As South Florida prepared for two boat shows over as many months this spring, shipyards around Ft. Lauderdale have been busy, which isn’t completely unusual.
But we noticed that not all those yachts in the yards were prepping for a show. Many were large charter yachts that we would have expected to still be in the Caribbean. Some had actually recently sold.
So we thought we’d ask yacht captains what they were up to this spring, whether it be yard time, cruising or the recently typical syndrome of sitting at the dock, waiting for that call from a broker that the yacht has sold.
What are you doing this spring?
The largest group — 41 percent of respondents — is in the shipyard for repairs or refit. So our first thought that the yards are busier this spring seems to be holding true.
“We thought the yard would be quiet this time of year, but we noticed how busy it stayed and were wondering the same things you were,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who is in the shipyard this spring.
“The boat is heavily for sale,” said another captain of a yacht 120-140 feet, also in the shipyard. “We’re applying massive amounts of lipstick on the pig.”
The next largest group, however, with almost as many respondents — 40 percent — is out cruising with the owner and/or guests. Even though that result doesn’t support our hypothesis, we’re thrilled owners are out and about using their vessels.
More than a fifth of respondents said their yacht was sitting at the dock with no plans or waiting for sale.
“My boat is mothballed,” said that captain who’s yacht is “heavily for sale”. “Has been for more than three years now.”
“I noticed a quite a few boats returned from the Caribbean early to the yards,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 200 feet. “The owner of this vessel has not used it for a year now as it is awaiting sale. We worked out the benefits of using it while waiting but the costs and wear on the machinery meant we have stayed idle instead.”
About 12 percent are preparing for the summer season, presumably not in a shipyard.
And finally, just 6.9 percent of our respondents indicated they were chartering this spring, which unfortunately does support our hypothesis that more yachts seem to be in the shipyard than out with charter guests.
And one respondent indicated that he was out helping the owner find a new yacht. Huzzah.
While the spring is a long time, yachts can do more than one thing, so we asked specifically Have you been getting work done on the vessel this spring?
Eighty percent are.
So then, of course, we wanted to know what sort of work?
The largest group of captains — nearly half of our respondents — were simply getting a jump on regularly scheduled maintenance, hopefully in preparation for their summer cruising plans.
But close behind were those in the midst of moderate repair and refit work (29 percent), including partial paint jobs and bottom jobs. We also included five-year survey work in this category. Some captains noted they were accepting new tenders and television satellite systems, conducting “ER beautification” and sanding teak decks. We classified all these as moderate projects as most of them were being carried out in conjunction with other work.
About 20 percent of respondents were managing smaller scale repair and refit work, including upgrading electronics, varnish and engine maintenance.
“Trying to keep costs down,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
Just 12.5 percent of our respondents said they were in a major refit.
For an indication of new yachts or new yacht sales, we asked about warranty work and things like surveys. About 8 percent were doing warranty work; just 6 percent were dealing with the yard work related to a sale, including haul outs and surveys.
We asked these same questions of our captains in relation to their peers: <>Among your yachting colleagues, do you know anyone who is getting work done on their vessel this spring?
The numbers were about the same; 77 percent said they knew yachting colleagues who were in the shipyard this spring.
But when we asked what type of work, the answers were a little different. It seems that our responding captains saw their peers doing more and bigger shipyard work than they were.
The two largest groups were tied at about 38 percent each getting small and moderate repair and refit work done, followed by those with regularly scheduled maintenance at 29 percent.
And our responding captains saw more sales work being conducted — about 18 percent — than among their own work.
With moderate weather and fewer storms, spring is a popular cruising time. So we asked our captains If you have been working on the yacht instead of cruising, please tell us why.
Among the captains who have been getting work done (80 percent of our respondents), almost half say it’s because the owner just isn’t using it much.
“The boss just likes to sit and not do much as it costs more,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
But the next common answer, by nearly a quarter of respondents, was that spring is their time for repair work.
“We always refit this time of year,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet. “This is actually transit time right now. Refit to follow.”
“We’re private and don’t do the Caribbean,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet. “We had two months in the yard on preventative maintenance and then cruising Florida and Bahamas with the owners.”
“We cruise New Years through March and head to the yard for annual work in April/May before heading to New England for the summer,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.
There were a whole host of possible reasons we left off our list of possible answers, so almost 20 percent of our respondents chose “other.” Their reasons for being in the yard this lovely spring ranged from mechanical failure and preparing for a voyage to the South Pacific, to new boat warranty work and plain old it was just time for refit work.
“The boat required the work after being run too long without maintenance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “Projects uncovered additional problems so spring trips were cancelled.
Fewer than 10 percent said it was because they had too few or no charters.
For those yachts and captains that have been cruising this spring, we were curious <>how have the cruising areas been?
Most of our respondents said this spring’s cruising grounds have been average (41 percent) or slightly busier (25 percent).
“It’s been a very normal spring season,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.
“Florida will be busy,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet. “Glad we already booked for the spring.”
About 19 percent said it was pretty slow, 13 percent called it “dead” and 3 percent classified areas as “crazy busy”.
In an effort to see if some areas marked a trend for being busy or slow, we also asked these captains where have you been cruising?
But their answers were all over the map. While most of our respondents have been cruising in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Florida this spring, their answers for how busy those places varied. The Exumas were equally classified as busy, average and slow. The Out Islands were called crazy busy but also slow. We don’t put much weight in these responses. Our question wasn’t specific enough to generate meaningful statistics.
We wanted, too, to try and put this spring’s cruising and yard time in perspective, so we asked What were you and/or the yacht doing at this time last year?
Most were doing what they are doing this year, cruising with the owners and guests and fitting in some shipyard time. But more were sitting at the dock last year than this year, which we will greedily accept as a sign that things are changing for the better in yachting.
Among those “other” replies, a few were getting ready for the boat show or getting ready for the owner and some summer cruising. A few captains were between vessels last spring.
When we asked for anything closing thoughts on this spring’s cruising or yard period, a few captains shared from the heart.
“Frustrating times,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet
“Owners have no money,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet. “We need a new [U.S.] president. It’s four more years of nothing.”
“Sell, baby, sell,” said another captain of a yacht 140-160 feet. “It’s time to move again.”
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.