Website Update Log

Selling Your Boat Abroad

Eventually, cruising comes to an end no matter how fulfilling it's been, and that's now true for us.  'Re-entry' is of course a big issue for folks who have been cruising as long as we have.  But before re-entry can truly begin, we needed to look for a new home for WHOOSH.  And for us, selling in a foreign country seemed not just viable but even a preferable alternative.

Why sell abroad? 

It may surprise you how many cruising folks consider selling their boat outside their own country.  For those who haven't sailed in foreign waters, the choice may seem an odd and overly complicated one...but there can be many reasons why selling abroad makes good sense.  Here are some that we've seen first-hand:

  • It can be more profitable:  Boats in some countries can be far more expensive than in one's home waters.  Imagine a country with a love of boating, where only a small boat building industry exists and where there are large tariffs on imports and you are picturing a country with high boat prices that could be a good place to sell.  (Actually, this notion isn't much different from the waterfront wisdom one hears along America's East Coast:  If buying, go to Florida where prices are relatively low and the selection vast.  If selling, put the boat up in Annapolis or Newport).

  • It can be more feasible:  The economies of individual countries don't necessarily operate in sync, and in fact sometimes sellers will sail to a specific country because boats sales are more active while the marketplace back home is stagnant. While boat sales in North America languished during the GFC, sales in Australia remained strong.

  • The cruising life doesn't end the same way for everyone:  We all picture our last leg taking us back home but a dwindling cruising kitty, an illness in the family, aging and/or health issues among the crew, and a hard-to-ignore professional opportunity back home are all examples we've seen that led owners to become sellers while in foreign waters.

  • The cruising life doesn't always begin the same way:  We've met folks from North America who very much wanted to cruise Europe but had no interest in crossing oceans.  The simple solution was to buy a European boat in Europe (which fit the European infrastructure nicely), cruise it there for some years, and then put it back on the market when flying home.  And if chosen wisely, the boat will be well known and respected by local buyers and so will sell relatively easily while returning most of the original investment to the sellers.

  • Preferences in destinations and routing issues can make foreign selling appealing:  If one gets deep into the South Pacific and doesn't find what lies ahead (or behind) appealing, why go on when it means many thousands of miles and many months, and possibly windward work as well?  If leaving the Caribbean to see Europe and finding yourself in Turkey at the Med's eastern end, do you want to then retrace most of your earlier steps?  After you've sailed to the places you've dreamed of visiting – and perhaps after rereading Cornell's World Cruising Routes - you just might find you'd like to talk to a local broker.

  • Selling and cruising may not be incompatible...for a while:  Think for a moment about the ads you've seen of cruising boats for sale on Mexico's west coast.  Not all those owners have permanently swallowed the anchor and returned home, as some have lifestyles and/or professions allowing them to work or live back home during the hellish summer months, while the boat's on the chopping block while looking forward to returning for another cruising season if it doesn't sell.  This same thing occurs in the Caribbean, as well.

  • Shipping the boat back home can be very pricey.  Some owners can find opportunities for shipping the boat & spars as deck cargo, which can reduce the cost considerably over a purpose-designed well deck ship's shipping cost...but it still won't be cheap if you've put an ocean between you and your home waters.  If your heart is set on keeping the boat after this cruising adventure ends, then shipping your boat home might appeal...but the cost of shipping will test that desire.

So you want to at least look at what's involved in selling abroad?  Let's start by looking generally at some of the  issues that must be faced when selling overseas, although these will obviously need to be researched locally to understand how they would fit your own circumstances.  We'll then offer an illustration on all this by walking you through our sale of WHOOSH in Australia.


Issues When Selling:

These will obviously vary from one country to the next and, like everything else, will change with time..  NB:  If you are shopping for a boat overseas, it might make sense to look at the backside of each of them when researching a specific boat that's for sale.  And of couse we saw the 'Selling Abroad' process through one particular lens:  selling in Australia.  But we've watched cruising boats being sold from Europe thru to New Caledonia.  My bet is that your experience won't be very different in general terms from what you read below.

