You know the old saying – “The two happiest days in a boater’s life are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it”? While there is great truth in this statement, it’s often said in a sarcastic way, which to me completely misses the point. Certainly, the day you buy your boat is a happy one… as you are anxiously awaiting all the good times to come. And, the day you are selling your boat is also a happy one, as you are passing on the fun you’ve had to another. Truly, a win-win for all concerned.

The reason I mention this is that I was asked to contribute an article to the California Yacht Brokers Association’s (CYBA’s) newsletter about how yacht brokers and boatyards can work in a more symbiotic manner. Of course, in our business we see a lot of buyers and sellers of boats and we want to contribute to keeping these days the happiest for everyone. So, I thought the following article would be helpful for you to better understand the buying and selling process.

I Walked A Mile In Your Shoes
On the radio there’s a commercial for a window replacement company where the owners, Bob and Kathleen, say they started their window business because of the miserable service experience they had. Frankly, I have difficulty believing this was the only reason (surely, they must have known something about windows)…but I can relate. In fact, one of the reasons why I decided to get into the boatyard business was because of the poor service experience I often experienced as a yacht broker, along with my clients, in many of the boatyards I visited.
Now, having spent 2+ decades of my life walking many miles in the shoes of a yacht broker in addition to another 2+ decades as a boatyard owner, and all the while being a proud boat owner myself of several fine vessels, I have a few insights to share about visiting the yard while going through the process of buying a boat. (And yes, after 2 + 2 decades…I need some new shoes!)
From my experience as a yacht broker, here’s a brief list of things that would annoy me the most and what we’ve done to address them.
1. Communication. We all understand that plans change, but there’s no excuse for not letting all involved parties know…and to do so as soon as possible. No one wants to experience the frustration of waiting for the yacht to be hauled and the boatyard isn’t keeping you informed. Or worse yet, relying on what the yard told you would happen only to find they have missed this expectation by a mile.

At KKMI every client has a Project Manager whose job is to keep everyone updated. This is not to say things always occur according to plan, but we really try our best to keep everyone informed and updated.

2. Unsolicited advice. It would blow my mind when I’d hear from a buyer that someone from the boatyard offered them unsolicited advice or told them something which that person had no business in sharing, even if it was truthful. While these comments may be well intended, our professional code of conduct dictates that no boatyard employee may discuss matters pertaining to someone else’s vessel, particularly without the prior consent of the owner.

3. Estimates. The survey report inevitably will identify some deficiencies with the vessel. The costs to correct these findings are usually negotiated between the buyer and seller. At a minimum, the buyer will want to know what these costs will be prior to accepting the vessel so repair estimates are needed for the sale to close.

Typically, I would ask the buyer to review the items of concern and get permission to share the surveyor’s findings with the boatyard so they could prepare an estimate. Then the waiting would begin, with it often taking many days–sometimes weeks–before getting the estimate. While I understood the yard was busy and perhaps the estimates did not equate to work for the boatyard, it could be maddening for the buyer, seller and broker waiting for the estimates.

At KKMI we understand how important these estimates are and our Project Managers make it a priority to deliver our clients these estimates as soon as possible.
And here are a few pointers for yacht brokers when working with a boatyard.
1. Communication. (Sound familiar?) More information is better than less. A simple example is to tell the boatyard in advance who is surveying the vessel. At KKMI we know most of the surveyors on the West Coast and how they prefer to work. We can often set our schedule around that particular surveyor’s preferences.

Also, if the yacht is going back into the water immediately following the survey, notify the boatyard as soon as possible of any work that you would like done, well in advance of launching. For example, if the anodes are clearly spent, let the Project Manager know you’d like them replaced as soon as you notice this, not when the surveyor is done and everyone is anxious to get the yacht back into the water.

2. Teamwork. If something isn’t going well at the boatyard, talk to your Project Manager as soon as possible. This is particularly important if the buyer isn’t feeling “the love.” A discrete, offline conversation with the Project Manager regarding the concern can go a long way toward addressing the issue at hand.

3. Safety. For many buyers, this may be their first visit to a boatyard, and they are not familiar with the industrial risks that exist. All of us, boatyards and brokers, have a responsibility to educate our clients about these risks and the appropriate safety precautions. Additionally, our industry continues to be heavily scrutinized by regulators; activities that were once considered as acceptable are no longer. Please check with the boatyard as to when and whom may be aboard the vessel while it is hanging in the hoist. Similarly, make sure everyone is clear of the hoist operations or while the vessel is getting pressure-washed.
Let’s remember, as brokers and boatyards we are working toward the same goals: a successful yacht sale and providing our clients with the best service possible. Hopefully the above tips have been helpful toward achieving these goals. I would be happy to hear your thoughts; please feel free to send me a note at paul@kkmi.com.