Owner, Sanderson Yachting LLC
Date interviewed: July 2008
How did you get started as a charter broker?
It was an accident. I’d always worked in the marine industry. I worked at Cruising World magazine, and I worked at advertising agencies where I had marine accounts. In the winter of 1992 I was walking down the laundry detergent aisle of a grocery store in Newport, Rhode Island, and the man who owns Old Port Marine Services asked me if I wanted to run his charter division. It was baptism by fire.
That same year, I booked my first crewed charter on a Little Harbor 54 sailing yacht, and the captain was Walter Wetmore, who is now aboard the motoryacht Muse. By the winter of 1993, I went to work for Newport Yacht Services. That’s where I really learned about the different crewed yacht contracts, and how to look at boats. From there I went to work for Alden Yachts, which built boats that were in charter. I then got hired by Little Harbor Yachts, which was right next door.
Over the course of all this, I was going to boat shows and learning more and more about charter. A man came to Little Harbor to build the sailing yacht Whisper, and he decided to start Churchill Yacht Partners. He offered me a job, and it just took off. I was there for a few years until 2006, when I finally went out on my own and started Sanderson Yachting LLC.
What kinds of boats do you typically book?
Crewed yachts only, power and sail, although sail seems to be my sweet spot.
What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve personally visited?
Croatia is my most recent one. I was there for two weeks last summer. I liked it because it was uncrowded and very clean—what France and the Italian Riviera must have been like 40 years ago. They’re not on the euro, which makes it very affordable. The islands are mountainous, so the sailing can be challenging, but it was just beautiful.
What is the first thing you ask a new charter client?
How did you find me? That’s for marketing. And then I start to chat. I want to put them at ease, and in the conversation I’ll say, “Have you ever chartered before?” If they have not, I’ll explain to them why it’s a really great vacation. We start with power or sail, how many guests, the basics.
I really don’t jump right in. I ease in. I try to find out what they’re interested in, and help them relax a little bit.
Describe your ideal charter client.
I work really well with someone who has their dates picked out, and they know pretty much what they want, but they listen to my suggestions.
For example, if I have to explain to them why we can’t put eight people on a very small boat, they’ll listen and take that into consideration. Or if there are kids onboard, and I suggest a catamaran when they’ve only ever sailed on monohulls.
Describe your nightmare charter client.
The clients who think they know it all and won’t even fill out a preference sheet. They’ll fail to say they have allergies, for instance, and then they get on the boat and it’s a problem. It makes it very hard for the crew.
Describe a booking where you worked “above and beyond” for a client.
We had a cancellation for a high-end client a few years ago, when the boat broke down on its way to the Grenadines. I pulled out all my contacts, and I had to pull in every favor I’ve ever had with captains, agents, everybody. Because I’m known, I can do that. I can get things done.
The replacement boat I found pulled up right next to the one that was broken down, and they transferred everything over, even the food. And of course it all happened over a weekend, with companies in multiple time zones.
We pulled it off, and the clients were thrilled. They even sent me flowers. They got a more expensive boat for about the same price with a fabulous crew and captain.
What are a few of your favorite charter yachts, and why?
A good charter yacht is good because it has several things going for it, primarily the crew. Secondarily, it has a variety of accommodations—say a king-size bed, a cabin with twins, a little bit of something for everybody. And it has a management company that’s easy to work with. Some of them aren’t as good at calling back as others, so I tend to work with my favorites, where I already have a relationship.
I’m really always looking for boats that give the best value for the charter fee. I see what they’re charging for a charter, and then I look at what they’re offering. I want to know that the client is getting exactly, and maybe more, than they pay for.
What makes you different from other charter brokers?
I would like to think that what sets me apart is that I actually sail. There are many brokers who sail, but I think I’m one who sails more than others.
And I’m very responsive to clients. When an inquiry comes in, I respond that very day. I’ve heard from clients that they have called other brokers and never got a reply. This is a service business. I try to make sure that my service is the best that I know how to give.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you and your business?
Although I’m based in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, I book charters all over the world. My physical location does not limit my knowledge of the worldwide fleet or my ability to book a boat anywhere in the world.
How can CharterWave readers contact you?
I’m available by phone, e-mail, or website. It’s (401) 338-6866,