By Lucy Chabot Reed
We’ve visited with a few boats recently that are cruising New England this fall, which seemed a little late to us, considering New England is mostly a summer cruising ground. That generated all sorts of conversations about where boats are going — and where they haven’t gone — this summer.
So we asked captains about their summer cruising and learned that most of them were busy this summer with owner trips. Most also seemed to be in or near the United States.
What did you do this summer?
A majority — 82 percent — said they were on trips with the owner and his/her guests (66 percent) or on charter (16 percent).
But our respondents also had some down time at the dock, with about 37 percent saying they sat waiting at some point during the summer (19 percent) or undergoing maintenance in a shipyard (18 percent).
We encouraged our respondents to include all their summer activities, so percentages don’t add up to 100.
“As a relief master I am available for any work,” said a captain of a yacht more than 220 feet in yachting more than 35 years. “This summer I spent six weeks running a 45m motor yacht in New England, which spent most of the time sitting on the dock waiting for charters or owner’s use.”
We were most interested in the location of these trips, so we asked If your vessel traveled, where did you go?
Again, our respondents were encouraged to list all their destinations, and the largest groups visited the Bahamas, then Florida and then New England, followed closely by the U.S. mid-Atlantic states and the Western Med.
“Annapolis to Newport, and now crossing from Malta to West Palm Beach on a 61m,” a relief captain said.
“Hilton Head Island, which I fell in love with,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 20 years.
Small amounts — less than 10 percent each — visited the Pacific Northwest, the Caribbean, Cuba and the Eastern Med.
We were curious if charter vessels traveled to different destinations than private vessels, or those who have a mixed use. When we crunched the data that way, we saw that the destinations were basically similar, just changing in their order.
While all vessels visit Bahamas, Florida and New England (in that order), charter vessels were more likely to visit Florida, Bahamas, the Western Med and New England. Private vessels went to New England, Bahamas, Florida, the US mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest.
Those vessels that report a good mix of charter and private use visited the Bahamas, Florida, the U.S. mid-Atlantic, and Western Med most this summer.
With everything going on in the world, we were curious Is that destination different from last year?
Nearly half said some were different, but some were the same, too.
Almost 40 percent said it was all the same places.
Just 15 percent spent the summer somewhere completely new.
“Ninety-five percent of my summer trips were to Bimini and western Bahamas, plus the Miami and Biscayne Bay areas for the first times in 16 years,” said the captain of a yacht of a mixed-use yacht 80-100 feet.
Have news reports (of terrorist attacks, violence and/or migrants) influenced your cruising schedule?
About 87 percent of our respondents said the news did not alter their plans.
“We did five weeks of charter in New England, more than in previous years,” said the captain of a charter vessel 160-180 feet that typically cruises that area.
“We were in Nice for the attack,” said the captain of a mixed-use yacht 160-180 feet that chartered the Western Med as usual. This captain was referring to the Bastille Day truck bombing in Nice that killed 86 people and injured 400 others. “It did not affect our charter season.”
Not all captains agreed.
“Once the shooting happened in Nice, the yachts disappeared,” said the captain of a mixed-use yacht 200-220 feet that spent the summer in the Med.
Among charter boats, the impact was greater, with about a third of respondents saying they altered course for the summer.
Among private vessels, the impact was less, with just 9 percent saying they changed their cruising schedule.
We were interested to know who the small group (13 percent) was in the overall group who said the news had changed their plans. They were on vessels of all sizes and uses, though more than half were private vessels.
“I advised against cruising Greece and Turkey,” said the captain of a private yacht larger than 220 feet.
“I was to deliver a 42m to UK in April/May but the owner changed his mind because of the terrorist threats,” said the captain of a yacht with a good mix of charter and private use. “The boat went to New England instead.”
“We were supposed to go to the Med and instead they left us in the Caribbean,” said the captain of a mixed-use yacht 100-120 feet that sat idle this summer.
“Europe cancelled due to migrant crisis and concerns over terrorism,” said the captain of a private yacht 140-160 feet. Instead, the yacht cruised with the owner in the Bahamas and got work done in Florida.
We wanted to get back to the carefree thoughts of summer cruising, so we asked captains their personal opinion about it. What’s the best way for a yacht to spend the summer?
