009 - A Pandemic of a Problem
By the time we flew back from our Miami boat show and Vegas trip, Coronavirus cases in the UK had reached 15. I had a cough and asked all my family to not come too close, but even though it lasted for over a month, it turned out to be only that. We could tell that day by day things were worsening and so we made use of the time we had.
Now I don’t know about you; but oftentimes, when people in your life know you are passionate about a subject, it seems that is the go-too subject matter when deciding on what to buy you. Now our friends and family knew we were searching for a boat and so, for a while, every gift we got was based upon a sailing or sea theme. Now that’s fine, but as you know, we are NOT hardened sailors and so we didn’t want our home slowly filled with this theme. Instead what we did is decide to decorate our smallest room in the house in a definite sailing theme and be done with it. Any gifts that didn’t fit in there would have to go (we were on our 4th Captain’s hat by this point). So, here is the end result … our boat themed downstairs WC. We decorated the floor to look like water, the doors to look like they were from an old ocean going liner, the seats are from a boat and the walls we decorated in real navigation maps. We thought it came out quite nicely.
The 5th of March 2020 saw the first UK death and by the 23rd the government had put into action its first lockdown. People panic bought toilet rolls and anything they thought would run out. We were no different, although toilet rolls were not our top priority we did do a huge shop at a cash and carry and got enough food for ourselves, my daughters who were living in the same house, my son and his family and my parents who live near us.
Once vibrant streets were now empty and people only really came out to clap for carers on Thursday nights. People were now regularly seen wearing face masks and I rapidly had to get used to not going into work and instead helping from home via a PC. This had some upsides in that it gave me more time to set up our website and start posting historical blogs to build our story.. and on the 11th April 2020 sawasdeekat.com got its first Click!!
Despite our best efforts to move forward with our plans, the pandemic was more than a little problematic. We decided to make a very short Thank You video for our staff, my daughter Paris helped with the vocals. It’s not a public viewing video but you can see it here:
Clapping for carers showed support but in the early days the industry needed PPE (Personal Protective Clothing). We were very lucky, a stock of masks were immediately available and just as these were depleting the government started topping up supplies. Despite good stocks of PPE for staff, the 27th March saw our first ever suspected case (there were no tests available at this time) and by the 16th April, with some testing available, our manager had to self isolate as a positive case of what was now being called Covid-19.
Pook got herself a bike and started cycling as she would need to do more if we ever got a boat. Morale was very low amongst friends and family and people were genuinely scared of the virus and its effect on health. So Pook and I decided to make a funny video to try and cheer people up. We posted it on our YouTube channel and it got quite a lot of likes…
Our search for the ideal catamaran was continuing in a very part time manner as the whole world locked down and international travel to see boats became impossible. However, by the 10th of May the UK government decided it was all over and we could start to go back to normal. “Social Distancing” became the new buzzword and new rules came into force. Sadly this proved to be wholly ineffective, and by July the country had entered into another series of local lockdowns. Undaunted, we began looking again and to our delight found a beautiful Privilege 515. We were so keen in fact that, after asking a number of questions about the boat, we were ready to hand over our 10% deposit and go to Cartagena in Spain and see her.
Now, this is a blog so this is my personal perspective. But I have to think that whoever set up the broker scheme for selling boats was a bit of a cad. When I normally make a big investment in something, I go and see it, take it for a test ride, have a good look around it and make sure it’s what I want. For some reason (known only to them) boat brokers have set up this idea that you must put down a 10% deposit BEFORE you even look at it, let alone take it out and see if it sails. You may recall that I’d had a bad experience with this when I was in Thailand and wanted to see a boat in Australia. But, ever keen, I asked lots of questions and was promptly sent a contract to sign… and here’s where it once again went “pear shaped”.
In the contract were “set in stone” dates that bore no regard to the fact that delays may be caused due to Covid-19. But critically, it said “If the survey reveals some defects not mentioned or known prior to this inspection… (you can pull out)”. It then went on to define a defect. “A defect is considered as such if affecting the operational integrity of the vessel, her machinery or her systems and renders the vessel UNSEAWORTHY” Holy heck! You mean the ONLY way I can decide I don’t like the boat and pull out and get my money back on, is if it is UNSEAWORTHY!!
