This month All At Sea takes its annual look at Charter Trends, and if any industry is in a permanent state of flux then it’s the charter boat industry. It seems that every week a charter boat offers guests something new and just keeping up with it makes me dizzy. On boats that are on a par with luxury hotels, services are out of this world. Be it food or fun, all tastes are catered for. Want a massage? No problem, many of the superyachts have a masseuse onboard … and a hairdresser … and a spa … and a submarine … and a helicopter.
When a 120ft charter boat carrying guests of all ages anchored close to us a few months ago, I watched in awe as the crew went to work deploying the water toys … all, it seemed, at the double. Many of the toys went unused or were used once and then forgotten about. There were so many toys that I was sure the yacht would list when the crew piled them all back onboard. The crew did the work in a very professional way, and with a ‘nothing is too much trouble’ attitude, which is the way it should be.
The charter boat industry rode out the financial downturn of the last few years and the future looks bright. There are, however, a few clouds on the horizon. When seasoned brokers talk openly about possible damage to the industry in places like the British Virgin Islands thanks to the threat of increasing fees, fees that ultimately will be passed to the customer, then it is time for stakeholders to take note. Some Caribbean governments have short memories. In the past, certain islands pushed fees beyond acceptable limits and it took a drop in the number of visiting yachts to make them think again. Unfortunately, and to their chagrin, what took a short time to damage took a long time to repair. Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself and governments looking to solve their budget woes by increasing fees on visiting yachts – private and charter – first consult industry specialists. As attractive as areas of the Caribbean are, squeezing more and more money out of an industry that can float its business elsewhere doesn’t make sense.
Plying the same waters as the term charter boats are hundreds of boats that every day take tourists to the scenic beaches and bays that have made the Caribbean famous. Day charter boats come in all shapes and sizes and include powerboats, sailboats, multihulls and monohulls, pirate ships and semi-submersibles. There are even Venetian gondolas. Day charters offer booze cruises, diving expeditions, pub crawls, super-fast sailing on retired race boats and more. We paid a visit to Captain Neil Robert, owner of a popular day charter boat who has been in the trade for almost 20-years. We asked Cap’n Robert what it takes to make a success of sailing off into the sunset every evening. If you think this way of making a living is for you, then turn to page 86 to find out more.
On ocean passages I love chance encounters with creatures of the deep. The thrill of seeing a pod of whales or watching flying fish burst from the water like a fist full of silver coins never loses its allure. But it’s not just creatures of the deep that visit boats on passage and I have had some wonderful encounters with birds. I always log these visits but now, thanks to ‘Birding Aboard’ such information can help in conservation efforts and all sailors can get involved. It’s easy. Just take a picture of your feathered visitor, note the time and place, and when you get a chance email the information to the ‘SeaBC’citizen science project. They will love you for it and you will be doing your bit for conservation. It’s also a whole lot of fun, especially if you are sailing with kids. See page 52 for details.