When most people think of a family vacation, chartering a megayacht is not usually one of the possible options. That’s because most people don’t have tens of thousands of dollars or more to spend on a week or two in paradise.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a market for it. There is, and Derecktor Shipyards is right in the middle of it.
Derecktor Dania, Dania Beach, Fla., calls itself a complete large yacht facility, regularly handling construction, repair and refit of yachts up to 200'.
“We call ourselves a full-on working shipyard. We are a full-service yard with multiple boats and multiple customers,” Derecktor project manager Mark Russell said in 2020 WorkBoat interview prior to the pandemic.
Last February, there were boats throughout the property, many of them getting painted in addition to other services. For example, there was a boat, about a 100-footer, wrapped in a cocoon of white tarp getting a new paint job that would cost about $1 million. “It costs about $60,000 to $80,000 just to remove all the deck hardware,” Russell said. It also takes weeks just to erect the scaffolding.
Derecktor Dania has about 80% repeat customers. Russell said some of the yard’s repeat customers own boats that are used only by the owners themselves, “but most of the boats are chartered.”
More than any sector of the workboat sector, passenger vessels have taken the biggest hit due to restrictions put into place because of Covid-19. From coast to coast, tour, excursion, sightseeing, overnight cruise vessels and dinner boats have had to shut down for at least part of the past year. Those that are in operation are handling a fraction of the customers that they usually do, and more importantly, a fraction of what they need to survive financially.
Derecktor Dania, however, is still thriving and then some.
“We’ve had some challenges over the past year like everyone,” Justin Beard, Derecktor Shipyards marketing manager, said in January. “But Dania continues to be a full-service yard.”
Inevitably, the question of Covid-19 comes up because it’s the pandemic that’s created most of the yard’s challenges. “Actually, the charter business has done better than you might have thought,” said Beard. “You can really social distance safely, and boat owners have been very particular about the protocols on their yachts.”
About 110 miles north of Dania Beach, plans to convert the century-old port of Fort Pierce into a repair and refit facility for the global fleet of megayachts and large sailing yachts are moving full speed ahead.
After a lengthy permitting and review process, Derecktor has been granted approval from federal and state agencies to begin construction of its newest shipyard — Derecktor Ft. Pierce. Derecktor officials broke ground at the port late last year.
“We’ve been going full bore since late November, early December,” said Beard. “We expect to be able to haul out by May 1.”
Derecktor has contracted Shoreline Foundation Inc. to develop a new haul-out basin at the port by excavating a 220'×50' portion of the existing concrete wharf and creating a slipway where the 1,500-ton mobile boat hoist will lift yachts up to 250' in length out of the water for service.
Construction also includes the installation of a utility loop spanning the perimeter of the facility and supplying power, water and fiberoptics; converting the aging Indian River Terminal into a state-of-the-art workshop; piping in a new high-hazard level two fire suppression system; repairing existing bulkheads; and a host of other necessary infrastructure improvements.
“This is a pivotal moment for Derecktor Shipyards and St. Lucie County,” said Beard. “While a tremendous amount of preparation has already gone into this project, the real work is just beginning. There will be an increased amount of construction activity at the port during the coming months as we prepare the facility for hauling operations.”
Derecktor anticipates construction of the slipway lasting approximately five months. At the same time, a 120'×75'×85' mobile boat hoist will be shipped from Cimolai Technology in Italy to Port Everglades, then trucked in containers to Fort Pierce. “This yard is going to be an economic driver for years to come,” said Beard.
The market for recreational boating exploded over the past nine months because of the pandemic. People took to the water to get away from people on land.
That scenario was also a driver for the chartered yacht market for boats under 100'. One of Clearwater, Fla.-based MarineMax’s specialties is catamaran charter yachts in destinations such as The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Whitsunday Islands (Australia), the Pacific Northwest, Greece, St. Lucia and Grenadines, and Northern Croatia.
Far more affordable than megayachts, these boats are similar to renting a condominium in one of these places. The price is not cheap, but if you can afford a condo, you can probably afford one of the 36', 44', 48' or 55' charter cats, especially if someone in your group can also drive the boat.
“All you have to do is prequalify by filling out one of our resumes,” said Raul Bermudez, vice president, MarineMax Vacations. “If that checks out, we give you a boat briefing and a chart briefing and you’re on your way.”
How affordable are these charters? The 36-footer with two cabins rents for about $5,000 a week; the 44-footer with three cabins is $8,000-$10,000 a week; the 48-footer has four cabins and will run about $10,000-$14,000 a week; and the 55-footer with five cabins is $18,000-$20,000 a week. “So, with two couples it’s half of that per couple,” said Bermudez. “Or you can vacation with four other couples on our 55-footer and split the price five ways and each have your own cabin.” It doesn’t seem so bad when you look at it that way.
If you have a little more coin in your pocket, you can hire a driver and a cook. MarineMax’s all-inclusive charter includes a captain, onboard chef, all meals and snacks based on your menu selections, beverages including spirits, beer and wine, fuel, snorkeling gear, stand-up paddle board and kayak. Also included are mooring fees, cruising taxes and yacht insurance. “There’s plenty to keep you busy,” said Bermudez.
Another way to go is to buy one of these yachts, similar to a condo owner who uses the condo for a certain amount of time each year and rents it out the rest of the year. MarineMax’s Charter Yacht Ownership Program offers two ways to get paid to vacation in the British Virgin Islands.
First, you have access to your boat for up to nine weeks each year without managing operating expenses like insurance, dockage or maintenance, while receiving monthly income and potential tax savings.
With the second option, Split Revenue Ownership, MarineMax handles the reservations, marketing and customer relations for chartering your boat while you benefit from 75% of the revenue generated. There are some expenses you’ll have to cover but with this option, you can use the boat as much and as often as you’d like.
How popular are these vacations? “We have a backlog of reservations,” said Bermudez.