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Old 05-03-2012, 07:18   #1
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Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Hello Everyone.

Let me start with my sob story, what I'm thinking I may do about it, and then a few specific questions.

Sob Story: Iím in my mid 40s and Iíve done fairly well for myself. Iím recognized as a top management consultant and continuous process improvement expert. That said; I am burned out. Iíve made my customers literally hundreds of millions of dollars, and I donít have a lot to show for it.

What I may do about it: Iíve spend much of my life around small boats, and my idea is to buy a mid-size motor yacht (around 45-60 ft.), referb it as necessary, and charter it. I envision all enclusive charters with the captain and me as the mate, and later me as the captain, and a mate. I would hire a captain for the first 6 months to teach me what I need to know, and take classes to become a licensed captain. Iíll probably flag the boat outside the U.S. and get a 6 PAK to operate in the U.S. To save start up $, I am considering an off brand such as Hi-Star, Sunliner, or Bestway.

Specific Questions: 1) Will a 50 foot range off brand be able to navigate the Caribbean successfully? 2) Will a charter service/broker be able to keep me busy, and if so how busy? 3) What are the costs associated with said service/broker? 4) How hard is crew to get if the position is only when the yacht is chartered?
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:31   #2
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Question number 2 is the only one that that really matters.

Finding a quality charter skipper is much easier in these times as long as you are willing to pay going rates. As long as the boat looks nice and runs well the other issue is getting people to your boat instead of all the other wonderful boats out there.

Like any business, having a good product is less important that getting people to buy your product. Innovative marketing, using the newish coupon sites, etc will help...

I am just taking up space, there are many pro charters on this forum who will hopefully respond. Everyone wants the dream of boat/charter but it is rarely what one thinks it is and definitively harder than one thinks it's going to be...

...actually that about defines any new biz doesn't it?
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:01   #3
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Re: Any advice from the experts out there?

Stressed Out in the "consultant" business? Wait until you try physically operating a crewed charter boat to find out what stress is all about. I would strongly suggest that you need to do some serious research and investigation into this area before making any financial commitments. The market for crewed charters is rather over-flooded especially in this world's financial down-time.

Some of the research should include costs of purchasing; refurbishing; outfitting; licensing; insurance; advertising; and delivering a product that is superior to your competitors that are already swamping the market.

It is a very complicated business since you are not only dealing with a potentially hazardous environment but also dealing with operating in different countries all of which have various rules and regs that are different from USA rules and regs.

Unless you really have the ability to deliver a charismatic and quality service 24/7 to your customers at a cut-rate price - I would conclude you may be getting into a "get-poor-quick" scheme. Then again I have met a lot of "pirate" or "under the table" charter operations that can survive just fine in the Caribbean, but then there is the stress of getting caught at it by officials and legitimate operators who are not too happy with your poaching their profits.

Sorry to be so negative on the subject, but so many folks have come to CF forum with the same dream and found out that it is not really like they show in the fancy magazines. Read or listen to Jimmy Buffet's "Don't Stop The Carnival" to get a flavor of what is involved in "living your dream" in the Caribbean tourist businesses.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:04   #4
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Re: Any advice from the experts out there?

Motor boating in the sailboat charter capital of the world is like selling hot dogs in a seafood restaurant. It can be done but the law of averages will eventually get you.
All the best,
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Old 05-03-2012, 13:18   #5
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Every business venture has some inherent risk. If someone knows of one that has no risk....please share!

I have sent you a PM of some things that I found of interest.
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Old 05-03-2012, 13:28   #6
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

since the world is apparently ending on the 21/12/12,this might be a unique marketing angle,get your self a large vessel and 6-8 share holders.........

Any Preppers ?
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Old 06-03-2012, 18:19   #7
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Thanks guys. Some helpful thoughts, and some not so much. I think Foolishsailor is right. The key question is how busy I can stay. Has any used a charter service? If so how did they do?
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Old 06-03-2012, 19:55   #8
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Stressed, I was also a consultant in "previous life" and I have worked in the charter/sailing instruction industry since 1994. Sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, but always because I enjoyed it -- not because I was making the big bucks -- consulting is a much more effective way to do that.

