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Captains, boat shows feed the dream for yacht owners

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The Miami boat show was an interesting experience, as always. Boat shows are not just about selling boats today or next month, but serve a valuable role in setting the hook for sales over  many years to come. Boat shows are a place where people can aspire to bigger and better boats.

I vividly remember as a kid of about 8 years old, lusting after a 13-foot Boston Whaler at the New York Boat Show. Many years later, I still dream about the next boat, bigger boat. Part of my dream was started by a nice salesman at that boat show decades ago who let me sit behind the wheel of that boat and dream.

Today, I own multiple Boston Whalers; I even have a 13-foot Whaler chandelier in my conference room. (No, I am not in the boat business.)

Boat builders would be wise to invest in dreams, especially at boat shows. Some do, some do not. I don’t envy the women at the counters of the yacht builder stands who have to separate out my kind of riff-raff (actual boat buyers) from the general riff raff (non-buyers).

Some builders and brokers seem to put you through an endurance test before letting you set foot on one of their boats: name, social security number, date of birth, shoe size, wait over here, come back tomorrow, etc. I understand contact management, but few of these companies ever follow up anyway, so I am not sure why the info is so important. I just wanted to walk through the boat, not test drive it to the Bahamas.

Here is an actual exchange I had at the Yacht & Brokerage Show last month: Woman at XYZ Yachtbuilder stand: “Only real buyers are allowed to go on our boats.” Me: “I have a 40m boat now; am I qualified to look at your 30m boat?” Her: “I don’t think so, unless you are a buyer.” Me: “How do I know if I am a buyer if you won’t let me look at the boat?”

Let’s just say I will not be dreaming about buying one of her company’s boats.

What does this have to do with captains and crew? A lot, actually, as captains and crew can make or break the boat show experience for people like me, just as they can make or break the ownership experience.

I have been told by more than one broker that captains are their most important source of new listings of yachts for sale. Captains are responsible for nurturing the dreams of owners as they climb up the boat-ownership ladder. A broker at Westport made the most impressive statement of the weekend when he said that more than 70 percent of their new boats are sold to current Westport owners climbing the ladder. From 85 to 164 feet, they have a path for owners to aspire to.

I believe that the captain and/or experienced crew are often the best people to “show” a boat. Certainly, many of the great yacht brokers are former captains themselves, but no one knows a boat like the current captain. He/she is best suited to share the details of a boat with a prospective buyer. Certainly the broker should be present, but the captain should “drive” the showing in most cases.

Captains also have a strong influence on a boat buyer’s choice of new or next boats. I can think of one nice 150-foot boat that went unsold for several years, reportedly due to the lack of a captain’s stateroom on the wheelhouse level. Important to the owner? You might think not, but when it is time for resale, captains matter.

I looked at one boat in Miami with a full-beam captain’s cabin. My hunch is it will sell faster than the sister ship with twin beds in the captain’s quarters.

A quick tale of two showings, both larger than 40m. (I am still dreaming of that next, bigger boat.)

Good: The captain introduced himself on the aft deck and the stew offered my broker and I a cocktail or water. The captain then gave us a great tour. Just the right amount of details and he, of course, knew the answer to every question. He handed the broker his card at the end of the tour and suggested that the broker call him personally if there were any follow-on questions. There was even a chair to sit in while removing and replacing our shoes.

Not good: The captain, sitting on the aft deck, said “Feel free to show yourself around.” He was still sitting on the aft deck when we left.

Boat shows are where dreams are not only fulfilled, but the seeds are planted for the future. It will pay off for everyone involved to make the most of them. My feet still hurt, but I wouldn’t miss a boat show for the world. Next stop: Palm Beach.

High tide only, bow west!

Peter Herm is the pen name for a real yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. It comes from Pieter Harmensz, original owner of the oldest known stock certificate in 1606, issued for a Dutch company with the largest shipping fleet in the world. Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.

