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Crew well versed in how to create, fulfill best charters

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At the U.S. Superyacht Association’s 2nd annual Superyacht Summit in mid-March, several industry leaders got to talking about the state of the industry and its future. Charter was a big part of that.

While the fleet of yachts available for charter has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, the number of people chartering hasn’t kept pace, they said. It used to be that 10-12 weeks of charter was a good year for a charter yacht. Now, 4-6 weeks is considered good.

It just so happens that we asked captains and crew to pipe in on charters for this month’s Triton Survey, so it’s interesting to keep this conversation going a bit.

We know that most of the captains who typically take our surveys are on mid-size yachts that are strictly private. So we crafted our questions to ask about chartering in general. We started by getting a sense of our audience, so we asked Have you ever worked on a charter yacht?

Most have, with 94 percent saying “yes” outright and 2 percent more saying “sort of” since the owner would often send guests to enjoy the vessel. Just 3 percent of our 87 respondents have not worked on a charter yacht.

The big question we wanted to know was if captains and crew bought into the industry belief that the chef makes (or breaks) the charter, so we asked Who has the most impact on the success of a charter?

The industry belief reigns. The largest group of respondents — 36 percent — said the chef, but many couched it with a broader perspective.

“Well, at the risk of sounding too important, in most cases chefs and stews take the show,” said the chef of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “Regardless of weather, itinerary, guests’ mood, occasion, or anything, the guests have to eat and be served. Most of the time, their day is planned around those three or four meal events.”

“I would agree,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Food is so important, and, if the weather was bad, they will still remember the food. If the weather was great, they will still remember the food. It is one of the few constants in the charter world and something that can be controlled. I still think that, overall, it takes a complete effort to do a job that a charter yacht should, but if there was one person, it would be the chef.”

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“The collaborative efforts of the entire crew is essential to a productive charter,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “That being said, I know of charters that have been held together by chefs.”

“A well-fed charter is a happy charter,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Second would be a toss up between the skipper and the mate, whoever brings them snorkeling, diving or just beach combing.”

The next two choices were tied, with 28 percent saying it is the captain, and 28 percent writing in the “other” option of the entire crew, which we didn’t offer as a choice.

“The captain hires the chef, last time I checked,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “If the captain is on the ball, then they hire a great chef and all starts to go well. My chief stews are in charge of the whole boat when on charter, that’s why my operations stay busy.”

“A good captain will pick the right crew for the vessel and choose the places to explore,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Although great meals are essential, a friendly, fun, professional crew is what makes the guests’ time onboard unforgettable.”

“While the chef has the greatest single effect, the overall experience is more affected by the crew dynamic,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “If the crew is happy and enjoying themselves, the experience is much better than when there is disharmony among the crew, and that is the captain’s responsibility to manage. In the end, it is the combined effect of the entire crew.”

“It should never be just one crew member,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I have always strived to make the entire crew what makes or breaks it. As we all know, food alone does not make a great meal. I has to be atmosphere, service, etc., that makes a great meal. Too many people focus on food alone. More people remember bad meals than great ones. People remember bad service vs. great service. It is the entire experience that makes a great charter.”

“This is a tough question as it’s usually not just one person on the size boats I operate,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting less than 10 years. “The chef is key, yet so is the deck/mate to make sure all toys are ready, the stew to make sure the interior is spotless no matter what, and me, that all are enjoying themselves.”

“Teamwork,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “The chef is extremely important, mostly when the weather doesn’t cooperate and guests are stuck inside. But if you don’t have a great chief stew to serve the meals with a smile and beautiful table setting, the meal is not as good. On the other side, if the weather is great, the mate needs to keep guests active discovering the area and doing water sports. It’s the team.”

About 11 percent of respondents chose the interior staff and 5 percent chose the chief stew as being the key person in a charter’s success.

“While the chef must perform better than all, the interior staff will make or break the charter,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet in yachting more than 25 years.

“Charters seem to progress the best when the crew of the chief stew do their job with an air of professional pleasure toward the guests,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years.

“While all crew are important, the interior crew has the most contact with the customer,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “If they are happy and well trained, it makes a difference.”

One respondent noted the charter broker was key, and again split credit.