Clearance:   Clearing in with Customs concerns the boat and her goods, while clearing with Immigration has to do with you and your crew's permission to visit and remain in the country.  But clearing in is unlikely to (officially, at least) allow you to put your boat on the local market.  Customs rules in part are there to protect the local economy and those businesses who must operate within it, which includes the local broker and ship builder.  You can of course scout out the local boat market, shop brokers, and research whether you will want to berth the boat and live aboard, berth her & return home, or put her on the hard.  But be a bit discreet and position your inquiries thoughtfully, as e.g. stating that you wish to investigate selling your boat vs. announcing you are selling her.  Customs would understand the former but could perhaps have problems with the latter.
Importation:  Customs may require you to import your boat – or otherwise modify her legal status – before actively selling her is officially permitted.  And importation can be a process, not just an event.  This can be an area where talking with multiple brokers can prove useful, as they may reveal different perspectives on “what's required” that can help you avoid a few regulatory landmines and choose the cheapest of possible compliance options. There may be geographic restrictions imposed on the boat while it is being imported as this allows the local Customs officials, who are overseeing importation, to monitor compliance and progress.  And you'll want to be sure to learn if an imported boat incurs any tax obligations once it's been imported. Spain for example was observing a taxation scheme for boats in Spanish waters who stayed longer than 6 months + 1 day (and that was without importation).  Given the 'PIIGS' (and therefore EU's) fiscal problems now, such schemes might be even more pervasive.
Related to tax obligations, investigate whether importation requires you to meet any marine-related standards, e.g. compliance with freon mandates or LPG installation standards.  Or more broadly, does importation mandate your entire boat must be modified to suit local requirements?  The EU's Recreational Craft Directive – somewhat infamous in the eyes of some non-EU boat owners - is a good example of this.  We've known of multiple non-EU boats, well found cruising boats that crossed the Atlantic safely to arrive in Europe, which have then had to seek reclassification as Class D lake-sailing vessels simply because compliance with the RCD is otherwise financially impossible.
And as with all things that involve a government, there is very likely to be fees for both the official paperwork and also the services provided by the locals that are mandated by importation.  So for example while you may be confident in installing a new, compliant LPG system in your boat, that won't mean it's approved by a licensed technician, which is what the importation guidelines may require.  Such fees will be the first (but not only) offsets you'll want to consider before estimating what the net proceeds of a sale might be.
Duty & Tax:  Speaking of offsetting expenses you need to consider when selling, consider both your duty and tax obligations associated with importation.  These assessments are how Customs puts your boat on an equal footing with the local brokers' and boat owners'.  A Custom's 'duty' or 'tariff' is the charge levied on goods that enter the economic zone overseen by Customs.  In plainer terms, it's the fee you have to pay to permit your boat entry into the country for reselling purposes. (Importation is also done to remove time-limits on cruising one's boat in a given country, making open-ended presence in the country possible).  A country can protect local industry by charging a high tariff for competing imported goods...but it can also enter into trade agreements with other countries so that their mutual tariffs are equally low, thereby providing trade incentives with one another.  Given that, you would obviously prefer to sell your boat in a country with a 'free trade' agreement with the country where your boat was built (which may not necessarily be the country where she is now registered).  To give you an example of how important this is, Australia used to impose a 50% duty on most imported yachts.  After entering into a 'free trade' agreement with the USA, boats proven to have been built in the USA now incur no duty.  This is nothing short of an absolute change, just like flicking a light switch.  Where paying a 50% duty would be almost impossible to consider, that barrier has now disappeared altogether.

Tax (perhaps locally known as VAT or GST – Value Added Tax or General Sales Tax) is simply the fee you pay the government to turn your boat from a cruising vessel into a retail commodity, paying a 50% duty would be all but much the same way a yacht builder would have to pay sales/VAT/GST tax on all the goods he buys to build the yacht he then wishes to sell.  Since the duty and tax levels will be well and truly fixed, the critical element in these fees is how the value of the yacht is assessed.  Typically, the assessment will need to be done by someone licensed or otherwise approved by Customs, to insure a standardized process is used, but that doesn't mean all assessors will assess equally.  Sometimes brokers will compete for the privilege of representing the yacht and some brokers are also approved to do assessments.  (We'll avoid looking at the conflicts in interest here...but it will work in your favor). Clearly, you'll want to carefully research what other boat owners' experiences have been  with the local assessors as well as talking with them about what might legitimately justify reductions in your vessel's valuation as well as the fee they charge.  You'll need to keep in mind that, while your boat may sell for a low price in a relatively cheap marketplace back home (e.g. the USA), the Customs guideline is what your yacht's value would be in the country where it would be sold.  Still, if you've arrived with broken, damaged or worn gear, this should be spelled out to the assessor in order to lower the valuation accordingly.  And that brings us to the final – and perhaps critical point:  Know who ultimately can gain access to your vessel's valuation.  If you've managed to ratchet your boat's value down significantly for a mix of reasons, you don't want that to later affect the price being listed by a broker or offered by a Buyer.

