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The Smarter Barter for Charter Boats

Photography provided by BVI Yacht Sales 

The British Virgin Islands is globally renowned as the most spectacular locale to spend a sailing vacation. Consistent trade winds, warm clear water, and very few hazards to yacht navigation all combine to make the BVI the charter capital of the world and a strong reason why residents and visitors covet boat ownership – but there is a wealth of knowledge in acquiring the right purchase…

A vast host of charter boats are available – most of which do either one or two ‘terms’ of charter. A term is typically 4-5 years for first tier, and another 5-6 years for second tier after which the boats will not work in bareboat charter anymore.The need to keep fresh boats entering a company means many vessels must be sold each season.

A quick review of www.soldboats.com shows that nearly a half of the boats to trade hands in the Caribbean each year were coming directly out of the charter fleets – clearly a popular way to buy a boat.

Since these boats are owned by private individuals and only managed by the charter company, you can often find sellers who have held a successful time with the boat, and want it sold quickly to seal the deal after that last charter is over.

This makes July and August opportune months to find comfortable transactions on boats here in BVI as the sailing season gradually slows down.

When buying an ex-charter boat, there are a few primary brands to choose from – the charter industry is very particular with boat preference. These boats are required to work week after week with often only an afternoon of ‘turnaround time’ in which the boat is cleaned and any service needed, performed. Charter companies wish to avoid any problems with the boat during charter as this leads to the expense of sending technicians on mobile service calls or worse still, having to ‘change-out’ boats.


Perhaps of further importance is the charter company’s wish to evade guests submitting unfavourable reviews or dispersing negative testimonies about issues on-board ‘ruining’ their vacation.

It is for this reason that you will notice a select few brands of boats working charter. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, Robertson & Caine, and Lagoon to name the most common you will see, have all proven themselves to be low maintenance and highly reliable in the charter field.

This is the reason why ex-charter boats are popular on the market. Bob Carson, owner of Southern Trades advocates, that individuals should buy charter businesses in buying their boats—a fully crewed yacht— because there are a great many advantages; the boat is already fully maintained in both mechanical and electrical functions, it’s cleaned regularly, has a consistent change of parts and you have a source of income while you own the boat; this in stark contrast to buying a yacht alone, using it intermittently and not taking proper care of it.

Maintenance is one of the most important aspects when buying a used boat, and understanding which companies do a great job is significant when considering the purchase of an ex-charter boat. No matter what boat you end up selecting, a qualified marine surveyor should be engaged to inspect the boat on your behalf prior to finalising any deal.

In recent discussions with the top marine surveyors working in the BVI, I learned that the active surveyors here see 50-100 charter boat surveys a year.

These professionals are very well versed in the intricate nature of each model and brand. According to Michael Hirst, of R.W. Hirst Marine Surveyors “Each brand and model typically have reasonably specific problems structurally…The key is finding the right boat, often you may have the ability to choose between a number of sister ships. If a buyer is given a choice of boats, we can do a quick walk-through inspection of each one (looking for the common faults of that model line) and then advise on which boat to go forward with the full survey.”

Buying a boat which is being discharged from the charter fleets can provide an excellent value to a buyer, if done carefully. Some of the key points are the young age of boats coming out of the fleets. This means that standing rigging, sails, tanks and keel bolts are all likely to be in fine condition – however, the higher engine hours and increased cosmetic wear and tear will reduce the selling price significantly.

With a thoughtful approach, one can acquire an excellent value on boats from a $30,000 budget cruiser to large cats at nearly one half their new price.

As Bill Bailey of Caribbean Marine Surveyors mentions, “They are good value for money. You are not buying any out-dated navigation equipment and can customize the boat as you want.”

Depending on the charter company, there will be different agreements with the owners of the boats as to what maintenance schedule is followed and thus the condition of the boats. Bill also noted that some companies’ boats will have a very short list of recommendations for repair, while others can be quite lengthy.

Concluding, this is a snippet of the information available to boat buyers here in the BVI – working with a broker as your representative and a marine surveyor as your independent inspector, will go a long way to ensure you get the best deal you can for cruising and enjoying the pristine waters of the Virgin Islands.

Brian Duff, Broker - BVI Yacht Sales

Brian Duff, Broker - BVI Yacht Sales

With experience from owning a variety of yachts, sailing on almost every type of boat out there, and accumulating many thousands of miles on the race course or cruising, Brian has worked in the yacht industry for 18 years. He has an intricate knowledge of yachts and he applies this to help his clients fully understand the boats he sells.
Brian Duff, Broker - BVI Yacht Sales

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