Yachting wasn’t a part of Ann McHorney’s background when growing up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. In fact, the closest she came was weekend waterskiing behind a friend’s family-owned cabin cruiser on the Allegheny River. Today, McHorney, who founded Select Yachts on St. Maarten in 2003, is a well-respected charter broker with over a quarter-century-plus of experience from the waterline up in the Caribbean and around the world.
“When I graduated from high school back in the early ’70s, the guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do. Of course, I had no idea, but I got the typical ‘Home Economics for girls’ question. I didn’t like to sew, but I did love to cook. Hence, I double majored in nutrition education and restaurant management at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. When I graduated, like so many others of my era, I headed south to Florida and landed in Fort Lauderdale,” she says.
McHorney got her first taste of chartering while working with caterers, cooking and serving on the ‘booze and cruise’ yachts that plied the Intracoastal Waterway. However, it was not until she headed south to the U.S. Virgin Islands on a whim for a lifestyle change that she really discovered sailing and term charters. This happened when work for one of the island’s provisioners led to acquaintances with charter chefs, one of whom encouraged McHorney to apply for a yacht chef position. Fortunately, after being turned down because she was clueless about how to sail, she landed a position on a 60ft schooner with two other crew and a captain that didn’t mind showing her the ropes. It didn’t take long before McHorney had deck work and varnishing as well as crew, stew, mate, watchkeeper, purser and chef skills under her belt. The charter industry soon played an intimate role in McHorney’s life in another way: meeting her husband.
“My husband, Jackson, who is a yacht captain, and I met at the old Yacht Haven Marina on St Thomas. We worked on different boats, but by the end of the season we decided to team up and sailed to New England to work for the summer,” she says.
Keeping up with the physical rigors of crewing can prove demanding after a while. McHorney looked for other ways to put her wealth of industry knowledge to good use. Plus, since her husband wanted to continue running boats, it made sense for both to continue in yachting. So, McHorney started working for a busy and successful charter company, The Sacks Group. A few years later, she decided to start Select Yachts, which is now headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. McHorney originally intended to only sell charters. However, after being asked to manage the yacht her husband ran by its owner, she started the company’s charter marketing department. Today, Select Yachts represents over 50 impressive yachts. Last summer, the company embarked on another endeavor by teaming up with Camper & Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina to host the first Grenada Charter Yacht Show in 2016.
“A lot of yachts love chartering in the Grenadines and Grenada; it is still the ‘old Caribbean’. I wanted brokers to have an opportunity to experience this wonderful area, and to give some of the boats that base and summer in the Windward Islands a chance to interact with some of the brokerage community,” she says.
What McHorney likes best about charter brokering is that it’s an adventure-based career. She also enjoys introducing a vacation on the water to people or helping them to make a good match of venue and yacht for their specific needs.
“The industry is pretty small,” she says, offering tips for those who would like to become charter yacht brokers. “Always be fair and honest with your competitors, who you will find in the end are a great asset and a wealth of information and help should you need it. Learn the boats, meet the crews, visit the venues. Join the organizations that teach and assist. Go to as many boat shows as you can and make friends with a few brokers with whom you can share your thoughts and questions. You can never have enough good information.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.