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Charter Boat business?

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New Member
Aug 19, 2002
How profitable is the charter business? What kind of tips can you give?

I think I see a niche here in the floating platforms. The platforms are located 100 to 180 miles offshore. The local charter guys run classic sportfishers, with terrible fuel mileage and cruising speeds of only 20 some knots. This makes the trips at least 2 days.

With the event of the floaters, I don’t see the need for tuna towers and sportfisher boats. Instead of aimlessly trolling for hours, you can go straight to concentrated tuna, marlin, and wahoo. The type of boat I want is a custom made 32’ aluminum catamaran made by Parker Marin, with hyuscat hydrofoil system. With two 225 4-strokes it will cruise at 40 knots and is suppose to have an incredible soft ride. It would get us to the floater faster than any charter out there. Total cost with all electronic and fishing equipment, probably $200,000.

Being a CPA, I afraid the number don’t add up. I would need to charge at least a $1,000 a trip (for whole boat) and have about 110 trips a year, to be profitable. How likely is that? Would any of you spearos be interested in charter boat for a $1,000?
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Man are those fin cats fine! They are built about 10 min from my house in D' Iberville. As far as the rest of the plan goes here is my take on it...

1. While the numbers you presented are realistic...they are probably unobtainable in the first year or two. The real cost is in uncertainty. If I book 25 days in a month, you can bet 5 or more will be cancelled to weather. Another 2-3 will either cancel or no-show. Could be worse some months or better...and dont forget breakdowns. Not only do parts and repairs cost but its the downtime that really kills. Shit only breaks when you have trips. All that said, $1000 is reasonable for an all day charter on a sixpack vessel...probably on the cheaper than most side by a little but I am not familiar with your areas prices.

2. You will very quickly get tired of a 100-180mi run! charter days are long as it is. I arrive at the boat about an hour early and depending on haw much fish I bring to the dock, usually leave 3 or so hrs after return.

3. This is your real problem. There is a moratorium on charter permits for the next 3 yrs. The only way you can get one right now is to buy them from someone who already has them...and they are worth gold right now. Most will only be sold with a boat as it gives the boat a doubled value. The national charter boat association pushed for this crap b/c of increased competition. The NMFS justified it with BS statements like, "increased pressure on amberjack stocks due to increased charter operations." The problem is, recreational anglers have a 1 fish/person limit but there is NO commercial limit on these fish.
:duh but somehow we are responsible for this. Nevermind that snapper stocks are nearing an all time high...alot of people are losing their permits this summer b/c they didnt have them before some arbitrary date the NMFS picked.

I dont mean to discourage you. Chartering can be a very rewarding job. You get to meet people from all walks of life and often the pros outweigh the cons. Just do your research before you jump in. If you decide to, a good idea might be to befriend a good boat captain already in the bussiness and take his overflow. Of course he would get a booking fee...;) It would also allow him to offer variety in customer options. This is how many do it in Venice which does the type of fishing you are looking at. It is not uncommon for one big name captain(such as Peace Marvel or Al Walker) to have six or more boats that work through their service. You get booked by people who wouldnt book you otherwise and they make a little money(booking fee) of a trip they would have had to pass on anyways.

Damn, this turned into an Iya post...:cool:

Oh yeah, in case I didnt make it clear before...those Fin-Cats are FINE:inlove
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Thanks Rig,
I read something about a moratorium on charter permits, but I didn’t understand it until you explained it. I talked to guy from my church yesterday who is a captain for a party boat operation. His operation makes money for two reasons, volume and connections. He said he would never advice anyone to get in the charter business. I think I had better stay out, and just do it as a hobby.

Have you been on a fin cat? I talked to Mr. Parker a few months ago and he said he has only built two. One 28’ and one 32’. He sounded like he didn’t even have one to demo. I have been looking at boats for many years, and if it does what it sounds like it will do, I don’t think there is anything that can touch its combination of speed, efficiency, and comfort.

A guy I work with had a flats boat made out of that same high strength aluminum. It was 22’ and the hull weighed something like 40% of what a similar fiberglass would. With a 175 Mercury he hit 70 miles per hour in it.

