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Yacht Deliveries – Power and Sail

“Any man who would go to sea for pleasure would go to hell for a pastime.”

The Lure of the Sea – I read that somewhere years ago and imbibed its truth, yet after more than three decades of deliveries and charters in the US, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico I still get the urge to get behind the wheel and head offshore. I have a hardy band of naval veterans to assist in any delivery as far north as Halifax and as far south as Buenos Aires.

We will prepare your vessel for sea, maintain it during the passage and deliver it to you in better condition than we found it. We can handle any power or sailing vessel up to 90′ long and can do domestic and international passages.

Owner Assisted Deliveries – Most delivery skippers will not do the trip with the owner aboard. However, we are happy to do owner-assisted passages supplying captain and crew or captain alone as appropriate. This is often an excellent opportunity for the owner to gain or expand on his/her boating experience. The shared adventure of time underway is often the beginning of great and lasting friendships. However, while motoring up the Chesapeake may be fun and relaxing, an offshore passage is rarely a joy ride. Owner is welcome to come along as passenger or crew. If the owner signs on as crew he/she will be expected to adhere to the same standards of self-discipline, watch-keeping, and competence as the rest of the crew. If the owner cannot or will not stand his assigned watch or perform other assigned duties, that means I and the rest of the crew have to take up the slack. This may lead to a modification in the daily rate, route and/or schedule. ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION WHILE UNDERWAY.

Delivery costs – Most jobs are quoted as an estimate by a daily rate because of the unknowns of boat condition and vagaries of the wind and sea. Daily rates are $300 for captain and $150 per day for each mate.  The clock usually starts when we reach the boat and stops when we are paid at the end of the voyage. We may charge travel time when considerable time and distance is involved. This is subject to prior agreement.

We generally do not give firm quotes because vessel condition, mechanical breakdowns, and weather may extend the passage. If you absolutely must have a fixed rate we will do so based upon the condition of the boat. Please understand that when agreeing to a fixed, all-inclusive rate we will allow ourselves some margin for the possibility of these delays. Thus, going with a  fixed rate  removes the financial guesswork but is only occasionally the cheapest option. We make fixed rate quotes only after a thorough personal inspection of the vessel. However, we will provide a fixed-rate estimate subject to renegotiation upon personal inspection.

Thus, if your vessel is in good condition and well-maintained, the daily rate is much in your favor since we do not dally in port. If we are going to have to spend time repairing and coaxing the boat, you may be better off with a fixed rate.

Owner Responsibilities and Payment – Owner is responsible for captain and crew wages, travel expenses to the boat and back to Port Charlotte, supplies, parts, provisions, fuel, dockage, and all other expenses incidental to the voyage. Travel may be by air or rental car but must be arranged and agreed upon in advance. 100% of estimated out-of-pocket delivery expenses and 50% of estimated captain and crew fees must be paid in cleared US funds prior to departure.  Some owners prefer to supply a credit card for paying expenses and record-keeping purposes. Most use cash or a combination of the two. We do not accept credit cards for wages due captain and crew. Payment in full in US funds is required upon completion of the delivery. This may be in the form of cash (preferred) or check. Payment by check must be approved in advance and is acceptable for domestic voyages on US flagged vessels only.

So why hire us? – We are mature, responsible professionals with decades of experience in power and sailing yachts of all types. Ed is a 200-ton USCG licensed captain, engineer, and ABYC electrician all in one. He has skippered motor yachts to 120-feet and sailing vessels to 65-feet in length. He stopped logging miles when he went over 50,000 back in the 1990s. Woody is experienced with power and sail, a former industrial electrician, a talented boatwright, and experienced solo passage maker. Mick grew up on boats in the Virgin Islands and is a highly skilled woodworker and boatbuilder. We are all three proficient navigators.

We are not a referral service or labor pool. You will be dealing directly with the men who will deliver your boat, not a broker, “delivery manager,” or novice in a cubicle. We are knowledgeable, experienced mariners who exercise critical and rational thinking in risk assessment, voyage planning, vessel maintenance and operation.

