Hi Ken, sorry it's a bit late, away on holidays. And I hope those fires aren't coming too close to you too.
We've done exactly what you're planning, and have no regrets. We're country Vic. We bought a boat in about May of last year and spent about 5 months on it, and already have our tickets booked for this year. We arrive in April and my wife is spending 5 months on board and me 6 months.
You asked about keeping the boat there. We've done what Ditchcrawler mentioned. Our boat is currently on hardstanding at Debdale. As already observed one advantage of this is that you don't need to pay licence fees when the boat is out of the water.
Though I had been warned that hardstanding can accelerate rusting, especially if the bottom of the boat isn't blacked, so I had it taken out beforehand and blacked it, including the bottom. Better to be sure.
We hired for a number of years. I figured that for about a month a year hiring made sense. The costs of hiring for a month were roughly what I thought it would cost to have a boat sitting over there, and there's no maintenance responsibility to go with it. But for 6 months hiring becomes a little less attractive if you plan to use a boat for a few years.
There's a few advantages to hiring too. You get to learn more about boaty type things, from both the boat you hire and ones you see along the way. So what type of layout suits you for example. Reverse layout? Traditional layout? What type of stern, trad, semi trad or cruiser? All of these things are useful to know before you buy so you can narrow down what you're wanting.
Whilst Roland (Hi Roland) seems to have had a bad experience with HSBC we've been happy with them. I did quite a bit of research on opening a bank account in the UK, but everything we heard said forget it nowadays, even with a British wife. They now require clear evidence of a local address and without that it's almost impossible to open an account from what I hear. Things like gas bills, water bills etc to prove you live there. It's all about anti money laundering legislation apparently.
We ended up getting a Global account from HSBC. You can add Aus$ to it then change the money into pounds (and other currencies) when you want to take advantage of a better exchange rate. And you get a card that you can use in the UK to spend your pounds when you want.
I had opened other accounts here in pounds but none of them allowed me to spend the pounds in the UK, so all except the HSBC account were effectively useless. But the HSBC card worked just fine, though strangely I always had to sign rather than use a pin, no idea why. But it worked every time.
I originally looked at the option that HarleyJ spoke of, getting some HSBC guy in India to open an account, paying $200 and then having minimum transaction requirements. The Global account does away with all that and can be opened online in 10 minutes, we did it last week to get an account for my daughter who is going to the US. No fees.
Buying from Oz isn't easy though, there's some obvious problems, for example it's not all that easy inspecting a boat when you're half a world away. If the market is anything like when we bought it's difficult as a buyer, and doubly so from here. Boats were selling very fast.
You've got a number of options for buying. You could move there for a while and then be there to look at boats for sale. The problem with this for me was that it would be expensive on accommodation and car hire and you have no idea how long it will take so hard to know when to book your return ticket.
Some people have bought a boat from here without ever setting foot on it, just on photos. I did it roughly like that. I fixed a price from here and paid a deposit then flew over there for the survey. Lucky as it was roughly at the time we'd get cruising anyway, so I just stayed and started cruising. Also it was a relatively new boat so shouldn't have had any real problems, as the surveyor confirmed.
So you'll have to find a way of buying that suits you, not easy. Some have suggested hiring and cruising and stopping along the way to hire a car to look at boats for sale. Others have friends over there who can look at a boat for you. It's whatever works for you.
And browse here as much as you can, there's plenty of stuff to learn.
Good luck buying, it's not easy but well worth it once you have your boat.