Boating: Exotic Escapes
To the inexperienced traveler, chartering a yacht to cruise the coast of Chile sounds like a straightforward proposition. After all, purveyors of the finest vacations afloat pride themselves on offering one-of-a-kind experiences around the globe. In reality, booking charters for destinations other than the standard locales of New England, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean can be challenging. Few owners take their yachts off the beaten path, and those who do so usually choose to enjoy the boats themselves rather than making their vessels available for charter.
Despite this difficulty, demand for exotic charters has risen to an unprecedented level. Bonnie Mims, charter fleet manager at Koch, Newton & Partners, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., international charter and brokerage firm, estimates that requests for exotic charters have increased by 35 percent from five years ago. “People are looking for alternative destinations,” she says. “They’ve done the Med a gazillion times. They’ve done the Caribbean. They’re looking to go someplace different.”
It is imperative, say yachting professionals, that travelers make their plans months in advance; brokers require as much leeway as possible when booking such cruises. “I never say ‘No,’ ” says Ann Landry, a broker at Koch, Newton. “I say ‘Later.’ You’re asking for something that will take time. This is extra-special custom service.”
Perhaps the most critical step is hiring a broker with experience in booking nontraditional charter cruises. A top-notch broker will know the location of potential yachts, the boats’ owners, and their future destinations. Shannon Webster, president of Shannon Webster Charters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recalls an occasion when several of her clients wanted to visit Thailand. Fortunately, she knew of a yacht scheduled to depart its Australian shipyard for that area, but the trip still took several months to coordinate. “I knew it was heading that way, so I was able to put it together,” says Webster. “But what if we had only a three-stateroom boat and they needed five? They’d either have to scale their party back or forfeit that venue.”
A broker can sometimes convince a yacht owner to cruise to an exotic location and make his vessel available. However, Landry says, she and other brokers need time to coax yacht owners to alter their routes, because repositioning often involves greater expenses and shortened schedules for the rest of the charter season. Depending on yacht size, location, time of year, and other variables, repositioning can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which is almost always paid by the client.
Professionals recommend hiring a broker who has traveled extensively, understands the complexities of positioning a yacht, knows which operators to trust in uncharted waters, and is familiar with a boat’s future destinations.