The reality of the charter biz is that it is tough to make a living as single-boat operator -- even more so if you are hiring a captain to run the boat for you. As a previous poster put it "Unless you really have the ability to deliver a charismatic and quality service 24/7 [364 days a year] to your customers at a cut-rate price - I would conclude you may be getting into a "get-poor-quick" scheme". The cut-rate price part is actually not so important, but regardless of charter rates, it can become a very effective "get-poor-quick" scheme.

See my recent responses to a similar question here on CF at Can We Afford a Catamaran ?

Re charter brokers. Some can do a fine job and help to keep you busy. The better ones won't represent you unless they know you and the boat quite well. They have a reputation to uphold and wont book just anyone. Fees up to 20% are not uncommon.

Take a look at my previous posts above. If you still have more questions I will be happy to answer them.
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Old 06-03-2012, 19:58   #9
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Aloha and welcome to the forum!
I think most the folks who start sailing or powerboating at one time or another consider doing some chartering. Just a passing thought to some but it turns into a livelihood to others.
I've never chartered a boat but if I did I'd probably go for a bareboat sail adventure.
I've taken folks out for rides and had them leave a $50 bill on the saloon table which was nice but certainly not why I took them out.
Good luck in your new venture. It can be done. Persistance is the key.
kind regards,
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Old 06-03-2012, 20:03   #10
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Stressed -- assuming you want to serve the US market (or one with similar licensing requirements), you likely will want to be aware of the "sea time" requirements for obtaining a skipper's license. Any time you can get out on the water is a very good thing for you. Other thoughts would be to talk to insurance folks, to assess your ability to fix things or oversee repairs, and to talk to people to match the right boat to the right market.
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Old 07-03-2012, 07:36   #11
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Thanks everyone! Wonderful comments! I'd like to touch on/clarify a few areas that came up during the discussion.

1. I will be hiring a captain, but the plan is that it'll only be for around six months to learn the ropes, and get what's left of my sea time while getting my own captains license. At that point I'll hire a mate/steward to help out.

2. I'd like to run all-inclusive charters. Do charter brokers really charge 20%? Is that typical? It seems like the average all-inclusive charter is between $8K and $12K a week depending on the season. That said, 20% seems like a very large commission. Does anyone have thoughts for self promotion, etc?

3. I'm very handy, and have general contracted on a few projects. I plan to personally oversee the refurbishment prior to "opening the doors." I'm confident I can perform periodic maintenance, etc.

4. Does anyone have thoughts on the boat brand? This most likely won't be a Bertram, viking, etc? I definitely plan to have the craft surveyed, if it's solid does the brand matter that much?

I just want to thank everyone for their thoughts?

P.s. Can anyone recommend charter brokers?
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Old 07-03-2012, 08:07   #12
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stressed View Post
Thanks everyone! Wonderful comments! I'd like to touch on/clarify a few areas that came up during the discussion.

1. I will be hiring a captain, but the plan is that it'll only be for around six months to learn the ropes, and get what's left of my sea time while getting my own captains license. At that point I'll hire a mate/steward to help out.

2. I'd like to run all-inclusive charters. Do charter brokers really charge 20%? Is that typical? It seems like the average all-inclusive charter is between $8K and $12K a week depending on the season. That said, 20% seems like a very large commission. Does anyone have thoughts for self promotion, etc?

3. I'm very handy, and have general contracted on a few projects. I plan to personally oversee the refurbishment prior to "opening the doors." I'm confident I can perform periodic maintenance, etc.

4. Does anyone have thoughts on the boat brand? This most likely won't be a Bertram, viking, etc? I definitely plan to have the craft surveyed, if it's solid does the brand matter that much?

I just want to thank everyone for their thoughts?

P.s. Can anyone recommend charter brokers?
Re Brokers. Yes, 20% is not uncommon, I have in practice seen a range from 10 to 20% depending upon the arrangement with the broker. Simple referrals (they send you a lead and you work it) maybe as low as 10%. Full service bookings, count on closer to 20%. You might can negotiate a bit lower, but in these economic times, as new and unknown charter operator, you are not starting from a strong negotiating position. I have worked with a number of charter brokers and have also run a business which, among other charter related things, also offered charter broker services so I have been on both sides of this fence. Effective promotion and quick and effective response to inquires requires the broker to make a pretty substantial investment...thus the 20% fee. It is very important that a broker respond to all inquiries in less than 24 hours (preferably much less) and respond well -- this requires well trained knowledgeable staff, in the past I used to train our staff that worked these leads: it took a minimum of 6 months to get them up to speed, during which they required lots of supervision and assistance, after a year of experience they could work very independently.

