Buying a charterboat – choosing a fleet

19 October 2017

So, you’ve found your dream catamaran and you want to put it into charter, but how do you go about choosing a suitable fleet to put it with? Here are some tips to help steer your through the process. By Caroline Strainig

  1. Share your plan with Multihull Solutions

One of the best ways to start your journey is to talk to Multihull Solutions’ staff about your dream. Our expert staff can advise you on which models are ideally suited to the charter market, which operators are actively seeking those models, and steer you towards fleet operators they have had good feedback about. Staff can even put you in touch with owners who have boats in those fleets who can give you an unbiased opinion.

  1. Choose a location

There are charter fleets all around Australia, but the cream of the crop in terms of returns is the Whitsundays – according to operators there – although Sydney is also high up there.

Trevor Rees from Whitsunday Escape says this is because the Whitsundays have near year-round utilisation.

“The boats are achieving better returns than any other destination in Australia,” he said.

“The Whitsundays is also perfectly placed if any owners want to do extended trips to the outer reef 15 nm offshore or south or north inside the reef.”

Obviously, if you want extensive weekend or stand-by usage, you might have to settle for a destination close to where you live, sacrificing higher returns

3. Research the charter companies

The next step is to research the companies on your short list in your preferred area.

Annie Judd from Charter Yachts Australia in the Whitsundays said choosing the right fleet is all important.

“You need to make sure that you have a really good relationship with the people who will manage your boat because a charter contract usually lasts at least five years, so it will be an ongoing relationship,” she said.

The charter company should be able to provide you with information on likely future earnings and past earnings by similar multihulls.

Would-be investors should also do due diligence to make sure claims can be substantiated by third parties and to talk to other owners who have had boats in the fleet.

4. Not just the bottom line

An ultra-high return is fantastic, but don’t choose a fleet operator on just that alone. A high return depends on high usage and keeping maintenance costs and expenses down. If you want the boat as pristine as possible at the end of your charter contract, you want an operator who will achieve a happy balance.

5. Usage

This is usually negotiated on an individual basis, but generally you get around 28 days a year, which you can pre-book. Some charter companies also let you use the boat on a stand-by basis. However, few owners exceed the 28-day mark, particularly if they must fly and travel to where the boat is based. Try and be flexible about peak periods if you can, and if you cannot, be upfront with the charter company so everyone knows where they stand from the word go.

6. Options, options and more options

Charterers have an almost insatiable appetite for fuel, water, refrigeration and even air-con, so make sure your catamaran is more than adequately equipped in these departments. If you do, it will make your boat much more desirable to would-be hirers. Remember, at least some of the people on board will probably not be used to cruising with limited access to essentials such as water. Sharon McNally from Cumberland Charter Yachts in the Whitsundays said it is essential to talk to the charter company before finalising your options because they are on the coalface and know what customers want.

7. Be conservative in your expectations

Take off your rose-coloured glasses when it comes to earnings. Things like storms and cyclones and tourism ups and downs can and do impact on charter bookings.

That said, charterboat returns are generally good now, particularly in the Whitsundays.

“We are getting good utilisation and a decent return, so much so in our fleet that four owners have two boats each because their investment is sufficient to justify a second boat,” Trevor Rees from Whitsunday Escape said.

“The trend is also we don’t need to look too far for new investors because existing boat owners are buying new boats.”

Annie Judd from Charter Yachts Australia said many of their investors are baby boomers, making it part of their retirement plan.

“They buy a new boat, put it into charter for five years and sail part-time, then when they retire they head off on that dreamt of world or blue-water cruise,” she said.

“Returns are good now, but that’s not the reason they are doing it primarily – it’s a lifestyle investment and should be viewed that way.

8. And last but by no means least, enjoy your investment

Nothing quite compares to sailing your own boat around some of the finest cruising grounds in the world, so enjoy your investment and all the lifestyle benefits that go with it.

And, as Sharon McNally from Cumberland Charter Yachts, points out, cruising and boating are even better when your boat operates as a charterboat, so you can offset operating costs against the income earned.