away would we ever find one better within our budget and how much might we spend searching?  All agreed? All system’s go. Then we received a text from Juan saying the Solicitor would email the contract  first thing in the morning.

So, surprise, surprise, at quarter to five next afternoon we messaged Juan ‘Still have not received contract’. We can only imagine the phone call he made because ten minutes later we had a contract, in Spanish only so we couldn’t actually read it but at least we had a contract. Wednesday morning Patricia confirmed that all was in order with the contract including the clauses we’d asked for to ensure the de-listing from the Spanish register was handled by the seller and a copy of the de-registration certificate would be provided to us. This could be required by any future purchaser of the boat and could be very difficult to obtain a few years down the track.

We left the UK hoping to inspect, survey and, if the boat was OK, buy this yacht in four or five days. Finally after fifteen days on Mallorca, at 6.00PM on Wednesday July 4 we met in the solicitor’s office, signed the documents and performed the first transfer on the spot. Juan agreed for us to be able to have access to the boat from the following day so we could get it ready for us to move onto on Friday. It was actually happening. We then went and had our own little Independence Day celebration and tried to let it all sink in.

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