Owner, Carefree Yacht Charters
Date interviewed: January 2010
How did you become a charter broker?
I got into the yachting business because my husband and I wanted to go sailing. We ended up in the Virgin Islands on our 46-foot sailboat. We started chartering for up to four guests, back in 1994. We did that for four years, then moved up to a 75-foot sailing yacht for up to eight guests. We did dive and sail packages, always in the Virgin Islands, plus a couple of charters in the Grenadines. On our own, up until 2006, we sailed through most of the Caribbean.
We sold the boat in 2006 and moved ashore, and I decided to become a charter broker. I’d worked with brokers for their clients over the years, so I had a strong idea of what they did. And I had the advantage of seeing how good brokers worked, so I knew the best practices that I wanted to employ.
What kinds of charter yachts do you typically book?
I focus on the Caribbean because that’s what I know. I started by booking the boats that I really knew well, firsthand, from having been on them. I did expand for a while into the Mediterranean market, but I found that it wasn’t in the affordability range of my clients. Most of my clients are from the U.S. and Canada, and they’re interested in the Caribbean, so I decided to shrink my business back to its core. That has worked really well for me.
What price point do your clients typically select?
I can book any yacht in the world for my clients, but primarily I work with people who want to spend $50,000 or less for the week. That means sailing yachts, power yachts, and catamarans, but primarily I book a lot of catamarans. It’s just the way the market is trending right now. There are so many catamarans out there, especially in the Virgin Islands, and they provide a fabulous choice for families or for several couples.
Do you find it challenging to operate your business from Colorado, which is so far away from the yachting scene?
I go to the boat shows in the Virgin Islands every year, and I’ve been to the Antigua charter yacht show as well. As my business evolves, I find that I need to visit Antigua more often to get into the bigger yachts that are available. My clients understand the types of yachts that I book, and I’m trying to evolve my business along with what my clients need.
Describe a time when you worked “above and beyond” for a charter client.
I recently had a client who wanted to charter over the holidays with other families. They were going to do a beach vacation, but he called me at the last minute to add a yacht into his travel plans. I had to step in and help with finding much more than the yacht, things like flights and transports and where to go to make the beach-to-yacht transition the best.
But to be honest, I always like to think that I’m going above and beyond for every client. I don’t like to be the kind of broker who goes through the motions. People have so many questions, and I am really happy to answer them. I like clients to be as prepared as possible, and also the yacht to be as prepared as possible for whoever is coming. I’ve been on the receiving end, running a charter yacht, of clients who weren’t given enough information. I try to avoid that from Day One by doing my job the best way that I can.
What do you think sets you apart from other charter brokers?
Definitely my firsthand experience. I spent 12 years in the Caribbean islands, on a boat, chartering in those waters. We did more than 300 week-long charters, and to actually have the client standing in front of you day in and day out, it gives you such an insight into what people want and expect on vacation.
I also have learned that everybody is different. I am able to get to know people quickly, understand what will make them happy, and know which boat and crew to put them with. For instance, I know by looking at the size of a dinghy’s engine whether or not the boat will be able to get certain-size people up on water skis, so if I have a client who is a taller or bigger man, I know to look for details as specific as the dinghy engine’s horsepower.
I also think my scuba diving experience sets me apart. I completed thousands of dives aboard my yachts in the Caribbean and have kept my license current as a PADI-certified instructor. Therefore, I understand the diving aspects of these charters at a very high level. So if you are a charter client who wants to dive, I understand exactly what needs to happen in order to make the vacation as safe and as fun as possible.
How can CharterWave readers contact you?
My toll-free number is (888) 670-6884, and my office number in Colorado is (303) 670-6884. I’m always available by e-mail at
, or through the Carefree Charters website.