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Old 22-06-2006, 11:37   #1
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Chartering as a Living

I'm in the fortunate position in that I don't need to make much to be happy (inheritance); possibly something like $15,000 a year would be fine for me. Since this is the case, I have been thinking about setting up a boat chartering business. I'm 58 and would kind of like to work in something I enjoy and make less, rather than something that is more lucrative but not as enjoyable. I had a bad leg that has held me back from full time employment, but with a new hip (now 5 weeks old) I can go back to full time employment.

I would like to know about the boat chartering business; more the negative side and some of the challenges; I know it is easy to get caught up in a fantasy of me being Captain Ron, hat sitting jauntily on my head, tending a watch at the wheel. I'm old enough to know that working with the public is a challenge, unexpected repairs a pain, cancelled business a worry, and not getting established soon enough a concern.

Although I am a sail boater, I think I would charter out a power boat.

I have two homes, one in North Vancouver and one in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. This means I have a choice of where I would charter out of. I could charter out of Vancouver or on Vancouver Island, Duncan, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Parksville, French Creek, Courtney or Campbell River. Campbell River is already charter heavy since the salmon fishing is so good there. Oh yes, I could also charter out of Port Alberni, but the crusie area is pretty restrictive.

I am also fortunate in that I have spectacular areas to take people on charter, whether to Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound.

I would appreciate some feedback. I know most of you won't know these areas but you still might have valuable insight into the charter business.
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Old 22-06-2006, 12:39   #2
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You will probably need a captain's license, no idea what that requires in BC but logged days of marine experience will be probably part of it.

And, chartering is a *people* business, if you are going to make a go of it you need business skills, maketing skills, and most important you need to be able to put a smile on and make every guest feel welcome and valuable--no matter how you feel about them or anything else.

Then you'll also need to do the boat work.

If that doesn't discourage you, look into getting a job in the charter business, to find out what it is like from the inside. Odds are you'll need that to work your way up to whatever kind of captain's license you'll need.
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Old 22-06-2006, 13:11   #3
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In the States, you'd need a Coast Guard license to carry one or more passengers-for-hire. And if you're carrying more than six of them, the boat has to have a Certificate of Inspection, which will be difficult to get if the boat wasn't built to USCG passenger vessel standards to begin with. So most charters are "six-packs", which are uninspected vessels (though you still have to comply with all the equipment requirements, of course), and the captian/owner would have at least a 6-passenger license.

Don't know the rules in Canada, but would guess it's similar. You'd need commercial liability insurance, maybe form a corporation. If you decided to do sail rather than power, you might get yourself certified by ASA or USSA as an instructor, which isn't required for teaching but might be a selling point. Many people charter sailboats because they're interested in learning to sail.

Anyway, best of luck.
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Old 22-06-2006, 16:41   #4
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Old 22-06-2006, 17:08   #5
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I think the closest concept is the idea of a bed and breakfast. It probably has the most profit but demands the most effort. I should think that making something that is the best might be a goal and something you might really enjoy.

Just renting boats by the hour - I don't see how you can have any fun or make any money. That whole idea has been done by folks with more money and less effort already. I would try for something first class. Gord sums it up perfectly.
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Old 22-06-2006, 23:28   #6
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Paul I was thinking more along your lines, not an hourly rent out; or as in Vancouver, the "dinner cruise" - not. I have been looking at some older but well maintain larger power boats (with diesel and low GPH). I am also in the fortunate position that I can pay cash for it, so I don't have to worry about making minimum monthly payments to cover the boat loan.

There is a lucrative market that most of you never thought of - and I never did until a friend of mine did it - and that is to equip a house boat solely for disabled folks. My friend set one up in the Okanagon and he was swamped with business. He could charge high as usually it was wealthy folks on it, or a society or business paid for it. For example, Christopher Reeves was one of his clients.

His boat was really tricked out, special gear for wheel chairs should the boat sink - like a life jacket for wheel chairs- special bathing area and lift to get the person it.... etc. He was so successful, he outfitted another boat about two years ago.

This market is untapped so some one out there might want to take advantage of these folks putting together quality cruises, especially equipped for the handicapped.
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Old 23-06-2006, 05:01   #7
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A specialized boat is not a bad idea either. Lots of specialties. You would really only start with one boat so it would be a niche market.

The only downside to high quality is - quality. People payg for the best don't mind it, but they won't settle for less. You might also consider setting up a crew as well. Skipper and a cook / dockhand would be nice. This would offer a full service.

"Older but well maintained" is a lot like the boats you are supposed to be able buy cheaply in Florida. It isn't often the case but I think what you'll need is a boat that really looks good on the advertising flyer. At this price range looks count and the higher than normal quality should be easily seen in a few interior pictures.

