Buying a brokerage boat has many advantages. It can be kinder to both your schedule and your pocketbook. At the same time, the hunt can be exhausting and frustrating, especially if you’re counting on falling in love at first sight before pulling the trigger. Lots of brokerage buyers can’t get past a boat that was clearly someone else’s perfect yacht, often times someone else’s perfect yacht from many years ago. But if there’s one thing a pre-owned shopper should keep in mind, it’s to be wary of overlooking the diamond in the rough. With a little bit of vision, patience, and additional investment, you can breathe some life – and a bit of yourself – into the boat of your dreams.
“Cosmetic concerns should never be a reason for rejecting an otherwise solid Nordhavn with good bones,” says Marc Mittelman, who purchased his Nordhavn 43 in March 2018. Together with his broker, Dave Balfour, they discussed what projects might be tackled to modernize the boat and bring it closer to his personal spec. He upgraded his stabilization system, re-covered all cushions, switched out mattresses and installed a stern cockpit sunscreen. “Like most previously owned Nordhavns I had viewed, Wanderer was in good condition and had been well-cared for by previous owners,” he said. “However, this was a 14-year-old boat and needed some reasonable TLC to bring her into Bristol condition.”
It’s the same philosophy followed by David Solo and his wife, Toni, as they searched for a pre-owned Nordhavn. Beyond their requirement that the boat should be a well-maintained Nordhavn 55, they were willing to be flexible. They landed on a 2008 N55 and knew right away that a refit would be in order. “The interior was good, but it was a little dated and worn,” Solo said. A complete soft goods overhaul later, “it now looks like a brand new boat.”
Besides switching out fabrics, carpet and comforters in every part of the boat, the couple invested in electronic window shades that auto-retract. David and Toni sat down with designers at Jeddy’s Yacht Interiors in Dana Point, CA, who helped guide them through their boat’s makeover. “The process was easy enough,” he said. “The result is that it brought this 8-year-old boat back to life.”
Kevin Clackson agrees about the ease in which an older boat can be transformed. “Tackling a refit – especially if it’s just the interior – is something one can handle without too much of a struggle.” Clackson purchased his N75 EYF Pinch Me in March 2018 and shortly thereafter did a complete interior and exterior overhaul of the boat. He and his wife managed to look past the “Fighting Lady yellow hull and assortment of ‘Mahi Mahi’ carpet” and got the boat they knew would become their perfect Nordhavn.
The before and after photos of Pinch Me are dramatic. Clackson elevated an 11-year-old boat into a modern passagemaker with upgraded electronics, accessories and contemporary styling. The list of modifications is extensive, but the most striking changes come courtesy of the re-painted hull in metallic grey and gleaming white superstructure; the newly installed table in the cockpit made of granite that was carried through to the fishing cockpit, bbq areas and the lower cockpit live well; and of course, the stunning interior.
The path to the desired re-fresh result will be different depending on your timeline and budget. The key is to recognize where you can scale back on spending and don’t skimp on areas you deem a priority. Clackson advises against rushing a job through. “Take your time. Don’t cut corners. Find the right trades.” He sourced many of the service providers himself.
Meanwhile, Mittleman consulted the Nordhavn Owners Group for recommendations. He also looked to keep costs down by doing a lot of work himself such as the install of the stern cockpit sunscreen and the customization of off-the-shelf mattresses. Solo also did his part in honing in where he wanted to spend (electric shades vs. manual) and where he could save (store-bought sheets altered to fit instead of custom).
The obvious upside to committing to a re-fresh is a more personalized boat that will preserve a buyer’s investment. Mittleman found another advantage to being open to a “fixer-upper”: being able to identify changes that need to be made out of necessity can be a great bargaining chip. Upon inspection, Mittleman’s broker Dave Balfour advised that the inverter charger and pilothouse freezer would come up in the survey. “[Dave’s] advice proved to be spot on and was also important during the vessel survey and eventual purchase negotiations.”
During these times of COVID-19, the brokerage market is hot and inventory can wane in an instant, so perhaps now more than ever it’s more important to search creatively. None of the three buyers would alter the process in which they went about achieving their perfect boats. Says Solo: “It’s simple. If you don’t like it, change it.”
N75 PINCH ME
N55 LONG TIME DEAD