WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BOATYARD
There comes a time when either routine maintenance or repairs are required on your yacht. Scheduled work typically takes place once per year, notes Tim Miller, who with partner Julie Brown operates the 58ft Hatteras charter yacht, McGregor II, out of the St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands’-based Virgin Islands Charteryacht League’s (VICL) fleet. “In the crewed yacht business in the Caribbean, most boats perform their yard work during hurricane season. For personal boats, not in charter, it depends on many factors. Then again, boats may have yard work more than once per year if something breaks or is damaged.”
“The most common routine yard work is a haul for antifouling the hull. Beyond this, the options are numerous and depend on the type of yacht,” says Jim Grant, who with wife Amanda, operate the 62ft catamaran, Catsy, out of the Tortola-based CharterPort BVI fleet. “This year we will also have some carpentry done in one of the cabins and a new generator installed.”
“Before deciding which yard to choose, we create a list of needs,” explains Joan Conover, cruising station coordinator for the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) who sails aboard the Morgan OI 511, Growltiger, with husband Greg and two teens, Christina and Joshua. “With this list in hand, we compare work/prices and guarantees/warranties. Get everything in writing-ahead of any work-if possible. And make sure all costs are understood. It makes a much more pleasant yard trip when you and the yard see eye to eye on work to be done, timelines and costs.”
Gustavo Hermido, commodore of Club Nautico de San Juan and owner of a Hatteras sports fishing yacht, agrees. “I prepare a list of the work I’d like done two weeks in advance of having the yacht hauled. Then, I go over it in detail to make sure everything is understood.”
What influences boaters in their choice of a yard? Location, facilities and services are the three key points.
“For ease of access, the yard needs to be nearby,” says John Holmberg, who owns the Captain School USVI in St. Thomas as well as a Seacat 25, IC24 and 23ft Calypso pirogue. “That’s why I’ve used Independent, Haulover Marine and St. Croix Marine.”
Bob Carson, who owns CharterPort BVI, and manages 18 yachts, which are a combination of monohull and catamaran sailboats and a motor yacht, agrees. “Proximity is important since I am in the yard every weekday during the summer. The second most important is a toss-up between availability (if they have space) and good, reputable, local, attending sub-contractors. Nanny Cay Marina solves almost all of these criteria, and the second most popular for us is Virgin Gorda.”
As for facilities, Mat Bockh, who with wife Pat charters the 84-foot motoryacht, NSS Pattam, in the VICL’s fleet, looks for a yard “that’s able to lift us out of the water. That means Puerto del Rey in Puerto Rico.”
As for services, Catsy’s Grant looks at staff and availability of supplies and contractors. For example, “how long has the staff being working in the yard, are they stable, especially the travel lift driver? Having a chandlery on site is very important, especially when you are working on a boat in the boat yard and constantly need tools and supplies. Having contractors on site is very important, too. Some yards only allow their own employees to perform work on the boat, and do not allow outside contractors. This limits your options and you may have to work with below par skills. If the yard allows outside contractors, or even has contractors’ offices on site, it allows the captain/boat owner a lot of flexibility and the ability to choose the right person for the job.”
Security is a big issue as well, says McGregor II’s Tim Miller. “Does the yard have monitoring cameras? A security guard?”
Amenities such as an on-site hotel or housing helps, says CharterPort BVI’s Carson, “so that the crew can stay ashore for a day or two when we haul and launch the boat. Restaurants and bars are important for everyone.”
Finally, what would seasoned Caribbean-based boaters recommend to new-comers who are looking to have yard work done in the region?
“First,” says, Catsy’s Grant, “look at the history. How long has the boat yard been in operation and how long has their staff been working there? In the Caribbean, the choices are easier because there are only so many yards. Most people either stay to the north, Puerto Rico and the BVI, or go south to Grenada or Trinidad. Grenada and Trinidad have good boat yards, because so many people take their boats south to escape hurricane season. Many of these boat yards have been in operation for years and are stable.”
“Secondly,” recommends McGregor II’s Miller, “talk to other boaters who have hauled their boats out at the yard. Do a walk-through of the yard, meet the people and check out what kind of work is being done.”
“Third and finally”, adds CharterPort BVI’s Carson, “follow the crewed charter fleet. They require and get the best and most timely service since they are year around clients.”