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Old 06-12-2009, 18:20   #1
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Any Luck With Harbor Cruises?

Does anyone have any experience trying to make money doing harbor cruises on their boats? I am in Pittsburgh on the bad end of our little financial crisis and thinking of possible work opportunities. I am thinking along the lines of dinner/booze/sunset cruises for couples or small parties. Me as skipper, my girlfriend as mate $100/2hr sail...something like that.

PS if anyone has a job for me in the meantime let me know. The baking soda in the freezer is starting to look tasty.
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Old 06-12-2009, 18:35   #2
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You will require a USCG license and maybe a local business license and insurance to conduct such trips. Liquor adds the added requirement of yet another license. You'll need to promote the business and you are not the first to try. Failure to have the required paperwork would be ill advised. Diving for buried treasure would cost less. At $100/2Hr you could go broke quickly assuming you did a few a week.

Using your boat as a place of business generally fails to meet the goals or becomes a business without the proper paperwork. If you can't get into a boat as a business up front you sure can't live on one and do it too later on , not in latitudes higher than mine.

The folks here that do it here in Yorktown, VA are already in South America for the winter doing it there. The theme is they do it full time, the boat is built for that purpose, and they go where the money is. They charge more than $200 / Hr. You need to bill more than triple that to keep that much.
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Old 06-12-2009, 18:46   #3
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You may also need to get Coast Guard Ceritification to carry passengers.

You need to do some research to see how many others are doing the same thing in your area.

How about a B&B? No cruise
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Old 06-12-2009, 18:54   #4
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Sounds like the red tape in your part of the world might be a deal-breaker: of that I know nothing. But down here I have friends who own a boat as a syndicate and do something similar to what you're suggesting. They are (reputedly - I'm not their accountant!) quite successful, raising enough to cover year-round mooring fees and routine maintenance. Or at least that's what they tell their loved ones...

The keys to their (relative) success I see as:

- The boat is first and foremost a serious business venture. They get to sail it for pleasure only around the edges of bookings;

- They don't advertise to the general public - they go straight to the corporate market, and sell packages for small Christmas parties, team-building exercises, client entertainment days, etc.;

- They have extensive business contacts already so they are able to use their networks and word of mouth to drive business;

- they have independent means so if something expensive happens they can afford to fix it quickly without (necessarily) having to cancel upcoming bookings;

- Christmas and summer coincide down here so the idea of a sunny sailing cruise is an easy sell for a small business Christmas party, instead of sitting inside in a boring restaurant.

Not sure how many of the above apply to you...

They have a Beneteau Oceanis - I think a 370?
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Old 06-12-2009, 20:57   #5
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Everyone that I have talked to in the " Local Charter for hire" business has felt this economic downturn all summer. It's a little too cold in pittsburgh to think about boating right now, so if you're looking at the Baking Soda now, I'd look elsewhere for employment.
If you like to drive, I'm seeing lots of ads for Drivers with CDL licenses.
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Old 07-12-2009, 10:19   #6
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You will require a USCG license and maybe a local business license and insurance to conduct such trips.
That's fine I am logging hours towards my masters license and have held a business license before. The booze thing would be tough because I think liquor licenses can run around $90 grand. Maybe they could be BYOB. I would have a 12pack maximum aboard though so no wasted people jumping overboard. Maybe we could just do a nice simple dinner cruise.


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Using your boat as a place of business generally fails to meet the goals or becomes a business without the proper paperwork. If you can't get into a boat as a business up front you sure can't live on one and do it too later on , not in latitudes higher than mine.
Why? Why can't you liveaboard while running a business? I am a little confused, people do this all the time from VA to ME.

I wouldn't dream of doing this in Pittsburgh nor would I dream of doing it in my current boat.
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Old 07-12-2009, 13:04   #7
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After six passengers, the laws for carrying passengers for hire radically changes, especially the boats requirements. Commercial insurance is at least 10 times more expensive than insurance for non-commercial boats.

