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Triton Survey: Where are you this summer?

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On a drive toward the beach on June 1, a glimpse of nearby marinas showed they were still full of large yachts. This was on June 1: the beginning of hurricane season, the beginning of yachty summer. What were all these yachts still doing here in Ft. Lauderdale?

So we asked in our survey this month, what are you doing this summer?

Almost 100 captains and crew took our survey in early June, a smaller-than-normal turnout so perhaps plenty of crew were just too busy with last-minute departure details to get to it. (Hopefully, by now, they are off on summer adventures.)

The good news is that, among those who took the survey, almost two-thirds expect to be out on the water with the owner and his/her guests, or charter clients, cruising and enjoying the summer.

The remainder were sprinkled among some other options, including 11 percent who will summer in the shipyard, 10 percent awaiting the call to set off on adventure, and 7 percent looking for work.

“Not sure yet; plan is like a four-letter word on our boat,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

About 9 percent opted for “other”, including an exciting turn as committee boat for the New York Yacht Club this summer and owner’s rep for the construction of a new vessel.

A few aren’t going anywhere (we neglected to provide that as an option), but that was both bad and good.

“We’re not going anywhere for first time ever,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “We’re sitting at Bahia Mar for the season.”

“Our owner is awesome,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “We are cruising with owner and guests but we have a slow summer every other year; this is our slow summer. Only one 10-day trip planned. The rest of the summer is for crew vacations, time off and maintenance.”

Only one respondent it using the summer for time off. The engineer of a private/charter yacht 200-220 feet is on a three-month on/three-month off rotation, and summer is his time off.

None of our respondents is using the summer to take classes.

So for those yachts and crew who will be cruising, we wondered Where will you go?

The New York-New England-Maine corridor was the top destination, with 38 percent of captains and crew hitting that region this summer.

The next most popular summer destination, by half, was the Bahamas, followed closely by Florida and the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coast.

About 16 percent chose “other” among their summer plans, and included Nova Scotia, the Tennessee River and that ubiquitous “unknown”.

“Could be Florida-Bahamas, could be New England,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

That captain on a new build will be visiting suppliers around the world, and the engineer taking the summer off will be playing with his own boat in Florida and riding a tractor on his property in Georgia.

About 14 percent are headed to the Western Med, and 8 percent are headed to the Eastern Med.

Beyond the destinations, we were curious to learn, Are any of these places a new destination for you?

Most — 61 percent — are not. But 16 percent were new for both our respondent and the vessel. Another 16 percent were new destinations for the vessel, if not our respondent. And 8 percent were new for the crew but not the boat.

So when was the last time you went to a new place?

Despite the seemingly humdrum responses in the previous question, about half of our respondents said they went someplace new last season. Add in the past year, and nearly two-thirds have recently been someplace new.

“New owners, so everything is a first for them,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Last season, we did the Chesapeake Bay up to New York, New York to the Cape and up through Maine.”

“We just completed the Caribbean and Bahamas for the first time on this hull,” said the engineer of a strictly private yacht 180-200 feet in yachting more than five years.

“Went to Bulgaria, close to Varna,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht larger than 220 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “The authorities are still in the Soviet ages.”

“This boat is constantly moving to new places,” said the chef/cook of a predominantly private yacht less than 80 feet and in yachting less than five years.

“It’s a new boat and we went to Harbor Island this spring with the owner and guests,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “He had never been there before, and we’re returning this summer.”

“Last year, we went to Manhattan, then up the Hudson River to Albany, then the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal exiting onto Lake Ontario,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “From there Lake Erie, Lake Huron and on to Lake Michigan. Ultimate destination was Chicago. From there we worked our way back with stops in Grosse Pointe/Detroit, Rochester, Albany and then on down the Hudson to New York City.”

“Traveled this winter for the first time to Turks and Caicos,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “The owners loved it there and will return.”

Still, that leaves about 35 percent of our respondents who acknowledge that it’s been a while since they’ve seen a new place. But they aren’t giving up.

“Next year, maybe Alaska?” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

With all that traveling, we were curious If you make a passage, will the yacht go on its own bottom or on a transport ship?

Most of our respondents (61 percent) are transporting their vessels on their own bottom, and it’s not really that surprising since most are likely in Ft. Lauderdale and heading to places around the U.S. or nearby Bahamas. About 12 percent are shipping on a transport ship and for the remaining 28 percent, it’s not applicable.

We asked our respondents to elaborate a little by asking if they thought their choice was a good thing or a bad thing, and without exception, they said their option was preferred, whether it be on their own bottom or by transport ship.

“It’s good to use the systems,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 140-160 feet moving on its own bottom.

“It’s good for the boat’s machinery,” said the engineer of a strictly private yacht 180-200 feet who will move the yacht on its own bottom.