I was aghast and very frustrated. I was expected to hand over 10% of my life’s savings to a broker I’d never met during a pandemic and if the deal couldn’t go through I’d lose it. The contract made no space for the scenario that I might travel to Spain to see it and once I had decide “do you know what, it’s just not the boat for me as its’ too different from what I expected”. I would lose my money!!
The boat brokering system (and I am sorry if you’re in it and don’t agree – that’s your right) is a ridiculous mess. Brokers must make almost as much money from for deals that don’t go through as from deals that do. This is not like any other industry in the world. I say this because it states “If you do not finalise this agreement, the deposit will be retained by the broker as liquidated and agreed damages”.
We pulled out because the broker said the terms were non negotiable. However, no way was I going to try and get to Spain during a pandemic and make deadlines set by a broker, under non-negotiable terms for a boat I’d never even seen and risk tens of thousands of pounds in the meantime…
And so another boat passes us by.
By September the easing had continued and a rule of 6 came into force, this meant we could meet in groups of 6 and larger groups as long as social distancing took place. More pain was yet to come however as November saw Lockdown v2.
On the 8th December the world started to fight back as Mary Keenan was the first person to have the Pfizer Covid19 jab, just 3 days later Pook and I were in the same hospital ward nervously having a jab only a handful of people had had in the world. The government, keen to not depress everyone, reopened everything just in time for Christmas and with that Pook kissed goodbye and adios to 2020 as it had been an annus horriblis for most of the world.
A new year and the pandemic hit harder than ever before as people were probably not sticking to the rules. At one point there were over 62,000 new cases a day. However, by now the Oxford AstraZeneca jab was also available and the country started the biggest mass vaccination scheme ever. In fact, exactly a year after we came back from the Miami boat show (all bright eye’d and bushy tailed about our Knysna experience); Sir Tom Moore (who had raised so much money by walking for the NHS) passed away but over 19.6 million had been vaccinated.
So, after looking for months for the right boat at the right price, finally a St Francis 48 caught my eye. The introductory video was probably the briefest look round ever but it looked in pretty good condition despite its age. So, at the end of March we made some enquiries about its condition. We liked the boat enough to suggest that we should look at it. The problem (and the much more flexible broker knew this) was going to get to see the boat. He happily agreed to this without us having to hand over our 10% and this made a lot more sense to me under the circumstances.
Travel was severely restricted but people were allowed to travel if it was for business. I wrote to the government and explained that we were in the process of buying a boat and must see it in order for the contract to go ahead. They didn’t respond and so, as a matter of making sure, we also made enquiries into houses nearby. The reason for doing this was so that even if a customs official said a boat was not “property” under the law, then a house certainly was!!
We were both double jabbed, we had all the paperwork in place, we booked a hotel, a car hire, insurance, Covid19 tests and we booked the flights. Shortly after, that Ryanair decided to cancel the outbound flight for no reason whatsoever. They refused to refund the return flight even though we had no outbound flight. So, we booked another flight from Stanstead (some 70 miles away) and went there.
When we arrived at the airport, we unloaded our luggage and made our way through the deserted foyer. We were then met by a stewardess who, without so much as a good morning simply asked “Do you own a property in Spain?” “Sorry?” I replied. “Do you own a property in Spain?” No I said, “That’s actually why we’re going! I have all the paperwork here from the selling agent, the letter of authority to travel from the Spanish government, the paperwork from the UK government, our vaccination details, our Covid19 test certificates, passports and tickets to fly”
“I am sorry but we will not be taking you unless you already own a property in Spain, you must go to the (non existent) customer service desk.” When we reached there, a couple in front of us were in exactly the same situation. They had every bit of paperwork, sales documents, agreements to purchase etc but were being tuned away. So even though the UK government said we could travel, the Spanish Government website said we could travel and all paperwork was in place, the people at Ryan-useless-air decided it was too risky because if we got turned back they would have to bring us back.
We got not refund, no apology for messing us around and not actually following government travel procedure guidelines, nothing. We lost our car hire, hotel, flight, and insurance money. If I never fly Ryanair again my life will be happier, I hope they go into liquidation such is my anger at their complete lack of customer service. I said the same about Monarch some years ago after they made me pay £50 because my carry-on case was 1.5cm too large.
So, we drove home furious and STILL no closer to a boat… what with storms and missed planes, rubbish contracts and people asking you for your life savings up front I am amazed anyone ever buys a boat.