What is the best sailing catamaran to buy (as a boat business) today?

iYachtclub has been selling catamarans and managing catamarans in our crewed yacht vacation fleet for about 14 years. Most of the boats we sell go into yacht charter first, and almost all of the buyers plan to do the same thing- go cruising after a few years of having the boat “pay for itself”. In recent years, the dynamics of boat buying has changed, making the decision even more difficult. With used boats holding value and even increasing in value, and new boat pricing going up…and up, if you are in the market right now, what is the right move? While I understand that boat buying is personal, and you should buy the boat that “moves” you, in the end, if you are buying a boat as a business there is a “right boat” and “wrong boats”. For my purposes of picking the best charter boat right now, I use the following parameters.

1. Bedrooms. Bedrooms are number one. There is no such thing as a perfect boat. The boat you will hopefully sail away on in 3 to 5 years is not the boat you buy for charter. So, I contend that you should buy a perfect charter boat now, and IF, you go sailing, turn that perfect charter boat into a perfect cruising boat later. You can always take bedrooms out before you go. Buy the boat that makes money now.

2. Simplicity. Pick a manufacturer that allows you to keep it simple. Like with bedrooms, you can always add water makers, solar, superior battery systems, dishwashers, washer/driers…. Later. None of that makes money in charter. It gets old, it gets worn. The right boat now is simple. Easy to maintain, cheap to maintain. Period. Simple systems work as well as complex ones, parts are easier, support is more readily available, and even I can fix simple systems.

3. Bigger is better. Focus on bigger boats, with various and diverse seating areas. Bigger boats charter better, with higher profit margins, and, when you make your move to live aboard you will thank me later. Even a family of two needs the ability to have a place to
sit with all points of the sun and wind.

So, given those 3 predefined criteria for the “perfect” charter yacht, I’d like to break down the decision into four categories, picking my “best boat” for each level.

 

Just getting started charter yacht.

For this category, I’m assuming an entry point of $600k to $800k This includes boats like the Bali 4.2, FP 40 to 42 foot models, and the Lagoons and Leopards in the same price point. It also includes all small yard and custom options.

In this category I have a tie (sorry). I like two different boats for two different reasons. First, I like the Bali 42, configured for charter with four staterooms and 4 heads, with two showers. This boat works well in bareboat and crewed charter. She hits all of my other criteria re: systems and the ability to upgrade easily. And she delivers charters at a price point that delivers a good ROI until you go cruising. Additionally, I live on a Bali 43 (same boat basically) and she lives and feel bigger than a Saba 50/Leopard 50. Send me an email and I’ll send you real profit statements from this boat over a multi-year period. Tied with this boat is the new Cervetti 44 from Dufour Catamarans. While the Bali 4.2 delivers a big boat feel in a small boat, the Cervetti 44 is a small yard, very high-quality alternative. She can be built as a 4, 6 or 8 pax boat, feels like she is 50 feet or more due to her big beam, and has far superior quality/fit/finish to her larger competitors. This boat, new, fully configured under 800k is both a bargain and a great charter/cruising boat that produces a great ROI. Check out more about the Cervetti 44 here https://www.iyachtclubinfo.com/top-stories

(This boat, new, fully configured under 800k is both a bargain and a great charter/cruising boat that produces a great ROI.)

 

“sweet spot” perfect charter boat. 

Stopping up from the $600-$800 range takes us to charter boats in the $900k to $1.2M price range and includes the FP51, Lagoon 50, Leopard 50 and Bali 4.8. We sell more boats in this range than any other range.

Again, sorry, in this category I find myself with a tie. The market has pretty much rejected the layout of the FP51. And, the forward cockpit and flybridge of the Leopard 50 is nice, but the build quality and delivery times are terrible. So, today, in this price range I’d choose the Bali 4.8 or the Dufour/Cervetti 48. And, honestly, while I’m a big fan of the open concept Bali 48, for $200,000 less, I’d personally choose the Dufour 48. We love that both the Bali 48 and Dufour 48 can easily take 8 to 10 vacations plus crew. These boats fill up at $22k to 28k per week, creating very nice per charter returns, they are easy to maintain and have wide market appeal.

(Guests enjoying their time on a Bali 4.8, the perfect charter boat)

Step’n up for the perfect ROI.

If you can go up from the 1M to 1.2M range, and you don’t want to completely break the bank, there is really only one option…. The Bali 5.4. Until recently, you could buy “the perfect charter boat” for $1.2 to $1.3M. Now, at $1.5M this remains the winner from an ROI percentage perspective. Configured with six cabins and two bow cabins, this boat can deliver vacations to 12 to 14 people, at price points approaching $40k per week (more than $30k GP per week). The Bali 5.4 is truly the perfect charter yacht, and maybe even the “perfect” yacht. Recently I told a friend in St. Thomas that I was going to buy a Bali 4.2 to live on. He said “why not a 5.4”? I said “I don’t want that much boat to take care of…” and he replied, “they both have two engines, one gen, same electronics… what is “more” to maintain?” He had a good point. Buy bigger…. It works better as a business, and they really are not more to maintain if they have simple systems. The 5.4 is perfect. Simply perfect. Check out Galaxsea, a Bali 5.4 in the iYachtClub fleet here https://iyachtclub.com/galaxsea/

(The Bali 4.5 is the perfect size for yacht chartering.)

 

More money than brains boat.

A little back story here. My dad has said since I was 30 that I had more money than brains, so this is my favorite category. If someone told me in 2008 when I entered the yachting industry, after a long career in IT, that buying a bigger boat made more sense than buying a smaller boat, I would have laughed at them. But the reality is, it is true. Bigger boats equal bigger revenue. Cost to deliver trips is shockingly similar to smaller boats. And the math just works better. So
what do you do if you have $2M plus to spend on a boat toy? The answer is- buy from small yard. In this category I include the FP 58 and 67, the big Lagoons, and the Sunreef 60 and 70. All of these have price points in excess of $3M, some of them over $5M. All of them are great boats. All of them have some serious build quality issues, particularly when you consider the cost. So consider this… for $2.6 to $2.8M you an buy a Moon 60. They look and feel like a Sunreef 60. They have far superior build quality when compared to the big FP and Lagoons, and they rent at the same high per week rate. For these reasons, in the high-end luxury market, Moon wins. And now you can see a Moon firsthand by visiting us in St Thomas or at the Annapolis boat show in October.

(A luxurious and functional layout, perfect for yacht chartering.)

These are my opinions. Don’t shoot me! But my opinions are based on 15 years in the business, most of that spent managing yachts and helping owners monetize their yachts. That is the perspective I bring to the table. There is certainly no perfect yacht. And I do believe that buyers should buy the boat they love, regardless of brand. Still, for me, my winners in each category simply make sense. I’m happy to share data to back up my choices… just email me at Derekhunsinger@iyachtclub.com, or stop by St. Thomas or St. Martin sometime (I’m always on one of the two). We can have a glass of wine and have a friendly debate.

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