People are kinda funny about this kind of stuff. Charter boats have to remain spotless and uncluttered without someones personal stuff laying around or "home sweet home" stuff screwed to the bulkheads. People can just sense that someone is living there and might feel funny about invading their cave. The smells and the whole aura of a liveaboard boat is different from a boat used exclusively as a charter business. I am probably opening up a can of worms by saying this but I think some people would understand what I am saying. I know I would prefer not to charter someone elses's home, have to use their head, have to smell their smells, etc etc.

I would not want you to discourage you from trying, but those are the facts. On the SF Bay, there are a number of boats successfully doing six-pack charters. I doubt anyone is also living on them.
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Old 07-12-2009, 15:05   #8
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Unbusted,

I apolgize, if I assumed you were looking at doing this in Pittsburg. You didn't mention any other location.

As far as the Food and liquor are concerned:

A local Catamaran charter captain I know wants nothing to do with the sale of Food or Booze. ( He does weekend sunset cruises among other things)

The cost of licensing, liability insurance and all the regulations involving the sale of liquor are deal breakers in his mind.

Similar issues surround the sale of food. Health inspections, retail licenses, etc etc.
Make this aspect of the charter business more complicated. Where would food be prepared? That site would have to be an appoved and inspected facility by the local heath department. You'd need a retail food license and it would probably pay to take a food handlers course and get a " Serve Safe" certificate from the National Restaurant Association.

Food and liquor are BYO items in his mind, he's been in business for awhile and has weighed all the issues. He Does 2 hour sunset cruises in the shadow of NY harbor for $40. per person. So $ 100. seems steep to me as an anticipated fee for an individual for 2 hours.

Obviously, the first step is obtaining the proper coast guard documentation/ license.

I have friends in Key West, who have often told me that if you have a CG license, are clean and sober and come to work everyday you can make a very good living!
Apparently, there are a lot of captains...down there that party all night and forget to come to work....."Key's disease" is the term they use....of course living expenses can be high in the keys too.

I was there for a short visit a few years ago...and was offered a job by a guy who chartered sailboats and did ASA training. He seemed desperate to find people.

Best of Luck to you
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Old 07-12-2009, 16:02   #9
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Hi Unbusted 67!

Born and raised in Pittsburgh - GO Steelers!
I worked on the Party Liner - River dinner cruise (played "rolling on the river" on departure and end of trip) during college.

You are in the wrong city for boating in the winter. Doesn't happen! But the people in the 'Burg are the best!! Can't find a friendlier city. When I left they were talking opening gambling sights. Heard anything on that status?

The last 5 years previous to moving to Seattle 2 years ago we llived about an hour and a half south of Pittsburgh in the mountains above Uniontown. An absolutely beautiful area (Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater should not be missed). Lived in an old stone and log house with views of mountains. Don't miss visiting that area! Hunters might even share some deer meat with you. Sure beats refrig soda!

Thanks for letting me share memories but wish you well!!
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Old 07-12-2009, 17:59   #10
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It might be wise to discuss the matter with some of the operators in areas that you would not be competing with. For example Santa Barbara Tours by Captain Jack’s Tours - Wine Tasting, Horseback Riding, Kayaking & More. or San Francisco Bay Catamaran Daytime Sails and Sunset Cruises with Adventure Cat Sailing Charters (California, CA) . I know several people that have tried this without success. One needs a high tolerance for abuse of the boat and some of the dumb things "guests" might do, particularly if they have a few drinks under their belt. On the other hand, I had one friend that used this methodology to maintain his sailing life on a Cal 2-46 in Lahina until he was a ripe old age.

