I have to admit to a twinge of guilt when callers call me a “middle-man” . It only happens occasionally, but I have had customers tell me in no uncertain terms and using a slightly accusatory tone, “Oh, so you don’t actually own the boats on your website. You are a middle-man, then?” At this point I’m instantly and unavoidably placed on the defensive. I have to explain who I am and what role I play in the charter food chain and why the industry needs me. I bring out my 15 second “Elevator Speech” well practiced and honed over time.
I have written extensively about this on several occasions. But when you come to think of it, a first time charterer is in a daunting and difficult place. Horror stories abound of captains who refuse to go ashore to replenish dwindling beer stocks, cheap bad quality booze, running out of toilet paper, running out of coffee, owners who abscond with the funds, boats that don’t show up – named storms that cause cancellations, rude crew members – we’ve all heard the stories.
She had heard all the horror stories and was on the defensive from day one. She went on the Internet and did her search thing with the Charter Company keywords, and came up with the usual array of the usual suspects (or as I like to put it, the different players in the industry) These range from individual charter boats who have their own webpage, brokerage houses, fly-by-nights and the larger bareboat companies that also charter with pot-luck skippers and chefs from the island pool (also called free-lance crews).
Thoroughly confused with this seemingly disorganized selection of different players in the industry, she opted for what seemed to be the safest way: she contacted two companies she knew and trusted. One is a big bareboat company and the other was Travelocity.
She went with the least expensive and wound up with her group on a chartered catamaran in the BVI with 4 cabins and an unidentified captain and an unidentified chef – the two most important people on the charter who can make your charter an incredible experience or an absolute nightmare. In addition to this, the charter company placed another couple on board, total strangers, who occupied the one empty cabin. Luckily for her group, the chef turned out to be a gem. They were not so lucky with the skipper because it was his first charter, he was an experienced captain but not a charter captain.
In summary their experience was acceptable due to the chef / mate but they had not counted on sharing their vacation with strangers because a boat can be a pretty darn small and confined space especially with people you don’t know.
Lessons learned: that’s what charter brokers are for – we check out the boats and the crews, we know who’s good, bad or indifferent. We can usually get you the best deal too; volume talks. Find a broker you trust and stick with him or her. Do we make mistakes? Of course we do, NOR can we organize the perfect weather..!!
But you are lowering the risks and putting the odds in your favor. It doesn’t cost any more either because the boats pay us, you get our service for free. Make sure you choose a broker that belongs to one of the recognized charter broker associations like CYBA, FYBA, AYCA or MYBA.
These associations have ethics committees and impose a very high standard on their membership. These organizations also have considerable clout with the owners and the crew members so there will always be someone in your corner if things do not go as they should.
Voila, the middleman has been vindicated.