15 Jan

The Beginning of the End

When I was boat shopping last year I came a cross a fellow selling his Tartan 41 after a year’s sabbatical with his family. Actually it wasn’t yet after. He was still 6 months from the end but he had already started to make plans. I was a bit shocked at that but, now that we are half way through our own sabbatical, it makes a bunch more sense. So now we too have been planning what to do come  the end of our year in July and it looks like we have officially decided.

DSC_0537-cropped

The three options we considered were:

Keep the boat. We’d be responsible for paying all the costs and maintenance and hopefully be able to sail her 4-6 weeks a year. But that’s not really enough sailing to justify owning a boat.

Sell the boat. The Canadian dollar is low but since boat prices are pegged to the U.S. dollar that means it is a good time to sell. We might even break even on the sale (minus all the costs we put into her). But then we would be back to square zero and, given the cost of chartering, likely back down to a max of 2 weeks sailing a year.

Put her into charter. We keep the boat but put her into charter with a local company. We are still responsible for all the costs but hopefully we get some revenue from her to offset costs. This means losing a substantial portion of the sailing season, but hopefully we still get 4-6 weeks on the shoulder.

Well, as of yesterday, we have officially decided that we are going to put her into charter for a couple of seasons and see how that goes.

The Nitty Gritty

1910274_139793357213_6655930_nMost of our chartering in the past has been done through Nanaimo Yacht Charters and we have a pretty good relationship with Ian, Shari and Lorraine who own and operate the business. I had done a lot of research when we first started chartering, so it was a no brainer for us to start there and, after a bit of asking around, it didn’t look like we would find a better home for Never for Ever.

They have a range of boats for offer already but it looked like the Hunter 386 would fill a good niche for them. And we know from personal experience how good their customer service is. Nanaimo is easy to reach and within striking distance of Desolation, the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands. All in all I am happy with our decision. So, starting in July this year, you too can cruise the PNW and help add to Never for Ever’s story. Just click here for the listing  :-)

P1090788

At Last — the first boat we ever chartered from NYC

So what’s the deal? Well, we are responsible for turning over a fully functioning, well maintained yacht to them, equipped with a standard set of accessories like plates and cutlery, tender, outboard, safety equipment etc. and they then become responsible for maintaining the boat and finding customers to charter her out on a week by week basis. We still bear all the costs of moorage, insurance, parts, labour etc. but also receive around 60% of the revenue (See more here). They look after her in the winter season and we don’t have to worry about pretty much anything. The guys at NYC —and pretty much everyone we talked to here in the industry— are pretty upfront that, with our short season, we are unlikely to see a profit, but should, on average, pay all the maintenance and upkeep costs. Putting your boat into charter in the Caribbean or the Med with a company like Sunsail or Moorings can often pay enough to also cover payments on a new boat but that is unlikely here. That’s why you rarely see brand new boats offered for charter in the PNW. The risk, for us, is that the value of the boat will decrease over time and usage and we won’t get any of our money back out. Still, as an older boat, she is more likely to hold her current value than a newer boat would and we won’t have the costs of chartering anymore.

IMG_4477

Stones Marina, where NYC keeps it’s fleet.

We are allowed to take her out whenever we want with the understanding that they have her available for at least 10 weeks and that we don’t monopolize the high season of July and August. Which makes sense because we would just be negating the whole reason for putting her into charter in the first place. We would also be responsible for turnover costs just like any other client: cleaning, boat checks etc. But the upside is that we can just show up and the boat will be ready to go. If we were on our own it would likely be a several days (or more) of maintenance and prep every time we came back to the coast before we would be able to go sailing. So if we restrict ourselves to May and June we should be able to get the best of both worlds.

The only real downside is the risk you take with letting any old yahoo take the boat out. But hell, only a few years ago we were one of those yahoos and isn’t that what insurance is for? Still, NYC is responsible for vetting charterers and ensuring they have the minimum required skills and experience.

IMG_4474

One of the nice things about NYC is their courtesy car.

So What’s Next

Aggravatingly enough, this does mean a few more costs to us. Obviously we will have get Never for Ever hauled and checked over before we turn her over. We will also have to invest in some cutlery and plates, a few more life jackets and replace some extra stuff like flashlights and some tools that I don’t want to leave behind. The only real big hit is that we are asked to supply a complete set of charts and navigational tools that then become the property of NYC. I get the reasoning behind it (it’s very likely to be lost or damaged through wear and attrition), but I just bought all that stuff for myself and am not sure if I want other people wrecking it and replacing it is costly. Still, NYC has offered to arrange storage for us if we want to keep our personal stuff there for our use when we are out. I will have look at the cost/benefit of that before we decided. And of course, any toys or bells and whistles we leave behind adds to the desirability of the boat and makes us more money.

But we still have 6 more months for ourselves to go. We are hoping to get in a bunch of sailing trips in February and March and are tentatively thinking we will cast off again permanently in April. I’d love to hit the Broughtons again but Puget Sound, The Broken Group off Ucuelet, and Desolation Sound are all on the list.  Now that the deal is done, we can focus on enjoying our time and experiencing even more of this amazing region before the real world once again intrudes.

chart

Where to next?

4 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End

  1. We’ve just completed our first year with a boat in charter, out of Bellingham. Excellent charter outfit (SJS) makes this possible, along with competent and committed maintenance pros. The latter are key; during busy times things that break need to be fixed quickly, safely and in a way that doesn’t leave a mess for the next guy.

    For us (me, really) I can already see that the toughest part of owning a boat in charter is attitude maintenance. Guest skippers are well vetted by SJS but any new skipper and crew are not familiar with the myriad of quirks comprising a given boat. Quirk meets innocent ignorance and sometimes things break. One has to really be prepared to empathize with guests and understand how they tend to find weak points in the operational characteristics of one’s boat.

    1:10 guests are ringers; don’t let ’em spoil the fun you’re sharing with other people. A happy boat is a boat that is not sitting tied to a dock, ignored.

    • Thanks for all that. We had a great meeting with the charter company at the Vancouver Boat Show, so we are starting to look forward to it all …

  2. Piping up again: wide and deep spares! Wearing/clogging parts (diaphragms, joker valves, windlass contactors, starter motors) see intensive use on charter boats and need to be instantly ready-to-hand for maintenance work during turnaround. As well, you can better control your costs by stocking your boat with spares purchased at leisure rather than in a panic.

    We left our boat mostly wide open for charter during the first year of operation so as to gauge our own possible impact on potential revenue. The result was a intensive 18 weeks of use by guests, with as many as 8 crew on the boat. With this testing it became obvious that the breadth and depth of spares available on the boat should be limited only by the impact on stowage for guests. Spares can be put in less convenient locations, if they’re clearly mapped for location by maintenance people working under time pressure. Cost isn’t really an issue; wearing things inevitably need replacement, after all.

    So, even if it really hurts at the moment it’s worth stocking even some of the more brutally expensive items directly on the boat. Don’t let a missing $600 alternator stop your boat from being dispatched to earn you $3000 of revenue.

  3. Pingback: Manual Boating: a putting-your-boat-in-charter update | The Chronicles of Laughing Baby

Leave a Reply