Written by Tim Armstrong, Delivery Skipper for Beachspace Marine
Having delivered lots of types of cruising boats over the last four years, covering over 50,000nm, I am often asked for my view on various boats. One of the most common discussions I have with prospective buyers are the pros and cons of buying an ex-charter vessel.
As I write this, I’m sailing a NEEL 45 Trimaran between Opua NZ and Brisbane. Fun boat, light and very quick, but not the boat for everyone. Just like buying an ex-charter boat may or may not be the multihull for everyone. My wife and I purchased a new FP Helia 44 in 2012, thinking that second hand let alone ex-charter was NOT the way to go. But years later we’ve learned with all these experiences and miles, that there is a boat to suit everyone! Sometimes its new, other times it’s second hand with that special layout and fit out your looking for, and then there are the charter yachts. Designed in layout and purpose for fitting a family on board in relative comfort with reasonable performance. As the owner on board the NEEL Trimaran with me said, ‘it’s all about bums on seats’ in the charter business.
There are literally hundreds of boats out there, but if you’re looking at ex-charter multihulls, you’re mostly looking at the larger brands of Lagoon, Leopard and to a lesser extent Fountaine Pajot, in the 40’ to 45’ range. These are the major brands in charter, both in Australia and overseas. In Australia you will see some Seawinds and other smaller brands, but not many as these boats don’t have the volumes looked for in charter operations.
So here are a few things that come up in conversation when talking about the ex-charter multihull: –
The boats looked for by charter companies are configured in such a way that it can accommodate a larger number of people than the three cabin owners’ versions etc. In this sense Lagoon and Leopard have built boats with this market in mind. More recently FP’s are entering the charter market in bigger numbers since their later designs have combined more volume with their traditional good looks and performance. One only has to go to the Caribbean lately to see rows of charter Helia 44’s, now often outnumbering the Lagoons and Leopards. It’s this volume that’s a winner for those expecting to entertain lots, or plan on cruising with a family. These are the ideal layouts. Mostly they don’t have the expansive owner’s suite, but hey your usually only in your cabin to sleep, right! Just because you have frequent guests, or family that doesn’t mean the four-cabin version is wasted space when you don’t have them around! There’s all that extra storage, or workspace, or room to get some alone time. It just depends how you want to play it.
A couple I met recently bought a 4 cabin FP Belize 43 ex- charter. They each have their own cabin for sleeping (I didn’t ask which one was the snorer), have a spare cabin for guests and utilize the fourth for storage and workspace. Further, they preferred the Belize configuration of only one head per hull. The configuration suited their purposes.
So if you’re looking at a configuration for family and/or guests, or a snorer, maybe the ex-charter is for you!
Number of Heads
Why focus on toilets!!! Most of the charter multi’s like Lagoons, Leopards or later FP’s have four heads and with separate showers. For those that had to fix a marine toilet you might question why one would see this as a positive! If your cruising with kids or guests having four bathrooms may be a blessing! A couple starting out on their cruising adventure often have kids and grandkids that want to visit. That space and extra facilities may make managing ‘the tribe’ a whole lot easier. I delivered a boat for another couple recently that have bought ex-charter specifically for the four heads. One for owners, two for guests and one converted to a laundry/work room/ storage area. That was their plan with extended cruising in mind. Another consideration is holding tanks. If you are fortunate enough to have pre-fitted holding tanks they can be a plus for the extended stay in that pristine anchorage! Whilst Sandy and I were cruising the Solomon Islands on the Helia 44 we had three heads. With two crew/guests on board it gave us alternatives. When one guest head failed (as they sometimes invariably do) we always had an alternative without compromising our own privacy.
A boat in charter does get used a LOT, but usually in conditions unlikely to place undue strain on the boat! Maintenance is usually pretty good by the charter companies. I recently did a delivery with an owner who had just removed the boat from charter and was putting it up for sale. His charter contract required complete inspection after each charter (including below water line) where any issues are identified and repaired. This is after every charter! The charter company has a responsibility to keep the boat seaworthy. While the boats are not kept at the standard the required for blue water passage making, they are maintained at a level sufficient for enclosed waters fun. The wear and tear are more likely to be cosmetic than structural. So, after purchase much of the work can be DIY and give you the opportunity learn more about the boat before heading offshore.
The big one! There is a negativity in the market over ex-charter boats. Those either straight out of charter or those purchased out of charter, re-fitted and resold.
- There is a big consideration regarding the cost of purchasing a basic ex-charter boat just released from charter. It’s not that it’s a bad or unsound boat, it’s just basic, being equipped for charter and little else. These boats are usually put into charter as a way for the owner to offset costs whilst having access to a boat for considerable periods of the year. Those owners will probably remain in the same areas in which the boat usually operates under charter. For that reason, minimal equipment is added to the boat beyond what is required for safe operation in enclosed or semi-enclosed waters (in Australia the Whitsunday Islands) as per its survey rating. It’s going to be a basic boat. If you purchase a vessel such as this you may get a good deal, not because it’s a charter boat, but because it’s basic with few extras.
- If you chose to purchase ex-charter from overseas you may get a very cheap boat, but standards are nowhere near as stringent as in Australia. Add to that transport and import costs prior to refit cost. The overseas purchase option may suit you if you’re planning a Seabattical from the Med back to Australia! But check out You Tube to see what charter boats go thru in the Med!
- If you purchase a bargain ex-charter boat with basic fit out, and plan to go cruising offshore, there’re be considerable extra expenditure needed to appropriately equip the boat for such an adventure. These basic ex-charters are usually very competitively priced for what they are. For those that are handy and like working on boats, they provide a blank canvas from which you can build your dream cruiser, whilst having the boat to get used to while you plan how your fit out.
- There are boats on the market where owners have done exactly as discussed above. Bought the basic boat, done the fit out and headed out! If you’re looking at one of these boats don’t let the fact that it was once in charter put you off. If it’s the layout you want, has the fit out you want and you take all due diligence prior to purchase, go for it!
All these charter boats, whether just out of charter or have had private owners since charter are usually boats from reputable builders. There are examples of these designs having sailed the globe numerous times. Ex-charter should not mean a particular boat is off your short list. It’s another boat to consider in terms of what you want. So don’t ask ‘What’s wrong with the ex-charter boat, ask what’s right’. The grandkids may love the two bow cabins!