The Marketplace:  Not all boats sell equally well in all marketplaces, obviously.  Just look at how few deep draft vessels are sold in the USA's Gulf Coast or Chesapeake Bay waters.  Ideally, you'll be able to pick a country or region where your type of vessel is highly desired – or at least isn't avoided.Local conditions like river bars and shallow coastal waters, normally light or heavy winds,  temperature extremes (vs. heating/cooling capabilities aboard your boat) and other aspects of the regional scene could have a profound impact on how marketable your boat will be. In fact, they may direct you to where you choose to list it.And perhaps these are the two key factors:  Are boats selling well and at good prices in the region you are considering?  And are most buyers looking for or willing to consider a cruising boat?  (Some well-found cruising boats, expensively equipped, are set up for comfortable cruising by a couple but may not initially strike buyers as suitable for a weekend afloat with all the kids).

Another issue that may arise is to what degree does your boat fit the local infrastructure.  Can you take the local AC dock power onboard?  Can your LPG tank be refilled?  Will the LPG installation need to be changed to comply with any national standards?  What if your 120V air conditioning system died during of last year's leg and you find yourself in 230V Land?  Usually, boats that have been cruised in foreign waters have addressed these issues and are set up with somewhat 'universal' systems.  But other  boats will only have limited modifications made.  Perhaps. the only AC modification was a 230V battery charger to charge the house bank while in Europe.  Or the boat may have a transformer that converts local AC power to what the boat needs, but the boat lacks a way to provide local AC power inside (so no local TV, electric razor, DVD player, etc. can be brought aboard and used).  (If a system has failed, you can either not list it on your listing's specifications sheet or you can research how it can be sourced from where you are selling the boat).  In cases like this, a buyer may fairly expect that an offer would take into account modifying the boat after purchase to make it suitable for local use.

The microview of your chosen marketplace might seem great, but don't overlook its 'macro' view either  In other words, what works locally may not work for a larger regional or international audience.  To illustrate, consider the very common practice of putting a boat for sale in the Eastern Med, which given Greece's laws most likely means Turkey.  English is widely spoken there in marinas and boat yards, cruising boats have been brokered and sold there for several decades now, and the general view of Turkey is positive:  a welcoming population, relative security for the vessel and the prospective new owners, and a westernized brokering process that smooths the way through what might otherwise be a cumbersome, byzantine task.  But who is your perspective buyer?
If prospective buyers for your boat will predominantly be from North America or Western Europe – and that's most likely the case – then you'll have to think about pricing incentives to entice them to make an expensive, time consuming trip and provide a supplementary detailed, well illustrated document package that helps the buyer get closer to the boat than what the broker typically provides.

Broker...or For Sale by Owner?  The normal aspects of this issue aside, the question raised for us was our lack of knowledge about local customs, the regulatory environment (it was pretty intense where we were selling), and that hard-to-define but important ability to sense how 'things are done'.  If you plan to leave the boat and return home, a broker is probably the only viable option.  If you are staying with the boat, another question you might ask yourself is where potential buyers will come from.  Are they almost all responding to internet searches (vs. broker advertising)?  Are they mostly in your 'backyard' because you are in/near a major population center?  Or do they often fly in from some distance away, when visits to a number of available yachts might best be coordinated by a broker?  Are you allowed to sell a boat while berthed where you are?  Some marinas have affiliations with local brokers that might preclude this.  And of course, if there are licensing requirements for selling a vessel or language differences exist, a broker may be the only viable choice in any event.

Assuming you opt to broker the boat, the task of choosing a broker is probably similar to the one you are already familiar with back home.  Word of mouth from sources you value highly – preferably in circumstances similar to your own - may be at the top of the list.  Some brokers are willing to accept an 'open listing', which may mean multiple brokers can advertise and represent the yacht.  If that's the case, consider whether brokers in different parts of the same metropolitan area or region might increase your boat's exposure to buyers.  Also consider that the best cruising destinations may not be the best selling venues.  E.g. some cruising yachts arriving on Australia's east coast end up well north of Brisbane (one of Australia's three main cities) in Bundaberg because the last rally of the season ends there and the marina is well known for its friendly, efficient nature.  But boats about which we know something and which have been left there for sale have done poorly, because Bundy is distant from major population centers and getting there is a bit awkward.  So while the storage fees on the hard in Bundy might look attractive, that may matter little if the boat sits for months with little interest.

Brokers' fees tend to be fairly uniform, at least on the surface, but actual commission costs that come out of your pocket can be a bit 'squishy'.  Hungry brokers can sometimes offer ways to 'adjust' their commission, e.g. an accelerated commission scale as the contract price increases.  If the broker is permitted by Customs to value boats, ask for a free valuation - and perhaps a 'friendly' one, too.  As a formal offer on your boat progresses, there may also be ways for the broker to 'help' the seller get the price needed.  Friends of ours got close to the price they wanted for their boat but were still missing a few thousand dollars, so they asked the broker to 'help them' get closer by reducing the commission a bit.  A quick offer, shortly after listing and while the broker has had little to do, might make it more reasonable to suggest a reduction in the commission.  And so on...

