Sailing Journey: Buying a Boat in New York

The sailing journey continues with this chapter landing in New York and ready to buy a bigger boat…

Why fly from Australia to New York to buy a boat?

Starting the research in 2005 for a sailing boat design and viewing a plethora of boats in the flesh, we decide on the American-built Catalina C400.

The only problem is that there’s only a couple in Australia and the price range is ridiculously expensive.

Looking at the overseas market proves better value-for-money with a much greater selection. By the close of 2007, our home-built boat Naiad is on the market to sell. And, we’re ready to fly to the US in early 2008 to buy a bigger boat.

Landing in New York, USA

Don’t believe Google’s ambitious flight time!

I don’t ever remember flying from Brisbane to NY in only 20 hours. It’s at least 23 hours on a good run and in two planes.

Landing in the US and clearing customs is always nerve-wracking. Especially late in the evening, but manage to get through without too many hassles and arrive at the gorgeous old-world Hotel 17 in Manhattan.

Hotel 17 Manhattan, New York, USA
Hotel 17

Need to relax for a couple of days before making our presence known to all of the previously contacted boat brokers. Take in a little sightseeing and walk for over 7 hours today…

Steel tree sculptures, New York, USA
Steel trees

Traipse all over Manhattan to Ground Zero, Empire State Building, and Central Park as it will be stressful from now on.

The fabulous Andy Warhol exhibition at MoMA is definitely worth a look.

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe, MoMa, New York, USA
Andy Warhol’s Marilyn


Thought I’d just mention that today is -9.4°C and even colder yesterday. Apparently, the temperature at the moment is well below the average for this time of year. Great.

Moved from the Bronx to a hotel in Jamaica (Queens) as Manhattan is too expensive and also closer to see a couple of boats – luckily, we escaped today’s snow in New York State. Foot-long icicles hang precariously from the Subway overpass and yesterday, ice graced the roads in Times Square.

Awoken at midnight’ish to the sounds of shotguns and sirens in front of our hotel window. Welcome to Queens!

Making the broker rounds

Arriving in the US in the winter under January’s bleak snowy weather, who buys a boat during the winter?

Contacting the 8 confirmed brokers, incredulously, advised that the boats we confirmed to see are in storage. In dry-dock this time of year and can’t be viewed. The brokers changed their story.

Why no one advised us of this during the plethora of emails back and forth before leaving Australia, is still a mystery. I can only think that the brokers didn’t believe buyers would fly from Australia during a US-winter to buy a boat. Seriously? Stressful, angry, and stronger words come to mind.

Against a wall

The 8 boats we lined up are reduced to only 3 available to inspect as one boat also sold. The other seems too worn with loads of engine hours.

Brokers aren’t keen to show us boats. You’d think it wasn’t their bread and butter! Only see 2 boats in 13 days of landing in the US – not great.

The boats for sale have been on the market for years but owners are not budging on their asking price either.

Disappointed, we check out the third boat. We’ve come a long way and not interested in listening to lies from salesmen. Hotel costs are mounting and the pressure is on, as I only have 2 months left on my 3-month visa.

If tomorrow’s boat isn’t any good then there’s one in California and another in Montreal, but we’re reluctant to travel so far from New York.

A decision

After almost one month in the US, we’ve only seen a total of 3 boats including a 47′ Catalina at Coneys Marine in Huntington, Long Island.

Success. We decide on Reality.

A Catalina C470′, 2-berth, large Saloon, 2 Heads with showers, wing keel, twin helm, Sloop – complete with 3 air-conditioners. Never known a cruising boat to have an air-conditioner, let alone three!

Sorry, not many photos to share but come take a look inside anyway…

Reality is hauled out with its mast removed and living on land.

Remember in Australia we researched a Catalina 40′ only? Of course, the Catalina 47′ is more expensive but worth the extra room and features. Including a collision bulkhead, Reality is a very comfortable and a beautiful sleek boat.

Huntington, Long Island

Because Reality is in Coneys Marine in Huntington, it’s time for another move to another hotel, this time to Huntington. Secretly hope that this will be home for only a couple of weeks.

With heavy backpacks and gear, we move again lugging everything to Huntington by train then bus.

The new boat

Reality lived on the land for the past 18-months. And in her previous life, only going on short sailing passages or racing, so need to make sure everything is working.

It’s just like buying a second-hand car. The only difference is that you can’t sink a car.

Reality’s Survey

The first viewing of Reality is when she’s hauled out so it’s easier for a surveyor to check her over.

Hiring an excellent boat surveyor, Reality is checked through and tested from top to bottom, several times over.

Irwin the surveyor – coincidently with our same surname – is extremely thorough checking above and beyond a surveyor’s responsibilities. And, think this is because Irwin also owns a boat. But, also knows the long-term plan involves sailing to Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, down the Caribbean Sea to the Netherlands Antilles, Venezuela, then eventually across the South Pacific back to Australia. Irwin wants to ensure the boat is safe for such a long voyage.

As luck would have it, we couldn’t have picked a better surveyor and worth every dollar. Too often in the boating community, you hear of many horror stories about dodgy surveyors. Buyers discovering too late when something breaks down or worse, discover a hole in their boat soon after purchasing.

The commission

It’s as if Reality was waiting for a new owner to come along and set her free, from the confines and restraining taproots of the land’s long tentacles.

Boats are made for the water, not land.

Launched safely in the water, the engine bellows huge clouds of black smoke but this clears after an hour, and she runs like a charm. Shortly after, Long Island receives heavy snowfall.

Throwing in a few photos of the mean machine in case you’re interested…

  • Launched, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
  • Launched under snow, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
  • Launched under snow, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
  • Launched under snow, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
  • Launched under snow, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA
  • Launched under snow, Catalina 47', Long Island, New York, USA

A commission to test Reality results in the owner needing to fix the engine and generator.