“The captain and charter broker have more to do with the success of a charter than any other member of the crew,” said the chef of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting about five years. “How each of them sets the tone, and allows each crew to go about doing their work, can make or break guest experiences.”

Beyond an individual charter’s success, we wondered why some yachts are super busy and others not so much, so we asked What is the most important factor in charter guests picking a yacht?

Nearly a third of our respondents said location is key. 

“Depends on time of year and where you are,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Christmas in the Caribbean always works.”

Once again, the next two responses were equal, and they centered around the people involved, with 23 percent saying it was the captain and crew, and 23 percent saying it was the charter broker that most influenced the charter vessel choice. (In contrast to the previous questions, just 2 percent of respondents said the chef or the food was the reason guests chose a yacht to charter.)

“The good charter brokers have intimate knowledge of good teams versus teams of Muppets,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “Veteran charterers will opt for charters with the same captain to ensure a good trip. First timers will opt for price and location or yacht. They roll the dice. Sometimes they get good stuff, sometimes they get reality TV.”

“Reputation,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “That’s why a yacht will have one year in advance bookings and another just 1-2 months.”

“I feel that newer yachts get a lot of charters,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years who credited brokers. “That then turns into repeat charters if the crew is great. I think people also charter yachts based on the feel of the yacht. Certain people choose boutique hotels over five-star chain hotels. I think the ‘feel’ of the yacht attracts people. If the yacht has a decor similar to the charter client’s taste, that yacht may actually get a charter before a less expensive yacht that has a different styling.”

“The reason guests pick a particular yacht is normally the crew in its entirety,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Chef, captain, service crew, etc. All of it matters. Good brokers know each yacht and its crew and can match guests to the right boat. A good charter experience is truly a team effort, even before the contract is written.”

“This question has two sides: first-time charterer choses the boat and toys, along with location; for repeat or seasoned charter guests, it is the crew 100 percent,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “If guests find a good crew, the boat and destination are not as important. The guests just want to have a good time, and when you have a good crew, that’s all that matters.”

“It’s the human/personal interaction that makes or breaks a charter experience,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

Price (10 percent) and amenities such as toys and wi-fi (6 percent) were the least often noted reasons guests chose a charter yacht.

“The crew makes the charter,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “When they choose the boat, I personally think they [guests] are looking at accommodations and amenities. Wi-fi is important, as are the toys.”

And about 5 percent said all of the above.

“I have had so many different charter guests over the last decade, I have witnessed an across-the-board effect,” said the chef of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

The third piece of a charter yacht success — beyond the crew and the vessel — is the itinerary, so we asked In your opinion, what sort of itinerary works best?

We knew that as an open question, we were likely to get lots of different sorts of replies. Even so, about a third of our respondents had the same idea for a successful charter itinerary: a bare-bones but structured itinerary in a familiar place that could be customized to please the type and mood of guests.

“Have a standard offering in the area you are located in, and customize it to suit your guests’ desires,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

“Depends on the guests, though a small selection of structured recommendations works most often for me,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 25 years.

“We like a loose itinerary,” said the purser of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “When the schedule becomes too rigid, it does not allow us to take advantage of the best weather and local events.”

“I like a broader spectrum,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “Let us show you what we as a professional crew can do.”

“With a well thought-out itinerary, but flexible day to day,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

“Familiar territory reduces the stress on crew as we know where to go for flowers, mechanics etc.,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

“Having the captain explain the best possible places and routes to take to ensure safety and quality experience for their trip,” said the engineer of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

“An itinerary that the captain and crew know in great detail, not a exploratory trip,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I have made a good reputation with charter clients of knowing where I am going before taking them there.”

These flexible itineraries worked best with feedback from the charter guests.

“Give us some direction, specific points of interest you would like to see as a charterer,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

“The best charters happen when you have as much information and feedback from the charter primary as possible, one-on-one,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years.

The next most common prefered itinerary was one with close destinations so that travel time was reduced and the guests didn’t feel so rushed.

“Spend no more that a few hours a day under way, usually after breakfast,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Long-distance charters are more like an extra work delivery.”

“An itinerary that has minimal run time required (you can always add more) in which you can use the time as the guests request it,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years.