Call or Email for an Estimate – There are many variables to be considered in giving an accurate estimate or quote. Time of year, weather patterns, route, travel expenses, type, size, speed, and condition of vessel are just a few. Therefore, each delivery is analyzed and planned on an individual basis. Please contact us to discuss your special needs.

A few very important considerations:

Position Monitoring – We maintain a GPS SPOT so you can monitor our progress.

Size of crew – We do deliveries with captain and one or two crew dependent upon the nature of the delivery. Daylight operation can be done with only two persons. Overnights require all three of us.

Insurance – Vessel must have loss and liability insurance. We will require a copy of the insurance binder to be onboard for the duration of the delivery.

Proof of Ownership – Copy of title or documentation must be onboard.

Running Letter – We will need a notarized letter from you summarizing our agreement and giving us permission to transport the boat. This can be a simple statement since our signed contract will spell out the details.

Readiness for sea – It is in the owner’s interest to have the boat ready to go when we arrive. It saves us time and often saves you money. Major concerns are clean fuel filters, clean bottom and prop, clean heat exchanger, clean oil, adequate spare parts and tools, etc. We are very skilled in the arts of maintenance and can attend to all these matters but it will be in addition to the agreed delivery fee.

Underwater Inspection – We almost always dive the boat and do an underwater inspection before departure. Over the years, we have discovered a few unpleasant conditions that surprised the owner. Exceptions are made in extremely polluted or cold water or when we can get a verbal or written report from the diver who recently cleaned the bottom.

Rigging – Sailboat owners are strongly encouraged to have a reliable, professional rigger inspect rigging and chainplates. These items have limited life, grow brittle with age, and defects are often well-hidden from even the most experienced sailor. If your sailboat is over twenty years old and has never had the chainplates or rigging replaced this inspection with written report becomes critical. We have seen chainplates fail in as little as 12 knots of wind.

Recent Survey – A recent survey by a reputable, professional, fully certified NAMS or SAMS surveyor is very helpful to have onboard. It can expedite vessel preparation and thus save you money, often more than the cost incurred in the survey. Not all surveyors are created equal, even certified ones.  Despite the efforts of NAMS and SAMS there are some incompetent, negligent, or even fraudulent surveyors who are still certified. Feel free to contact us for general guidance and be sure your surveyor is approved by your insurance company.

Safety Gear – We have our own EPIRBS, PFDs, and harnesses. Offshore passages require a liferaft. If one is not onboard and up to date it can be rented and the cost included in delivery expenses.

Vessel Condition – Taking a boat on a long passage is very serious business – even if only going up the ICW. You are entrusting us with the care of your “baby.” We are entrusting our lives to the structural and mechanical integrity of your yacht.  Therefore, an accurate representation of the mechanical and physical condition of the vessel will go far to easing the process for everyone. It will expedite the delivery to know when the boat was last hauled, bottom scrapped by a diver, condition of belts, hoses, impellers, tanks, packing glands, cutlass bearings, engine issues, etc. This helps our planning and we can allocate time for preparation and repairs as needed and bring appropriate tools, parts, and dive gear if necessary.

Necessary spare parts and tools – This is a partial list.

Belts, assorted hose clamps, tapered wooden plugs, impellers, fuel pump, complete socket set, assorted screwdrivers, set of combination wrenches (standard and metric as applicable), vise grips, adjustable wrenches, pipe wrench, packing gland wrenches, hack saw with spare blades, assortment of stainless steel fasteners, duct tape, flashlights with spare batteries, spare fuel filters, assorted gasket material, silicon sealant, engine and gear oil, funnel, spare fuel container, 5-gallon bucket, current fire extinguishers and flares.

Some or all of these items can be supplied by us though they should be standard equipment aboard any vessel.

CAUTIONARY TALES:     The keys to a successful yacht delivery are rational planning, thorough preparation, and prudent judgement at all times.

Anyone who equates a delivery with cruising should read John Kretschmer’s “Flirting with Mermaids.” Kretschmer, aka Capt Crunch, is a highly competent though imprudent skipper and more than a bit of a masochist. He evidently enjoys being beat up, overworked, abused, and underpaid. He takes on deliveries that any rational, judicious skipper would run away from. Nevertheless, the book is very enlightening and a series of cautionary tales.

