DID YOU BUY your boat for weekend recreation and find it takes four days of maintenance for every two days of enjoyment? Have you canceled a summer vacation on the boat, because the air conditioning wasn’t working? Do you live more than a few hours away from where you keep your boat? Do you love operating your boat, but have a hard time remembering where to check the engine oil?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you should consider hiring a yacht management company to help keep up with routine maintenance, so you can focus on enjoying the boat. “What?” you say. “Don’t yacht managers just take care of big yachts? I can’t afford to pay a management company to look after my boat.” That may be, but it’s also possible you can’t afford not to.
Maybe the term is confusing you, or you don’t consider your boat a yacht. Whatever the size of your boat and regardless of what you call it, a vessel management company is likely near you that can not only help you enjoy your boat, but possibly increase the value as well. Well-maintained boats depreciate less than ones poorly maintained.
Contrary to what most boaters think, yacht managers do not just manage large yachts or work for absentee owners. Bill McLean, of Williams’ Yacht Management in Annapolis, MD, said in the 20 years he and his partner Tim Boteler have owned their business, the average size boat they take care of is about 45 feet and more than 60% of his clients live near their boat.
Yacht management is also not an “all or nothing” proposition. A good yacht management company will let you buy their services on an a la carte basis. One boat owner I spoke with said, “With a 50-foot boat, there is always something to fix, clean or polish. With a yacht management service, I can do as little or as much as I want. I like to tinker and can fix most things, but I don’t want large projects. I let the professionals do all the heavy work, along with cleaning and waxing. We all have busy schedules, and this allows more time to enjoy the boat and gives confidence there is an expert eye watching it.”
Not all yacht management companies operate the same way. Some are strictly managers and subcontract all the work to others. They literally manage the work done on your boat instead of you. Other companies directly employ workers to do some of the work, such as detailing, winterizing, and simple maintenance, only bringing in subcontractors for complicated electrical and mechanical work.
In either case, yacht management companies likely know all of the best marine contractors and get better pricing and response time from them. You may call a marine air conditioning technician once every few years, but a successful yacht manager with a full clientele may call them a dozen times a year. The technicians want to keep a good yacht management company happy, as they are a potential source of a lot of business.
When considering a yacht management company, look carefully at how they will bill you. Billing should be completely transparent, and they should only bill you for their time. If they bring in a subcontractor to work on your boat, you should know who that contractor is and see all his invoices. A yacht management company is most benefits you in the role of a manager, not as a middleman marking up the subcontractor’s work.
Another way to evaluate the value and cost of using a yacht management company is to look at how the company charges for its service. Is it by the hour or by the foot or size of your boat? Each method has advantages and disadvantages, so discuss with them what works best for each of you.
Yacht managers also bring value by their experience. Problems on a boat often come from a variety of causes. Experienced yacht managers have seen more on the multiple boats they manage than hopefully you will ever experience on your boat. Their expertise can save you time and money by zeroing in on the likely cause of a problem right away.
If you’ve been boating long, you probably have a good relationship with the boat yard where your vessel is hauled and serviced. Hiring a yacht manager doesn’t have to interfere or replace that relationship; in an ideal world it enhances it. A good service yard manager and a good yacht manager do not view each other as competitors, but rather partners in helping you maintain your boat.
Plus, yacht managers often have a better relationship with a yard in the same way they do with technicians. Due to the number of boats a yacht manager can bring to a yard, service managers typically take good care of them. This has the potential to move you up in the schedule or give you a quicker turnaround in your project.
For boaters working full-time jobs, a yacht manager may save you money by meeting technicians on your boat during the week when you might otherwise have to take time off work. They can stay on top of technicians working on your boat, because it is their full-time job, while it’s a distraction from yours.
If you keep your boat in an active boating area, you should have multiple yacht management companies from which to choose, so interview them carefully.
- Ask how they invoice.
Most will ask for a credit card number to keep on file, so make sure their policy is to send you a copy of invoices to review before they automatically use your credit card for payment.
- Ask for references.
Avoid any that require an annual contract or an annual fee or retainer. If they employ technicians on their own staff, inquire if they are ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) certified.
- Ask about the retention rate of their technicians.
A high turnover in employees is not a good sign. Many yacht managers have long-term clients. Sean McClash of Tampa Bay Yacht Management said about one third of his customers have kept them on to manage their second and third boats.
If you’re still not sure whether a yacht management company increases the value of your boat, let’s look at the definition of value as it relates to a boat. The value of a boat is the ratio of what you invest into it, divided by the enjoyment you extract from it. If this is purely a financial equation for you, maybe you shouldn’t be boating.
Boating can be an expensive leisure activity, but ask yourself what is the value of the friendships you’ve made boating or the places you visited aboard the boat? If you boat as a family, what is the value of the gift you’ve given your children of time spent together on your boat?
Imagine the value of every time you arrive at your boat, you can start the engines, pull the lines and go out to enjoy it. Also, imagine if every time you arrive at your boat, it’s clean and everything is in working order. This is the value a yacht manager can bring … so maybe they’re not so expensive after all.