Though it might not seem like it after a busy summer, autumn is really the beginning of the boating year. Most boating manufacturers — like automobile companies — release their new models, brands, services and products in the fall.
And in our megayacht world, that happens at boat shows, especially the Monaco and Ft. Lauderdale shows.
With those two shows in the air, we wondered what yacht crew make of boat shows. (There are actually at least six yacht shows in the fall: Newport International Boat Show and Monaco Yacht Show in September; Genoa International Boat Show and Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in October; Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League Fall Show in St. Thomas in November; and the Antigua Charter Yacht Show in December.)
Hundreds of crew, of course, work these shows, with smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps. But we see many more on the docks even though they don’t have to be there. Why? Are attending boat shows part of the job? Or is this an illusion and most crew stay away if they can?
So we asked.
We began simply: Are you working a boat show this fall?
Of our 88 respondents, the majority (66 percent) are not working on a yacht that is in a boat show this fall, which seemed to reflect an accurate ratio of crew in shows versus not in shows. With 115 yachts in the Monaco show and about 200 expected at the Ft. Lauderdale show, that’s just a couple thousand yacht crew working shows this fall of the more than 10,000 likely working at any one time.
So of the remaining third of our respondents, about half (18 percent) are working in one or two shows, with just 5 percent working in most or all of them. Eleven percent were still unsure of their boat show futures when we did our survey in late September.
So we asked that two-thirds of our responding captains and crew who are not working in a show Will you attend one anyway?
In all honesty, we weren’t sure what to expect. It always seemed to us that boat shows are so much work for crew that they would likely not find them fun to attend, but the majority here (68 percent) said yes, they planned to attend at least one or two shows this fall.
“I go to boat shows to show my face and look for new opportunities, meet brokers, but most importantly meet up with my brother captains,” said a relief captains who works on vessels larger than 200 feet and who has been in yachting more than 30 years.
Ten percent more of our respondents will attend most or all of the shows this fall.
Fewer than a quarter said they will not attend any.
We were curious to understand why captains and crew might take a busman’s holiday at a boat show, so for those going to shows, we asked Why?
The top two reasons, which dominated all other reasons, was to network (63 percent) and to find out what’s new in goods and services (61 percent).
About 21 percent of our respondents said they go to shows to look for work, and 15 percent said they attend to be seen.
Among the “other” reasons yacht captains and crew attend shows they aren’t working in is to see old friends, talk to the manufacturer’s representatives of equipment they operate and take care of, and to do business.
“To talk with vendors that I use to put a face to a name,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
One respondent said “The owner wants us to attend with them.”
Among the 22 percent of our respondents who said they will not go to a boat show this fall, we were curious Why not?
The main reason is that they had no reason to (80 percent) because the owner wasn’t buying anything and they themselves weren’t in the job market.
“Not looking to buy or sell at the moment, and would normally go direct for both anyway,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
A few respondents said they aren’t attending the shows this fall because they won’t be in the areas where they are being held. One said the shows are too expensive.
One of the biggest reasons to have boat shows, of course, is to reach the consumer. In the megayacht world, that is the yacht owner (or his/her representative) so we asked Do you expect the owner of your yacht to go to a boat show this season?
Almost half said no. The two most common reasons were because the boss wasn’t looking for a new yacht (or had just bought one) or was too busy to attend personally and instead sends his captain or a representative.
“He will not schedule time to attend the boat show unless he is looking at a specific boat for sale,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “He is not in the market this year.”
“I go for him,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “Boat shows are typically terrible places to actually ‘see’ a boat you are interested in.”
“He never goes to shows,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “The last three boats, I have done the legwork for him, then he flies in, looks, makes an offer, then heads home. I take over after that.”
Other reasons included “just too busy”, and “waste of time.”
“Very busy man, but he did attend last year,” said the engineer on a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 30 years.
“He’s not a nuts and bolts guy,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “He just wants his floating hotel perfect.”
About a third of our respondents, though, said the yacht owner likely would go to one or two shows this fall, with 3 percent saying the owner would go to most or all of the shows.
