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post #61 of 87 Old 02-14-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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Only catering to couples is going to pretty much cut your market to less than half of the overall market, where something like 50% have dogs and a similar number have kids. It could mean targeting "Send the kids to camp and take a week for yourself" or some other strategy targeted at people who are "just" couples.
If you're just in one area, and return customers may want to see other places, that could mean splitting your season, offering trips "here" for two months, then "there" for two months, and changing that second area every year, to give repeaters something new each year. Plus, the "repositioning" cruise.(G)
I really appreciate the time and effort you are putting into your responses, but losing 50% of the market doesn't really bother me when I'm only seeking 20 charters a year. I started chartering in the early '70s and I'm not even slightly interested in the dynamics of a family with children aboard a small boat for a week, especially when the boat is my home, not a vessel specifically laid out and used exclusively for charter, that I'm operating for an owner.
The repositioning thing has already been discussed, but suffice to say, our 'niche' is at this point quite unique, so I don't see a lot of value in spending a lot of time in places saturated with charter boats, like the Virgins and Leewards, and where there is very stiff competition. We will, of course, make any effort we can to accommodate former guests wherever, but I wonder if losing even a quarter of our season by being unavailable for our niche could ruin our whole business. It is a delicate balance.
That would be like a day boat having a minimum number of passengers to go out and not adhering to their advertised schedule. Just being seen out on the water, even with only two aboard, is better advertising than canceling trips on which you might lose money.
And speaking of pets, my wife would absolutely love a 'warm & furry' aboard, but that alone can limit your customers by a lot more than 50%, and that's not a 50% I'm willing to lose!

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post #62 of 87 Old 02-14-2019
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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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......
The repositioning thing has already been discussed, but suffice to say, our 'niche' is at this point quite unique, so I don't see a lot of value in spending a lot of time in places like the Virgins and Leewards, where there is very stiff competition. We will, of course, make any effort we can to accommodate former guests wherever, but I wonder if losing even a quarter of our season by being unavailable for our niche could ruin our whole business. It is a delicate balance.
It's not a long sail to say do a charter from Des Hais down to St Bequi

Or St Martin to Antiqua

or the VIs

You can offer a few location package alternative location. I don't see this as anything but making you MORE competitive.

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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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It's not a long sail to say do a charter from Des Hais down to St Bequi

