It was perfect timing. My wife Amber and I just sold our liveaboard sailboat/home. My wife assures me that there is no place more pleasant than North Carolina in August…so we're heading there. After a decade in the Pacific Northwest it's time for new adventures. I can't believe we sold the boat.
Let's back up. Three years ago, I finally caved. Amber had been wanting to leave the Pacific Northwest for warmer climates. It was probably our second gloomy winter that did it for her. My promises of this being a temperate land wasn't exactly what she had hoped for. Our original plan had us living here for only a few years (it's been 11). Fine - her turn.
She generously gave us three more years here - to enjoy, adventure, and then close down our careers and say farewell to all of our friends. We were renting a small land house, as we had been for 8 years in Seattle. The house was close to Lake Washington and I had managed to join a few other neighborhood sailors in a boat-share of a 27 foot sailboat. We learned so much on that boat. Amber and I both loved sailing and dreamed of buying a boat when we finally moved back East, or South, or wherever she wanted to go that was warm.
Then we had an interesting idea. Let's buy a sailboat, get rid of tons of stuff, and move aboard. We'll learn everything we can in three years, then sell the boat and be on our way. I let Amber make the final call - I knew that the quickest way to sailing in warmer climates might not be purchasing a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest…but hey, it sounded fun.
We looked on Craigslist and with brokers until we finally found a boat that suited us. We got a marine loan from Peoples Bank, stayed with friends while we had the boat surveyed, found a liveaboard slip quick (good timing for that due to the recession) and then, all of a sudden, we were living on a boat.
We learned a lot. Cleaned a lot. Sailed a lot. In the boat buying process, the bank had been steering us towards a boat we could sail easier. A turn-on-a-dime coastal cruiser instead of a heavy, stubborn-to-turn blue-water boat. They were right. S/V Kingsley, a 2000 Hunter 320, was perfect.
Fast-forward to last year. We knew selling a boat would take awhile and that we definitely wouldn't get what we had put into her - people don't generally flip boats like they do houses. We listed her at the end of the summer on Craigslist and in the local 48 Degrees printed boat classifieds. We had some interest that Fall, not much over Winter, and quite a bit in the Spring. We had a few low-ball offers but as the weather got warmer the offers got better. Then, with only 6 weeks before we were planning on heading out - she sold. Boom. Done.
We were surprised, sad, excited, relieved. We learned so much over 3 years of living aboard and sailing and we learned a lot while selling her.
Things we learned while selling our sailboat ourselves:
1. Some boat brokers are slimy. Super-slimy. Lies, insults, borderline email harassment, you name it - they tried it. They knew we had a great boat and they wanted a piece of it. It seems brokers can take up to 10 percent of a boat sale. With a boat as clean, new, and nice as Kingsley, it would be easy money. We were honest with all of the brokers that approached us - we were going it alone and dropping the price each month. When the time ran out and we were leaving, we would end up listing Kingsley with a broker. We didn't have to.
2. A clean boat matters. Great, current pictures of your boat matter. If you want a laugh, just go on Yachtworld or Craigslist and look at the pictures that people post in their listings. Pictures with date stamps from 10 years ago. Pictures with captions that say, "this is an old picture, everything you see in this picture has been totally remodeled". You'll see sideways pictures, pictures with empty pizza boxes in the background, you name it. We spent time taking great pictures and made a free Kingsley for sale website to show them off.
3. List your boat at a price expecting a good deal of negotiation. In our situation we started high knowing that we'd tick the price down each month. Also, we knew if we left we'd need to list with a broker so we priced accordingly.
4. Where's your slip? Knowing about how your slip (boat parking space) works can add to the sale. Although some people in the Northwest own their slip, most rent. Some slips are transferable, others require the buyer to be on the wait list while the seller sub-leases the slip (basically, the new buyer buys the boat, then pays the old owners slip rent until the buyer comes up on the list and takes it over).
5. Once a offer is made, the survey comes back clean, and all is said and done, you've got to move the money and transfer all of the title stuff. It is possible to do this yourself, with cooperation from the buyer and banks (if you have a loan). However, most use a third party title company. The benefit of this is getting it done quick without the worry of missing paperwork. It's best to communicate about title company fees with your buyer before they get to work - you don't want any surprises.
With that, we farewell to S/V Kingsley and boat living for now. We had a blast and our only regret is that we lived in Seattle for so long before buying and moving aboard a sailboat!
Don't worry! Everyone's Travel Club lives! We will keep blogging here as we begin our migration to warmer climates, first with a road trip and later with kayaking and sailing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and beyond (I'm already Hobie Cat shopping). You may have noticed we've reorganized our blog a little - moving our mostly NW kayaking posts to a PNW section. Be sure to check out the maps section if you are looking for some great paddling spots in Western Washington.
All new posts will be here in this blog and we hope you continue to stop by and say hi! We'd also like to say thank you to ThreeSheetsNW for continued support over the years and for bringing our stories to more and more readers!
~Paul, Amber, Kali