“I prefer to offer the charter client a one-way charter, if possible, meaning that we don’t pick up and drop off in the same port,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I hate to backtrack on charter as there is always more travel time involved and possibly less time that guests get to experience their destinations.”

“Too much cruising can ruin an otherwise good trip,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I feel less formality makes for a more fun time.”

Almost as many respondents just couldn’t identify the best itinerary since guests, season and yacht all played important roles in deciding. Yet, many had suggestions.

“An appropriate blend of relaxation, shopping and socializing,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

“I have found that when we move at night and the guests play and sightsee during the day, it works very well,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet in yachting more than 25 years.

Sometimes what we think works best doesn’t always define what actually turns out best, so we asked Think about the best charter you ever had. What made it so?

It comes as no surprise that captains and crew remember most those charters with great guests who appreciated the crew’s efforts.

“It was five weeks with the most kind, fun-loving, down to earth multi-gazillionaires I have ever met,” said the chief stew of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “They appreciated everything, and they cried when they left.”

“The client had realistic expectations and that allowed the crew to exceed them,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

“Down-to-earth charter guests enjoying the Exumas for all they have to offer, and a crew truly enjoying and having fun showing the guests the best time of their lives,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “At the conclusion, there were teary-eyed goodbyes of both guests and crew.”

“We had a typical New Year’s/St. Barts charter, but the guests were so easy to animate and just had a blast,” said the first officer of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting less than 10 years. “Whatever activity the crew provided, the guests jumped on it.”

“Great guests make any charter, no matter where you are or what the weather is like,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Guests who are just there to enjoy themselves, not show off but truly appreciate the crew. These guests are just the type of people who are happy with their lives, and it shows.”

“After eight years, I have been fortunate enough to only have great charters,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “Our guests have been marvelous to work with and, at the end of every trip, I’m as sad to see them go as they are to leave. We have a beautiful cruising area in Alaska and so that’s always nice, but I find our guests to each add their own personalities and they almost become part of the family.”

“First of all, the guests were fantastic and very appreciative of every little detail (unlike others that think the world revolves around their every whim),” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting less than 10 years. “With that vibe, the crew performed over the top and worked hard for them, and the guests noticed.”

“It is the people, without a doubt,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “We had a two-week charter for a lovely family that was building a 50m as their first boat. Because they were so nice, I spent time spec-ing up the wheelhouse, the chef spent time over the galley set up, and everyone helped as they could. This was all done while still providing excellent service. We all got offered jobs by them afterward.”

Many respondents noted that the best charters happen when the chemistry among crew as well as between guests and crew was just right.

“Best ever charter was a two-week family trip on an 80-foot sailboat in the BVI around 1994 with five crew and six guests,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Everybody just clicked. We wanted to keep the oldest kid as crew and they wanted to take our deckhand home.”

“It was during race week in Antigua and everything just clicked,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “The guests were gracious, the weather was perfect and the crew was relaxed.”

“The crew gelled perfectly, everyone was in a great mood and so service was exemplary,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

Several credited the charter broker with helping create that chemistry.

“I have had many great charters in locations around the world,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “They were great because the broker matched the charterer with the boat, the guests communicated what they wanted, and the crew anticipated and fulfilled the charterer’s expectations.”

“The way a charter broker pairs the client with the crew is so important,” said the purser of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Our best trips have been when the broker has listened to us about our strengths as a crew. (We cater to active families who enjoy out-island cruising.)”

Sometimes, that great connection with guests results from families and even multiple generations of families enjoying charters together.

“Generational charters are my favorite, grandpa, the kids, the grandkids, and maybe even a new great-grandkid,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “All of them playing and getting to spend time with each other. That is simply magic.”

“Guests were literally 8 to 80 and had never chartered before,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “We started in the US Virgins and quickly moved to the Spanish Virgins, diving, snorkeling and fishing daily. Took the entire family to the bioluminescent bay and had all of them swimming. Everyday for them was a total adventure, and they were so excited to be somewhere they had never been or even thought about.”

About 10 percent of respondents said charters that were well planned were the most memorable, which is interesting considering the responses to the previous question that noted more flexibility made for a better itinerary.

