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post #4 of Old 03-14-2013
Captain Bill
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Re: Great Charter in Marathon Key

Hmmm. Great question - "How much work is involved in chartering?"

I get a kick out of charter guests on our boat who look at the beautiful water, calm breezes and great sailing then say to each other, "We could do this no problem!" Of course, they don't see the work behind the scenes or the hundreds of hours spent getting a boat ready for the chartering business. I take it as a personal compliment that we make it look easy.

If you only chartered your boat for sunset sails without meals, the daily prep work for each charter would be fairly low - say 1 or 2 man-hours to clean the boat, polish vinyl, lay out cushions, configure bumpers and dock lines for departure, etc. However, in order to make some money with just 1 or 2 hour sunset charters, you have to take lots of people which requires a Coast Guard inspected vessel. Maintaining most boats to stay in line with Coast Guard requirements is a very big deal - both in dollars and hours.

We've decided to offer Sunset Dinner and Luncheon Sails because my wife Laura loves to cook and entertain guests on the boat. This requires much more preparation but also brings in more money. Prep work for a 2-guest, 4-hour Sunset Dinner Cruise is in the 4-6 man-hour range.

You can probably add at least 1 or 2 hours to each charter for the "behind the scenes" work. Phone calls and emails to get the charters booked, accounting, web site monitoring and maintenance, maintaining crew licensing requirements (drug testing, first-aid courses, keeping up with regulations, federal, state and county requirements, etc.).

That said, we haven't talked about boat maintenance and upkeep. Living on our charterboat makes this much, much easier. As soon as something breaks or needs work, we're on it. After 5 years of chartering, we've learn the hard way about the "ounce of prevention..". Our first summer chartering we had to cancel a $600 sail because the lift pump quit on our engine the day before the charter. It was on a weekend and I couldn't get parts. For the lack of a $60 lift pump, we lost 10 times that in income plus our customer wasn't very happy with us. Needless to say, we now have 2 spare lift pumps plus at least one spare for every pump on the boat.

You are pretty close to the 14-16 hour day to prep and run 2 charters - especially if one is a lunch or dinner. But.. most of it is not "work" to us. We love doing it and we're happy crew.
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