Choosing our boat....and the winner is......!
PoHlaris- the first visit
We continued to scour the internet but with more refined search criteria. We were in touch with a UK Catana dealer who promised to get us a test sail in a Catana yacht in the UK but before that materialised we noticed Pohlaris.
Pohlaris was on the market in northern Spain (Bay of Roses). One of the main draws for us to Catana is that from what we have heard from reliable sources and what we experienced ourselves, Catana boats are well built with performance at the forefront of the design. Their hulls are narrower and while reasonably comfortable they are not bloated and trying to look like a high end floating apartment. Their design is extremely practical and aimed at Bluewater sailing. (Bluewater sailing… yes it’s in our long terms plans.) We got in touch with the dealer selling Pohlaris to enquire, it was more just to see what the process would be like, should we decide to go and view the boat.
But that boat was too big. We were after a 42 and she was 47, but she looked in excellent condition. VAT paid. Extremely highly spec’d out equipment on-board, watermaker etc. But still, too big. The dealer did explain that he had a few 42’s available for viewing and so we thought it would be worth flying over to see the lot.
We flew to Montpellier and stayed for the weekend in the beautiful town of Cadaques. Catana boatyard would not be open until Monday morning and so as it was the first May bank holiday weekend in the UK we decided to make a mini break of it and thoroughly enjoyed the town even stopping by the incredible Salvador Dali’s house for a very interesting tour. https://www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/house-salvador-dali-in-portlligat/Monday Booking was by phone in advance and there is various sessions. When it was our turn we entered Dali's garden which is in itself remarkable with a falic shaped swimming pool and lots of big brands of the time ironically represented there in various ways. Like Michelin men and Pirelli tyres! I'd recommend a visit. As you walk through the front door there is a giant stuffed polar bear wearing heavy gold chains necklaces!
Morning came and we made the mistake of viewing the 47 foot Cat first (Pohlaris). It was moored outside the owners holiday home and we fell in love almost immediately. For a six year old boat, the condition appeared to be absolutely impeccable. We stayed a few hours on the boat while Alain the broker did a great sales job giving numerous examples of similar boats that had recently sold for much more etc etc… We were sad to leave the boat and got in Alain’s car. He drove us to the Catana shipyard where we viewed two 42’s that were 2008, ex-charter and currently undergoing a refurb..they call these type ‘Neo’. Didn’t hold a candle to Pohlairs. We were then shown a few other bigger boats that were a lot older than Pohlaris.. I think this was an intentional tactic ..trying to position Pohlairs as being great value, in excellent condition and being sold for an apparently similar price..some of these boats were from 2001! Nice tactics but that aside, we loved Pohlaris. We left Montpellier slightly bewildered about what on earth to do next. The asking price was too high.
Giving in to the dream
Over the coming weeks we continued our search..nothing else came close to the magic formula… not too old, excellent condition, owners version, never chartered and VAT paid. Also- in a reasonably convenient location and ready to go-now! We discussed the prospect of putting down an offer.. we were having financing issues including the fact that the place in Verbier was not selling fast among other things.
Nervously though we decided it might be worth a shot.. you only live once, the time is now, etc etc…I can’t even list all the ways we tried to justify this to ourselves. We made an offer which was significantly below asking all the while realising that even though below the asking, if accepted we had no means of financing..yet. Anyway the offer was rejected. We waited a week or two and in parallel began disucssions with the bank about temporary options to bridge the funds until Verbier sold. We made a second offer. The owner took this one more seriously and thought about it for a longer time. He rejected it. The UK broker gave us an idea of what he thought the owner might accept.
It’s meant to be
The events proceeding this seemed to happen so quickly. We put in a final offer which was only slightly more than the second one. This was our absolute limit. He considered it over a weekend and then finally accepted. Next a contract was drawn up for us to sign which would be conditional on our finance approval and the outcome of the survey. In the same week when we were finally (mostly) happy with the content of the contract it was signed by us.
Just an FYI on french contracts, they are peculiar and we had trouble agreeing with some of the terms stated. For example one part stated that because this is a french contract which has been translated to english, if there was any discrepancy between the two languages, the french version was the soruce of truth. So effectively the words we were reading in english could potentially have no legal basis if it was a poor translation.