One final thought about the marketplace:  I suggest you just walk around the marinas in the area where you are considering marketing your boat.  Look at the kinds of boats in the berths.  Review the listings you see in the brokers' windows thoroughly.  Check the website listings for the brokerages you are considering. Are some brokers more experienced at selling foreign cruising boats?  Be observant and notice how the boats look which are similar in size and comparably equipped.  Does your yacht 'fit in'?  Is yours a somewhat unique boat – without being oddball – that fills an existing niche nicely?  Or is yours the odd man out, e.g. a metal boat in an area where plastic boats are the norm?  This is all part of your due diligence to make sure you fit the marketplace, the broker gets the price right...and that you pick the right broker, too.

Discussing this issue feels like peeling an onion.  I haven't written a word about validating the trustworthiness of potential brokers, about evaluating the contract you will sign with the broker and also reviewing the sales contract (both of which are key components of the selling process), about tracking broker history and consumer complaints with an independent agency and no doubt a lot more.  Best to simply acknowledge that both buying and selling a boat can be complex enterprises where thoughtful research pays significant dividends.

Cruising vs. Selling:  Cruising boats are usually stuffed full.  Even after major passages are behind you and Quarantine has lightened your remaining food stores, your sail lockers (and almost every locker) can be brimming with 'stuff'.  Just like the house that has too much furniture, a boat looks small, cluttered and unappealing in that condition, even though it's entirely appropriate when cruising.  So a part of your research could be spent on locating local storage options, so you can offload some of your and your yacht's 'stuff' to keep it ashore until it's time to survey the boat and ship your things home.  (More on shipping your 'stuff' home later on).  If offloading to a location ashore, think proximity (you'll inevitably be retrieving things you didn't think you'd need), security, and protection from the elements including flooding, heat and fire.  Ask around and you may find another crew in the same circumstance, in which case sufficient trust between the parties might halve the storage fee.  And then...?  It's time to change your cruising boat into a Show Boat.

Currency Issues:  You will probably be able to set your asking price in the currency of your home country, in another currency of your own preference, or in the local currency.  In some cases, this might matter little.  E.g. boats for sale in the Caribbean are often priced in Euros, U.S. Dollars, and sometimes British Pounds, any one of which makes more sense than the local island's currency.  But when you know the local currency is not the form in which you ultimately will want the proceeds of the sale – and when it's likely your buyer will be using the local currency – picking the currency of your asking price raises some interesting questions.  First, just how much will a price in another currency appear to pose an additional burden or risk to a potential buyer?  Many Western Europeans are familiar and comfortable with both Euros and Pounds, and stipulating a price in one probably won't in itself put off someone who normally uses the other.  But that's probably less true in other regions of the world.  If you would, imagine a British owner setting a price in Pounds for a boat he has for sale on the Chesapeake Bay – in which case both the asking price AND the currency may be unappealing.  Most potential buyers would begin to think: “Jeez, what's happening with the Pound; I don't have a clue!” and “How do I get Pounds anyway?” and so forth...

Perceptions aside, there is a very real cost – in effort and money - to converting one currency to another.  If you price your boat in a non-local currency, you are asking the buyer to accept the multiple burdens of shopping for the best conversion rate, making arrangements to position the funds where this 'best rate' is available, and then bearing the expense of converting the currency at the time of purchase. 

Moreover, you invite the buyer to delay the purchase, even after the contract's conditions have all been met, if it appears as though a  shift in the exchange rate beneficial to the buyer just might occur.  You as the seller – have much more flexibility for converting the local currency into your preferred form, as you can bank the proceeds (or leave them in your broker's trust account) for an indefinite period.  Of course, that can mean there's a potential for additional gain – or loss – depending on what happens with the exchange rate.  Our bias was in favor of making the purchase of WHOOSH as simple and with as few hurdles as possible so, as you'll see later on, we opted to state the price in Australian dollars.

If that's your choice as well, then the funds to be exchanged will be substantial, in which case you should shop for a beneficial quote on the conversion fee that will be charged (see below).  And the logistics of actually moving the money might need to be well researched in this post-9/11 world, as well.  And lastly, some countries make it very difficult for non-citizens to open an account to that offers the spread of services you might need, if you plan to temporarily keep the funds in the form of the local currency in the country where the sale occurred.  None of this is terribly difficult to understand and introducing this topic to your brokerage candidates might prove a good strategy for both better understanding your options and picking a savvy broker who is familiar with foreign yacht sales.

