KNMC watersport magazine

The case of the homebrew ship

Mr. Radcliffe thought he was buying an original Breehorn. After the purchase it turned out to be a self-built boat, for which Breehorn had only built the hull and the engine. Recently in the newspaper: a painting attributed to Rembrandt turns out to be by one of his pupils! This setback, which has not only artistic but also financial consequences, can also occur with ships. Recently a ship was sold as an original Pieter Beeldsnijder design, while according to the buyer it was his restyling of an existing type of ship.

But also the case of Mr. Radcliffe recently came up in my practice: Mr. Radcliffe is an Englishman and saw an advertisement that mentioned a very beautiful Breehorn 37 in fantastic condition. An absolute must-have. Mr. Radcliffe went to the seller who showed him the boat. Indeed, it was a beautiful boat and on the face of it also in reasonable condition. With the praise for the Breehorn yard and the assumed quality, Mr. Radcliffe was convinced. Unfortunately he had not realized the consequences of the clause in the contract about the right of inspection, which unfortunately still occurs in contracts of sale.

still occurs in contracts of sale. That provision means that the right to inspection only exists after the conclusion of the contract and that the right to termination only exists if there are defects of which the repair costs, for example, are more than ten percent of the purchase price. At that inspection the condition of the Breehorn was judged to be good overall. There was only a problem with the gas installation. Since technical documentation was missing, the surveyor went to investigate and subsequently found that the vessel did not have a CE mark. Since the vessel was from after 1998, it should have one. The yard came up with the curious statement, “The vessel was finished by the first owner.” Hey, thought Radcliffe, I bought an original Breehorn 37, didn’t I? The seller then confessed that he had not mentioned in the brochure that although there was a hull and engine built by Breehorn on his behalf, he had done the rest of the construction of the ship – interior, deck and rigging – himself. Now we were in for a real treat! Mr. Radcliffe had lost his confidence in the ship and refused to take it away. The seller threatened legal action and Mr. Radcliffe visited Mr. Hommersom.

Had the seller now or not delivered what the parties had agreed? Mr. Radcliffe stated that the suggestion that it was an original Breehorn had been a decisive argument for him to buy the vessel. Also, now that it was known that it was not an original Breehorn, the value of the vessel would be ten to thirty percent lower. To what extent was the seller now to be blamed for not saying that he had finished the ship himself?

Reasoning to the letter, the buyer should of course have fully informed Radcliffe and, for example, said in the advertisement that he had finished the vessel himself. The tension lay in the fact that the brochure mentioned a Breehorn and that strictly speaking the seller had also delivered a Breehorn, namely a Breehorn-built hull and engine, even with HIN number. It was then up to Mr. Radcliffe to prove that for him the consideration that it was a completely original Breehorn had been decisive, and that he would have said so in so many words to the seller. A tricky problem. What was his loss? The surveyor had found that the boat had been very skilfully finished by the seller and on some parts was even more solidly built than the original Breehorn version. That would leave only the argument of the supposed decrease in value, but that again would have to be proved by Radcliffe, with expert opinion and all the procedural costs that would entail. I eventually reached a solution.

The defects noted were corrected by the Breehorn yard. Although it was a self-built vessel and in principle did not need to have a CE mark, a so-called ‘post construction inspection’ was carried out and the mark was issued after all. This restored Mr. Radcliffe’s confidence in the ship.

Tip: if it is important to you that the ship is built by a specific yard or from a specific designer, always make it explicitly clear to the seller that these characteristics are very important to you and ask for documentary evidence of the ship’s originality before concluding the contract.


Frits Hommersom met groene bril

"You have the right to a lawyer who tells it like it is!"

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