Or St Martin to Antiqua
or the VIs
You can offer a few location package alternative location. I don't see this as anything but making you MORE competitive.
I'm afraid you aren't considering the wear and tear on the boat of what you suggest when Christmas Winds are blowing. In the 7 years I've been down here this time, we have had Christmas Winds extend all the way through April one year and last considerably longer than the two weeks of yesteryear, most years. Charter boat regulations in the BVI have become nearly prohibitively restrictive and expensive there and I really don't think they are a tenth as interesting or as much fun to sail as the Grenadines. They are also probably the the most congested and overpopulated islands anywhere as far as charter boats are concerned. They are no longer even a remote possibility for a charter boat that is not based there full time.
At a certain point bashing across channels in 30 to 35 knots of winds in the Leewards is not a commercially profitable endeavor, especially when there is so much established competition up that way, for one or two charters, costing me three or four down here.
We considered all these options carefully when we began chartering and found our niche to be the most acceptable option. We actually are available anywhere in the Antilles, but the relocation fee (an industry standard like a one-way bareboat trip) is rather stiff for a single charter.
Still, it's just not all that simple. There are charter boat licensing fees (not even slightly cheap: SVG over us$500.00 per season) as well as travel time to consider and even the cost of groceries and liquor are much different in each area, changing the costs of the charters significantly.
At present, if we were to begin a charter in St Lucia (which we do) groceries and liquor are about 20% higher, reducing our profitability. Adding overnight sails in Christmas Winds to a vacation for folks who have never set foot aboard a boat before, except perhaps the occasional ferry, isn't the best route to happy customers.
It isn't as though we haven't given all these things a lot of thought. Before we hung out our "shingle" we had 5 round trips from Grenada to StT. We checked out the regs, customs/immigration fees, park fees, costs of provisions (we have receipts from every market we shopped at), anchorages and length of travel between anchorages, etc. before we slipped into our present niche.
I know I'm sounding a bit argumentative, but there are areas where we either can't work (like the Franch Islands) or we are just not well enough established to actually offer the exceptional vacation we can here. And that is what we seek to offer; the exceptional. At least 75% of our days on charter, we are not sailing with other boats going in the same direction at the same time. We sail through the reefs right up to the cut in the Tobago Cays whenever possible, not dropping our gear outside and powering in, as 99% of the other boats do.
As for Deshaies (a favorite of ours), Guadeloupe (way, way far from the airport), to Bequia, about 200 nautical miles, that is a whole lot of sailing (including 4 channel crossings) for folks looking for a relaxing vacation on a boat.
Again thank you for the suggestions and we will make every effort to use those that we think will help us.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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Originally Posted by capta View Post
It is a delicate balance.
That would be like a day boat having a minimum number of passengers to go out and not adhering to their advertised schedule. Just being seen out on the water, even with only two aboard, is better advertising than canceling trips on which you might lose money.
And speaking of pets, my wife would absolutely love a 'warm & furry' aboard, but that alone can limit your customers by a lot more than 50%, and that's not a 50% I'm willing to lose!
Your boat ideally should be marketing for you weather you are on a charter or not. When I was docked at Chelsea Piers in New York back in the 90s. There was a fellow who had started a sailing school and kept his four J boats docked next to mine on the outside dock on the river. Very few people walking the docks would see them out there. I suggested to him that he should move them inside the marina right in front of the outdoor brewery/restaurant. His boat's would have high visibility there and would be advertising his school to all the restaurant patrons. He never took my advice and was out of business in a year and a half. Seemed like common sense to me.

Agree about the no pet rule. Seeing any furry animal on board makes that boat a no go for our charter considerations.
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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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Originally Posted by capta View Post
I'm afraid you aren't considering the wear and tear on the boat of what you suggest when Christmas Winds are blowing. In the 7 years I've been down here this time, we have had Christmas Winds extend all the way through April one year and last considerably longer than the two weeks of yesteryear, most years. Charter boat regulations in the BVI have become nearly prohibitively restrictive and expensive there and I really don't think they are a tenth as interesting or as much fun to sail as the Grenadines. They are also probably the the most congested and overpopulated islands anywhere as far as charter boats are concerned. They are no longer even a remote possibility for a charter boat that is not based there full time.
At a certain point bashing across channels in 30 to 35 knots of winds in the Leewards is not a commercially profitable endeavor, especially when there is so much established competition up that way, for one or two charters, costing me three or four down here.
We considered all these options carefully when we began chartering and found our niche to be the most acceptable option. We actually are available anywhere in the Antilles, but the relocation fee (an industry standard like a one-way bareboat trip) is rather stiff for a single charter.
Still, it's just not all that simple. There are charter boat licensing fees (not even slightly cheap: SVG over us$500.00 per season) as well as travel time to consider and even the cost of groceries and liquor are much different in each area, changing the costs of the charters significantly.
At present, if we were to begin a charter in St Lucia (which we do) groceries and liquor are about 20% higher, reducing our profitability. Adding overnight sails in Christmas Winds to a vacation for folks who have never set foot aboard a boat before, except perhaps the occasional ferry, isn't the best route to happy customers.
It isn't as though we haven't given all these things a lot of thought. Before we hung out our "shingle" we had 5 round trips from Grenada to StT. We checked out the regs, customs/immigration fees, park fees, costs of provisions (we have receipts from every market we shopped at), anchorages and length of travel between anchorages, etc. before we slipped into our present niche.
I know I'm sounding a bit argumentative, but there are areas where we either can't work (like the Franch Islands) or we are just not well enough established to actually offer the exceptional vacation we can here. And that is what we seek to offer; the exceptional. At least 75% of our days on charter, we are not sailing with other boats going in the same direction at the same time. We sail through the reefs right up to the cut in the Tobago Cays whenever possible, not dropping our gear outside and powering in, as 99% of the other boats do.
As for Deshaies (a favorite of ours), Guadeloupe (way, way far from the airport), to Bequia, about 200 nautical miles, that is a whole lot of sailing (including 4 channel crossings) for folks looking for a relaxing vacation on a boat.
Again thank you for the suggestions and we will make every effort to use those that we think will help us.
Andrew I get it and was somewhat aware of these barriers. I don't know your business and my suggestion presumes decent sailing conditions and flexible customers.