“The charter and my team were in communication for over a month before the trip,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “My watersports people were talking to the kids on the phone, finding out what was their favorite watersport and toys. My chef was planning the meals with the Mrs. and Mr. months beforehand. My chief stew was going over plans for the week, decoration ideas, special event planning like birthdays, making reservations for events off the yacht, making sure we used their brand of cleaning products and laundry soaps. We got involved, all of the crew took ownership of the guests way before they came onboard.”

“A three-week charter around the south of France and Italy was perfect because all the planning worked perfectly,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “Guests were able to step off the yacht at any port with a car or guide ready to take them to the next great lunch/dinner spot or pretty village. Overnight transits were smooth and perfectly timed to arrive, and set up for breakfast was just as the guests wake up.”

And 10 percent more noted that when the guests relax and let the crew show them a good time, it makes for a memorable trip.

“[It’s best] when my guests say ‘whatever you think is best’ and not try to plan their trip based on what their friends who have chartered or a charter broker tells them,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “It is in the best interest of a captain to see that his guests have a good time, so a good charter captain will do whatever he feels will help his guests have a great experience.”

A few noted that the location was most memorable, including the Exumas and especially the British Virgin Islands.

“It’s hard to pick one charter, but the Virgin Islands make for an active charter week,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “My favorite charter guests were amazed that I would find out-of-the-way anchorages. It made them feel like they were all alone under the stars. During the day, we would hit great beach bars. I still keep in touch with my guests.”

And a few others noted that appreciating the history and wildlife of the local place made charters memorable.

“Hmmm, the best? I have done over 300 charters over the years and one comes to mind: a Brazilian in the Med,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “He had researched every spot we went to and had a full tutorial for crew and guests as we got close to the place or the evening before if we traveled at night (my recommendation). It was really interesting, educational, and really a fun-packed trip. The crew were visibly emotional at the end of it. Naturally, we had them back many more times.”

“I always find that when the guests actually know where they are in the world and the history there and what they want out of the holiday has always been better rewarded for everyone,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “I find I become the tour guide and event coordinator to really get the ball going. The best charter for me was for a family who liked to move. We traveled 1,800 nautical miles in 14 days and they had a great time and saw a lot.”

We wondered what captains and crew thought about that go-to metric of charter success: How many weeks would it take for a yacht to have a successful charter season?

We didn’t really ask this question clearly enough, it seems. Some of our respondents answered for a season, some for a year. And some talked of numbers of charters instead of numbers of weeks.

Case in point, the largest groups — at about a quarter of respondents each — thought either 5-6 weeks of charters or more than 10 would be sufficient to call the yacht a success.

“I would figure our break-even to be about six weeks,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “Depending on how you measure success, I would say anything over six weeks is money in the owner’s pocket.”

“How many weeks did you expect?” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “Five weeks back-to-back when you expected two, one in June and one in August, might drive you round the bend. If you expected 10 and only got two, that would not make it. For me, one per month is great. Assuming the owners are onboard once a month, that is plenty. So 10 weeks a year.”

“Twelve weeks must be considered a good year; pays the expenses, but maybe not the mortgage and insurance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “More than 16 is very busy, tending toward burnout for the crew. More than 20 is insanity.”

“About 13 is where you start making a profit under typical pricing/financing schemes,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

But, as in all things yachting, it depends.

“This depends on the owner’s usage,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “My last vessel did 12 weeks of charter/business weeks, and then owner usage was about six weeks. With repositioning and yard period, this was a full schedule.”

The range of weeks in the middle rounded out much of the rest. And then, of course, were those who saw chartering as it’s own entity.

“Twenty-30 weeks a year,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “A charter yacht works for a living, not just a week or two here or there. It is a working, ongoing business. And it makes money. There are not many around anymore.”

Charter guests have all sorts of ideas of how their trip should go. The most challenging, perhaps, is the desire to visit as many places as possible in a short number of days. So we asked captains and crew, Do you try to manage guest expectations?

Almost all do, to some degree. About 42 percent said yes outright, that they manage expectations because many charter guests don’t acknowledge the impact on their happiness of what they say they want.

The largest group — 54 percent — said they “sort of” manage expectations. To their mind, charter guests just want to have a good time and it is the yacht crew’s job to show it to them, even if it means changing the itinerary.