I do not mean to sound melodramatic, but I have known two people to be lost at sea on simple deliveries and know of a professional yachtswoman in Lauderdale who has had two boats sink out from under her on deliveries. People who are new to boating or have spent their boating lives in protected waters seldom understand the force of the sea or the things that can go wrong aboard a boat. If the boat is broken they can ignore it or call a mechanic. if it breaks down underway they can call Seatow. If the weather kicks up they can have a barbeque ashore instead of a boat ride. On deliveries, we rarely have such options.

Many years ago I lost a friend doing a routine sailboat delivery from Newport to Lauderdale. She was sailing with only one other person aboard a 50′ trimaran so they were standing watch alone, two hours on, two hours off. She took the watch at 1900 on July 4 off Delaware. When her mate came topside to relieve her at 2100 she was gone and was never seen again. Sandy was an outstanding mariner, with far more ocean passages than I will ever have. Yet she perished in good weather from a sound boat because she was standing watch alone.

About the same time another friend was running a junker powerboat from Lauderdale to Puerto Rico. He disappeared between Great Inagua and Puerto Plata. We never found out what happened for certain, but he had sailed short handed, and rumor was that he had picked up a mate hanging around the dock in Great Inagua. Res ipsa loquitur.

Norma Trease is a highly competent sailor who has gone over the side twice. The first time was from a poorly maintained, short handed, steel sailboat, owned by an obnoxious character who habitually skimped on maintenance, and captained by an Army veteran desperate for work. A thru hull let go south of Bermuda and the boat was beyond saving by the time the watch realized what had happened. They went over the side into the life raft with little serviceable gear and an old EPIRB with a broken antenna. Fortunately, the captain was able to MacGiver an antenna for the defective EPIRB out of a soda can and they were rescued within a day.

Next year she went over the side again. This time from a 52′ Irwin sailboat. The captain had routed a propane hose through a bulkhead but had not installed chafe guard – an ABYC requirement. The hose chafed against the raw plywood underway, propane seeped into the bilge, and you can guess the rest.

I had a friend nearly lose his 41′ Challenger midway between Bimini and Miami, only a 45 mile passage. The rudder mounting on those boats was notoriously weak and this one had developed a substantial crack that had not been detected. It gave way 20 miles outside Miami when the Gulf Stream kicked up. The rudder fell out and he was left with a 2″ hole in the bottom of the boat. It was difficult to access of course, but he managed to plug it and save his family, his life, and his boat.

Note that foul weather was a contributing factor in only one of these losses. It was either sailing short handed, lousy maintenance, or a combination that cost two lives and three boats.

More recently, I was retained to run an old Hunter from Port Charlotte to Panama City. I planned the voyage precisely with my mate, Al, an experienced and capable sailor. The delivery was cancelled a few days before departure when the owner found a captain and crew for free. This worked out for the best because a few days later Al had a severe and debilitating stroke. Had we sailed as scheduled I would have been somewhere between Clearwater and Apalachicola, with my friend dead or dying in the cockpit. With only an old VHF at hand, we would have had no communication with shore and my mate would probably have died.

I could easily make this dreary essay ten times as long and regale you with tales of batteries coming loose, old generators breaking away from their corroded mounts in a storm, crab pot lines and debris wrapping around shafts at night, fuel tanks leaking, summer squalls that roar up out of nowhere, and many more. More than once I have had to go over the side at night, knife in hand, to cut flotsam off a shaft or rudder. Most deliveries come off without much trouble. But the sea is not forgiving and even a short jaunt can go south fast.

You are hiring me because of my experience, expertise, and professionalism. I have been at this for almost four decades, over half that time in Lauderdale. If I tell you we need to make a certain repair or purchase certain equipment, I am not trying to generate income, just trying to make a potentially hazardous undertaking safer. Same thing with the route and schedule I select. It may be your boat, but it is my life and the life of my crew at risk. There is absolutely no compromise on safety ever.

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