Re self-promotion: To stay busy you need to do both (brokers and self-promotion) and referrals to/from other charter operators. The most effective way to self-promote is via the internet. Print advertising is typically a waste of money (unless you are doing day sails to a local tourist market). Put up a web site and promote the web site via Google. Don't skimp on what you spend with Google -- this is the most effective self-promotion dollar you can spend. Then via Google Analytics you can see the effectiveness of your ad campaigns and change them as needed. Most charter operators I know (big & small) book the vast majority of their business via internet promotions.

Which broker you use depends a lot on your venue. Where do you plan to charter?
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:01   #13
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stressed View Post
Iíve spend much of my life around small boats, and my idea is to buy a mid-size motor yacht (around 45-60 ft.), referb it as necessary, and charter it.
Crewed charter on a 45' boat? Where would the crew sleep? In the engine room?

Image two couples splitting a charter. Each couple wants its own en-suite cabin. Are the captain and the mate going to want their own cabins as well?

If you're going to charter on the basis of two permanent crew, you'll need a boat large enough to have a separate crew quarters.

So who's going to cook?
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:15   #14
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

Just a few thoughts,
Location will be key to not conflicting with already established operations.

Carefully investigate the insurance implications of operating a UPV for charter. Your OUPV will limit you to six pax, regardless.

If you are thinking about operation out of some other country legit (website adverts, brochures, etc.), there may be some biz licensing issues, read costs. For instance, The Bahamas requires that you have a Bahamian partner with controlling interest.

IMO, unless it's a MegaYacht with white glove service, probably the best way to make $1 million in the Charter biz right now is to start with $2 million.

Good luck with your dream, if you are passionate enough about it, it will probably be great!

All that said, If you need a Captain, let me know.
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:57   #15
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Re: Any Advice from the Experts Out There ?

I Have run a Charter biz for a total of 16 years the last 6 years as my main source of income and I never have used a broker – I’m booked solid the last 3 -4 years- just by having a good website up being in a good location and Goggle ads once in a while-along with a good attitude-nice boat-

-Like any job its work, but it’s very nice work - when people come to me there going to have a good time and my #1 goal is to give them the best week vacation of their lives- - People pay a lot of money for a vacation and living with them for a week 99% of the time is easy -How do I make this so easy you wonder, this may sound funny but,-- I LOVE them --all and after being onboard a day or 2 they know/feel it-- we all become one big family, in a way- If I did not “LOVE” them I could not do the job- I’m not sure where so many folks get the idea that this is hard work or stressful or that people are hard to get along with- In Fact about 1/3 of my clients become real friends that I stay in contact with weekly thru Face book, visits & phone calls -about Ĺ of them send me referrals from their friends or family wanting to book a charter- If you really love what you’re doing and love the people , you will have no trouble in whatever field you go into-

There’s a lot of very sweet benefits in this line of work for this captain/owner I meet a lot of interesting beautiful people and become close friends with some of them-- I’ve had folks from 3 countries visit me this winter in my home in Florida. One left yesterday after 2 weeks from Belgium---and the money is good, My Minimum is $5200 USD a week to $10,000—So there is a lot of reasons here to make me happy-

6 months experience is IMHO not nearly enough to put a boat load of people’s lives in your hand,- I think to be good you have to be able to handle any situation that comes your way without breaking a sweat-(with a smile)that takes years of experience- For me there is no Stress at all, quite the opposite- in fact I have a large following hosting “Sailing Yoga Retreats in the Greek Islands “ (Goggle that) and other healing arts-from people all over the world-

I’m moving from the Greek Islands to the Bahamas/S.Florida this summer and will be starting over there, and have no doubt that I will stay as busy as I want to be- I will have enough leads for Greek/Turkey Sailing charters to keep you busy full time if you want them starting this Summer –and would be happy to give them to you or anyone for a small cut-say %12
It all boils down to your attitude I believe we can do anything if we want to bad enough and if we love what we do than were naturally going to be good at it
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