The deposit of 10% was paid to the Catana/Seller's broker and was to be held by them until the sale had closed fully. The deposit was to be fully refundable should our finance be rejected or should the survey find something we did not want to live with. Just to keep us on our toes the owner decided he was not going to counter sign the contract until Monday afternoon. Then on Monday there was apparently some debate with Catana. The owner wanted them to forward our deposit to him. This could have been a deal breaker. Catana were insistent with him and he finally counter-signed agreeing to let them hold the deposit. In the same week we got provisional and then final confirmation that we would receive the finance requested. We started talking to surveyors and agreed the date with the owner and Catana for when the survey could take place and when the test sail could happen It was starting to feel like it was meant to be.
PoHlaris-the second visit: Test sail and survey
By the following Thursday we were flying to Carcassonne to attend survey and test sail on Friday. By complete chance my parents happened to be staying in a big old French townhouse in a gorgeous little village called Bize which was relatively near Canet en Roussillion, where the boat had been brought for our inspection. We started to talk about stupid things like whether to change the boat name and what colour the trim should be and what about a logo? This was a bit of needed light heartedness as we were both a bit nervous that the survey might reveal that our perfect boat was not so perfect after all.
Naming the boat
But seriously, we decided that we liked the name Pohlaris! The first ever time I visited Verbier to be with Jim we got VIP tickets to an amazing dance festival high up in the mountains in the snow. That festival is called Polaris. It was an incredibly memorable night so much so that we went back last year too. So on a personal note it means something but more importantly from the perspective of sailing, Polaris (spelt that way without the ‘H’ added by the current owner to incorporate his initial) means the north star, the most reliably bright and easy to spot star in the northern hemisphere used by sailors and explorers in conjunction with other instruments for navigation purposes. I could not have thought of a more fundamental or significant meaning behind a name for a sailing vessel.
My parents drove us to the shipyard. They had never been on a catamaran like this before. We had thought it may be best to show them quickly around the boat and meet them later so we could focus on following the surveyors around. But when we stepped on-board Alain immediately suggested they come with us on the test sail. My step dad was thrilled by this idea, my mum looked surprised but willing.
There were a few interesting events during the sail and it is still not completely clear why they happened. The wind was really blowing hard at about 25 knots and Alain was quite an animated skipper that day. First of all one of the sails was flogging really hard and nobody seemed to be getting it under control. There was an almightly crash and with that the sail had smashed one of the solar panels! Next big noise came from the Mainsail’s halliard which, due to a combination of being too tight and probably wear and tear, snapped! Then low and behold, as Pohalris was being hauled out of the water later that day, so that she could be inspected on the dry,there was another calamity. Due to a combination of the wind direction, the steering by Alain and a breakdown of communication between the guys in between the hulls easing her onto the blocks we heard a loud screeching sound that we will never forget as the inside of her starboard hulls got badly scratched by the metal structure that was to take her weight!
Other than those damages that were actually caused by some of the sailors that day, there were no major findings in the survey although it was a lesson. There was a fairly long list of items to be replaced by the seller and a number things which they flagged as being quite worn but not yet requiring a replacement. The boat was certainly not perfect. No boat is. What we were taking on is a lifetime project of maintenance and repairs as well as an epic adventure.
Since the survey we have now actually received the funds from the bank, we have reached agreement on what the owner and broker will get fixed and by what date. In fact we have agreed now that the hand over will take place on the 13th and 14th of August '18. Now we are looking into where on earth to keep her.. we are leaning towards a Marina di Ragusa in Sicily as we think there is nice cruising there and as it is coming toward the end of summer there is a well established wintering liveaboard community there. We have yet more big decisions to make and plans to execute to progress our dream. Like in what format can we work and can we actually rent out London again and move onto the boat full time? When will Verbier sell? First though, how will we get her from Canet to Sicily? Even that is too big a sail as our first one and we can’t necessarily take the time off work just now. How long to keep her in the water vs on the hard… The world of sailing is a complicated but exciting one. This is already dawning on me and we haven’t even sailed her alone yet.