Nearly three-quarters of captains agreed that summer is time for adventure and to go exploring.
That left about a quarter of captains who acknowledged that summer is time to relax and that comfortable and familiar places are best.
“Having a family now, so routine is definitely preferred,” said the captain of a predominantly charter yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years.
Several captains refused to choose, gently scolding us for asking such a question.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” said the captain of a private yacht 180-200 feet. “It is what the boss thinks, and he likes familiar.”
“Exploring is my preference, however it’s really up to the owner, and many just like to revisit their favorite haunts,” said the captain of a private yacht 140-160 feet. “It is their toy, after all, and we need to remember this. It’s OK to inspire adventure but if they don’t have it in them, we should make the best of it, or move on.”
“Wherever it makes the owner happy, so he’ll keep his yacht and stay in yachting,” said the captain of a private yacht 100-120 feet.
We sort of redeemed ourselves by asking about the owner’s preference next: Does the owner of your vessel prefer off-the-beaten path places or does he/she want to be seen in the popular yachting locales?
A slight majority of 55 percent said their bosses prefer off-the-beaten-path places, but we fear it’s because we didn’t ask this question clearly. Many captains explained that the answer is really both the way we worded it.
“Likes continuity, however going to the usual haunts is not about ‘being seen’,” said the captain of a predominantly charter yacht 120-140 feet.
“Traditional cruising grounds but not to be seen,” said the captain of a private yacht 100-120 feet.
“Wants to be seen off the beaten path,” said the captain of a private yacht 100-120 feet.
When we crunched the numbers to see what charter guests wanted, 100 percent wanted to be seen.
And finally, we asked for a few thoughts about yachting’s summer of 2016.
“More boats than last year in New England,” said the captain of a charter yacht 160-180 feet. “There was lots of competition for dockage in Boston, Newport and Nantucket. And even now (mid-September), the docks here are full.”
“Fantastic summer; the best in New England in my 30-plus-year career,” said the captain of a private yacht 120-140 feet. “Maine stood out with fantastic scenery and weather. Never better. We are still in the Northeast, now in Montauk (mid-September), but hopefully going South in a couple weeks.”
“For the first time in a long time, it seems dockage was hard to come by in New England,” said the captain of a private yacht 160-180 feet. “A lot more boats up here this summer.”
“We had a very busy schedule and have seen more yachts this year than last in the Great Lakes,” said the captain of a private yacht 80-100 feet.
“Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is still cruising season till Halloween,” said the captain of a private yacht less than 80 feet. “We have 60 days to go; no hurricanes here.”
“While Seattle wasn’t as warm and sunny as usual, we had a great summer,” said the captain of a predominantly private yacht 200-220 feet. “Victoria is a super place to visit and great cruising in the islands of Canada and the U.S.”
“Having stayed local (Ft. Lauderdale), the yards have been very busy,” said the captain of a predominantly charter yacht 120-140 feet. “Vendors have been commenting the same.”
“It was nice to sit still in steamy Ft Lauderdale,” said the captain of a private yacht 80-100 feet. “Looking forward to the next trip, though.”
“Greece was quiet; Amalfi was busy as was Sardinia and Corsica this year,” said the captain of a private yacht 180-200 feet. “Mallorca was busy as well.”
“Quiet summer,” said the captain of a private yacht 140-160 feet. “Bahamas not overcrowded. Industry seems healthy.”
“We spend all of our time at anchor with the boss aboard, so not too busy,” said the captain of a private yacht 160-180 feet. “Being at anchor does not give me a chance to talk with other captains to see how the industry is doing. I have seen a lot of boats at anchor, though, in the Med.”
“About the same as last summer,” said the captain of a private yacht less than 80 feet. “The Northeast U.S. really has yet to recover from the late 2000s as far as the marine and marina industry is concerned. Transient vessels make up most of the movement.”
“I have been very busy since February with 10 swings on seven different vessels as relief master in sizes ranging from 42-61 meters, which include four trans-Atlantic crossings,” a captain said.
“Cruise the coast of Maine,” said the captain of a private yacht 100-120 feet. “There are more hidden anchorages than anywhere on the East Coast.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. We conduct monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. Email us to be included.