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Old 04-09-2013
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Starting a business?

Greetings all at Sailnet. This will be my first post, and much to the dismay of many veterans here, it will be to ask about starting a charter business. I'm sure there are many threads like this, but not many answer my question fully.

My situation and vision:

I am a young guy very interested in buying a boat to live aboard in/near the Annapolis area. From that liveaboard boat I am considering the prospects of running a daysail/tour/transportation/delivery/courier (spanning anything really, but not really into fishing just yet) service in the daytime, and maybe some extended cruising if the money's right.

Being a novice who doesn't even own a boat, nor do I have a grand amount of experience (been on/helped/watched sail a boat a couple times) I have been slamming the internet lately trying to educate myself however I can.

Despite this, I do have an idea of what it would take to start and run a business, and I know, as I have read this a hundred times, that the charter business is a fool's errand. However, the majority of advice that I've seen has been related to fishing charters... Not travel charters.

So I know about all the negatives and "you'll have no monies" and stuff. I am a musician, and they don't call us "starving musicians" for nothing.

But my point: for strictly a travel charter business, no more than 6 passengers, on my own liveaboard boat (really looking at a 1984 Baba 30 or similar, and I'm a minimalist liver as it is) Where I would hope to be doing all the work myself as the sole owner, operator and proprietor, what licensing, coding, regulatory things, credentials or whatever else will I need to be fully legal and functional? I understand that a Coast Guard license, a captain's license, and insurance are definitely needed. But is even a captain's license necessary with my business plan?

What other things will I need to consider? I understand many of the monetary holes: maintenance, supplies, passenger feel-good things, etc. I also understand that "most liveaboards don't sail because they don't put their things away" or whatever. I would plan on keeping the boat at the most an hour's work from being ready to sail on a normal day, not regarding extended maintenance days and whatnot.

Any other advices/resources I should check out? Is there a "one stop shop" that defines EVERY FORM, EVERY PAPERWORK/EVERY LICENSE I will require?

Thanks a lot for any advices, tips and direction from the veterans, and fair winds.
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Old 04-09-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

You will have alot of competition. I just did a quick web search and found no less than 10 people doing the same thing you are planning to do. I would be be very careful.

That being said you need at least the following:

USCG License (requires a minimum of 360 days documented sea time serving as crew, 90 of those days must be within the last 3-5 years, passing the USCG License exam, passing a medical physical, criminal backgroun check, and a drug test);

Auxillary Sailing Endorsement on your license;

Transit Worker Identification Card (TWIC);

Certificate to prove you are in a Random Drug Testing Program;

Commercial Marine, and Business Insurance (you won't get dock space without it);

USCG Boat Documentation and Maryland Boat Registration;

All appropriate business licenses from Maryland and Annapollis;

Good luck.
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Old 04-09-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

The Baba 30 would be one of the worst choices that you could come up with to do this in the Annapolis area. You need a boat with a good sized cockpit, handles a chop well, which sails well in light air and is easy to handle in heavy air. The Baba is high maintanence, over-priced choice which conforms with none of the needed attributes above.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 04-09-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
The Baba 30 would be one of the worst choices that you could come up with to do this in the Annapolis area. You need a boat with a good sized cockpit, handles a chop well, which sails well in light air and is easy to handle in heavy air. The Baba is high maintanence, over-priced choice which conforms with none of the needed attributes above.

Respectfully,
Jeff

Jeff is quite correct. If you are doing day-sails only (i.e. 3 hour tours), something like a Catalina 34 would work. If you are looking to take guests over night, you will need at least a 40 footer.
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Re: Starting a business?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
The Baba 30 would be one of the worst choices that you could come up with to do this in the Annapolis area. You need a boat with a good sized cockpit, handles a chop well, which sails well in light air and is easy to handle in heavy air. The Baba is high maintanence, over-priced choice which conforms with none of the needed attributes above.

Respectfully,
Jeff
What would be your choice for the needed attributes above?
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Re: Starting a business?

To provide a meaningful answer I would need more information and to some extent the best choice depends on what else you wanted to use the boat for. For example:

Are you just using the boat for charters or are you living aboard?

