Blue on the bayou
First-time boat buyer Zed Blue learns just how hard things can get — before they get worse
By Michael Crowley
Early last fall the future was nothing but positive for Zed Blue. A deckhand on West Coast and Alaska fishing boats since he was 14, the 31-year-old was flying to Bayou La Batre, Ala., to buy his first boat.
Blue remembers the time when the idea of owning a boat turned from an idle daydream to a self-made deadline. "I was 30 and it just hit me — I need my own boat." However, the price tags on new fishing boats being what they are, the transition from deck to the wheelhouse meant Blue's first boat would be used.
He had a couple of near-buys on the West Coast. The day his financing was approved for a crabber in Oregon, someone else paid cash for it. The owner of another boat told him the engine and trawl winches were good.
"This is good. This is good," he told Blue, who meanwhile had reached the previous owner who said he had supplied a new main engine to the current owner when he sold the boat. The boat needed that engine but it hadn't been installed, and the winches were shot.
A hurdle for many first-time boat owners on the West Coast is the high value for boats in the region. "The average 58-footer, regardless of the condition, is over $400,000," Blue says. So, gradually he shifted his sights to other markets.
That led to an online search for Gulf of Mexico boats that turned up a 60' x 19' 4" shrimper for $90,000, whose owner claimed he had put more than $100,000 into it, including rebuilding the John Deere genset. One thing Blue learned early on is that buying a used boat "is really hard. You need to get the boat's name and ask every single person you know about the boat." That's doable when buying in an area where you have connections, but when you are from Bellingham, Wash., and are looking at gulf shrimpers, it's not so easy.
National Fisherman Live: 7/17/14
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