“If the charter guest is unrealistic up front when they book the charter, I will definitely try to make them understand the reality of what to expect and try to lay out the itinerary well in advance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “Depending on the time of year, I must make them aware of the possibility of bad weather during their charter. I have had charter clients demand that we anchor in a certain harbor during February in the Caribbean when they are used to anchoring there in a smaller yacht in June. Different winds and seas. They did not enjoy that night on the hook in February. They did not question me after that sleepless night.”

Just 4 percent said they do not manage guest expectations, noting that the guests and broker made the vacation plan and it was their job to execute it, not question it.

To expand on that question, we were curious to know How much responsibility do you accept for the charter guests having a good holiday?

Ninety-two percent accepted either all the responsibility (36 percent) or most of it (56 percent).

“All of it. I’m the chef and it is my job to be well trained, flexible with many cuisines, and able to tailor their food program at a moment’s notice,” said the chef on a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting about five years. “I especially enjoy when guests or locals bring fresh seafood to influence the next meal. Leaves the guests feeling excited and even more involved with their time onboard.”

“More than all of it,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “A charter client, writer of a New York Times best-selling business book, coined an acronym to describe my crew after the first day of the trip: PEACE, Persistently Exceeding All Customer Expectations. That’s what I mean by accepting more than all of it. I take exception to named storms, but even then we have fun.”

“I feel the bulk of the strain to ensure guests have a good time 100 percent of the time,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “However, I have had to draw that line and keep it within the boundaries of the charter as I have not been able to control their experience between the time they leave home and step aboard. I’m working on it, but am not there yet.”

Some things, however, are out of the crew’s control.

“As skipper, I know the crew makes up a large part of the guests’ happy factor, but we can’t control everything,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet who accepts most of the responsibility. “I will take responsibility for boat, crew and food. Most everything else is not under my control. I work hard to show the guests a blast while keeping them safe.”

“We can provide an amazing trip, but if guests arrive with a bad vibe, that can be tough to overcome,” said the purser of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

“You can’t manage drunks, marital problems, or stupidity,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “It’s hard enough to just manage safety.”

“We do what we can, but in the end you can’t make some people happy,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “That is what they bring, and some people just play the sad card. For them, I smile a lot and listen. Seems to work.”

Much of a charter, though, occurs off the boat, so we asked How much responsibility do you accept for the charter guests’ safety when they are ashore?

Again, charter crew take their jobs seriously. About 90 percent accept some (67 percent) or all (22 percent) of the responsibility.

“Guests often live at home with every protection: kid’s car seats, seat belts, alarms on the doors, baby monitors, just being as safe as they can in real life,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “Then they come on vacation and take crazy chances, as if they are on a vacation from life. Maybe they get drunk and want to dive off the bow into the dark night water, or maybe they want some crazy daring watersport action. I have to sit them down and explain the rules to keep them safe.”

“There are no-go zones and no-swim places,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “They don’t know it, but they need to be kept safe at all times. They want to go for a moonlit walk along the beach and into the water, not knowing there are urchins and coral everywhere.”

“We accompany them nearly all the time, but generally not as security,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “If they require it, they arrange it.”

“We shadow our guests when necessary, sometimes discreetly, depending on location, unless at their request they want to be totally alone, then we make sure we can communicate with them instantly if needed,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

That left about 10 percent of our respondents who said they accept no responsibility for guest safety ashore.

“We offer guidance,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “If they reject it, then they are adults. It’s not for us to treat them otherwise.”

While keeping guests entertained and happy is the biggest piece of a charter, the logistics have the potential to interfere, so we asked How challenging is it to navigate the various countries one charter might touch?

Almost half labeled the frequent clearing in and out as “somewhat challenging.” While it can be a hassle, they manage.

The bulk of the rest of our respondents (38 percent) said it was no big deal, just part of the job.

About 15 percent said navigating various countries on charter was very challenging, requiring at least one crew member to frequently be away from the vessel.

The charter industry has changed a lot since the recession hit in 2008. Where would you say it is now?

Two-thirds said it was definitely better than even just a few years ago, with 12 percent saying it has fully recovered with lots of charters available for the yachts that do it well.

About 18 percent said the charter market has improved but is still not very active.

Just 2 percent thought it was poor, with not nearly enough charters to keep the fleet active.