In a good year, the charter season in Annapolis is roughly late April until early October. What are your plans for the boat off-season?

Do you plan to do over nights or just day sails?

What is your budget?

What attracted you to the Baba in the first place?

Jeff
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Old 04-09-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

Yes, you might be a "minimalist liver" (by the way I think this can be fixed by drinking more alcohol, but if done to much will give you a maximus liver) you must think about what the people paying you will want. They will want a large comfortable cockpit and a spacious salon to duck down to escape the sun/heat. Also if on over nights you will need at least two cabins. One other thing to keep in mind is that you live in an area that tends to have light winds during your busy season, so you should look for something that will move quite well in light air so a Baba or anything with a full keel is out. Baba's are great boats for voyages, not for day sails. Look for a SA/Disp of over 18 would be where I would start fin keel and spade rudder. If you really are thinking of making money off it, the boat is for your customers not you and you get to live on what will make money. They are paying for sailing, so do not expect them to want to hear the motor when the wind is less than 15 knots. Unless you are just looking to pay for a little bit of your hobby.

You might not want to hire anyone named Gilligan as look at what trouble he caused on there three hour tour.
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Old 04-09-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

Look at the Woodwind site. That's your competition. Check the prices. You have to beat that number with better service and quality experience.

You cannot compete single-handed, even with an autopilot. You have to have someone tending to clients.

You have to have a captain's license, at least a six-pack.

If you had a really nice boat you could pick up the edges of the market, like marriage proposals, some anniversaries, the odd family outing. Something like a Beneteau 42CC might get some traction in the middle Bay. Maybe.

You have to pump out good food and drink, have a soft and comfortable but exhilarating ride.

If you can't do food prep yourself (remember nice service - more capital into plates, tableware, and glassware) you're going to spend a lot at Ken's Kitchen, Main Ingredient, Leeward Market, or one of the other "boaty" caterers around town. Another reason to have a good chef/mate.

I suggest as gently as I can that you stop reading about boats and start doing a competitive analysis. I suspect you'll conclude that this nifty idea of yours doesn't have the potential you think it does. Sorry.
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Old 04-10-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

Okay, all excellent points to consider.

Now, my responses and further questions:

Thanks Yam, I'll look into all that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
To provide a meaningful answer I would need more information and to some extent the best choice depends on what else you wanted to use the boat for. For example:

Are you just using the boat for charters or are you living aboard?

In a good year, the charter season in Annapolis is roughly late April until early October. What are your plans for the boat off-season?

Do you plan to do over nights or just day sails?

What is your budget?

What attracted you to the Baba in the first place?

Jeff
Ideally I would plan on living aboard whilst running the business out of the same boat, as I really would rather not have to throw money into a landborne home while I have a perfectly good boat right there. I can certainly keep my small amount of things hidden and stowed to keep the boat nice and tidy.

I honestly had put little thought into off-season, but I have considered sailing to a different place that has a sunny winter. Where, no idea yet. Caribbean? although I assume the competition there is even more fierce and work scarce. Any ideas?

At this point I'd be willing to do overnights, day trips, anything that will generate income. I would have a lot of time to commit to this. Again, ideas for more forms of work?

Honestly I liked the interior of the 1984 baba to begin with. It looks homey and comfortable, and assuming I'm anything like customers, I figured it would appeal to them as well. I will admit that I knew not of the issues described. I've seen good reviews of it from owners and non-owners.

I wasn't aware that serving meals and whatnot was of importance. I have a good chef friend I'd be willing to take along to handle the passenger deal, and I have done a lot of restaurant work myself and am very good in customer service.

I am currently doing research into competitive services, worry not my friend.

But please, keep the critiques and ideas coming, this is giving me a lot to glue together.

What else is out there for a singular boat to draw income with?

Thank you all.
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Old 04-10-2013
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Re: Starting a business?

if you want to see my rendition of an easy life style that worked for me . look at threehoursail.com or google SV thane . Shameless plug 'cause it's. all for sale .Great live aboard too in paradise.
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