I manage one of the largest charter operations in the US and think I can give you a fairly good idea of the business end. Chartering, some time ago, was a decent way to make some extra money. There was a time when there were relatively few operators, costs were low, dockage and fuel
were low and liability was low. That is no longer the case.
Certainly, if you are driven to this and it is what you LOVE to do....you can do it and be happy with it. There are a few rules that will help you be successful:
1. You must drive your costs down at every turn
2. you must deliver first class, consierge service with a smile,
3. you must find a niche.
4. you must operate in a desireable location (but this will cost you more)
Your success will be determined by the above business factors and one personal factor: YOU.
Your personal ability to deal with people (many of whom will be difficult) and deliver a high degree of personal service and compelling interest to them. If they find you boring, your stories idiotic, your service lacking and you personally distasteful....you will starve. You need to be interesting, charismatic, personable, equanimous, "on" all the time, engaging and FUN...ALL the time.
There is certainly an upside to doing this. I would like to contribute the downside...not to focus on it, but for balance in your discussion.
Some reality, business, economic and liability issues:
As in any business, to be successful, you will need to do a cash flow analysis up front. Can you sustain the cost of a 200k boat, it associated insurance
costs and make a profit at all?
Vessel issues that will create a negative cash flow:
- you will definately go through a transmission
- your canvas
will get torn
- your insurance will be 3x what you pay now, if you can get it
- you will need to invest $2000 up front in training for your captain's license
, DM cert and other certs
- you will need to invest a few thousand in new equip for the boat, both safety
equip and additional items for the comfort of passengers
- your passengers will break any boarding ladder you have, a hatch
or two, they will lose a few things over the side, they will rip a sail, they will tear your cabin
fabrics and chip your teak
. They will dirty your fabrics and cushions
in ways you do not think possible.
You will not be charging
your customers for any of these things and hope to grow your business.
Liability issues you will face that will create negative cash flow (these are real issues we face every year):
Someone will slip on your boat, fall and chip a tooth. You will be attentive and offer them assistance, which they will assure you is not needed. Two weeks after they are off your boat they will send you a bill for $10,000 in dental work. Either you or your insurance company WILL pay.
You will have a kid on your boat that is sick. Symptoms will be non-specific, he will have no fever, no headache and just general body aches. He will not be pale and his pulse will be regular and strong. You will decide it is just mal de mar, or had some bad food
and you will not wish to end the cruise
for this. That kid will have a perforated appendix and require emergency
surgery. You will be sued.
A kid boarding a folding ladder onto your boat will be holding the sides, a wave lifts him up and one of his fingers gets caught on the hinge and is severed. You will be sued.
If you think the above extreme...you need to do more research
. All the above has happened, exactly as I have described. Liability release waivers will not protect you in any way whatsoever.
Again...as I wrote above...not to focus on the downside...but to contribute this for the sake of balance and a reality check.
Chartering...THESE days...means investing 10's of thousands to make hundred's while incurring a million dollars liability. You will be competing with splashy ads by big firms that have very attractive models in them with policies that guarantee satisfaction or your money back.
People who ARE successfully chartering...and their are a few who DO make a living at it... have been doing it a long long time and have built a client base and a reputation. They have connections with boat yards and marina's that lower their costs. They know how to successfully prevent liability issues. They have friends and can avoid paying dockage for their boats. They have found a niche and are very very good at it.
I hope this helps...or at least contributes to the debate.
My best to all