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Tips and Tricks for Transporting Your Yacht

There are many reasons why yacht owners desire to move their vessels from one location to another. For Jim Tunick, whose home is St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the motivation was founded in the advantages of buying and selling a yacht in Florida.

Doing the delivery yourself can be an adventure, says Tunick. “It can be a fun time. We tried that a couple of years ago, just after I bought my second boat, a 44-foot Island Gypsy. We had a nice cruise to the Bahamas, but then found we needed to have some work done. So, we took the boat back to Florida. By then, we didn’t have the time to do the delivery trip ourselves.”

The decision to hire a delivery crew versus use a yacht transport ship, says Tunick, “all boils down to time and economics.”

Economics-wise, he says, the costs can be similar or even slightly in favor of the transport ship. “Consider that you have to hire a delivery captain and crew, pay for their air fare back, buy fuel and supplies, and then there’s the intangible expense of the wear and tear on the vessel.”

Less wear and tear on the yacht is one of the benefits of using a yacht transport ship, says Ann Souder, the Newport, RI-based sales manager of the East Coast/Caribbean region for Dockwise Yacht Transport LLC, a company with headquarters in the U.S. and France. “The advantage of shipping is the yacht arrives in the same condition as it was loaded, on time and safely delivered.”

For those who are considering a yacht transport service, here’s what to consider and what to expect.  First, says Tunick, who has used a yacht transport service three times – for his 30-foot Bertram, 44-foot Island Gypsy, and currently-owned 55-foot Fleming, “go online, look at available schedules and see what matches with what you’d like to accomplish. After this, either Email or call for a quote. You usually can get a 24-hour turnaround answer or less. Booking forms are also usually available on-line.”

Dockwise’s Souder says, “East Coast ports of call for our company are Newport, RI and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, to Freeport, Bahamas, and in the Caribbean, St. Thomas and Martinique. Yachts to be shipped are given a specific date and time for loading and should be available at the ship when they are instructed.”
Most of the U.S. East, West and Gulf ports are serviced by Peters & May Ltd., a global freight and logistics company headquartered in Southampton, UK, with offices in 10 countries around the world. David Pittman, a company spokesman, says that in the Caribbean, “Although we can offer services from many ports we prefer Tortola because it seems to suit clients best. Shipments are concentrated out from Europe in November and back to Europe in April/May.”

As for preparing for the transport paperwork, Dockwise’s Souder says, “The owner or captain fills in a form telling us about the yacht’s dimensions and contact information, provides a copy of the registry and the underbody configuration and our company processes all the rest, including customs clearances.”

Peters & May’s Pittman says, “The total shipment has to be planned and worked out, including all export and import paperwork. VAT and Duty may be issues when transporting yachts across borders.”

As for preparing the yacht itself? “The yacht should be prepared by removing cushions, dodgers, head sails and covering the mainsail cover,” says Souder.  Fenders are placed on both sides for entering and exiting the ship. Tenders, dinghies, fuel cans should all be lashed down.  Double bow and stern lines should be ready to be tossed to crew on board the ship as the yacht enters its assigned space.”  Peters & May’s Pittman, adds, “The hull should be secure with all services and fuel switched off.”

Some yacht transport firms, like Peters & May, load boats via crane.
“We always have a diver on hand for all loading operations, to be sure that yachts are lifted correctly from water to deck,” says Pittman

Others, such as Dockwise, float the ship, and vessels are driven aboard.
Driving on, says Tunick, “is like driving into a small slip. You go slowly, carefully. The crew tells you exactly what to do.”  Once aboard either type of transport ship, vessels are well secured.

To offload, Dockwise’s Souder says, “You need an owner or captain and crew to drive the yacht off.” 

Peters & May’s Pittman explains his company’s system: “Yachts are offloaded by the ship’s crane or a dockside crane. This can often be direct into the water, or onto the quay where road transport would have been arranged once destination customs clearance is affected.”

For Tunick, the opportunities of a yacht transport ship in the future may lay more globally than just utilitarian transport between the eastern U.S. and Caribbean. “There’s the opportunity to transport your own boat to the Mediterranean or Pacific for pleasure cruising. You’d have to link legs together like you do when you travel by plane, but the opportunity is there.”

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