Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Yacht Ownership via charter company (your comments, please)
I have been around quite a few deals where people were trying to put an ex charter boat back together. This is a question that comes up quite frequently on the sailing BB’s. From reading posts and from talking to people who have done the purchase lease back or bought ex- charter boats I have come to the following conclusions. While not every boat that comes out of livery is trashed most come out with defects, some minor, some major, some visible and some a product of wear or neglect that is waiting to fail.
You have to understand how these boats are used. First off, they are out of their slips, almost day in and day out. There is no lay-up for proper maintenance and when something breaks it is quickly patched so the boat can get back into use. A typical private yacht might be under way 20 to 50 days per season. Charter boats can be under way more than 200 days a year. In other words one charter boat year equals 4 to 10 years of normal use.
Most of the big charter fleets are in the Caribbean, which is not an easy environment on boats. Lots of sun, high salinity, lots of breeze which all takes a toll. This is the harshest kind of existence for a boat.
Then there are the charterers. These boat are being used by people who in the best case are well meaning and careful but are not completely familiar with the operation of the particular boat they have chartered. AND, In the worse case, are not competent and frankly don’t care. Charterers run the gamut from people who are a bit timid and spend a lot of time at the dock, perhaps not all that well tied up and protected. To the other extreme, the people who feel they have rented this thing and by golly they will sail it or slog it at full throttle no matter how much wind is out there; with a spectrum of every type of personality in between.
Adding to the problem is that charter boats are usually ordered with fairly minimal quality equipment, such as slightly undersized winches, travelers with almost no purchase, the smallest self-furler that can be expected to make it through the lifespan in livery, cheap sails made of inexpensive but heavy cloth, and so on.
From talking to people who have bought ex-charter boats, you might expect to have to upgrade, replace or repair some cobination of: engines, sails, deck hardware, upholstery, running and standing rigging, instruments, ground tackle, galley equipment, as well as, need to address cosmetic issues. In the worse cases that I heard, there were keel and frame structure problems from a probable hard grounding, and a major electrolysis problems leading to a sinking when a bronze thru-hull gave up the ghost.
Now then, not every boat is going to have every one of these problems but even if there is a minor mix of some of these, it can result in a lot of long term high maintenance costs. In the end you have to ask yourself whether you couldn’t buy a solid boat, that was not in charter which has better gear and less use, for less money and a lot less effort than it would cost to buy an ex-charter boat and put it in shape or worse yet end up with a beat to death ex-charter boat that you either have to dump or restore.
There was one fellow that I knew real well and who had gone the charter boat route and had ended up replacing an engine, sails, awlgripped the hull and refinished the interior and replaced instruments and a lot of deck hardware that I knew of. He once said, ”You know the guy who buys this boat from me is going to get a great deal.” He was probably right. The fact that the boat had been in charter will always limit its resale price and the fact that this guy had done a great job fixing it up meant that he had far more in the boat than he could sell her for. Perhaps, the right answer is to look for the ex-charter boat that some guy just restored.