A done deal

Money is transferred from our Australian bank with several hick-ups. Of course, banks don’t enjoy returning your money, especially large sums.

Shaking hands, we’re now Reality’s new owners. Both scary and very exciting. 

We’re almost 9,000 nautical miles from Australia. That’s 9,950 miles. Over 16,000 kilometres.

A long way from home!

What now?

Time to haul out and pack up Reality to crane onto the truck. A long road journey of over 2,121 kilometres (1,318 miles) to Miami, southern Florida awaits Reality.


Because Miami, is where we’re fitting her out for blue water sailing.

The work and stress are just beginning, but at least we own a boat. Meanwhile, time is ticking on my 3-month visa…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

35 responses to “Sailing Journey: Buying a Boat in New York”

  1. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Well, well. I hadn’t seen it. It does look very similar to my friends’ boat…
    (Not that I’m an expert at all)

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It was a very stressful 3 months in the US as they just didn’t believe that anyone would come from Australia to buy a boat in the winter. The worse part was that we emailed all these brokers well in advance and kept in contact along the way but they still pretty much lied to us… 🙁
      Reality is a gorgeous boat and the ex-school principal and his wife that bought her have been living on her since, but sadly, I don’t believe they’ve done much sailing.
      You’ll have to ask your friend for me.

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Strange isn’t it? If you keep in touch and in touch… It should be understood that you mean business. Weird for Americans…
        Well, at least the boat is lived on…

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It was very strange and they also didn’t believe we were cash buyers – more fools them because they couldn’t be bothered showing us the boats we had earmarked. Not a great experience and we wasted loads of time on our 3-month visa.
        That’s a good point and it hasn’t gone to some graveyard. 😉

  2. nitinsingh Avatar

    lovely post thnx to share

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback and happy that you enjoyed this post.

  3. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    How annoying that they didn’t mention that you couldn’t see the boats – I would imagine that’s pretty important when buying a boat!

    The interior of Reality looks quite similar to my mom’s.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yeah, tell me about it and we wasted so much time – very annoying!
      What boat does your mum have? You’ll have to share this post with your mum… 😉

  4. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

    I worked in the office building featured in the Steel Trees photo off Madison Square Park and was probably slaving away when you took that picture. Stunning to hear that none of the brokers indicated that you couldn’t view the boats before you left Australia #WTF. But it all worked out in the end with the ship you were meant to own. Excellent storytelling with lots of intensity, leaving me wanting for more. Am curious to see if you sold Naiad as things will turn financially nasty in September 2008

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Lisa, what a coincidence! Our paths are meant to cross one day, I’m sure of it now. Do you happen to know the correct name of the sculpture?
      Thank you for the wonderful feedback, which has spurred me on to write more…this is becoming a book! 🙂
      Yes, a ‘small’ oversight on the brokers behalf but I really don’t think they believed us, even though none of the brokers let this on.
      Funny you should ask because selling Naiad is my next post scheduled for Sunday, so stay tuned… 😉
      Hope the Captain is well on his way to getting better and you’re off sailing soon.

      1. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        Conjoined by artist Roxy Paine. Looking forward to your upcoming post. Captain exponentially better every day. I am certain we will be back on the boat mid-July

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Fantastic! I’m happy to hear he’s on the mend and you’ll be back on the boat soon.

  5. Dave Ply Avatar

    Sounds exciting, but expensive. Kind of like buying a house.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes exactly, but not as expensive as buying a Catalina in Australia.
      This was during the GFC in 2008, so our dismal Australian dollar exchange rate wasn’t too bad and worth flying over to buy one in the US. 😉

  6. fezza Avatar

    Nice …….

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave feedback Fezza.

  7. gillmorris Avatar

    I just love your life stories Nilla. Reality looks beautiful 🙂 x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Awww…thank you Gill! Such a lovely thing to say.
      Yes, Reality is a beautiful boat and also sails very well. 🙂 xx

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        Do you still have her? x

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sadly, no.
        I’ve been boatless and living on Terra Firma since 2011. It was a huge adjustment in many ways after 21 years on a boat/s.

      3. gillmorris Avatar

        Do you think you will ever get another one?

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hmmm…not sure but really love the lifestyle…never say never… 😉
        I’ve published another 3 posts. One about the fitting-out of Reality and the other about selling Naiad, if you need some reading material.

  8. Following the Rivera Avatar
    Following the Rivera

    New York would be really lovely to go sailing. Your boat is stunning too!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your comment.
      Shame we didn’t go sailing in New York on Reality. I did however sail into New York on a friends’ boat a few years later. Check out this sailing post on New York.

  9. karenincalabria Avatar

    Beautiful boat and what a series of frustrations you went through before you found your “Reality”!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Karen and yes, but it only gets better…stay tuned for next week’s saga. 😉

  10. the eternal traveller Avatar

    What a great find and she looks lovely inside. I’m keen to hear what happens next.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Carol.
      Reality was not only a gorgeous and comfortable boat, but also sailed very well.
      Just realised I’ve published 14 chapters of this Sailing Journey already with another 5 scheduled – so far that’s over 25,000 words!

      1. the eternal traveller Avatar

        You could make it into a book.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Certainly getting that way but not sure that it would be interesting enough. 😉

  11. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

    Awesome episode
    REALLY enjoyed it

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Mohamad.
      Which part did you enjoy the most?

      1. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

        You are most welcome dear
        Oh I actually enjoyed this one more than the older ones

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, thanks for the feedback as this helps me to improve my writing. 😉

      3. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

        You are most welcome Nilla

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