Charter broker, The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals
How did you become a charter broker?
I grew up in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands, where my parents had moved in the 1950s. We spent our weekends as a family on my parents’ boat, so we did a lot of cruising around the Virgins and as far as the Northern Caribbean islands including St. Maarten, and then all the way down to the Grenadines. My father boasts that I could snorkel before I could walk.
Right after college, on a very cold day in New York City, I decided I didn’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life, and I got a job as a stewardess on a 108-foot motoryacht in St. Thomas. Next, I went to a 165-foot motoryacht, where I moved up to the chief stewardess position. I got to do a lot of things there, including working with my future husband, who is an engineer, on the build of the first-ever Trinity motoryacht.
I crossed the Atlantic, did the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, went through the Panama Canal and up to Alaska. If it was a yachting destination, I got to go there, all of helped me when I decided in 1999 to move ashore, get married, and become a charter broker. That’s when I joined The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals. I started as President Jennifer Saia’s apprentice, and a year later, I became a full-fledged broker.
What kinds of boats do you typically book?
Only crewed yachts, primarily motoryachts larger than 120 feet. The largest yacht I’ve ever booked is 270 feet long. I have booked the occasional sailing yacht, but they are generally large, substantial boats as well.
To be honest, most of my clients are repeats and referrals. I feel very lucky that way. I have some clients where I’m booking their 14th or 15th charters.
What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve personally visited?
I really love the Bahamas as a charter destination—but it’s a place that is ideal for people who want to get away from it all. When my husband and I take a vacation, we go to the Exumas section of the Bahamas. The water is clean, the people are friendly, and the underwater wildlife is fantastic.
I also like the French and Italian Riviera, but it’s an entirely different scene. That is a destination that is more about seeing and being seen, shopping, and dining at fine restaurants.
What is the first thing you ask a new charter client?
I ask if they’ve ever chartered before. The answer tells me how much education I need to do.
If they’ve chartered before, their answer tells me something about their budget and their tastes. From there, we can talk about types of yachts, amenities that are important, and all the other details.
Describe your ideal charter client.
I enjoy working with families, as well as with people who love the ocean, the environment, and destinations. I have a really good time booking charters in destinations like Greece, where I get to incorporate land tours in addition to everything going on with the boat and the sea.
People who love to travel, I think, are my ideal clients, as opposed to people who just want to sit on the boat. I can book that, of course, but I feel like I can offer so much more.
Describe your nightmare charter client.
For me, nightmare clients are impossible to please because they change their minds constantly. The second I do what they ask, they ask for something else.
I also don’t enjoy working with people who are inaccessible. If I am calling their fourth-level personal assistant, I find that those assistants tend to make things harder than they need to be for everyone involved. I have had more than one instance in which an assistant created very challenging demands, and when I later asked the client about the demands, they were not important at all.
An example would be the time an assistant told me the client had to have a certain kind of glass-bottled water in a location where it was difficult to get that kind of water. We had the water flown in, but then the client got the bill, and the client was upset at the expense. As it turned out, the client didn’t care at all about the kind of water onboard, and if I had been able to speak directly with the client, I could have saved the person a good deal of money.
Describe a previous booking where you worked “above and beyond” for a client.
I once got a six-piece band to play on a sand spit in the middle of the Grenadines. It was a client’s birthday, and we set up a candlelight dinner on the beach, and the 12 guests were serenaded during a formal dinner on the beach. It was gorgeous.
I also had a client a few years ago who did a Venice-to-Croatia charter. The person is into collecting high-end glass, so I got it in my head that when he was in Venice, he needed to go to Murano and spend time with a glass master. My contacts in Italy found a master who was willing to teach my client how to blow glass. That gave him and his whole family a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The thing about going above and beyond is that you need great contacts to make things happen. It’s also a lot about imagination, especially with clients who simply say, “Blow me away.” I enjoy that kind of a challenge. The best days in my life are when my clients call after a charter and say, “I don’t know how we’re ever going to top this.”
What are a few of your favorite charter yachts and crew?
One of the boats I’m particularly fond of is the 178-foot motoryacht Starfire. She’s a beautiful boat and very eye-catching, but even more important is that the captain and crew are excellent. In every situation, the crew meet requests with a smile. My experience with Capt. Carl Sputh has been excellent.
On the smaller side, I love Capt. Jack McKay aboard the 115-foot motoryacht Harmony. In that size range, bar none, he is my favorite captain. He’s personable, he relates to the clients, yet he’s also the kind of guy who, if you invite him, will sit down and tell you great stories about his life on the water. The only problem with Capt. Jack is that he has so many repeat clients, it becomes hard to find an open week to book a charter with him.
Another boat I would like to mention is 168-foot motoryacht Lazy Z. That captain and crew really and truly have pulled some rabbits out of the hat for me. In that size range, it’s my go-to boat. I know the yacht will be beautiful and immaculate, and the crew will be fantastic.
What makes you different from other charter brokers?
I think it’s the fact that I’ve been on both sides of the industry. I’ve been charter yacht crew, and I’ve been a broker for a good number of years now. I know what questions to ask beyond what other charter brokers might. Also, there’s my personal travel history. I'm lucky enough to be very well traveled.
Because of my husband’s yacht survey business, I’m privy to a lot of information that a lot of other charter brokers don’t know. I have a good idea about which vessels are well maintained, where there have been fires, all those kinds of hush-hush things. That gives me extra information that can be important for my clients’ safety.
Last, I would say that I’m one of the few charter brokers who have children. When I book family charters, I have an understanding of what I would need if I were going to be on the ocean for a week with my kids, so I can help the client with his family needs as well.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you and The Sacks Group?
In this day and age, with the closing of some companies in our business, I think clients need to trust in the fact that we’re not going anywhere. The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals has weathered recessions before, and we will weather this one.
Our being in Fort Lauderdale is a huge advantage to charter clients because I am where the boats are. I get to see the product I’m selling on a regular basis, and I believe that gives me an edge over brokers who are located elsewhere. I can get onboard in 10 minutes’ time and see how the boat looks, talk to the crew, and do whatever I need to do before reporting back to my clients.
Also, what sets us apart is that we ask a lot of questions. Our preference sheet is six pages long. For my long-term clients, I have files of their preference sheets along with notes from previous crew they’ve chartered with. I try very hard to understand what people want and like, and to make their desires a reality. My goal is to develop long-term relationships with my clients so that I can help them charter for years to come..
How can CharterWave readers contact you?
My cell phone is (954) 663-0957, my e-mail is
, and our website is www.sacksyachts.com.