One thing nobody really expected when the pandemic hit last year was skyrocketing boat sales. Power and sailboats alike have sold like hotcakes in all sizes, from tiny rowboats to large long-distance cruisers. Everyone it seemed, was going to create their own on-the-water social-distancing bubble. Of course, 40ft catamarans don’t come cheap, nor does their care and feeding, so what’s a sailor to do? One option is to buy a boat and put it in charter as a way of offsetting the costs of sailboat ownership and still having a place to escape to as we continue dealing with these weird and stressful times.
Purchasing a yacht and placing it in charter can generate income and reduce costs for maintenance, berthing and insurance. Most companies offer on-site financing and insurance, help with boat selection and outline highlights of what is basically fractional ownership on steroids. At the end of the program, you decide whether you want to take the boat and perhaps go cruising, sell the boat and be done with it, or roll over the equity you’ve established into a new yacht. Charter companies can guide you through the entire purchase process so that it’s like having a friend in the business.
The Right Profile
Be honest in your assessment of your own situation. Do you have the time to sail eight to 12 weeks per year? Do you like to travel, and can you do it on short notice? Do you have friends and/or family that share this interest, or will you be going it alone—and will that be fun? Can you benefit from tax-advantaged income? Are you thinking of cruising in retirement and want to check out the lifestyle? These are some of the questions to ask yourself when considering making the leap. Honesty is critical. You can lie to others, but fibbing to yourself won’t get you the desired results.
The Choice of Company and Location
“But this is still travel,” you say. “How do we do it while minimizing the risk of exposure?” Well, you can explore in home waters like Anacortes Yacht Charters, where you never leave the country, or choose a destination in the Caribbean, which is fairly open now. That said, eventually, the planes will fly again so you may want to purchase a yacht with a company that has worldwide coverage so you can trade out for sailing weeks in Greece, Croatia or Tahiti after thoroughly getting to know your corner of the British Virgin Islands, Bahamas or Grenada.
In selecting a charter company look for one with longevity, transparency in its processes and a reputation for good communications. A human point of contact on the other end of the phone goes a long way to knowing your asset is well cared for. Some charter outfits partner with other travel/hospitality organizations, so if you just don’t want to get one more nasal swab to go sailing abroad, you may be able to opt to go skiing domestically instead by swapping out for a week of mountain accommodations.
The Fine Print
All the large charter companies, including the Moorings/Sunsail, Navigare and Dream Yacht have ownership programs in various flavors. So do the regionals, like Horizon, CYOA, Cruise Abaco and TMM, which tend to focus on specific parts of the Bahamas and Caribbean. As a would-be charter yacht owner, your job is to dig into the details of their programs to determine which ones make sense for you. Most of these companies are welcoming new owners with open arms, so contact them and see who makes you feel like a real partner in the process.
The Key to the Whole Thing
Success with charter yacht ownership starts with the ending. You need to define what you’re looking for in the short and long term and what your exit strategy will be. Do you want to escape to a bubble now and spread your wings later? Do you want to be a yacht owner, but need to find a way to stretch your budget? Or do you want to test out your retirement on some kind of boat plan and see this as an excellent first step? Ownership isn’t a panacea, so explore all options to see which ones are right for you. Then jump in, because the water’s fine, and so will your bubble be until the world gets back to normal again.