"I'm sorry but we don't have any category B vehicles available and I only have one category C vehicle left. So if you want that one it's 90 Euros for the day or it's 150 Euros for the week and you'll have to get here in the next hour", was what the lady at the Javea car rental place said when I called to ask about prices.
It's the middle of winter on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and I was expecting car hire businesses to be grateful that we wanted to hire one of their cars. But that wasn't the case. It seems that a lot of Northern Europe's retired people head South for the winter in their big motor homes, which they park in the camping grounds and then hire a small car to get around locally. I'm not sure if there is a colloquialism for them in Europe, but in Australia they're called 'Grey Nomads'.
The reason for us hiring the car was primarily to drive 3 hours South of our base in Javea to view a couple of yachts, in
particular a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.1 that was berthed at the Tomas Maestre marina on the Mar Menor. (More on the story of this yacht later). There was also a 47 foot Jeanneau that we wanted to take a look at just to compare the 2 foot size difference. We had no intention of buying the 47 footer because it had teak side decks and they are a lot of maintenance and if not properly looked after can cause water leaks.
We opted for the week long rental so that the extra days could be spent driving to marinas hoping to discover more yachts, that weren't listed on the Internet, in our size and price range that we could view. Again this was where expectations and reality turned out to be very different.
Planning the marina visiting mission began by putting a pin on Google Earth in every marina location along the East coast of Spain from the Gibraltar border all the way North to Barcelona. The main fault with this is that it's hard to tell how big any given marina is or what facilities they offer. Once we had picked up the hire car the first marina we visited was in Denia, a short 15 minute drive North of Javea. It's a big marina and also the port where some of the ferries for Mallorca and Ibiza depart to and from. We were expecting that there would be several yacht brokers offices that we could walk into and be shown a list of what they had for sale. The reality is that there were just two sales offices in the marina and neither of them had anything listed that matched our requirements. They politely took our contact details and assured us they'd ask around and if there was anything available they'd be in touch. I'm not holding my breath.
The next marina we drove to was disappointing. It was in a lovely location from a boaties point of view, but it was tiny and the small town that surrounded it could have been mistaken for the film set of a zombie apocalypse movie. There wasn't even a sales office that we could walk into. This marina set the theme for the next three that we drove to, so we made an executive decision and skipped the next few smaller ones and went straight to the very big marina at Valencia. It turned out to be the same story as the marina we'd visited in Denia, just a couple of broker's offices, nothing available that suited, please leave your contact details.
We stopped for a picnic lunch and had a beer at a bar on the beach and concluded that we needed a new strategy, so we got back into the car and headed back to Javea. We were just wasting time and petrol with our current plan. It had been a whole day and we hadn't actually set foot on a yacht. The new plan was to get the brokers to do the footwork for us and it involved doing a search on www.yachtworld.com for yachts in our size and price range and when we found something that was near enough, but not quite what we were looking for, we would send an email enquiry to the broker asking if they had anything else that was similar. I think we shot off about 15 emails and by the time we'd finished it was well after business hours so any replies would certainly not arrive until the following day. Time to open a bottle of red wine and chill.
The next day the replies started to come in throughout the morning. Some said they only dealt with larger yachts, others had nothing available but would keep in touch, others obviously didn't read what I'd written and offered yachts that were way oversized or way over budget. It was frustrating to say the least.
Anyhow, back to the story of the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.1 that was berthed at the Tomas Maestre marina on the Mar Menor. We found this yacht on www.yachtworld.com and it ticked nearly all of our boxes. Great price, the right size, 22 years old, lots of extras and inclusions and it was technically just down the road. We emailed the broker, he got straight back to us saying that he'd contact the owner and arrange a viewing and let us know. Time ticked by, close of business came around and so we resigned ourselves that we'd have to wait until the following day to find out about a viewing.
At 9.30am the following day a disappointing email arrived saying that the boat had already been sold and the owner had forgotten to remove the listing. Even at that early hour we nearly reached for another bottle of red. But just minutes later the same broker sent us a second email saying that he had another Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.1 that technically wasn't on the market, but we could view it if we liked. It seemed odd, but we were desperate to actually set foot on a yacht of our preferred size so that we could get a sense of space and see how much elbow room it had for living and working on. We emailed back and set up a viewing for the following day.