Well, I had better get back to figuring out how to make a living. Unlike some of you who can drive to ocean, jump in and spearfish, we have to go out by boat to get any visibility. And that takes money.
I havent had the pleasure of riding on it yet but I have looked at it (the 28) when they built it...:cool:
Damn, this turned into an Iya post...

What did I do, what did I do ..........:D :D :D


Whatever they say about catamaran boat, let you hear my take as a yact sales person and a person who rents a lot of boats.

01. Catamaran in fuel efficient, no doubt. However, u must remember that whatever height they have in between the 2 hulls, that's the maximum u will ever able to smooth ride in bad sea. Any 28' or 32' will never take any much more than 3' of bad sea. I have ridden in a few types of catamaran and honestly, in severe weather, I will go for deep V anytime. Remember I make a living selling yachts/boats.

02. I don't know what kind of sea you will get in ur place but in my undeerstanding there are two types of waves. In small sea like my place, 20 knots wind will be a mess of close quater choppy water. In my Indian Ocean side, 20 knots winds will produce a big swell, this is OK.

03. People like sportfisherman because they can sleep, rest and be dry in all kinds of weather. Center console even if it can travel fast, do not afford this kind of luxury. Being dry means they can be comfortable even when the sea get bumpy. I guess the cooler the weather, the less a person wants to get wet.

04. 100 miles is quite a distance. Use 25 knots in fair weather as a generous guideline. 4 hours is not a short period. 180 miles is very far, even in any kind of boat.

The rest I don't know, this is just my opinion. Any shorter run that u can do ??
I will have to respectfully disagree with Iya;) Having been on many, many boats, I believe cat boats are the best riding small to mid boats out there. They dont rock, they ride soft and the fin cat has a hydrofoil across the 2 hulls giving it lift...bet you havent seen that one Iya:D

Granted a 54' Bertram is one of my favorite boats of all time and I have fallen in love with my friends 2001 65' Viking SF that cruises 33 knots..but for boats in the 25-35' range, world cats, glacier bays, and those fin cats are head and shoulders above any monohull in ride quality. Sure they "sneeze" but I'll take the mist over a deluge anyday. My fiances uncle has a 27' World Cat and it is one of my favorite boats to go out on...and they eat up the big seas much better...

This is where common sense comes in however, there are days where taking out the 54' Bertram is no big deal that you ought to leave any sub 30' boat tied up. People just cant seem to understand this simple fact for some reason... :duh
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Don, pick up a copy of this months Big Game Journal. It has a large article about your area and YF techniques at the floaters. It even has GPS coordinates for an area called the "Texas Lump" which was discovered this past summer. It is supposedly producing like the midnight lump...without the 150 boats on a Sat:cool:

They feature a 70ft+ custom charter boat out of freeport that does the exact thing you were refferring to...very interesting. Let me know if you can get to those lumps, Im game. We also need to hit the floaters!

Right on Rig! Don, you having been doing your homework. The
Foil Cat was developed in South Africa and refined in Australia.
I have been speaking with a boat builder in Aus.who says he has built more foil cats than any other builder. There was a used one for sale at his shop when I was there. I think he said he built at least 20. Like most projects the next one is usually better than
the early ones.
After riding and owning many boats I currently have an 19' Shark
Cat and a 32' Powercat. Both are Australian built and excellent
The best opportunity to ride a cat or most popular boats is coming up soon. The Miami Boat Show usually has most cats, and
other types in the water for free rides. For the entry ticket you can
ride most of the boats w/o obligation. I have probably been to 30
of these shows and think that the demo rides are the best part of the show. One can decide for oneself which is the best ride and
hands on experience of different layouts,etc.
If anyone is serious about building an aluminum cat, PM me and I
will find a few Australian builders addresses. IMHO, even with shipping to the U.S., one could save $$ on a new boat of 25' or
The ultimate cat IMHO will plan with only one engine running. Also, cats with only one engine fitted are usually dogs!
P.S. Rig have you ever ridden on a cat the same size or tonnage
as the big Bertram?
A friend of mine has a 48' aluminum cat he had custom built as a charter boat. He can run much smaller engines and still get better performance than comparable boats...and its stable as hell. Huge cockpit, its fine.

