During Boot Düsseldorf this year, one of the topics of conversation circulating the show was how to optimise charter boat operations in marinas. With time constraints playing an increasing role in the decision to purchase a boat, the option of chartering permits boaters with limited leisure time to explore new cruising areas without the “hassle” of maintaining their own vessel. There can occasionally be drawbacks however such as high rental fees, poorly maintained vessels and delays due to late returns or damages caused by the previous charterer. Yacht rental, if not managed correctly by the marina, can also upset resident berth-holders due to late-night partying and the concern of inexperienced skippers manoeuvring in and out of the adjoining berth.
A good number of members from France, Croatia, Germany, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands responded to a survey describing charter activity in their marinas. The majority of fleets were owned by third-party local operators and mixed sail/motor although if one or the other, sailing yachts proved more popular. 30% of respondents reported year-round activity whereas the others were seasonal.
Over half of the charter activities had an office on site with a couple offering sailing and powerboat courses to both new customers and existing berth-holders. Beyond this, marina managers described a host of further benefits such as patronage of bars and restaurants, use of charter berths for visitors during high season when boats were out cruising, berth and storage space income, increased business for the yard and chandlers, hotel revenue and business activities and attracting future berth-holders to the marina. Charter companies were also described as generating attractive marketing content via both promotional material and guests’ posts on social media.
On balance, marinas were happy with their charter arrangements although where necessity or infrequent chartering had meant that commercial boats were berthed next to long-term residents, it was clear that where possible, separating commercial activity from privately used berths was generally the most ideal arrangement for all concerned. Extra costs related for higher rates of waste, utility use, car parking (often multiple cars per boat) and additional dock-staff assistance were all further considerations for contracts with charter companies. More experienced marinas mentioned that the pressure on yard staff for emergency repairs during change-over days in peak season was significant and with a large and successful fleet, it was certainly worth previewing repair programmes and services with charter companies ahead of time.
Many members mentioned the need to also preview helping charter guests with local knowledge and or when a lack of familiarity with the boat created problems. Where normally this should be the domain of a professional charter company, marinas felt that all too often these types of needs fell on the shoulders of marina staff. The bottom line it seems, is to ensure that marinas maintain good communications with charter operators and meet on a regular basis to keep each other informed on policy and good practice. This way relationships stay healthy and promote more integration between charter guests and residents.
Charter offers a fantastic way to get out and experience local cruising grounds and can be perfectly compatible with marina life. Indeed, as one member described: “We started as a charter company and now own our marina!”
Photo credit: 12.18. Boltenhagen Marina, Germany