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Old 30-06-2011, 16:57   #1
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Snorkeling Business Cat ?!?

Hey all,

I have been very interested in sailboats for quite some time and have recently found that I may be able to move to Maui, HI in about a year.

Since I was young I have always wanted to open a snorkeling tour business and feel that this is the perfect opportunity. I have realized that it is quite profitable if you can find customers. I will be designing a website and fortunately my partner is in the hotel industry and can refer customers.

I want a large catamaran that can fit about 15 people for day trips. I am thinking a 47-60'. Any suggestions or comments? What brand or boat would you recommend? Thanks!!

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Old 30-06-2011, 18:53   #2
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Re: Snorkeling business Cat?!?

Lots of snorkeling companies in Hawai'i. You will have lots of competition! Many of the boats are specifically designed for this berths, no galleys, open seating and decks. Very simple affairs. On O'ahu they take the form of small power boats, mono and multi hull, most about 28 feet or so and a passenger capability of around 15 passengers. On Maui they tend to be larger for the run out to Molokini Island (60 feet and bigger) and most put on a BBQ type affair. Many carry well over 50 people.

Problems with this....
1) You will have trouble finding a place to put your boat. The waiting list is 15 years for a mono-hull slip. A big cat will have even bigger trouble finding a spot.
2) State of Hawai'i requires a PUC certification. This takes considerable effort and time to get.
3) The US Coast Guard are nearly Gestapo like in Hawai'i, especially in regards to anything commercial. If you want I will reply with the horror stories. Suffice that the Coast Guard is a MAJOR problem and drives many of these businesses bankrupt. In addition...if the boat is not in commercial service you will find it will cost an incredible amount of money and time for the Coast Guard to approve it. Incredible. If someone gets hurt, or you get into a minor scrape, or a host of other reasons, you will get your certification pulled for months, or forever.
4) The primary tourist in Hawai'i is Japanese. Providers of attractions to the Japanese tourists need to be certified by the Japanese tour agencies. This is a difficult process, especially if you aren't Japanese, which limits your clientele dramatically. Your partner in the hotel industry can explain this and help in this regard.

Best an existing business and boat, they go up for sale all the time. Make sure the slip is transferable (most aren't). Make sure the CG certification is good and there is a PUC from Hawai'i. JMO

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Old 01-07-2011, 01:20   #3
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Re: Snorkeling business Cat?!?

A post I put up here seems to have disappeared???

What I said was that if you are using the boat for day tripper tye work there are a number of boats designed and or built to specifically cater to that market and that are able to take 15 people at a smaller size than 60feet.
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Old 01-07-2011, 02:45   #4
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Re: Snorkeling business Cat?!?

You'll need something half decent in size to get to Molikini as Kapena has already eluded to. I've been on trips there that got cancelled due to weather as to get home again you'd be pounding into some very large seas. Anything under 50 feet would be a rough ride and the Japs would all spew, probably myself included.

For the Japanese market you need to do things quickly. From what I have seen not only in Hawaii and in other countries, you need to whip them out to the destination, do the activity quickly and get them back again so they can do the next thing. For example on a standard "westerner" dive trip, you might spend the best part of the day and do a couple of dives. In the time that you'll have done your dives, the Jap group will have dived, snorkelled, parasailed and jetski'ed and be back at their hotel. They don't get as much leave as other countries so they have to compress their visit. For the Jap tourist market you'd be better off with a high speed power boat to get them there any back.

If that's not your market, you might get reasonable patronage if you have a nice looking boat, but certainly nowhere near as busy as you could be. You'll also need Japanese speaking staff.

The other problem is that the snorkeling in Hawaii really isn't that good. I hope I don't upset anyone! As a result you'll find that it's not anywhere near as popular as you might think. Thailand and Fiji / Pacific islands have far superior coral that hasn't been destroyed by the Japanese and their flippers walking on it like Hanauma Bay.

Hawaii is a tough market. There are established sailing trips off the beach at Waikiki, dinner cruises from the port and plenty of parasailing, diving and snorkelling as well. You would also need to be associated somehow with another operator so as to maximise potential for your customers to experience the different activities.

Food for thought, but hopefully not a surprise to you.
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:19   #5
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Re: Snorkeling Business Cat ?!?

Thank you three for the very helpful comments!

I realized the fast paced need of Asian vacationers, and I will definitely have to accommodate.

As of right now I am looking for a used boat that possibly comes with a slip, but is definitely CG certified. Any site suggestions to find these boats?

I realize that many companies have very large boats due to the tourism and island structure of Maui, but I will be catering to a totally different customer segment. This specified group of people pay very high premiums and would most likely enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that specifically caters towards there needs. So, I do believe I could profit from a smaller boat with a smaller amount of passengers.

I am also in the process of contacting the marina and Maui department of commerce in order to understand licensing and registration demands.

Any suggestion on what I need to be doing right now or websites to browse used or new boats?

Thanks again!
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