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One thought on “Captains, boat shows feed the dream for yacht owners

  1. Captain Ian Bone

    Peter Herm’s article, “Captains, Boat Shows Feed the Dream for Yacht Owners” raises a number of interesting topics and captures some of the more unusual features of builder/buyer interactions occurring at boat shows . The part that particularly interested me was Peters discussion concerning the role of the yacht captain in the boat show experience. My interest extends somewhat further into the ongoing relationship between the captain and the yacht owner particularly the benefits that accrue when that relationship develops and strengthens over time.

    The relationship that exists between yacht owners and captains can be in many cases one of the strongest, closest and most trusted relationships that exists in any professional or business environment. Naturally these relationships, like all relationships, take time to develop and are underpinned with mutual respect for each others position, roles, skills and responsibilities.

    I understand that for many reasons not all captain/owner relationships are strong and close. Much the pity, I say because it is clearly the case when this relationship is strong and enduring and built on a platform of trust that great things can happen.

    When one unpacks the fundamentals of the captain/owner relationship, its not difficult to understand why the interactions have the potential become so strong and enduring. Quite simply the owner is trusting the yacht captain with his/her (and their families and guests) safety, security and in many cases, life. Secondly, the yacht owner is entrusting the captain with significant assets and items of high monetary value. Thirdly the owner trusts the captain with complete confidentiality and sensitivity relating to family and personal matters.

    It is the captains responsibility to reciprocate the granting of trust with the acceptance of the responsibilities and the husbanding of the owners’ resources in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Astute captains understand that this granting of trust is the most fundamental of responsibilities.

    Developing relationships takes time, knowledge of each others strengths and weaknesses and cannot be achieved overnight. The establishment of TRUST, MUTUAL RESPECT and REPUTATION takes time and energy to develop yet can be destroyed with a foolish action or decision in a matter of seconds. It stands to reason that a weak or poor relationship between the captain and the yacht owner is in nobody’s interests and will ultimately result in deleterious consequences.

    The astute owner understands the importance of developing and strengthening his/her relationship with the captain. An experienced, competent and capable captain will be a significant asset not only in the context of the employment relationship, but if and when the yacht owner decides to climb the “yacht ownership ladder”.

    The captain that has a strong relationship with the owner will bring a valued perspective to the process of upgrading or building a new vessel. The captain who understands the yacht owners needs and preferences can freely bring forward these ideas and opinions knowing that her/his views will be listened to. On many occasions the captains advice in the purchase or build process has saved the owners significant sums of money and resulted in a vessel more in tune with the owners needs.

    The salient point that Peter Herm makes throughout this article is that the role of the yacht captain is far more diverse than what is generally understood or given credit for. Capable and competent captains understand and accept that they have a diverse array of responsibilities beyond that of being being behind the helm.

    The captain sitting on the aft deck in Peter’s article is an example of a captain that just doesn’t get it.
    A captain who sees their role as being constrained to a limited number of roles and feels as if they have achieved their career goals with the awarding of the 3000gt CoC, will inevitably find themselves being sidelined in an industry that requires women and men who step up to a more comprehensive command and leadership role.

    As one captain recently put it “just about anyone can drive the yacht” “its the crew and the relationships that really matter”.

    Those captains that decide not to develop their people skills and leadership capabilities including their own emotional intelligence awareness will struggle to advance their careers.

    One of the key reasons why a group of captains formed a Yacht Captains Association was to seek to improve the relationships between captains and yacht owners. We recognize that in many cases these relationships have not achieved the fullest potential. Our aspirations are to help address these shortcomings by uplifting the professionalism in the leadership and management capabilities of yacht captains. We hope that owners will encourage captains to develop their personal and professional skills as part of their ongoing career development.

    The Yacht Captains Association promotes the concept of continuous professional development for yacht captains. We encourage all captains to seek to develop their own leadership and people management skills and we plan to help captains develop these skills as part of their career development. We encourage captains to seek out membership of the YCA and support the Association in advancing the interests of yacht captains……

    By Captains …For Captains
    http://www.yachtcaptains.org

    Captain Ian Bone

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