Like their crew, owners tend to frequent boat shows to see what’s new in the industry (63 percent) but almost as often to shop (60 percent). About half as many of our respondents (30 percent) said the boss will attend to buy.
“They just bought a new boat and want to see what other toys they think they may need,” said the chef of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years.
In addition to keeping the yacht spotless, part of a yacht crew’s job during a boat show is to show the boat. So we asked When you work a boat show, do you actively sell?
Two-thirds of our respondents said yes, they give tours, answer questions thoroughly and highlight the good stuff.
“A crew showing the yacht during a boat show can make or break a deal,” said the chef of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “What goes around comes around. A knowledgeable and helpful captain and crew will always have a job, as this boat sells or when the owner buys his next one. Or, perhaps, to that inquiring client who buys someone else’s yacht.”
Five percent more said they “sort of” sell, acknowledging that they give tours, but they don’t really promote the yacht.
And about 28 percent do not actively sell, mostly because they do not give tours and leave the selling to the brokers, which most often are the ones giving tours.
We have often heard captains and crew point out the irony of boat shows, where they work hard to sell a yacht, all the while selling themselves out of a job, so we asked Are you worried that you will lose your job when the yacht sells?
We were surprised to learn that most aren’t.
About 60 percent of our respondents said they weren’t worried because they were confident they could and would find another job.
“We show the yacht as an example of what can be done on a yacht when money is invested smartly,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years.
“My job is always to work for the owner and have their best interest at heart,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “I would hope they would see that and ‘take care of me’ if she sells. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.”
“I haven’t been in this situation that often, but when I was, I knew off-hand the job was part time and there was a possibility for full time (if boat didn’t sell and stayed with captain and owner, or if it did sell and new owner needed crew),” said the stew of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting less than five years. “I was fine either way as it was short term and wasn’t in love with the program anyway. Enjoyed living aboard and saving money as long as I could.”
A quarter more said they weren’t worried either because they were confident they would stay with the owner after the sale to work on his next yacht.
“I’ve been with my present boss too long to want to change,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “When he (we are a couple of years apart in age) gives up boating, then so do I. I’ve been asked by prospective buyers if I would ‘go with the boat’. They don’t seem to understand my polite ‘thanks, but I have other plans.’ “
Just 16 percent of our respondents said they were worried about losing their job if their yacht sold.
“If the captain stays, I will, too,” said the first officer of a yacht 140-60 feet in yachting less than 10 years. “If he goes and the new owner wants to keep me on because of my knowledge of his yacht, I might. Overall captain loyalty should be put first, in my eyes.”
“I have been the onboard captain in many shows where the yacht was for sale, and my job was to prepare, show and represent the yacht for potential buyers on the owner’s and broker’s behalf,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “I never misrepresented or lied to potential buyers to discourage them from buying the yacht just to keep my job. The seller was paying me to get the yacht sold so I did just that.”
“I have had three yachts sell out from under me as junior crew and captain,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “I have found new jobs, but it’s always a challenge.”
Given that most captains and crew aren’t worried about being unemployed should they do their job too well, we were curious to learn Who gives tours of the yacht when it’s in a show?
More than two-thirds of our respondents said brokers give tours, with about 60 percent noting that captains give them as well.
“I try to be close at hand during the show, leave it to the brokers to handle the masses but make myself readily available to the second- or third-time repeat client,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I don’t want to have to go over the same old questions, time after time, for the first-time looker, totally counterproductive. Some will just ask question after question and take up far too much time. I’ve made my position clear to both owner and brokers up front, and they appear to be in agreement.”
Fewer than half our respondents noted that senior crew will give tours, and only 23 percent said junior crew give tours.
If they aren’t involved the first time around, we were curious to learn Do you do anything differently when potential buyers come back for a second visit?
About 60 percent of our respondents said “sort of”.
“Just because someone comes back 4-6 times doesn’t necessarily mean they want the boat, or can afford it,” said a stew on a yacht 80-00 feet. “Maybe they like the free drinks and talking to the captain who knows everything about the boat.”
