November 10 to 12 saw one of the most successful showings of the St. Thomas Fall Yacht Show, which was presented by the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League (VICL). Brokers from all over the world came to check out the 48 boats that docked in Yacht Haven Grande to showcase their offerings. There were over 50 brokers attending the show, many coming straight from the BVI Boat Show in Tortola.
Under the management of Erik Ackerson, the Director of VICL, the 35-year old show this year was a well-organized, remarkable affair. A hopeful atmosphere for the season among the captains and crew also helped to foster the image of a successful show. Bruce and Laura Masterson got back into the charter business aboard their 45-foot catamaran Amaryllis three years ago. Recalling 2008, Laura said, “In September, everything just tanked. Everyone wanted to wait until the election to see what would happen. The phones just stopped ringing.”
This year it seems that things are looking up. Captain David Belle of catamaran La Bella Vita and Fair Wind Sailing School noted that he’s seen a rise both in the bookings for his sailing school and his term charters. As with most of the boats at the show, he was taking it as an opportunity to put his boats on the brokers’ radar screens. He hadn’t ever done the show before, but he was hoping signing with a broker would help boost business a little more as the economy improved.
In fact, it seemed many at the show were first-timers there. Some were even new to charter industry as a whole. Captain Chris Allison and Kelly Miller own the 54-foot luxury motor-sailor the Verna Breeze. They lived aboard and cruised the Caribbean for nine years, but when the economy went bad last year, they decided to start chartering. The boat is equipped for a small charter of two to four people, and Chris and Kelly are optimistic about their first charter season. “At first we were a little scared about how the brokers would receive us, and the changes they’d want us to make, but the feedback has been really pleasant and positive,” said Kelly. When asked if she had any trepidations about chartering, she replied, “We’ve had some amazing experiences aboard this boat, and now we get to share some of those experiences with others. The islands are so pretty. All we need now are some customers!”