You can and should adjust your fees for the area your are chartering... and hell no leave the BVI to the others. I only sailed thru them and spent my first honeymoon on Tortola before I sailed much at all and I have no desire to be sailing there.

My suggestion was more in the spirit of offering more choice to your customers. And no I don't expect you to make long sails up or down island to do a charter... like a yo yo.

I was unaware that you couldn't anchor in a French Island without paying large fees.

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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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I was unaware that you couldn't anchor in a French Island without paying large fees.
You misunderstood. Other than St Barths, the French Islands are very cheap for cruising and transit fees, but unless you are an EU citizen you absolutely cannot work there. They do not take at all kindly to that and never have.
As La Marin is the biggest yachting center anywhere in the Caribbean, with marina docks filled to the brim with charter boats, bareboat and term charter, it is a very hard market to break into, even if you are an EU citizen.
Most who come to the Caribbean can do fairly well until they run out of friends and family, then it's a very difficult row to hoe. We've been amazingly lucky since we have neither. Again, thanks and keep the ideas coming. We have taken quite a few seriously and are hoping they will help.
We are now researching Pinterest and Twitter, but man is that a foreign language and hard to understand.
We'd trade a charter for a strong internet marketing presence, but so far no takers.
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post #67 of 87 Old 02-14-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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Your boat ideally should be marketing for you weather you are on a charter or not. When I was docked at Chelsea Piers in New York back in the 90s. There was a fellow who had started a sailing school and kept his four J boats docked next to mine on the outside dock on the river. Very few people walking the docks would see them out there. I suggested to him that he should move them inside the marina right in front of the outdoor brewery/restaurant. His boat's would have high visibility there and would be advertising his school to all the restaurant patrons. He never took my advice and was out of business in a year and a half. Seemed like common sense to me.

Agree about the no pet rule. Seeing any furry animal on board makes that boat a no go for our charter considerations.
Walk-ons are almost unheard of on term charter or even bare boats. When folks lay out a couple of grand on flights and hotels, there is rarely a way to get out of the hotel reservations for a few days of sailing.
What most folks do not realize, without a bunch of paperwork and permits you cannot take passengers on your boat if you do not leave the country. Even in the states, a foreign flag vessel cannot do coastwise trade. This means any non-American registered boat must take their passengers to the Bahamas or Canada (and clear in and out) before returning to the states with their customers.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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Re: Using the internet to get customers

I was aware that the French Islands are closed to non citizens working there and St Barts is very spendy. I spent a lot of time anchored in St Bart, Iles de Saintes, Pointe a Pitre and Martiniique and a bit of St Martine. I loved all the French Islands... ashore

Perhaps the winds were more reliable and somewhat more tame in the 90s when I lived down there.

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Re: Using the internet to get customers

Am i the only one who thinks capta has a pretty good handle on his biz and just wants to make better use of the Net?
Low competition....gimme that bronze ring...
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Re: Using the internet to get customers

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Am I the only one who thinks capta has a pretty good handle on his biz and just wants to make better use of the Net?
There might not be as much competition locally for them, but the internet competition is fierce, and if Google does not place your website high it will kill any business that is forced to reply on internet bookings to survive. I've seen my reservations drop over the course of one day due to Google changing their algorithm and moving my website lower after I finally got it to page 1 with a lot of work.
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