It was an easy 3 hour drive South and by the time we met up with Jose at the marina, both Aannsha and I were very eager to view our first prospective yacht. It didn't disappoint. It was in excellent condition for a 23 year old and although it didn't have all the extras of the year younger identical model that had already sold, it was still what we were looking for and if we could get it at the right price we could add the needed extras ourselves.
Let me paint a picture, our Spanish was certainly not fluent and Jose's English was about the same and given that we were using a lot of yacht related words in a mixture of Spanish and English I think we did OK. But there's a lot more to how this sorry tale ends regardless of the language barrier.
Firstly, because the yacht was not yet on the market Jose did not have a complete inventory of what was on the yacht and certainly did not have a list of sale inclusions. Secondly it seemed that the owner was 'almost ready to sell' because he was having a brand new Hanse 455 built to his specs in Germany and was not expecting delivery to Spain until August/September and he did not want to be without a yacht for the main summer sailing season of June/July. That was a negative point for us, because we didn't want to miss out on a whole summer of sailing either and although my brother Phil had said we could stay at his place in Javea as long as we wanted, I don't think he anticipated us staying until September.
After 2 hours of looking into all the nooks and crannies of the 45.1 we left Jose with an offer of 75,000 Euros and a list of questions for the owner and drove back to Javea feeling quietly confident that we might have found our yacht. However the next morning's email from Jose added more confusion. The owner was now prepared to sell immediately because if we settled the sale before we went to Gibraltar he would be in a position to get his new Hanse from Germany around the end of May, just in time for the summer sailing season. The idea of actually being owners of our yacht by the time we returned from Gibraltar was appealing to us and we mistakenly thought that this was a kindly gesture from the owner, creating a win/win for both parties. But the email contained some not so good news. The owner was taking everything that wasn't nailed down, to use on his new yacht. That included the bed linen, pillows, kitchen utensils, tool kit, spare parts, flares, dinghy and outboard. We emailed back that we would like to revise our offer down to 65,000 Euros based on the fact that we'd have to now spend quite a bit more outfitting the yacht with even the basics and that was before we began the major upgrades like dinghy davits, solar and wind power and a scuba air compressor.
This is when things started to go south and it's also where we felt sorry for Jose being stuck in the middle of the negotiations. Right from the start I'd had a gut feeling that the owner was all take and no give (he's a lawyer by profession) and it appeared that my gut was right. After a few more emails Jose said that the owner was expecting 75,000 Euros and that we'd have to make a decision because time was running out if we wanted to take the yacht for a test sail and get a haul out and full survey before we went to Gibraltar. We agreed to go ahead if the owner would allow us free use of his marina berth for a month or two while we added all of the new hardware we were going to need. After all the owner's new yacht wasn't arriving until the end of May. Jose said he'd ask the owner and we placed a 10% deposit into Jose's escrow account. The test sail, haul out and survey were booked for Tuesday just as business hours ended on Friday.
Monday morning we were greeted by another email from a very apologetic Jose. It seems that over the weekend the owner had decided that he was not going to allow use of his marina berth, even though he had no yacht to put in it, he also now wanted no less than an 80,000 Euros sale price, but he was prepared to throw in the dinghy (minus the outboard). I looked at Aannsha and said "This owner is just a twat, he's been all take and no give from the very start, every time we think we've agreed something he moves the goal posts to his advantage. I don't like people taking the piss, let's just pull out and let him find another buyer to play games with." Aannsha agreed saying she'd had feelings all weekend to get a solicitor to check the contract as her gut instincts were telling her to be wary.
So we told the broker that we weren't prepared to negotiate any further and that if the owner wasn't going to accept our original 75,000 Euros offer, the deal was off. After all the running around we'd been given by the owner, deep down inside I secretly hoped that he'd have difficulties finding a new buyer and he'd miss out on getting his new Hanse yacht delivered in time for this summer's sailing season.
So the search continues and we are a little bit wiser. The good news is that tomorrow we are driving an hour South to Alicante to look at a Jeanneau Sun Fast 43. I'll let you know how it goes.