You’ve daydreamed about cruising the indigo waters of the Bahamas, or perhaps battling blue marlin on St. Thomas’ North Drop or coasting among killer whales while watching glaciers calve at Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Wherever your nautical reveries reside, charters are likely available, but you bought a boat for the freedom to voyage. Unfortunately, time, or a boat’s capabilities, limit distance and routes.
But are those restrictions reality? Overland transport, semisubmersible or lift-on/lift-off yacht transport ships, and professional delivery crews can bring those far-off dream destinations within reach. To make your dream come true, we’ve collected the wisdom you need to cruise your own boat in exotic ports.
If loading a boat on a tractor-trailer seems simple, dream on. “Hauling an oversize boat, it might take us seven hours just to get through Connecticut,” says Ken Follett, transport manager for Journey’s End Marina (journeysendmarina.com). “We have to go up, down, zigzag around, way out of the way.” And that’s only allowed Tuesday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in good weather. Neighboring Massachusetts and New York have similar restrictions on different schedules.
To reach south Florida from Maine, it costs the owner of a boat not more than 12 feet wide or 13 feet 6 inches high (mast to keel plus trailer height), given the current average $4.25 a gallon for diesel, about $7,000. If this boat ran at an efficient 1 mpg, the fuel alone would cost what shipping does, and you’d have to add on dockage and food. The overland trip should take four days, versus a week by water. Trucking that same size boat to Seattle costs around $13,000 and takes seven days.
Complexity and costs grow with height and beam. “We can haul a boat 20 feet wide if we have the right road surveys and permits,” Follett says. “Over 15 feet wide, if you’re not out of Virginia by 2:30 p.m. on Friday, you’ll have to park until 9:30 Monday morning.”
Money isn’t the only factor. Overland transport opens otherwise unlikely cruising grounds. Scenery along the southern shore of Nova Scotia is stunning. But the world’s highest tides, frequent dense fog, icy waters and a shortage of facilities strain both a boat’s and crew’s abilities. Just 150 miles north by land, the protected, warm waters (approaching 70 degrees in August) along Nova Scotia’s north shore and surrounding Prince Edward Island create a saltwater playground. Boats under 50 feet abound, along with marinas, whales, seals and a mix of English, French and Gaelic culture.
Consider the hazards when choosing an overland carrier. “If a drunk runs a stoplight, that’s your boat’s insurance,” Follett says. “Our insurance covers our negligence.” Journey’s End carries $5 million in cargo insurance, which is separate from the truck and trailer policy. Have your insurer coordinate with the trucking company’s insurance provider to preclude loopholes.
Check a trucking company’s references from regular clients, particularly boatbuilders. Ask how they protect the boat from damage or theft while stopped at night, and inquire about equipment. “We have trailers that get the keel just six inches off the ground,” Follett boasted. “Trimming just an inch or two of height might easily save $1,000 in route surveys, permits, escorts and extra miles.” Hydraulic trailers can launch a boat, saving hundreds of miles just to reach a travel lift.
“Shrink-wrapping is good if it’s done right, but ripped shrink-wrap flapping down the highway at 65 mph will do more harm than good,” Follett says. Shrink-wrapping for travel requires different skills than winter shrink-wrapping, which is meant to shed snow.
“You really have to weigh out the cost of a delivery crew and fuel versus trucking,” Follett says. A boat exceeding 16 feet wide or 15 feet high, depending upon the state, adds dollars fast. Boats might be shortened by removing a radar arch, hardtop or even flying bridge — Follett suggests having the same workers handle those jobs at both ends, so start with a yard and have it suggest a trucking company. Journey’s End is both. “Give us a list, and we can paint the bottom, wax it, make repairs and deliver it to Florida, ready for you to turn the key and go.”