Part of the reason the industry seems to have recovered is the number of yachts in the charter fleet, which is more than double what it was before the recession. Some sales brokers now often advise owners to put their newly acquired yachts into charter to help offset the costs of operation and maintenance. We wondered if those who operate and maintain yachts agreed, so we asked Does chartering help offset the cost of owning a yacht?

Three-quarters of our respondents said it can, and 7 percent more said it absolutely does.

“Twelve weeks pays expenses, but not mortgage or insurance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Fifteen weeks can pay nearly all; at 20 weeks, the yacht is making money.”

“Keeping a crewed boat ready to charter costs a lot,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “It takes about six charters to begin to cover charter costs such as surveys, etc., then another six to cover boat expenses. After 12 charters, the profit might start but that is a lot of charters and a lot of wear on the vessel.”

“This has been sold to owners by brokers for years,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “You can run a yacht as a business, but it radically changes what and how the yacht is run, decorated, manned, availability to the owner, and where it needs to be located.”

“Some owners want to offset a certain item such as crew salary or insurance/dockage/fuel,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “It helps offset some costs, but never justifies owning a yacht nor offsetting all of the annual upkeep.”

“I’m between ‘It can’ and ‘No way’,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “Chartering costs more than the typical recreational use of most owners. Due to that, you need to have more charters to help offset the increase in cost the owner will see. It can still offset costs, but I’ve always advised owners that along with income comes increased expenses.”

About 15 percent of respondents were firmly in the “no way” category.

“It’s a totally stupid idea that has come up lately,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “You increase use, you increase costs and downtime.”

“The ‘you can charter it when you’re not using it and have it pay for itself’ line is a lie,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “It cannot be done unless the owner schedules his use around charters. The yacht is either his toy or a business asset. One or the other, not both. The problem stems from the fact that there are only maybe a dozen weeks a year that are desired by charter clients, and owners want to use the yacht those same weeks that charters run.”

Often, charter yachts pay some crew members a lower salary than might be otherwise accepted on the belief that tips will more than make up for it. We wondered what captains and crew thought about that, so we asked Do you accept that salaries on charter yachts are lower because of tips?

Almost two-thirds of our respondents do not.

“We offer 8-star service to guests who require the very best, and generally they reward that extra-high level of service,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Fourteen-hour days are the norm. The burnout rate is high, especially in the interior department, The extra money is definitely a factor in keeping crew centered.”

“Tips aren’t guaranteed, especially when brokers sell the charter as a Med style (service fees included) and, in fact, they are a service-free contract,” said the captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Using tips as an enticement isn’t very responsible. Nice if they happen, but never plan on it.”

“We get paid what we are worth,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “I’ve seen too many charter boats break down and lose a charter season. Never take a less wage because it is a busy charter boat.”

“Owner use plus charter use equals more total use of the boat, which should equal more pay for all crew,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “Charter tips are simply extra, to reward crew for the extra effort. In no way should they ever be considered a justifiable reason to pay lower salaries.”

“This really upsets me when I hear this,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “We take on so much more responsibility. We have people come on board that we know nothing about and are made to be responsible for them. We should make more as charter crew, not less. The tips are for doing a good job and come from the guest. The owner should pay higher wages to the charter crew based on the additional responsibility, not to mention the longer hours and unknown schedules.”

About a quarter more said it depends.

“I own my boat, so I look at this from the ‘boss’s’ side,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “I do pay my crew a little less than industry standard, but I’m also one of the best tipped boats in our area, so I feel justified in that. With that being said, I feel that good crew deserve to be paid well, and if you want them to keep coming back, you have to treat them well.”

Just 12 percent said a lower base salary was OK since tips more than make up the difference.

“Charter pay is often structured so the crew make the big bucks during charters,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “This way, they are happy to take on the charters and want to do a better job to get a better tip.”

Charter captains and crew play a vital role in yachting as a majority of yacht owners first got into yachting through charter. While the hiccups of long hours, short turnarounds and crazy tips continue to be fodder for discussion, the professionals who work on yachts are at their best when showing guests (and owners) a good time.

“Chartering can be a rewarding experience to both crew and guests alike as long as a sensible program is in place and brokers respect the captain’s ultimate decision,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “A safe boat and safe crew equals happy guests.”

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

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