Yacht Transport Ship
For cruises to Alaska, the Mediterranean, the South Pacific or even the Far East, catch a ride on a yacht transport ship. “Our typical boat ranges from 40 to about 80 feet,” says Krista Kersey of Yacht Path Marine Group (yachtpath.com). “Those smaller boats are just as important to us as the megayachts.”
Dockwise Yacht Transport (yacht-transport.com) ships are semisubmersibles that ballast down allowing yachts to drive aboard. Divers block boats as the ship pumps water out. Because the company owns its ships, which carry only yachts, schedules are tight — a day or two of weather delay is the most expected.
Yacht Path leases deck space on ships carrying bulk cargo — perhaps grain, rubber or feed. Its teams fly to each port ahead of the ship to load and unload yachts using cranes. This gives Yacht Path flexibility to reach more destinations with more sailings, but also plagues those schedules with the vagaries of the shipping business. “We initially provide a 10- or 15-day window,” Kersey says. Once yachts are loaded at the first port, subsequent dates are firmer. “We’ll give daily updates, and then within 24 hours of arrival, we give an exact time and place for pickup,” she says.
But brokers and captains warn of delays. “If the boat has to be there on a specific date, we’ll have a delivery crew on standby in case the ship falls through,” says George Sawley, a Fort Lauderdale yacht broker and globe-trotting sport-fishing captain (goldkeyyachts.com).
Sevenstar Yacht Transport (sevenstar-yacht-transport.com) falls somewhere between. Its parent company, Spliethoff, owns ships equipped to carry yachts in addition to below-deck cargo. Schedules seem tighter than Yacht Path’s, with more routes and sailings than Dockwise.
Shipping a 50-footer between Florida and Costa Rica averages $27,000 and takes a week on Yacht Path or Sevenstar. Dockwise costs more.
For comparison, Stalker, the 57-foot Spencer that Sawley often runs, makes the same trip in about nine days cruising almost continuously at 9 knots, burning one gallon per mile across 1,500 miles. Assuming $5 diesel and $2,500 for the Panama Canal transit, that’s $10,000, plus crew and customs costs. Running at 28 knots, the same trip takes about a week, triples fuel burned and adds more stops, each with customs fees.
Sawley suggests shipping one way and then cruising the return, perhaps fishing for billfish, dorado and tuna at Piñas Bay, Panama. “We might stop for a week in Coiba Island on the Pacific side, and then again at the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side,” he says. “The dark coastal water and thick jungle in the Pacific contrast [with] the gin-clear Caribbean water, white sand and coconut palms on the Caribbean side” — distinctions not realized without transiting the canal.
For an eastern Caribbean cruise, “ship the boat to Martinique. The trip is always easier heading back toward Florida,” Sawley says of the southeast trade winds through the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Bahamas.
Besides saving engine hours, customs brokers referred by transport ships prearrange clearance, mitigating hassle. Specialty contractors typically complete shrink-wrapping — well worth the $30 per foot — at the marina beforehand.