You can seek exchange rate quotes from on-line services ( has one), from one of the banks where you are selling your boat, and from a bank back in your home country.  If you plan to convert the foreign funds into your home country's currency – e.g. changing Euros into U.S. Dollars – you will probably not be able to use a credit union, brokerage service or perhaps even the commercial bank that handles the banking services side of your brokerage account.  And you may find you can't set up any necessary account with a domestic bank when you are not physically present there without significant logistics hoops.  Be sure to research this well.   If you are keeping a foreign sale open as an option later on, use your holiday trip back home to verify you have a suitable account with a suitable bank.

Finally, here's a sample calibration on the financial cost of exchanging currencies:

  • Using one of the national banks in Australia, you would pay the same percentage when exchanging your $A150,000 sale proceeds as the guy next to you who's exchanging $A500 for USD's before he flies to the States.  Since both transactions require the same processing, that's absurd...and equates to a cost of approximately 4% or $6000 which you must incur.

  • An on-line service for the same amount was roughly 2% or $3,000.  But how do you measure the 'trust factor' and whom do you work with if the transfer doesn't show up at your home bank?

  • A U.S. commercial and retail bank back in the States quoted roughly 1.5% or $2,250 for this same exchange.

Keep in mind that all such quotes have very little shelf life, sometimes only moments.  So comparing the actual cost of an exchange is impossible as you move between banks.  The best approach I could come up with is to measure the instantaneous difference between the quote I was getting from a bank while simultaneously looking at the on-line 'neutral' exchange rate as reported real-time on  To global investors and arbitrage experts, this must all sound terribly amateurish, but there you go.  Cruising sailors must wear many hats.


Getting your 'Stuff' home:  Unless your circumstances are unusual, all of the following are likely to apply to you when shipping home those things you can't cram into your suitcases:

  • weeding out what you truly don't need back home, before shipping, will save you both money and physical effort

  • you will be shipping surface (ship) freight

  • you will be looking for an agent that can handle a) personal effects in b) LCL form.  Some agents deal only with containers, some deal only with commercial (vs. personal) effects, and some will happily handle both. 

  • 'LCL' means 'less than container load', which means your 'stuff' is being bundled into the same container with lots of other 'stuff', allowing the cost of that container to be shared equitably on a 'by cubic meter' basis

  • 'your container' will most likely first be shipped to a regional distribution port (similar to the 'hub' concept that American commercial airlines use), and then be forwarded from there to the commercial port you specified

  • the shipping time depends on many factors but 4-8 weeks is probably a decent guesstimate

  • the fee you pay the shipper does not include the unloading and processing charges at the destination port; and finally...

  • if you aren't at the other end to pick up your things on their arrival, expect them to be put in storage at a healthy cost; the container needs to be immediately available for re-use.

Given that your goods are sharing a space (think:  stevedores, trucks, cranes, fork lifts and the sea), it's best to have some means of protecting and 'grouping' your goods after they are packed in individual boxes (either stout cardboard of framed ply of your own making).  Some shippers will shrink wrap the individual boxes, but a better option might be to have a set of boxes stacked on a pallet and then shrink wrap the entire assembly - pallet, boxes and all.  Some items will either be fragile (perhaps a monitor or sewing machine), unusually heavy (SCUBA tank) and/or odd shaped, so consider looking for a shipper that offers special packaging services for such items.  If using cardboard boxes designed for commercial use they will have the cubic meter measurements printed on the box, so you can somewhat keep track of how much you are shipping.  But keep in mind that volume will only be a portion of the eventual, total volume after your goods are palletized.  Insurance is available and probably also a good idea.


In Summary:  These are  the issues we identified when considering the sale of our boat abroad, and I'm sure it isn't comprehensive in scope.  And there are no doubt many unique circumstances faced by folks who sell in diverse locations like South Africa, Central America, Europe or the many French dependencies.  Hopefully, however, this discussion helps frame the subject for you and helps you to determine if this might be something suitable for you.


Selling WHOOSH in Australia: 

Using the same outline as above, here is how the experience went for us, including the bad along with the good.

Why were we selling, and why Australia?  Sailing to the South Pacific was something we'd always talked about doing, so it was a final itch that needed scratching after 13 years of cruising on three boats.  But when we looked at the part of the globe that still remained (we'd been as far east as Greece in the Med), the remaining bit westward from Austrailia did not appeal to us for a mix of reasons.  And that remaining bit – from Indonesia to the Red Sea – also didn't offer what we thought were as promising a set of selling venues.  So pretty early on, the sketchy plan was to sail as far as either New Zealand or Australia and then determine whether selling made sense.

