After years of traveling to the Virgin Islands by plane, we sailed there from Florida on our own catamaran, Kuma Too! During our early 2019 visit (click here read about the visit), we met so many yacht crews telling us we should stay in the Virgin Islands to charter instead of going back to Florida. Staying wasn't an option, but we were curious to learn more. Before sailing back to Florida in March, we met with a few clearing houses.
A clearing house is a company that manages a charter boat's bookings and is a middle-man between hundreds of brokers and the boat. Although not required, having a clearing house sets a charter boat up for success since there are so many legalities to chartering and brokers to connect with. We received a checklist of everything required to charter in the Virgin Islands should we choose to return the following season. If we wanted to charter there next season, we'd have to complete the checklist and sail back by November 1, 2019.
It was March 5, 2019, and we were sailing Kuma Too from St. Thomas towards Florida for our charter season in Dunedin. We spent a lot of those 12 days discussing pros and cons of chartering in the VIs next season. The biggest pro was financially; it's the sailing Mecca of the world. The biggest con was leaving Dunedin; it's home (click here to read about Dunedin) with our families and we'd miss half of our season there. We didn't make a decision on that sail home, but we did decide that we should at least start checking items off the list to keep the option on the table. A more detailed task list was created to keep us on schedule to be ready and in the Virgin Islands by November 1 if we chose. Joe and I knew it would be a hard 7 months and mentally prepared ourselves for the madness that awaited when we anchored in Dunedin. We arrived home on St. Paddy's Day and spent the weekend washing the 'passage' off Kuma Too since we had charters scheduled that week.
We were already booking 5 months out and having a great season! Although part of our detailed tasklist included taking one day a week for ourselves, by May that got scrapped. We were so busy with charters, additional licensing/credentialing, and routine boatwork, that we ended up with a 28-day period of back-to-back trips. It was an amazing season for us! As much as we absolutely love doing day trips, Kuma Too has the ability to cross oceans with 8 people comfortably. By only sailing 1-3 hours a day, we weren't doing the boat any justice. We did have a number of weeklong and weekend trips, but we found it hard to schedule those with day trips booking so far in advance. By the time July rolled around, we had to make a decision.
We made a follow up call to the clearing house we wanted to work with to talk numbers. What made sense for the business? No matter how we cut it, the Virgin Islands came out ahead every time. Kuma Too was commissioned as a Moorings 4700, the sought-after charter boat in 2005. You see, when hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the islands, many charter boats were lost. This class of boat (over 10-years old) cannot be reproduced, so there is currently a void in the market. There is still a demand for this class but very limited supply. It was time for Kuma Too to come out of retirement in Florida and give the Caribbean another go-at-it.
To learn about charters on board Kuma Too, visit www.SailingKumaToo.com
Until next time, Happy Sailing!