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Boat & Breakfast

Want to make money with your boat? So did they.

October 23, 2006
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For Ellie, it was a chance to start a business. For Chris, it was a chance to get a bigger boat. Two years after they began their search, the McIntires took ownership of a handsome 61′ Hatteras motoryacht, Hull Number 352. It was built in 1985, the last year Hatteras made interiors entirely of wood. The boat was exactly what they had hoped for – classic lines, a roomy interior (2,300 square feet), and lots and lots of wood.

Of course, much work had to be done. Mechanically the boat was sound, but its interior had to be gutted. The original harvest gold floors and old grass cloth headliner begged to be replaced. The couple also installed new appliances and added bold colors throughout. “Its look is Ralph Lauren meets Tommy Bahama,” says Ellie. Its look? Oh, did we forget to mention that the McIntires were setting up their boat for use as a bed-and-breakfast hotel?

Lots of people dream of making a living with their boats, but how many actually do it? Not many, but the McIntires, as well as several other boaters throughout the U.S., have successfully converted their boats into floating B&Bs. More than two years ago, the McIntires settled their newly refurbished motoryacht, Southern Comfort, in the Charleston City Marina, a few blocks from the historic district in Charleston, South Carolina, with a view of Ft. Sumter. They haven’t looked back.

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Kimberly Harris started differently – she inherited her parents’ business, Dockside Boat and Bed. Twenty years ago, they began renting boats to vacationers in California who, as odd as it sounds, had no desire to go cruising. Instead they wanted only to spend a few nights afloat in a boat that was tied safe and snug to the dock. Like her father, who developed the idea, Kimberly doesn’t actually own any of the boats that she and her husband, Kent, rent from their Long Beach site. Instead they act as brokers for half a dozen boaters who want to make some extra money by renting their boats for simple overnighting. “We didn’t invent the floating B&B,” she says, “but I’m not aware of any companies that do it on the scale that we do.”

The work can be challenging. These entrepreneurs must not only perform all the chores of a typical innkeeper, but they must maintain their boats as well. In fact, the McIntires must always keep their Hatteras in “show condition” to please their clients. One common problem: The customers, who are usually unaccustomed to boats, often confound the delicate workings of the marine head. Despite the headaches, “it’s really fun,” says Harris.

Fun? Okay, but can you earn a living from a boat converted into a B&B? That depends. Because the Harrises don’t own the boats they rent, they aren’t saddled with loan payments or costs such as maintenance and dockage. They gross about $150,000 a year.

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On the other hand, the McIntires confess that their business is largely a labor of love that demands sacrifices. When their boat has guests, the McIntires don’t stay aboard, and when they are aboard, the only private space they keep is the crew’s quarters. Ellie also admits that giving up the boat during holiday weekends is especially hard. The rate is $325 per night with a minimum stay of two nights. The McIntires average almost one booking each week, netting about $525 apiece, which basically pays only their boat’s dockage and insurance. “Is it a good income? No. But we couldn’t own a 61′ boat any other way,” says Ellie. And what a boat it is.

Reservations Chris and Ellie McIntire, 704/650-2620, www.hometown.aol.com/motoryachtsoco; Kimberly and Kent Harris, 800/436-2574, www.boatandbed.com.

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