Although we'd considered taking the more popular route down to New Zealand from Tonga at the end of the cruising season, we found our interests lay more in visiting a large country with major cities and a warm climate, and that initially drew our attention to Australia.  Unlike just about everywhere else in the world, Australia hadn't experienced the same GFC meltdown, so the economy was still relatively strong – and Australia had both an economy and a currency far stronger than New Zealand's.  There were at least two venues that looked suitable for selling a 40'+ GRP monohull, the Moreton Bay area surrounding the city of Brisbane and, even more so due to its larger population, Sydney.  (If we'd been selling a catamaran, Brisbane would have likely been the better choice as northern Queensland is Cat Country).  And thankfully, English - of a breezy and somewhat convoluted fashion - was the lingua franca, a huge help.  Another big factor for us was based on our uncertainly about how long it would take to sell.  Australia offered some great cruising venues and had a variety of interesting places we'd hope to visit.  This provided a 'time cushion' of sorts as we knew we wouldn't be stuck in some backwater with little to see or do.  So Australia began to look like both our end-of-season cruising destination and the place we would hope to sell WHOOSH, even while we were still well out in the Eastern Pacific.


Clearance & Importation:  Once the plan was hatched, the first goals were to research duty and tax issues in Oz and also to find some folks who had already succeeded in doing what we'd planned.  Australia suffers from more regulation and governmental oversight than its 20 million people should have to afford, but at least most of it is well documented on government websites.  So learning about both visa options and the importation process began there.  However, it was equally helpful to talk with crews who'd already sold a foreign yacht in Oz, as this produced broker referrals, details not mentioned on the Oz websites, and the general assurance that it was relatively painless if you did your homework and exercised some patience.  We used the SSCA. ( to mine information from others who'd sold in Oz, which worked very well, and we also found there were crews out in the Pacific we could talk to who'd already done one 'delivery and sale' in Oz, as well.  Surprising to us, even in a small anchorage like Suwarrow in the Cook Is., there were four crews planning to sell their boats in Oz and one crew intending to do so in New Zealand.

When being cleared in, the Aussie officials were really only intense about two issues:  The food and Pacific artifacts we were bringing from foreign waters and whether our intentions were to cruise and then carry on or sell the boat.  We initially said we were there for extended cruising (we had visas good for two years) and were issued a cruising permit.  But the point was strongly made that, if we wanted to sell, then the boat's movements would be restricted and a firm procedure for importation would need to be followed.  Eventually, here's how it shook out for us:

  • First step was to confirm where we wished to base the boat, both for our own pleasure and for selling. We discovered when walking the docks and visiting brokers offices that few cruising sailboats had been manufactured in Australia, many boats were pretty rough by American & European standards of finish, and boat prices were relatively quite high – even higher than what we'd seen in some parts of Europe.  Most boats being brokered fell into 3 categories:  homemade, European Plastic and foreign yachts previously sailed there.  No one really knew much about the Pearson brand, but in other respects we thought WHOOSH would compete well with the local inventory, we liked the Brisbane area a great deal, and so the die was cast:  We would sell in Brissie.

  • From previous referrals, we started with a very short list of brokers and fairly quickly picked one that had been used with success by other American cruisers – Anita Farine of Farine Boat Sales (  Anita was also qualified to do boat valuations and, in order to obtain the listing, she volunteered the valuation as a courtesy.  The valuation was very detailed and discounted the boat's value for things that boiled down to wear and age, so in our eyes it was legitimate altho' also well below what we and she thought the boat would eventually be sold for.

  • With the valuation in hand, it was time to approach the bureaucracy.  Importation is usually done by an agent of some kind and costs from $A500 on up to $A1500 (according to some quotes we'd heard about) but I chose to do it myself and got helpful coaching from the local Customs folks and Anita sufficient to successfully file the paperwork on the first go.  It would have been a real waste to pay someone else for this task.

  • As mentioned earlier, Australia now held a free trade agreement with the USA and WHOOSH was American built, so she was exempt for the 5% duty that would be assessed on the boat's now-established value.  (Having said that, much scrutiny was given to the proof I offered of American construction, not so easy to do when the manufacturer disappeared 25 years ago.  A boat that was originally sold in the USA but was of foreign origin – e.g. Taiwan – would not be exempt from duty). GST on imported boats of this size was 10%, so we knew as we began the process that it would cost us 10% of the valuation amount to complete importation.  Should   we have delayed the actual importation until we had a contract signed, or should we get everything done in advance so no barriers to a sale would influence a potential buyer?  At the time we faced this decision, both the broker and Customs were adamant that we were not allowed to advertise the boat until we had paid GST and held 'Authority to Deal' papers, so the decision seemed to be made for us.  But like much else about officialdom, the rules as written aren't necessarily enforced and other friends were able to advertise, get the paperwork filed as time permitted, and hold off on paying the GST until they had a signed contract.  My advice is to keep talking with the broker(s), officials and others who are selling if you don't want to pay tax and/or duty upfront.