“In my experience they want to talk to the engineering department,” said the first officer of a yacht 140-160 feet. “They want the truth. Not just new paint but did the previous owner really take of his toy?”
“They usually come back with specific questions or things they want to look at further,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
And about a quarter more said yes, it’s during those repeat visits that they turn on the charm.
“The second time around, the captain should be available for questions in more detail,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “If the yacht has an engineer, the engineer should also be there. No question that the broker should also be there. Usually the client will linger longer so stews offering up beverages is more customary at that stage than upon a first visit.
“But the crew should not be fooled by any chit-chat of the client possibly keeping you on,” this captain said. “It hardly ever happens for most crew. Engineers have a better chance than most other crew to stay on with a new owner.”
Still, 14 percent said no, they don’t do anything differently for repeat visitors.
At charter shows, the crew quarters are generally off limits, according to surveys we have done previously. We wondered if that’s true in sales shows, too, so we asked Do tours include the crew area?
We were surprised to learn that the vast majority — 82 percent — said yes, they do.
And we wondered if crew thought they should, so we asked: Should they?
Even more respondents — 85 percent — said they should.
“I take it as a good sign if a potential owner wants to see the crew quarters,” said one first mate in yachting more than 10 years. “It means they care about how their crew will live.”
There used to be a time in yachting when a person wealthy enough to buy a yacht was easily recognizable. We wondered if, in this age of new money, that was still the case, so we asked Can you recognize a potential buyer walking down the dock?
Nearly two thirds said that either they cannot or they don’t even try.
About a quarter of our respondents said they can “usually” tell (though it’s getting harder). Only 13 percent said with confidence that they can.
<<BOLD>>What do you think of crew competitions (chef and tabletop setting) at boat shows?
The largest group — 45 percent — think these competitions are great, giving exposure to both the crew and the yacht.
“I had a lot of fun doing it just as it gave me something a little fun and extra to do,” said a stew in yachting less than five years. “The captain didn’t mind (I was only part-time help anyway and he was happy to show off the space), and the owner knew nothing about it as he wasn’t around.”
But the next largest group — about a third of respondents — said they are a pain; a lot of work for little return.
The remaining 22 percent said they are OK.
“They probably are useful to create publicity for charter vessels, mostly to entice charter brokers,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years.
“Voting on Facebook seems like a bad idea; I don’t have Facebook and thus can’t vote, and it becomes more of a popularity contest online than a fair competition,” said a stew on a yacht 80-100 feet.
A big part of boat shows for crew is catching up with their colleagues, so we wondered Do you go to the crew parties?
Almost half go to some of the parties, and a quarter more say it depends who is hosting it.
About 16 percent they don’t go to crew parties, and 11 percent said they go to as many as they can.
So What do you think of the crew parties (those held after hours, off the yacht) during and surrounding boat shows?
Almost half said they are great, a way to unwind after work and catch up with their peers.
“I enjoy them as a dayworker,” said a dayworker on a yacht less than 80 in yachting less than five years. “Full-time crew might see it differently, I don’t know.”
Almost as many, about 37 percent, said they are OK, but still work.
“Good idea if you have time, aren’t worn out and are still young enough,” said a chef on a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “Most shows I’ve done include prep work starting very early, work through the day on your feet and into the night, clean up, etc. Who really feels like going out then? Maybe a pre-show party scheduled prior to move-in dates would be good.”
“They are good and bad,” said the first officer of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting less than 10 years. “Green yacht crew seem to overdo it. Go out, say hello, but remember your representation of yourself and your employer. It’s a small world.”
“They are OK until a point,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “They are OK to exchange ideas and adventures, but some crews get carried away and pass the limit.”
Just 17 percent said they are a pain.
“Some crew need that feeling of being needed by many; some crew have been there, done that and are over it,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 120 feet. “It really depends on the individual crew. I don’t want to talk yachts every second of every day. I prefer to hang out with non-yachting friends and talk about normal stuff.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com to be added.