What It's Really Like to Own a Boat in Charter

My wife, Nancy, and I are big-time charterers. We love to sail, we love to travel, and we love to do the two of them together—so much so that after several years of chartering once or twice a year, we were looking to increase that to four or five times a year. In our travels we’d heard about owning a charter boat in a fleet
Author:
Updated:
Original:

My wife, Nancy, and I are big-time charterers. We love to sail, we love to travel, and we love to do the two of them together—so much so that after several years of chartering once or twice a year, we were looking to increase that to four or five times a year. In our travels we’d heard about owning a charter boat in a fleet, but we already owned Pleiades, a 1990 Catalina 34, which we kept at home in Rhode Island. Why would we buy another sailboat based far from home?

 As owners of a charter boat, the Jacobses were able to sail sisterships like this in 11 different bases around the world

As owners of a charter boat, the Jacobses were able to sail sisterships like this in 11 different bases around the world

The answer was the many “sistership” bases that major charter companies maintain worldwide. These, in turn, meant we would be able to sail in multiple locations, mostly during the winter months when Pleiades was on the hard. Also, the financial numbers looked good. So in May 2009, after much deliberation, we purchased a new Jeanneau 36i as part of the Sunsail charter fleet in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The next five years were phenomenal. From June 2009 to June 2014, we took 12 charters to 11 places and donated two weeks of charters to friends. We experienced fantastic sailing, visited new exotic locations and had a blast. Initially, we’d had plenty of reasons to hesitate, but in the end, our worries came to nothing. Among them were the following:

Maintenance: Although we’d wondered how our investment would be treated, our Jeanneau 36i Sandpiper was well maintained, as were the sisterships we sailed at the various other bases. As sailboat owners, we know how often things break and need to be repaired or replaced, yet throughout our 14 trips, the boats were uniformly in good condition.

Travel: The food, the people, the languages and even the weather patterns were different from port to port, but that is both part of the challenge and part of the fun of traveling. Although we came close twice, we never got lost, and in a pinch, sign language worked wonders. Using travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia and Kayak.com we made cost-intelligent travel arrangements from home. Food and beverage prices were, on average, a bit higher than those in the United States, but the difference was small.

Expenses: A new sailboat is a big investment, but in the end our cost of ownership was one of the best parts of the whole deal: during our five-year charter ownership we received $101,587 worth of retail value charters at a cost of zero dollars. Like all charterers, we paid a turnaround and fuel fee (cleaning, linens, diesel for the engine, gasoline for the outboard) that averaged $350 per charter. Meanwhile, the charter company covered dockage, insurance, and maintenance, while paying us a fixed monthly stipend, independent of charter revenue. These payments did not quite equal our monthly loan payment, but weren’t far adrift.

After five years we were given four choices: 1) Sunsail sells our sailboat, and we purchase a new one 2) we sell the boat at market value and use the proceeds to pay off the loan 3) we survey the sailboat and sail it home, or 4) we enter into another charter program with a different company. We chose option No. 4 and put Sandpiper into the Horizon Yacht Charters base in St. Maarten.

As for the return on investment, if we sell Sandpiper at market value after three years with Horizon, we expect to recoup all of our down payment and pay off the mortgage on the boat. Five years of free charters with Sunsail in Europe, the Caribbean and the South Pacific combined with three years of chartering with Horizon may ultimately generate a modest profit.

So, is owning a charter boat for everyone? Based on our experiences, Nancy and I believe there are four prerequisites that make you a good candidate. You need to:

1. Really love sailing

2. Enjoy traveling

3. Have the time available to make reasonable use of the program

4. Have the down payment (20 percent of the purchase price).

If you fall into all four categories and if owning is something you’ve been considering, I’d encourage you to take the leap. Just about every charter company has its own unique ownership program, each with its own way of doing business, and there’s always a need for buyers. Do your research, crunch your numbers, think about your travel goals and then, if you still need encouragement, consider this your permission slip. 

Photo by Kenmore Henville

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com The back door Satisfied with your headsails? So was I, until one day I took a long, hard look up the luff of my genoa, making sure I inspected the leeward side as well. The sail had plenty of life ...read more

02-Lydia12-01

Losing Sight of Shore

I arrived on the docks of Beaufort, North Carolina, in late April with two backpacks filled with new gear—everything I’d need for my first offshore passage. Though I’d been sailing for 16 years, graduating from dinghies to keelboats to a J/122, I’d spent my time racing and, in ...read more

Squall

The Face of a Squall

They are the worst of times, they are the best of times There’s a fabulous line from an old Paul Simon song that I often sing to myself while sailing: I can gather all the news I need from the weather report. It is part of the magic of sailing, this ancient process by which we ...read more

ntcktshtrstk

Cruising Southern New England Waters

One of the most wonderful childhood vacations I can remember was back in 1971 when my best friend invited me to his family’s summer home on Nantucket Island. For a 10-year-old kid, this was a thrilling trip for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact it was also my ...read more

IMG_8287GR16Mykonos

Cultural Charters: Mykonos

In last month’s column, I covered the amazing mix of cultures that have called the Dalmatian Coast home over the centuries. Croatia cruising is like a smorgasbord of intertwined centuries, and the islands are a movie set. A little farther south, though, you’ve also got Greece, ...read more

cookinglead

Cruising: No Oven? No Worries

Many cruising boats, especially smaller ones, don’t have a conventional oven. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have all the baked foods you want, from bread to brownies to breakfast rolls to casseroles and even a roast chicken. All it takes is the right bit of gear and a ...read more

ZK-Seaboot-900

Gear: Zhik’s Seaboot 900

A Better Sea Boot Following up on its successful ZK Seaboot 800, Zhik’s Seaboot 900 was created in partnership with team AkzoNobel and Dongfeng Race Team, the latter the overall winner of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Designed for serious, long-distance offshore racers and ...read more

01-LEAD-FP-Astrea-42-Gilles-martin-rajet---Navigation

Switching to Solar Offshore

No sensible bluewater sailor would consider setting off on a long cruise these days without some means of generating power other than by burning fossil fuels. The good news is that solar energy is becoming less expensive by the day, making it an obvious answer for providing the ...read more