Alot of new liveaboard dive boats are being built as cats...Mike Ball's in Oz...and several 100 footers running around the Bahamas.

The Fin-cat was designed in SA...I forget the guys name but he has designed several special forces boats for the US.
Ha ha ha ha....Kapiten Rig,

Close by my area we have two kinds of water, one is the Indian Ocean and the other is only a sea, the Java Sea. In Java sea the waves are packed close together and confused, tide, current and land projection and so on. The Cats I tried were Mares , Cougar and Norcat up to 36 footer, for waves that are packed together they are not very nice riding hulls .... Fin Cat maybe a little different but me have generalized Cat as not that great bad weather boats. All the hydro compression of the twin hulls don't seems to work in confused sea, in big swell .........yes. I rather be on a 1996 Blackfin 29' than these 3, the best small boat I tried for rough water...... of course u have tried a lot more than I do. He he he.

Rig, try the Viking Sport Cruiser a.k.a ( Princess Yacht UK ), there is an old model 1995 to 1997 type 66 footer. This hull is a beauty but the shape is Euro not sportfisherman. Will out run any Bertram 54 ( I tried ) in bad sea, this you got to try..... :p :p

BTW, I have got the holographic stickers from a car detailing shop. 1 yard only US$3.5, gee so cheap here. I got three patterns. Will make new flasher again...:D . Thanks for the offer Kapiten.
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Hi Don,

Sorry to hear about ur job...:confused: .
I myself have been unable to stay away from the water, even when offered a much better paying job, which must make me cut my spearing activities.......... no way...not now.

Whatever you decide give a good thought, u are good with numbers, so calculate well...:eek:
Guys thanks for the advice. Rig, I will definitely pick up this month’s Big Game Journal. And I’m definitely game for a floater or lump trip. I need to relieve some stress. Also I heard back from Tanya Streets and she doesn’t know when she is doing another clinic. Her schedule been crazy.

IYA, I would agree with you some. I have a 20’ TwinVee cat that doesn’t have deep enough hulls. I bought it with the stupid idea of using both in the bay/flats and the ocean. That just doesn’t work, you end up with a boat that isn’t good at either. The ride was just like you described. On smaller waves, it was incredible, people were shocked how smooth it was, but as soon as I hit something bigger, the wave would slap the bottom of the tunnel and it felt like an explosion.

I think Rig and fijifreediver are also correct. In a planning cat you don’t need the tunnel to be higher than the waves, although it could definitely be higher on my boat, because of the air compression. There is no feeling like getting the whole boat out of the water and having an air soft landing. The HYSUCAT (hydrofoil supported catamaran) system, which is what the foil cat is, sounds to be even better. It was developed and perfected by Professor Hoppe in South Africa which has some of the meanest seas around.

In my experience, short waves are not much of a problem if the cat can span more than one at a time. Most cats will have a type of sea and angle into it that will cause problems, but it can usually be solved, by simply changing the course direction slightly like a sailboat, but that isn’t needed very often. The speed and comfort in most conditions make up for the small amount of times you have to alter course.

Fijifreediver, good point about Australian boats being better for the dollar, even with shipping costs, but a Charter boat in the U.S. has to be built in the U.S. One of those protect your country industry things. Every now and then you can find a large Australian cat for a great price here, which is because it can never be used for charter.

I have thought of getting a larger cat many times, but there are two things that have keep me from doing it. Mine gets 4 miles per gallon at 20 knots, which makes fuel money a no issue when planning a trip; and two, it fits in the space next to my house. I really like being able to walk out of my house and work on it. I am able to keep it in far better shape than if it was in the water. So instead I have done thousands of $ of modification to it. I have even machined some parts to try a HYSUCAT type hydrofoil system. I haven’t tried it yet, because I know it’s going to take a lot of experimenting and even then it may not work, and with the job situation and stress I just didn’t feel like getting into it right now.

