Congratulations! You own your first boat and you can’t wait to get out on the water. There’s only one small problem: You bought her in one place and plan to sail her in another. Now what?
That depends. If the new boat is in Puerto Rico and you plan to sail in St. Thomas, you probably know experienced boaters who will help you sail those forty miles.
However, if your boat is in Ft. Lauderdale and you plan to use her in St. Martin (approximately 1100 miles away) you may need professionals.
Where do you find them? Perched on barstools at the yacht club, on the Internet, and everywhere in-between. The trick is finding qualified professionals to deliver your boat.
If you find them at a yacht club, as a friend of ours did, be sure to ask around. He talked to people he trusted and discovered that they would not have hired those “captains” to drive a truck from one side of the island to the other, much less deliver a boat down-island. Same goes for captains you find on the Internet; ask questions and get references!
Don’t be afraid to comparison shop. Rates vary, but some ball park figures list rates for a USCG licensed captain between $250 and $350 per day, with a mate earning $150 to $250 per day. Some companies charge by the mile with rates estimated to be between $3 and $5 per nautical mile. So, to have a captain deliver your 45’ sailboat from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Martin (which could take 10 to 12 days under optimal conditions) could cost you around $6,000, not including provisions, weather layovers, airfare and transportation.
Another way to transport your vessel is to hire a float-on/float-off company. These companies put yachts onto their boats and transport them around the world. Rates vary, so it is best to contact a few of them and ask for a quote.
I hope you enjoy your boat and have a great time out on the water. Be sure to watch for my upcoming series on bottom paint – now that you own a boat, you’ll have to learn how to take care of it!
Capt. J. Summer Westman lives in St. Thomas, USVI, with her husband, Bill. When not out on their boat, Excellent Adventure, Summer writes boating articles and designs websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.livingbydesignvi.com.
Ask an Expert
As a new boat owner, your number one responsibility is to learn everything about your new boat. One way to do this is to hire a captain to help with a safe and educational boat delivery. A professional captain will perform a system’s check, monitor the engines, keep an eye on the weather, devise a float plan, and keep a log of your trip.
You can find a professional delivery captain by asking your boat dealer or private seller to recommend someone, or by searching the internet. Never hire a captain without meeting him or her first and discussing each other’s requirements. Everyone on board has to get along in close quarters for what could be almost two weeks.
The minimum requirements you should look for are: (1) resume, including a list of deliveries, (2) copy of current Coast Guard license, (3) detailed trip logs of past deliveries, (4) references, and (5) a contract that lists delivery rates. Get everything in writing— including the delivery cost—before the start of any delivery trip.
Ask the captain how long the trip should take and what he or she expects of you. A delivery Captain should have a handheld GPS, VHF radio, charts and guide book. Warning signs of trouble, or at least a lack of professionalism, are: (1) no navigational aids, (2) no documents showing deliveries, and (3) no current license. Beware of the captain who asks for full payment up front!
The owner is responsible for food, supplies, and transportation back home for the captain, and payment in full at the end of the trip. The boat must be seaworthy, insured, and Coast Guard-ready (life jackets, flares, ships bell, fire system certified if so equipped, and life raft if needed).
It is very important to make sure that you, your delivery crew, and your vessel are insured in the body of waters to be traveled. Ask your insurance agent if you should add the captain, and/or crew, to your policy.
Finding the right captain to bring along on your first trip will be the best money you will spend. A professional delivery captain will allow you to get out there, relax and enjoy your boat.
British Virgin Islands
Consider your experience level. (1) Have you sailed offshore long distance? (2) Can you navigate without GPS and modern technologies? (3) Have you done heavy weather sailing? (4) Do you have the skills to deal with mechanical failures? (5) Are you prepared to deal with any emergencies, such as dismasting or losing the rudder? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you should consider hiring professionals for the delivery.
Should you hire just a captain and serve as crew yourself, or hand the complete delivery over? That depends. As crew, will you be an asset or liability? If you are unable to stand a watch independently, cannot safely identify shipping traffic, get seasick, or are unable to pull your weight, then your position as crew would be a liability and would put the rest of the crew and boat in danger.
Don’t put your delivery crew at risk by making unsafe demands and expecting them to disregard weather in favor of keeping to a schedule. A smart skipper will make weather decisions with crew safety as a top priority. You can replace a boat but not a life. Sufficient time for bad weather or repair of breakdowns must be allowed. Also, the owner must provide sufficient funds for repairs en route. We always hope for best case scenarios, but this is a boat—and Murphy has a wicked sense of humor.
You, the owner, are responsible for covering the boat and crew for insurance liability. Your boat should be up to survey, with any deficiencies corrected before sending the crew off. The boat should be mechanically sound with strong batteries and decent charging system, operational running lights, and must have all safety gear aboard, including inspected life raft, registered EPIRB, VHF, GPS, unexpired flares, up-to-date charts, a full tool set, jack lines, harnesses, lifejackets and all U.S. Coast Guard-approved required items. If trying to save money is making decisions for you, reconsider owning a boat.
There are many websites and ads for delivery crew. Your best bet is to ask for recommendations from your broker or other people in the industry. Because you get what you pay for, price should be a secondary consideration—not the deciding factor—when choosing a delivery crew. Some companies take on unpaid crew who want to gain experience. Do you want them getting experience on your boat? The Captain is responsible for hiring experienced crew, and should be compensated sufficiently so as not to have to scrimp on inexperienced crew. Bringing a fourth crew unpaid member who wants to get experience is OK, but the first mate, and preferably second mate, should have sufficient offshore experience under their belts.
The other option is shipping your boat. It’s usually pricier; they have breakdowns and get behind schedule as well, but there is less wear and tear on your boat. You have to hire someone to get your boat to and from the ship, and work around the ship’s schedule. Prices are getting more competitive, so doing your homework is worthwhile.
Top Surfing Spots
Google the phrase “sailboat delivery Caribbean” to find pages of listings. Below are just a few:
http://www.boats.com/boat-transport/index.jsp: A fill-in form to obtain a quick shipping quote.
http://www.yacht-transport.com/: All about float-on/float off yacht transport.
http://www.yacht-transport.com/: Information-rich site about world-wide yacht transport.
Boat Buying Tutorial
Guide Tips for Buying a Boat
J. Summer Westman took an in-depth study into How To Buy a Boat. I think it is a tour that each of us in the Marine Industry needs a refresher every now and then – especially before you buy or sell your next boat. These same lessons are valuable for sail boats or power boats.
- Part 1 – How will I use my boat?
- Part 2 – What do I really want
- Top Five Buying Tips for Boat Insurance
- Tips on What to Consider When Buying Boat Insurance
- Why does Boat Insurance Cost So Much?
- Steps to Follow When Buying Boat Insurance
- Part 6 – The Budget: Slip Fees and Hurricane Storage
- Part 7 – The Budget: Maintenance Fees and Other Costs
- Part 8 – How to Find Your Boat
- Part 9 – The Art of Negotiation
- Part 10 – Brokers, Lawyers and Contracts! Oh My!
- Part 11 – Survey and Sea Trial
- Part 12 – Transporting your Boat
Here is a handy list of Boat Brokers in the Caribbean