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Real Story: How A Boat Sale Can Cause Grief And Loss

Did you just sell your boat? That's a tough one. I know there's a lot of emotion tied up in the sale of a boat. You're abandoning it, and yet you're also breaking away from the relationship you had with that boat because it was such an important part of your life at one point.

You might feel a bit nostalgic for it. It's like leaving an old friend behind, but it's also a chance to move onto something new.

While there are lots of crazy parts to this boat sale story, it’s the speed from the buyer finding the boat, to the offer made, to pending sale is the focus and its impact on the upcoming, inevitable loss — my boat’s going!

It had been a busy week at BASCO Boating and was a Wednesday evening. A new enquiry had just come in on a boat we’d been marketing for sale for about 6-months. We had received a huge interest in this boat so we knew it would sell soon.

It is a beautiful boat, about 10 years old, one owner, built from scratch, nicely maintained and a great liveaboard and economical trawler for cruising. It was under 70’ so not a small boat and a really comfortable home away from home.

The owner had taken a job a 5-hour flight away and was fly-in-fly -out every 3–4 weeks. He was flat-out busy with his job and knew that he wasn’t going to be able to manage the upkeep, use the boat enough and keep on top of the maintenance. A boat that isn’t used is bad news and the worst outcome, as boats tend to deteriorate quickly when they are not being used.

Additionally, it was a time-of-life-change for them both, in their pre-retirement phase of life, building their retirement plan, home and nest egg in a new location.

No faster had the enquiry arrived in the inbox and the guy was on the phone to my hubby William.

He had been looking for a boat exactly like this for more than 2-years! The problem was, he had paid a deposit on another boat already and was supposed to settle that transaction 2-days later, on a Friday.

The next day he flew in to view the boat. He made an offer by the end of the day, subject to sea trial and a few minor things. The offer was accepted by the owner and the sea trial was 3-days later with settlement 10-days after that.

So, you could say, it was ‘fast’ for a boat sale transaction.

Everyone should be really happy, right?

Isn’t the well-worn quote ‘the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell the boat?

Well, not really in some cases.

And it’s probably something that’s not talked about very much. Tears and grief well up and it can be overwhelming.

While the guy is usually the one that is tagged as “the boater” and who is usually the front guy in the whole boating facade, there are partners, spouses, children, and families who all have to adapt to the change that selling your boat and moving out of boating creates.

Whether it’s a change of life or age, meaning this is the last boat that you’re selling, or you’re repatriating to your home country and boating isn’t part of that plan, or you have to sell your boat for financial reasons, or your simply too busy to use the boat and it makes financial sense to move it on, the impact of becoming boat-less can be quite significant.

So, the owner’s partner was pretty sad at the sale of the boat, and worried about losing all those things she valued so much; her boating community, her part-time home, her adventures at sea, and even maintaining and cleaning the boat was a labour of love for her.

And not to mention the loss of a dream.

A retirement dream that the boat was built for. While their situation has changed and they have another dream that’s more land-based now, this boat represented almost 15 years of their life and their dream of retiring on the boat.

In a nutshell, she was super sad.

Her hubby was also sad. On the other hand, was keen to move the boat on for the above reasons. He has had many sad moments as well, but I wonder if the grief is greater for one partner than the other?

The thing I really want you to take away from this is sometimes (lots of times), selling your boat isn’t the second happiest day of your life. Spouses, partners, and families can all be at totally different stages and the grief and loss are real.

I could really empathise with her.

A lot in fact; and in many ways, we’re in a similar situation.

We may be selling our boat in the not too distant future and becoming landlubbers again after 7 years.

What surprised me though, as I hadn’t yet started to reflect on the emotions that will flood me too when the time comes for us. And I’m not looking forward to that. I do think that life on the water is where I belong.

Maybe that will pass.

My hubby too has a maintenance burden that he’d like to shift, so we’ll see how that pans out.

So what this means to you in your boating life, is if you’re feeling anxious or sad about your boat sale, you’re not alone and this is a natural part of the process of letting go and moving on, which can be so incredibly hard.

So, here’s your next step as it relates to what you and I just shared: take time to reflect on the loss of your boat, your lifestyle, your dream or your community and what it has meant to you.

While it may well be the “best thing to do” and logically we know this, in my experience, a loss is never an “on balance” thing. So, it’s important to acknowledge the downsides of selling, separately from the upsides of selling.

Don’t merge them together to try and come up with an ‘on balance this is a good thing’.

Process the downside separately and completely.

This will give you the best chance of moving through some aspects of your lifestyle change with the least amount of disruption.

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