I don’t think anyone in Texas goes farther in as small boat as I do. I pass a lot of bigger mono hulls on the way.

IYA, I had no idea you sold yachts for a living. My job seems to be going a little better lately. I finally convinced the owners to make some major expense cuts.

I think I had better leave spearfishing and fishing as a hobby. That is unless Rig wants to move down here, go to A&M Corpus Christi to finish college and help run a boat! FinCat, here we come!
Hi Don,

Selling yachts is my main business but it was born out of pure hobby. It is very slow here, very slow. One 50+ footer a year (used one ) is about the best I can do. Well, I had my good days a few years back. The problem with me is that I do not want to sell a crappy boat or boats that I do not like, thus my market gets even smaller. This is a problem with a hobby, you tend to think of both the money and pride, of which pride gets in the way most of the time. Since I enjoy the sea much more than some of my clients, I hang out with them too much, to the point that I do not have the heart to whack them the sales commission to the amount I deserve.

In this slow times ( never busy anyway), I supervise mechanical repairs and keep those engines humming. I am a decent trouble shooter with diesel engines but blind on outboards. I don't earn much but if I averaged 5 last years of work, I get pay equivalent to a medium ( in US, it is probably very-very small company ) company sales manager. The fun part of my job is that everyday can be a holiday, I don't work on schedule. The only time I am really busy is when I get to sell a foreign located yacht, bring it into my country via Singapore and smooth it out, so to speak. In the good times before the Asian crisis, I go to Miami boat show every year, all expenses paid by clients. Now my currency have flipped minus 400%, so my clients are 1/4 as rich as they were, some even collapsed cause they have US$ loans. The 1997 crisis have caused me to loose 2 years of income cause a confirmed buyer for a 66 brand new US sportfisher have to walk away.....:waterwork.

I love what I do even this slow. I get to ride fancy boats of all sorts, hop around private islands or resorts FOC and get to spearfish with clients. I mean it is a very "wet" life I am living.
Sooner or later if things is still slow as these past 16 months, I probably need to locate another permanent job. I hate 9-5 job in an office, have not been doing that for 10 years.

Good to hear u boss listening to you, point ur MT5 at them, I am sure they will listen more.....:D :D
As an ex, (well I still dick around with them time to time...) boat builder/owner and operator, I make more money as a male model.:king

Butt seriously, there are any number of ways to go broke with less effort than running a boat Don. Mike had it pretty well nailed in the earlier post(s). If it ain't the flakes that are chartering, it's the weather, or the fish or the fish police or that part that was supposed to next day air-ed, or your back or the wife and kids, or...

A buck eighty or so is a haul, even doing 40, and believe me, maintaining forty costs- fuel, wear on the rig and your back. You pull 25 and you're gonna be passing a lot of people.

That said, I still crunch the numbers and dream every time I get fed up with the current situation, which is hourly these days.

Sven is right...and now is DEFINATELY not the time to get into chartering. Fuel cost increase alone will put many boats out of business, even marine deisel has doubled:head

As for running at speed...all charter boats do what Sven is describing...pull back on the throttles. Everything lasts longer this way, including your savings account;) In fact I have decided to deckhand this year instead of captain. I made more money as a deckhand(better tips) and I got the offer from one of the best in the area...who was my grandfathers deckhand for over a decade(HE was THE best:cool: ) I am excited for the season and we are on the shipyard now getting ready. How cool it will be to run on my grandfathers last boat with his favorite deckhand...

As for daydreaming, we all do that Sven. I have already figured out exactly what it will take for me to get a 27 or 31 Contender and run charters during summer break once I graduate. Just want to pay the note:cool: How else will an elementary school teacher get a nice boat;)
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Sven im a bit confused, I know you joke a lot but im not sure if your serious with this one. Are you a male model :hmm or are you just friggin with us :D


Wow guys im lost im more'n a bit what the hell does that mean :duh Im outta here.

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