“It is a fine thing,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 160-180 feet that repositioned this year on its own bottom. “An 1,100-mile, non-stop ocean passage from Port Everglades to New York Harbor with a 16-hour, 35-knot near gale and a 24-hour, 45-knot gale en route. It slowed things down a bit but we dealt with it by slowing down and changing course for best ride.”

“Good thing, stopping a lot to check out the small towns,” said the first officer of a predominantly private yacht 100-120 feet, also moving on its own bottom.

“Good thing because it saves wear and tear, lessens engine hours, and allows more time for owner or guest usage,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 120-140 feet moving on a transport ship.

“Good, because it was time off for me,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 120-140 feet shipped by transport. “But bad because [the transporter] was not organized to deal with 40m yachts.”

Another telling detail of a yachting summer is to know About how much of the summer will the owner be onboard?

We tried to separate out those who will be in maintenance, but the stats didn’t fall out easily, so we’re not sure if this question and answer is truly representative of the active summer revealed in our first question.

About 42 percent said the owner would be aboard a month or less, with a similar-sized group saying the owner would be aboard somewhere between six and 10 weeks. Just 14 percent said the owner would be aboard all summer.

But more than owners use yachts, so we asked How much of the summer do you expect the yacht to be in use (including owner use as well as charter or guest use)?

Here, the numbers showed more activity, with about 26 percent saying a month or less, almost half somewhere between six and 10 weeks, and about twice as many saying the yacht would be busy all summer (27 percent).

With all the boats being sold recently, we were curious to know from that 11 percent of respondents who are getting work done this summer, What sort of work are you getting done?

Half said it was regular maintenance, and 30 percent more were managing a refit on an existing vessel. Just 10 percent were getting painted and 10 percent were making repairs.

None of our respondents noted they were doing a refit on the boss’s new vessel. So much for sales, at least among our respondents.

And we also wanted to know Where are you getting this work done?

Not surprisingly, nearly all our respondents were in the United States, with 44 percent in a shipyard, 22 percent in a marina and 11 percent at a private dock. The fifth at “other” were in the Caribbean.

We know, certainly, that there are many yachts in shipyards and marinas in the Med and elsewhere, but those captains and crew didn’t take our survey. (All captains and crew are welcome to take our surveys. To receive a monthly link to the current survey, e-mail me at lucy@the-triton.com.)

Among the 8 percent of our respondents who are not working but instead doing something more personal this summer (taking time off or looking for work), we asked <<BOLD>>Was this summer’s personal time your choice?

They all said no, that they would much rather be working on a yacht.

And finally, statistically, we asked Are this year’s summer plans different from last year?

More than half (53 percent) said that yes, plans this summer were different, but in a good way.

Most of the rest said this summer will look a lot like last year. And about 9 percent said this year is different, but in a bad way.

We crunched the data a little bit more to see who those “bad way” folks were, and discovered that they aren’t doing much, which might lend itself to the negative impression of the summer. Three quarters of these respondents were getting work done or just sitting, or they were looking for work.

Most of our respondents were captains, so that was true here as well, and they varied on vessel size but tended to be on larger yachts — a quarter were on vessels 140-160 feet and another quarter were on vessels 200-220 feet. (That’s contrary to our respondents as a whole where 77 percent are on vessels smaller than 140 feet.)

We ended the survey with the open-ended query If you had one yachting-related wish for this summer, what would it be?

The answers delighted and saddened, but they didn’t disappoint. “Good weather” was the top wish, double of any other single wish.

The next most popular wish was for some time off, or some personal time to visit with family, even if they came to the boat.

About as many wished to visit their dream location, noting such wishes as “return to Croatia”, “visit the Bahamas” or even to stay home.

“To do exactly what I am,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 100-120 feet. “After being in the industry for 26 years, it is such a welcome change to just sit in Ft. Lauderdale and not do anything.”

The next two most-common wishes were tied: for the owner to buy a bigger and newer boat, and for a stress-free, problem-free summer.

“That the yacht runs well and the crew all get along,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “The rest is easy.”

“That everyone finish the season safely, without any injuries or damages,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

“For a bigger boat, with new destinations to cruise to,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “To get the kids off of the boat and off their Xbox.”

A handful of respondents wished for full-time jobs, and just as many wished the yacht was busier with both owner and charter use.

“For the owners to enjoy their boat,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “Remember their enjoyment is our primary job.”

“That the owner would invite lots of guests all the time so I could showcase my totally amazing food,” said the chef of a strictly private yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

And naturally, there were some who felt the exact opposite; one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain.

“Less owner use; more down time,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

Those that made us chuckle included “a cool and windy summer”, the “Dallas cheerleaders” and “to retire”, not to mention “to get my own boat,” which of course conjures up images of the next boating-related wish — for the day when it sells.


Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at lucy@the-triton.com. We conduct our monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. If you haven’t been invited to take our surveys and would like to be, e-mail lucy@the-triton.com to be added.

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