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Stretching your charter budget

The fleet there includes Oceanus 361 and 411 monohulls, Sunsail 43 and 39 monohulls, and Sunsail 404 catamarans. Sunsail also opened a base in April in the Bahamas, at Marsh Harbour in the Abacos. In addition to bareboat and crewed charters, the Marsh Harbour base offers flotilla charters. Similar to those in the British Virgin Islands, the flotillas are cruises in company with other boats and a lead boat that serves as a guide. The fleet there includes Sunsail 362 monohulls and Lagoon 38 cats.

Tucci says Sunsail plans to introduce a Jeanneau 44i, the newest in its “i” series of performance monohull cruisers, in October at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md. (It also has a 32, 36 and 39 in this series.) “These aren’t raceboats,” she says. “They are really well-performing cruising boats.”

The Moorings opened a base last November for sailing and power charters at the CostaBaja Resort and Marina on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Offering monohulls from 35 to 51 feet, catamarans from 40 to 43 feet and a 47-foot power cat, the base is expected to be popular with charterers from both Mexico and the U.S. West Coast. “We had a sail base [on the Baja] at a different location,” Perry says. “This is a five-star luxury resort with home sites, a beach club, shops, restaurants, entertainment. It’s working out really well.”

Responding to demand for charter boats with more stingy fuel consumption, Moorings Power will debut a new 37-foot power cat in October at the U.S. Powerboat Show in Annapolis. Powered by 110-hp diesels, it is a “very fuel-efficient boat,” Perry says. It has a top speed of 21 knots.

On the sail side, The Moorings is upgrading its 46-foot cat so the helm station is accessible from the cockpit. It also is putting some new Beneteau 372 monohulls into the fleet, reflecting a commitment to satisfy “both the larger and smaller ends of the market,” he says.

The Moorings and other companies under the Clearwater-based TUI Marine umbrella — Sunsail, Footloose Sailing Charters and Moorings Power — have moved into their new consolidated Wickham’s Cay II base in Tortola. Perry is planning a grand opening there in November and other activities in 2009 to celebrate The Moorings 40th anniversary.

Another major player in the Caribbean, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based The Catamaran Company, with 30 bareboats and 15 crewed yachts at Nanny Cay in Tortola, has opened a second base at Chatham Bay Resort on Union Island in the Grenadines. The resort offers 15 bungalows, a restaurant, bar and private beach. The Catamaran Company is operating Lagoon 50s, 44s and 42s out of the resort, according to charter broker Joann Higgins. Sailing north from Union Island, charterers can visit Petite St. Vincent, Carriacou and Grenada, and to the north Mayreay, St. Vincent, Palm Island, the Tobago Cays, Mustique and Bequia.

TMM Yacht Charters, a Lake Geneva, Wis.-based company with power- and sailboats in Tortola, the Grenadines and Belize, is adding a Jeanneau 45 monohull to its St. Vincent fleet and a Salina 48 catamaran in the BVI, says TMM director Barney Crook. Charters are doing well, he says, but sales of boats to put into charter are very slow. The Jeanneau and Salina were still for sale as they head into charter.

The price tag on a 70-foot French-built catamaran has soared from $675,000 to $800,000 over the last year or two because of the weakened dollar. “People are sitting on the fence waiting to see what happens,” he says.

Charter fees for many of the larger, faster crewed power yachts and some of the big crewed sailing yachts are going up with the rising price of fuel, or in some cases charter operators are tacking on a fuel surcharge, says Ed Hamilton, owner of Ed Hamilton & Co., an online charter booking firm. Hamilton says the really good crewed boats are busy. “The marginal ones stay empty,” he says.

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