  • Because Australia is over-regulated, it now became necessary to satisfy the Oz environmental requirements.  First was buying a freon license for our refrigerator ($A350 please, thank you very much...), a demand that came right from Canberra, the nation's capitol. There was no logic to this, mind you, but we could not proceed without clearance from Canberra.  This was enforced in a haphazard manner (for most foreign boats, the issue never arose) but we were one of the few unlucky ones.  Another requirement was to have the vessel inspected for termites (!), which was a very thorough process involving two private contractors and their termite-sniffing dog (yeah, really...).  This cost $A800 and would also have been mandated if we had wished to extend our one-year cruising permit to keep the boat longer in Australian waters.  (Yup, termites can feed on your boat and go ashore at their leisure for up to a year, but Year 2 mandates the inspection). There were ways to reduce or avoid both these fees, but we were answering the questions honestly (Yes, we did have a refrigerator...) and the Quarantine folks were literally hiding the fact that there was another form of termite inspection that was much cheaper (but they didn't think was as good as the two guys with their dog).  So summing it all up, our valuation and filing of paperwork cost nothing and our importation fees with GST included were about $10,000.  The fat was now truly in the fire...


Making a “Showboat”:  We did rent out a local storage locker (along with CHINOOK II, folks we knew and felt comfortable with) and that improved the boat's appearance (lockers look much larger when only half full).  It made the eventual survey easier, too.  It was now all about TLC, keeping things spotless and attractive, making sure all the mechanicals looked fresh & healthy.  It was very little about the value of the spares aboard or how well she handled in heavy weather.  We had wondered if WHOOSH would attract a buyer that was, first off, looking for a cruising boat...or whether it would be someone who first wanted a comfy 'local' boat and only had eventual plans to cruise her.  The local market was almost exclusively folks who wanted marina or liveaboard boats capable of coastal cruising, and that's basically who ended up as the new owners.  For us, the extensive, expensive inventory of spares probably added very little value to the boat in the eyes of the buyer.

One factor that we hadn't appreciated initially was how helpful it is to have a relatively affordable, very attractive marina berth.  If we'd been in Sydney, finding a berth would have been both more difficult and more expensive, while being on a mooring (often the norm for new arrivals) would have made keeping her spotless and accessible far more difficult.  The broker could bring a customer down to the boat for a full walk-through, then retire to sit under a massive shade tree outside the marina office while enjoying 'flat whites' from the marina cafe' and discussing what they'd seen.  Meanwhile, the client is enjoying a fetching nautical scene and a great deal of active sailing within and outside the picturesque boat basin.  Our marina berth was the result of some suggestions while in Noumea, New Caledonia and much dumb luck, and its location in Brisbane assured many potential buyers from all over Australia as that area (the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast) has a huge boat population and excellent domestic flight connections..
The Marketplace:Things looked pretty good to us as the selling process began.  Boats were  being sold regularly, prices sure seemed high to us (we're from the destitute USA where boat prices are depressed and sales very few, indeed) and WHOOSH was seeing potential buyers each week. But it quickly became apparent that the especially frothy economic period of 2009 and 2010 had dissipated as the prices at which boats were actually selling had sunk.  Our broker quickly confessed she'd overpriced the boat (as we had thought all along...) and the price was adjusted as we settled into the 'show & tell' period.

Meanwhile, we were seeing the same thing in the housing market there – a big price bubble and with the media talking about falling house prices.  And this of course is where economics start to confuse us all.   Nationally, the government was warning of federal budget reductions, and 'Ross Aussie' was complaining about the high prices for virtually everything (from house prices to flat rental prices to $A2 for one ear of corn and $A4 for one avocado).  Regionally, Brisbane had been hit with massive flooding (after a decade of drought) with billions of dollars of damage in the City, and then Queensland was clobbered by a Category 4 hurricane.  The local marketplace was clearly contracting. 

But meanwhile, internationally the Australian dollar was steadily increasing in value against almost every other currency.  It was quite the daily drama for those of us selling:  boat prices were weak but the value of the eventual proceeds kept creeping up as the Australian dollar strengthened.  We all understood that the Oz dollar has historically been up & down like a roller coaster.  Just to illustrate, early in 2009 – when many of us were making plans to sail here - it was only worth $.65 USD.  When we were in the Pacific and began to plan our eventual arrival and sale here in Oz, it was $.85 USD.  As the boat was on the block, it passed the USD and was now worth $1.04 USD.  But it had fallen even faster many times there was always much talk among us 'sellers' about whether the national economy was forecasting a drop in the currency we would be receiving, or whether these all-time exchange rate highs would continue 'just a wee bit longer'.  (Keep in mind:  If you are selling that $A150,000 yacht, a tiny one percentage point swing in the $A meant you would be $1,500 USD richer...or poorer).

