Is Charter Yacht Ownership Right for You?

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Owning a yacht in charter can be an excellent investment—for the right sailors

Owning a yacht in charter can be an excellent investment—for the right sailors

Owning a yacht in charter sounds exotic and enticing, and it may have crossed your mind to give it a try. Maybe you’ve heard stories of good experiences (or bad ones). Maybe you haven’t heard any stories, but you’ve romanticized the idea into the perfect lifestyle. Before you even of speaking to a company, though, about its ownership programs, you may want to see if you fit the mold. Here are 10 signs you may be the ideal owner.

1. You have a flexible schedule and can travel on short notice

As an owner, you’ll earn time to sail your boat. Some companies work on a points system, while others offer a combination of high- and low-season weeks. Most also offer last-minute owner bookings where you get extra time, but have to travel within 16 days of the free date. For both the Caribbean and Europe, it helps if you live on the East Coast so you can get to your yacht within one or two flights. It also helps if you’re self-employed, have few competing interests like golf or tennis and have few family obligations. Taking advantage of your owner time optimizes the value of the program, so if spending three months on the water doesn’t absolutely thrill you, this may not be the right choice.

2. You love to travel

If you go with a charter company that has reciprocals around the world, you’ll need to love to travel and experience different cultures and languages to take full advantage of your owner weeks. If getting on an airplane has you wincing, look to local options.

3. You have the time to treat this as an active investment

Some people opt for an ownership program that allows them certain tax benefits, but this only works if you treat the program as an active versus passive investment. This means that you (as well as the charter company) regularly market your boat in charter. You’ll need a website, business cards, the time to attend boat shows and more. It’s estimated you’ll need to dedicate 500 hours per year to this venture. If your work time is already stretched, consider a guaranteed (passive) income option or none at all.

4. You want to sail more/better

Owning a charter yacht can work well if you and/or your spouse wants learn to sail beyond the basics. With some couples, one may already be a strong sailor while the other wants to work on skills and maybe bring a group of friends without the spouse. Charter ownership can be like captaining with training wheels thanks to the peace-of-mind provided with company’s assistance.

5. You want to mini-cruise

For those with large blocks of time (like teachers), ownership in some programs allows for long charters. If you have two months and want to explore a swath of the Caribbean, you can do it on your “own” boat. This works especially well if you charter during the low season when the boat isn’t earning much money anyway.

6. You want to eventually take that boat long-term cruising

If you and your spouse want to cruise in retirement and would like to work down some of the cost of a new boat, ownership is excellent. However, this is a long-term plan, so both of you must be honest about wanting the same thing to make sure one isn’t just pressuring (or selling) the other on the idea.

7. You have the necessary financial resources

Yacht ownership should never stretch the family budget, no matter how good the program sounds. At the very least, you’ll need 20 percent of the cost of a new boat for a down payment. Depending on the boat, the company and the economy, the vessel also may not sell for as much as you expected at the end of the program, leaving you short.

8. You want some handholding as you buy a new boat

Buying a new boat can be daunting. There are decisions on outfitting, financing, warranties and more. Charter companies can help new owners through the process and possibly provide factory-direct pricing as well.

9. You have friends who can go with you

This may sound ridiculous, but it’s hard to get people to go sailing. No matter how much your friends may want to go, they may have family and work commitments that simply won’t mesh with your schedule. Also, as much as they may want to go, not everyone will have the money to travel, either often or on short notice.

10. You’re young enough to still contemplate cruising in five or 10 years

This one kind of hurts—are you too old? If you put a boat in charter for five years and then see yourself cruising for another five, how old will that make you? Cruising isn’t easy. It’s not at all like a charter vacation. You need to be able to care for the boat and yourself in ways you don’t have to on a weeklong getaway. More honesty now will serve you well later.

Unlike in popular online quizzes, there is no magic formula of “fit into five of these and you’re the right type.” You may fit one or all and it still may or may not work out. If you fit none of the above, stick with the flexibility of chartering. 

May 2019

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