Lucky for us cruisers, Florida has seen a few indicators of an improving economy in recent months. One of them is the increased interest in people placing their yachts in charter ownership programs. We have seen a variety of programs offered by charter companies over the last thirty years. Many of these programs work very well, depending on what you are looking for.
Like many of you, we started out in boating for pleasure. We are sailors, cruisers, Captains, charterers and boat owners ourselves. That permits us to understand the business from all sides, not just the side of the charter company. Consequently, I would like to offer some advice to those of you who are thinking about placing your yacht into a charter program. I hope you will consider these suggestions as they apply to any charter company on your list.
1. Participation in a charter program helps to reduce – by no means eliminate – the cost of yacht ownership. It also should guarantee that your yacht is properly maintained and “ready to cruise” at all times.
2. Charter income should cover most of the cost of dockage, insurance and routine maintenance, but not all.
3. Your percentage of charter income should be clearly defined and here should be no hidden costs for advertising, marketing, commissions or “turnaround” fees. And, you should know when you will receive payment.
4. Some firms, including ours, happily assist first-time yacht buyers as well as those interested in acquiring a different yacht. Ask the company you are considering if they offer such assistance.
5. Check the insurance coverage for the fleet you will be joining and the rates you will pay.
6. Record-keeping is important for a variety of reasons. Be sure to determine they type of records kept and how you are able to gain access for your yacht’s records.
7. Ask for the names and contact information of yacht owners currently involved in the charter program you are considering. Contact those vessel owners and ask them about their experience with the firm.
8. The company you consider should provide a list of references like Dun and Bradstreet, their banker, accountant and insurance agent. Any hesitation is a sign to look elsewhere.
9. Find out if there are any limitations on your use of your yacht.
10. There is no substitute for an unannounced personal visit so you can determine professionalism, office location – yachts in the fleet should be in view from the office and the fleet should be in cruise ready condition.
This is a great time to be considering participation in a yacht charter program. No matter what company you consider, please do your homework. You have worked hard to be able to afford your yacht and it deserves the personal attention of your charter company, just as you would provide.
Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 239/656-1339. You can also see more of Barb's writing right here, in the blogs section of passagemaker.com.