Frankly, I would not worry about fuel consumption. Just because you could go real fast does not mean you would all the time. Some people might expect it however. Needs stabilizers and a rear deck wide enough for two tables of Bridge. Something like a 55 ft Flemming.
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Old 23-06-2006, 10:50   #8
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I'll be interested to read what Sean has to say on this topic.
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Old 24-06-2006, 11:08   #9
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This is just a cautionary tale:

I have a friend who was part of a charter start-up here in Thailand. The syndicate had several wealthy investors who had made their money in real estate but knew little about boats. My friend was simply one of the skippers, so (luckily) his money wasn't involved. They bought up some old boats and kitted them out one by one. First they ran into problems at the yard. The work wasn't being done properly. Since there was no commonality among the boats, resolving each breakdown was like starting from scratch. All different rigging, all different engines, etc. Eventually, they took so long getting things together that a big charter company brought in a slew of identical, cookie-cutter white hulled sailing thingies and swiped the market out from under them.

The boats are now on the auction block.
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Old 26-06-2006, 08:00   #10
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Ok... I just got done with about 2 weeks straight chartering. We have another 2 weeks straight starting in on Wed. I can tell you some of the cons, even though I am mostly happy with the decision:

Cons:

*Equipment will be used heavily and will break down
*You have to set up your boat for the guests, not for yourself
*Sailing and hosting are fun - office work is not
*Hours are 7AM to 3AM if you are providing water transportation to your guests who might want to stay out late, but still want breakfast at 8 or 9AM. You'll work like a dog around the clock between serving the customers, bringing them where they want to go, and making sure the systems are in working order for them.
*You will have to filter out bad guests. We had one set on that damaged the boat already this season. I had to cut their charter short after they ripped a towel rack off the wall in a coke-induced rage about our "no smoking" policy. This was a guest of our guests, not the person who booked the boat. There are definitely issues with this.
*You will be doing a TON of dishes
*Your boat will not be yours while the guests are there.
*You will have some awkward times where you have to retreat into your cabin to give the guests privacy.
*You will have to figure out how to generate/find vast quantities of water and electricity.

I could probably go on and on... but you get the drift. It's a pretty demanding job, and this is only the "hosting" aspect. This isn't even scratching the surface of insurance, licenses, and safety, which is actually your number #1 job as Master of any vessel.

If I had a pool of money, as you say you have, I would find better, more traditional ways to turn the existing money into the extra $15K you need per year to cruise, and then just enjoy it.

Did I also mention that it doesn't feel like cruising? It feels like work - hard work.

Hope I didn't sound too harsh, but those are the realities of chartering successfully. You could always "half-*ss" it and do it as a hobby though. I have seen other boats do that.

Capt Sean
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Old 26-06-2006, 08:09   #11
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Sean,

You really lay this out. I get a taste of this when we have guest for several days... I don't know that I would like to make some money at this in the end... Could I end up hating sailing? Dunno. What say you?

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Old 26-06-2006, 08:20   #12
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Jef, that's one thing that worries me, actually. As what you love becomes "work", you definitely run the risk of liking it less. I know for us, we have a different perspective than many people on this board when it comes to vacations. I would guess most people on here would consider a nice week or two on a boat cruising to be the ultimate vacation, right? We are leaning toward a nice week or two in the mountains!

You could end up losing the magic you feel when you sail when it becomes routine. Just something to think about. I can't say for sure if the magic would vanish. I think that would be based on the individual.

Another thing that comes to mind is that you have to pick a location. This confines you to somewhere that you charter from. I would like to be roamin freely like a few of the other folks on this site do. I can't do that. I'm stuck here in the North East in the summer and in the South East in the winter. I want to go to the Carib and Med. Can't do that unless I take a season off of chartering.

Hope this input helps anyone looking to get into this business. It's not a fairy tale, but then neither is a desk job - even when you own the company.

PS: The people who make the most money are people who locate a very large boat with a very large deck in a very touristy area. I know a guy who has an enormous catamaran with no accommodations. He charges by the head for an hour or two sailing. He's located on the water front and has a sign right next to the boat. He makes a killing.
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Old 26-06-2006, 08:40   #13
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Sean.

Have you thought about chartering around the Key West area?

It's still in the US. It's also borderline along the Carribean & the Gulf of Mexico.

And when you and your wife needs time off. All you have to do is take a flight out of Key West. And head..say to the Rockies or the mountain range along the eastern seaboard states?!!

Something to look into. Maybe?
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Old 26-06-2006, 09:22   #14
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Sean.

Have you thought about chartering around the Key West area?

It's still in the US. It's also borderline along the Carribean & the Gulf of Mexico.

And when you and your wife needs time off. All you have to do is take a flight out of Key West. And head..say to the Rockies or the mountain range along the eastern seaboard states?!!

Something to look into. Maybe?
I know that you have that area on your websites schedule for this winter.
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Old 26-06-2006, 09:31   #15
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Scott, were I you I would consider working from the Caribe. And if you want to take time to be in the mountains... they have mountains... Guadaloupe especially wonderfull up in the mountains.

Antigua is a good home base... and lots of people charter out of there... Might be more competative... but if you could hook up with an booking agent... you might find it more enjoyable down there.

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