By Dorie Cox
Capt. Ken Maff and his wife, Chief Stew Heidi Romero, have managed thousands of pounds of stuff during their careers on yachts. Like when the chef bought an ice cream maker for guests, but the owner didn’t like ice cream and said to get it off the boat.
“It’s better to tell the owner you got another yacht to buy it,” Romero said.
And that’s just the type of scenario that prompted Capt. Maff to create the Yachting Trader app. His recently launched marketplace tool allows crew to buy, sell or trade anything, from any port.
Capt. Maff was guided by his experience on yachts, including M/Y Rockstar, a 164-foot Trinity; M/Y Libertas, a 138-foot CRN; M/Y Bliss, 174-foot Palmer Johnson; M/Y Lady Sheila, a 148-foot Benetti; M/Y Kapalua, a 114-foot Crescent; M/Y Exuma C, a 114-foot Christensen; M/Y Lady Sheila, a 108-foot Mangusta; and M/Y Carobelle, a 108-foot Azimut. After two decades, he knows his crew usually can’t spare a lot of time to re-home the yacht’s 300 pound anchor with chain, the Hobart dishwasher, a spare tender or the unwanted Hobie cat. And he has told crew they can’t stow the windsurfer or bike they bought for that long stay in port. For both yacht and personal items, crew often pay to store extras or leave perfectly good things thrown away on the dock, he said.
He said using Yachting Trader is simple – download it from an online store, log in through the app or Facebook, shoot a photo (which can be edited in-app), slide a rating bar to rate the item’s condition and choose a location. The presentation is like a deck of cards, and a listing can be highlighted at the top of the deck for rates of up to $10.
And the app can be used offline, which is important for crew, he said.
“We have a guy that is taking photos of everything in the storage facility at one time,” Capt. Maff said. “Then he can post later.”
Sellers get rated, and viewers can see trending topics or search near their current location.
“Pull into port and crew can see a map with pins of what’s for sale or trade around,” he said.
Unlike CraigsList and other marketplace apps that are designed for local use, Yachting Trader is designed for how crew travel.
“Today I’m in Monaco with the drone and tomorrow I’ll be in San Remo,” Capt. Maff said, as an example. Crew can leave the drone with someone in port and the trader can pick it up on arrival.
“You can’t do that with other apps,” Capt. Maff said.
Romero said the app helps with urgent needs, including the need to save money.
“A lot of stews come and go, and uniforms are so expensive,” she said. “It’s a way to get a $90 skort for trade, barter or sell. This is what I need, this is what I have.”
Romero said she has an appointment herself to meet with a stew who has collected designer dresses from around the world. “I need to go to a wedding, and we’ll see if something works for me,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like family, like when you go to your sister to trade outfits.”
Capt. Maff said he feels this app is a way to give back to an industry that has served him well.
Before he got into yachting, he said, he visited Antibes in 1998 with his brother and their girlfriends. Everything they owned was stolen from their van. “We had no passports, clothes, anything,” Capt. Maff recalled.
“Someone said go down to the docks, so we did daywork, and that night the chef came back with food and crew agencies brought boxes of clothes,” he said. “Funny how life goes. The support from the yachting industry was pretty impressive.”
Capt. Maff’s brother, Capt. Benjamin Maff, tweaked the app during beta testing. Romero guided the design with her background in anthropology and linguistics (she speaks seven languages) to make it intuitive for all cultures. Plus, she uses a lot of apps.
“I’m app crazy, I erase more than I use if they’re not easy.” Romero said she focused on making the app pretty and easy to use. “I delayed progress on Yachting Trader because I changed the buttons.”
Romero also helped with category listings. She loves to teach and suggested the category for courses, services and education.
“We have stews who teach yoga classes, so they can trade,” she said. “You teach me yoga and I’ll teach you Chinese. There is an altruistic aspect that makes you feel good, even if you’re not getting something. This app is a way to make nice things happen.”
For more information on Yachting Trader, contact Capt. Ken Maff at email@example.com or visit www.yachtingtrader.com.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.