I had expected, at some point in the selling process, that our 120V AC system would be raised as an issue.  As any Australian buyer looked around WHOOSH, they would notice odd (to them) AC wall outlets and a lack of the unique 230V outlets used everywhere in Oz.  But that never surfaced – at any time.  I can only conclude that the boat appeared to be adaptable enough to satisfy prospective buyers, as we do have limited local power available inside the boat (via a power strip drawn off the input side of the transformer – see my AC article) and the listing specs made it clear we had an adjustable AC transformer installed.  I suspect that the broker was quite prepared to explain that we'd already enjoyed extended stays in the UK, throughout Europe and in the Caribbean, plus our more recent South Pacific stops, while having useable AC aboard and so it should be considered a non-issue.


Currency Conversion:  As mentioned, we wanted WHOOSH to be as 'turn key' a purchase as possible.  Thus, first we had imported her (thankfully, during year-end with at least a somewhat stronger USD) and priced her in Australian dollars.  So how did we get USD's back to America?  As mentioned above, the Australian banks were not the place to look – their exchange rates for larger sums were obscene.  We found it very difficult to arrange a new account while outside the USA (long story...) but fortunately we flew home for the holiday period and were able to set up a new account with one of the big USA banks.  So now were were poised:  once the funds were made available in the broker's trust account, we knew what to do with them.  The conversion cost was going to be somewhere around 1.5%.

Sold! Somewhat suddenly, given we'd fallen into a routine of prepping the boat to be shown about twice a week for two months, we had an offer...and now it was crunch time.  The buyer simply couldn't do better than 85% of our asking price...but meanwhile, the A$ had climbed 5%.  Was 10% off the value of our original asking price enough...or should we hold out for a richer buyer?  We'd done most of our country touring (that we could afford) the local cost of living (while using American Pesos) was higher than back home, and who knew what the Aussie dollar would do next week, so we chose to accept the offer.  (One way we mitigated the difference was to negotiate for the buyer to pay for the LPG inspection & certification, something our broker had told us would result in installing new copper tubing vs. accepting our rubber propane-rated hose).  The sales contract used  was a state-wide form developed by a professional broker's association, so it was worded in a weasily fashion  to satisfy buyer brokers as well as seller brokers.  Consequently was vague right where it needed to be firm and clear – e.g. what happens to the deposit after the conditions of the sale contract (survey & sea trial) are satisfied?  I should have asked to see the sales contract early on...but in the end, the buyers were satisfied with the (superficial) survey and the sale went through after some financial gymnastics involving funds of theirs in the Falkland Is
Shipping Stuff Home: We've already covered the basics above, but one thing we did learn is to keep shopping for a shipper until you are satisfied.  We ended up using Pack & Send (, a national franchise that foresaw a niche market for LCL shipments where customer service would insure they got the business.  So for us the logistics suddenly became easier:  their quote included all packing materials, they delivered stout packing boxes and other materials right to the marina, they picked up everything at the marina after it was packed, they offered customized packaging for odd items like the SCUBA tank and sewing machine, and of course this included all the paperwork.  We just snuck under the 2 cubic feet mark (after donating many items and leaving many others for the buyers), and hopefully the arrival and delivery side of things goes as smoothly as the packing side.  Cost for 2 cubic meters, LCL surface shipped with insurance for $10K of value, from Brisbane to Tampa via Singapore in 4-6 weeks:  about $1,000 USD. did this all net out for us?  Here's the basic accounting for our 1979 Pearson 424 Ketch, modified and upgraded as indicated in the many articles here:
  • Asking price:  $A160,000

  • Sale Price:  $A135,000

  • Commission (8.8%):  $A11,880

  • Importation Costs:  $A10,000

  • Shipping goods home:  $A1,000

  • Net proceeds:  $A112,120 or $114,362 USD (after 1.5% currency conversion costs)

Would we have been able to sell WHOOSH for more, back in the USA?  Based on my knowledge of boats and the current U.S. marketplace, I think it is very doubtful at this point in time.  How long would it have taken if selling in the USA?  To get near that price, probably quite a while – if ever.  What would be the 'wear and tear cost' – the additional cost of maintaining her in her current condition – if we'd chosen to sail her home, via either a Pacific Loop or finishing the Circle?  Don't know...but it could have approached the cost of shipping her home via deck cargo or well deck ship.  Very expensive indeed as both routes would work a boat very hard.

Did this work for us?  You bet.  Was it a feasible option for the other crews arriving here with hopes of selling their boat?  Apparently so, as every crew we knew that crossed the Pacific to Oz in 2010 with plans to sell has now sold.  Will it work for you?  As you consider this question, remember: the devil's in the details.

© Jack Tyler – April, 2011
Living Ashore in Wakerley, QLD – Australia