FWIW...
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Old 07-12-2009, 23:36   #11
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People are kinda funny about this kind of stuff. Charter boats have to remain spotless and uncluttered without someones personal stuff laying around or "home sweet home" stuff screwed to the bulkheads. People can just sense that someone is living there and might feel funny about invading their cave. The smells and the whole aura of a liveaboard boat is different from a boat used exclusively as a charter business. I am probably opening up a can of worms by saying this but I think some people would understand what I am saying. I know I would prefer not to charter someone elses's home, have to use their head, have to smell their smells, etc etc.
I find this a tad strange. Whenever we ready our boat to go sail it is always in charter boat condition. Ship shape is ship shape and you don't leave the dock until you are there. That means no cloths lying around, no banana peels in the sink, no home sweet home stuff screwed to the bulkheads. Maybe I am totally anal, but that's the way my boat looks liveaboard or no. As for the ugly smells, I totally agree with you.

It sounds like a resounding no from the CF community. I still think it would be fun to try.
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Old 07-12-2009, 23:36   #12
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Hi Unbusted 67!

Born and raised in Pittsburgh - GO Steelers!
I worked on the Party Liner - River dinner cruise (played "rolling on the river" on departure and end of trip) during college.

You are in the wrong city for boating in the winter. Doesn't happen! But the people in the 'Burg are the best!! Can't find a friendlier city. When I left they were talking opening gambling sights. Heard anything on that status?

The last 5 years previous to moving to Seattle 2 years ago we llived about an hour and a half south of Pittsburgh in the mountains above Uniontown. An absolutely beautiful area (Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater should not be missed). Lived in an old stone and log house with views of mountains. Don't miss visiting that area! Hunters might even share some deer meat with you. Sure beats refrig soda!

Thanks for letting me share memories but wish you well!!
Oh yes very nice people but the sailing sucks here.
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:16   #13
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Not far from Baltimore and Annapolis!
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Old 08-12-2009, 12:45   #14
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I find this a tad strange. Whenever we ready our boat to go sail it is always in charter boat condition. Ship shape is ship shape and you don't leave the dock until you are there. That means no cloths lying around, no banana peels in the sink, no home sweet home stuff screwed to the bulkheads. Maybe I am totally anal, but that's the way my boat looks liveaboard or no. As for the ugly smells, I totally agree with you.

It sounds like a resounding no from the CF community. I still think it would be fun to try.
Unbusted,
I do not think it is a resounding no from the CF community at all. All people were doing, including myself, were to mention potential obstacles that you may have to overcome. Don't ever let anyone discourage you from your dreams but do take reality into consideration when attempting to achieve those dreams. Go for it! I wish you the best.
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Old 08-12-2009, 13:17   #15
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Likewise, certainly not a resounding "no" from me - just some advice on what has worked over here. A couple more things I thought of:

- Paperwork is your friend. You want a really good waiver / acceptance of liability form for them to sign. If you don't want to pay a fortune getting it drafted from scratch, visit a reputable operator and ask to see their paperwork with a view to a charter. You can use that as a starting point and the legal fees to adapt it to your business will be much less. Best you do this in an area outside the one you're planning to operate in, if you want to maintain your integrity...

- Again I can't stress enough the value of the corporate market. Their cheques won't bounce (mostly!), they are often good for repeat business, and if they damage your boat then they have the means to pay the costs, and they have a professional reputation at stake so they're not likely to kick up a fuss about paying. Private parties can be more pleasant if the folks are nice, but the risks on the downside are far greater if you get the wrong people on your boat.

- Booze can be less of an issue with corporates (sometimes!) - especially if you're doing team-building type days. For client entertainment and parties they generally prefer to supply their own and on a monohull it's easy to justify a "no drinking under way" rule which will lessen the amount they consume as well. You can steer them further away from the "booze cruise" mentality by getting them involved in the sailing of the boat and teaching them a little about sailing along the way. They'll forget the skills the second they step ashore but they'll feel like they've had a rewarding experience all the same.

As with any business enterprise, success is a matter of total commitment. Either you're right in it or you don't do it at all. Given the cost of setting it up successfully, it's not something where you can just dip your toe in the water and see how it goes, in my opinion. Unless you're seeking some tax losses.
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