Charter broker, Northrop and Johnson
Date interviewed: January 2010
It’s been two years since we first interviewed you on CharterWave (see original interview below). A lot has changed in the charter business since then, specifically in terms of the global recession.
What has changed most is that people are now looking for value. It’s become more complicated to book because of all the negotiation on the rates. It was a seller’s market before the recession. It’s now a buyer’s market. You now need a broker who not only knows the market, but who knows which boats will negotiate, and how much. You need a broker who can negotiate well.
Did you always see negotiation between the yacht’s owner and yourself, on behalf of your client, as part of your job?
There have always been clients who wanted to negotiate rates, but it was not something you could do on a charter of less than three weeks. Yacht owners would not do it. Now, they’ll negotiate on a weeklong charter or less.
A good broker has to have different skills now, in terms of being able to effectively negotiate. I need to have a feeling for what a week aboard a boat is actually worth. The clients are determining the boat’s worth, with the broker negotiating on their behalf, as opposed to the owners setting the price.
Do you have a philosophy on these types of negotiations?
I thoroughly believe that it has to be a good deal for all the parties. I cannot try to beat up so much on the yacht's owner that he doesn’t want the charter at all. I know where the line of being reasonable is, and I try to help prospective charterers find it. I’ve done my job if I can get all the parties involved to be satisfied.
Has the recession affected the types of yachts that you book?
The size range has shifted a bit. I now book top-class, full-service yachts from 80 feet and up worldwide.
I attend all major boat shows, so I am up to date with the yachts and the crew. It is a matter of identifying quality operations in each size category and cruising area, and keeping up with new offerings. And I always go for the boats with the best crew. The importance of crew to the success of the charter experience cannot be overemphasized.
Have the past few years changed your opinion on “ideal” versus “nightmare” charter clients?
I appreciate all of my clients, especially those who tell me what they want and who read what I send them. I tailor my presentation to exactly what they’re looking for. When they take my work seriously, I like it, because I take their charter needs very seriously.
If the recession has taught us anything, it is that there are no nightmare clients. I am grateful for each and every one of my clients, and I try to do the very best job possible for them all.
Can CharterWave readers still reach you at Northrop and Johnson in Fort Lauderdale?
Yes. My e-mail is alandry (at) njyachts.com, and my phone number is (954) 600-5026. I try to respond as quickly as possible, be it nights, weekends, holidays—my job is to provide the service when you want it.
Date interviewed: January 2008
How did you get started as a charter broker?
I took a vacation aboard yachts in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean when the ski lifts closed in Aspen, Colorado. I was gone four or five weeks, and I thought it was just great. Basically, I thought that if other people could make a living sailing, I could too.
I went back to Aspen, sold the house, bought a 44-foot sailboat and took it to the Virgin Islands. That was about 20 years ago. I did charters on the boat as an owner-operator.
In 1992, I switched to being a full-time charter broker on land. I started in the Caribbean, and I did that for three years, and then I came up to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the yachting capital of the Americas.
What kinds of boats do you typically book?
I don’t do bareboats. I have good crewed yachts in every size range, but most of my bookings are in the 120- to 160-foot range, all over the world.
What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve personally visited?
Naples to Taormina, in Italy, I actually haven’t visited myself, but I’m sending everybody there. I booked one charter there last year, and I have three, maybe four, there this summer.
I like this itinerary because it provides the most variety that I can think of. The clients can spend a few pre-charter days in Rome, even Pompeii and Naples. Then, once they're on their boat, there's the chic of Capri and the Amalfi Coast, plus some islands just outside the Bay of Naples with a relaxed atmosphere. On the mainland Italy coast from there is a place called Paestum, which is the best-preserved Greek ruin outside of Greece. And then you can go to the Aeolian Islands and see the Stromboli volcano spewing. Then you can do the Straits of Messina and go down to Taormina, another chic resort. From there, you can take a tour of Mount Etna, the world's most active volcano. In the summer, you’re hiking on steaming snow. It’s apparently quite fabulous.
You can pick and choose among these places, depending on the length of your charter. Ten days is ideal, but you could do a lot of it in a week.
I’m always looking for itineraries that offer a variety of experiences and avoid huge expenses, and this one from Naples to Taormina is great.
What is the first thing you ask a new charter client?
Where do you want to go, when do you want to go, and what size yacht do you need?
Sometimes they say, "I want a 150-foot yacht," and I tell them what that costs, and they say no, they don’t want that. So it’s an exploratory thing. I need to know their parameters, whether they want a classic or a stylish new yacht, more bang-for-buck or the most posh experience they can have.
I have bang-for-the-buck yachts in every category. It’s not going to be a third-class yacht. There’s a boat for every client.
Describe your ideal charter client.
I like clients who read what I send them.
I go to a lot of trouble to tailor my presentation to exactly what they’re looking for. When they take my work seriously, I like it, because I take their charter needs very seriously.
Describe your nightmare charter client.
They don’t respond at all. Once we book the yacht, they’re not forthcoming with information for their preference sheets, information required to tailor the charter and help us to serve them. They’ll come up at the last minute with special requests, and the boat’s halfway between Italy and Croatia, and we may not be able to get that special wine in Croatia.
The nightmare client is the client who doesn’t communicate.
Describe a previous booking where you worked “above and beyond” for a client.
I had a client who was doing a renewal of wedding vows, a 10-year anniversary ceremony, in November in the Caribbean. I talked a 150-foot boat over from the Mediterranean. It wasn't coming to the Caribbean until later, and I got it to come early for this client.
Then the boat was delayed, so it got there the day before this charter started. So I ordered the cake, leis from Hawaii, special sarongs for the ceremony, everything. I hooked up the chef with the local provisioner. I did everything that I could to help so that the crew would be ready on time.
The charter went just great. They were thrilled. They came back and chartered again the very next year.
What are a few of your favorite charter yachts, and why?
I’m sure I would leave somebody out, so I don’t want to name boats.
I will say this: I love my A-list captains. These are people who work with you, who deliver every time, who I trust. They’re enthusiastic, they’re interested in doing a great job, and they love what they do. There’s nothing nine-to-five or routine in the charter industry. That’s the big thing for me: I follow my A-list captains.
What makes you different from other charter brokers?
I never give up. I keep trying to find the right yacht for the client, and I usually do.
I’ve had a lot of last-minute inquiries this summer, and with enough prodding, I’ve managed to place all of those charters. It’s a tug-of-war to get some clients to understand that some things aren’t always available, and then to convince the yacht owners to do something that maybe wasn’t their first choice, but I never give up.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you?
You don’t need to look any further. I’m going to give you the best service. You can rely on me.
How can CharterWave readers contact you?
Via e-mail at
, or through www.njyachts.com.