If you are ever considering buying a boat abroad, consider all other options.  We had a very specific boat (and timeframe) in mind, one that doesn’t often come on the market, especially at a young age. So, we really had no other choice.

However, we still encountered quite a few issues that make us strongly suggest not buying a boat abroad unless you absolutely have to. Here’s what you can expect when buying a boat abroad:
  1. Exchange rate: We watched in horror as the Canadian Dollar tanked in the hours leading up to the highly anticipated 2016 US Presidential election. The market freaked out as Donald Trump led in the polls and eventually won. We lost CAD $10,000 on the boat deal in minutes and were fearful that the declining Canadian dollar would soon put this boat out of our price range. However, once the oil-fueled Canadian economy realized that Trump’s anti-climate change and pro-fossil fuel stance was actually a good thing for them, the Canadian Dollar shot back up and our heart rate went back down (except for Meg’s who was angry and fearful for her home country of America, but that is a whole other story). 
  2. Transferring funds: So we are in Greece, and after the boat passed inspection, a large amount of money needed to be transferred over to the current Greek owner. However, our company’s bank (and most banks) will not allow you to do this sort of transaction remotely, so we needed to have someone physically go into a bank in Canada to transfer the money. In anticipation for such issues and just the general situations that can arise from operating an international business abroad, we were able to set up our lawyer as an approved agent of our company; so he was able to transfer the funds for us — eventually. But nothing can prepare you for an ER trip and appendicitis, which will certainly delay your lawyer’s trip to the bank! 
  3. Getting work done: The only one who is ever in a rush is yourself. It is currently the end of season here in Greece, the cold weather is creeping in and people are getting sleepy and a little lazy. Not to mention the difficulty in doing work in English as a second language and all the little nuances that get lost in translation! We are lucky enough to have the previous boat owner, who manages a charter and yacht management business, help us out a lot. However, we are certain he is exhausted by all our emails and minor requests as we try to set this boat up for circumnavigation within our 2-week time frame (clock is still ticking!). Also, where we are in Greece isn’t exactly a sailor’s haven, so it has been quite difficult sourcing the parts and materials we need. These parts and things need to be ordered, causing more delays and even customs issues if we have to get things imported. 
  4. Importing goods: Forget how much we had to pack-mule in our luggage over here, importing goods has been an absolute nightmare! We ordered our Furuno radar from a company in the US, only to find out it has been held in customs and required some 20-odd (very odd) documents to get it released.  Apparently, we cannot import this item to Greece as a foreign company, so we had to transfer the ownership of the device to our Greek seller’s company. The documentation that is required to release the radar is mind-boggling, including official documents that state: who we are, what the company is, if the device is safe to handle by humans, and then a certificate of good standing and a decision from the board of directors that it could be picked up by the Greek company. We still do not have the radar in our possession, and we’ve learned that we are incurring holding fees for every day that it sits there. How convenient! 
  5. Dealing with authorities: Aside from our friends over at the customs agency, we have even more hiccups with transportation authorities both in Greece and Canada. Both countries have different rules and regulations for boats and transfer of ownership. Because we are a foreign company, the boat’s sale should not have to pay VAT (taxes) locally. So we have to prove that the boat has left the country in order to rightfully prove the omission of VAT. Meaning, as soon as we set off on our already-delayed Mediterranean crossing, we have to make a pitstop to mail paperwork that proves we have left. The current trouble is for the crew to decide where that pitstop will be; I personally am holding out for Sicily as I love Sicilian pizza and want to know if that actually exists there or is just an American adaptation.
Regardless of all these troubles, Greece is definitely not a bad place to be stuck!  The food has been amazing and the locals have been very kind and accommodating. So if you have to buy a boat abroad, allow yourself plenty of budgeted time and pick a place that you won’t mind spending that time!

4 Comments

  • Yep, we just bought in Malta on September 26th… Managing currency is the biggest single thing we did… Bought a whack of USD back in April/May when CAD was at 80 cents, and then needed to convert to Euros in September… Bit of a bummer cause we were pretty sure the Euro would dip more, but the boat was too good a deal to risk the wait… And yes, after paying $1,000 to expedite the shipment of my watermaker from California to Malta, it was held up in customs for 15 days… The thing I found most strange is the power a simple boat stamp makes.. When the waternaker was finally delivered to the boat the customs agent asked for a boat stamp for the docs… when told I “only” had a passport, he grimaced and said “well ok”… Then wrote on every doc “boat stamp not available”..

    We are heading to the Canaries at the end of the week…

  • Oh, and Canadian registration was a real issue… After 5 weeks I had to call Transport Canada and beg for priority as I was still 4 weeks from the top of the pile… And they agreed! I was impressed, got a TC specialist who pushed the registration through in 24 hours…

  • And we are SV Airborne… Lagoon 450F…

    I think you need to clear the EU, not Greece. At least we do, so Morocco is our first non EU port.

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