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(voiceover), Diane Byrne, Daphne D’Offay
Diane Byrne 0:01
Welcome, everyone. Since it’s summertime, there are plenty of people out and about enjoying the water. More to the point, plenty of people are enjoying one of the best vacations possible: yacht charter, with some of them enjoying it for the very first time. A few months ago, I had a pretty interesting conversation with Daphne D’Offay, who is a senior charter manager, and the group director with Ocean Independence. Daphne oversees the charter marketing operations for the company’s American-managed fleet. And much of what she had to share about how newcomers are discovering this vacation option, and how even those who’ve been doing it for quite some time are enjoying different destinations, really caught my attention. So, I thought, considering I had learned a thing or two, you would learn a thing or two as well. So I have Daphne here to join me on the podcast to share some insight and talk a little bit more about charter overall. So, Daphne, thanks for joining me today on Megayacht News Radio. I appreciate it.
Daphne D’Offay 1:01
Thanks for having me, Diane.
Diane Byrne 1:03
So before we go into the discussion about charter overall, I wanted you to share your background about how you actually started boating, because I found it pretty interesting and pretty special.
Daphne D’Offay 1:15
Oh, thanks. Um, well, I’m, you know, I’m a wet footed girl. And I was practically born on the water. And my parents had a sailboat when I was really first born. And I lived on a houseboat for many years, up till about the age of 18, and South Florida. And it was sort of, I guess, meant to be. And although I did try a different career path, I always seem to come back to the water. And it was a Fort Lauderdale Boat Show where somebody needed some help, and I was in town. And the rest is kind of history, I started off as being crew from that point, did that for five or six years, and then ended up coming back ashore, but wanting to sort of stay connected to the business and got an opportunity and a small brokerage firm. And from there, you know, it was about just sort of learning the ropes and charter fell in my lap, almost literally, in that particular office. And I was able to have connections that were already established that I could ask for help and learn more from this side. And I really enjoyed it. I loved it, in fact, and then I wanted more. And that’s what led me to Ocean Independence as more of an international global company that’s able to sort of lend to me learning more international regulations and more wide scope of service. And that way, as I got to have more client base, I could provide more information back to them and support.
Diane Byrne 3:00
Very good. Since, like I said, in the intro, there are a number of people who are discovering yacht charter for the first time, we’re even seeing it here on our own website. We find people looking at particular stories that are about yachts that have just entered the charter market, or maybe something that says that that yoga is particularly good for people who’ve never charted before. I’m wondering, among the people who are listening, of course, we know there are going to be some people who are brand new to this. So I’m wondering if you could give some perspective for them about what your charter actually is? Because those of us who are in the industry kind of take it for granted that “oh, well, everybody knows what your charter is.”
Daphne D’Offay 3:40
Yeah, no, absolutely. In fact, I do. And I have to take a few steps back every once in a while with new clients, to ensure I’m giving them everything. And what I would typically relate it to is, it’s similar in to real estate and almost Airbnb type travel. But they’re the differences that you know, we Yes, we have a listing broker and a selling broker when it comes to yacht sales as well as yacht charters. And that’s the correlation to real estate. I represent most owners with their boats and coming into the business. I do marketing and I work with the owners and the crew to make sure the boats are on an MLS platform. And we do use that and Charter, the the main mass public don’t get to have access, but then they come to a broker for our knowledge and our resources to be able to sort of narrow down those selections properly for them. So I do always recommend those who are coming in for the first time or with interest in charter to work with a broker trying to capture the audience of what’s out there on the internet and a search will actually overwhelm you As a first time charter, and this way you know how to get to the bottom line, then you know the ins and outs about charter being really about the experience aboard. That’s probably the first and foremost thing to remember is, even if you might have certain style preferences and you want certain toys aboard, you really want to be sure that the crew are the right match for you to know where they’re, they’re going for your types and interests. You know, if you’re really outdoorsy and very sportsy, or if you really like the five star service to the nth degree, you know, you’ll get that in most capacities, you just have to sort of make sure there’s always a match. Secondarily, I think as a first time charter, it’s important to also get some guidance on itineraries, and the fact that the difference here between yacht charter and for instance, a cruise is that this is custom tailored, you know, your itinerary is yours. It may be of course, regionally specific based on the boat being in a base location, but they can pretty much go where you want them to go within reasonable distance. And the broker is here then to guide you on what is that you know, logistical, reasonable, reasonable distance, but to make sure that you’re getting and all you want it want to, in the course of a charter,
Diane Byrne 6:26
What you just said about how everything is really customed to what you want to do is, one of the things that I find is the most surprising to people when I speak to them–that they can, like you said, stay in a particular area for a longer period of time. They think, “really? It’s not just one day in, you know, say Nassau in the Bahamas or some other area? We could , stay for three days?” They’re so surprised by that, because I guess they’re really just not used to having that in a lot of the vacation options that are out there.
Daphne D’Offay 6:59
That’s true. And same thing with food, for example, you know, most of the books we deal with, they have a chef on board. And that chef is not putting a pre planned menu necessarily in front of you, that you have to stick by, you’re giving very detailed preference sheets in advance, and then the menu will be tailored to your group, you might have two people that are vegetarians and others that you know are not or other dietary restrictions, gluten free and those things. And although you’re not choosing from a menu, when you go on to these charters, you’re actually getting what you want, and so are your guests. And that that’s really important too.
Diane Byrne 7:41
Right? Absolutely. That’s, that’s also a big point that some people will who I’ve spoken with, they’re really impressed by how it really is exactly what you want. If you’re, if your kids are coming along and the kids are very finicky, the chefs know how to deal with that. It’s not a problem whatsoever. It’s it’s not like “Well, you have chicken fingers and burgers. That’s it.”
Daphne D’Offay 8:02
Yeah. And that’s okay, too. I mean, sure, a little less creativity for any chef and those capacities, but they work through it. They know in the end, it makes the family or those aboard happy.
Diane Byrne 8:15
Right, right, definitely. So in the past two years, we saw COVID change a lot of how people spend their leisure time. And that definitely had an impact on yachting. I know, it had an impact on charter on charter too. But I’m wondering what you saw, you and your team saw because my perspective, from the media side might be different from what you saw, being in the trenches, so to speak.
Daphne D’Offay 8:40
Sure, and we’re all I think, blasted with what we don’t know it, whether it’s propaganda or real news, and that kind of thing. So it helps to know. I mean, my personal experience has been, surprisingly, that COVID really took off for us from a charter capacity, I saw an enormous spike in the number of bookings, as well as the number of first time charter clients. And some of that is because the predominant part of my yacht fleet that I represent is Florida Bahamas based at least it was also during COVID. Many of the boats that typically might move to a farther off region just chose not to during COVID. So they were all sort of local as I speak locally, and the Bahamas is sort of right in our backyard, as well as of course, Florida cruising, so people didn’t have to necessarily get on a plane even and go far they might drive a little farther distance and meet the boat near shore and could still cruise down to the keys or locally between Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami and we saw a lot of that as it became a more controlled environment, people were hearing, I think, amongst each other. And in that sense, the testing was easier with a small group. But yet, you still got to move in the course of your itinerary, your travels for a vacation, but in that controlled environment, without mixing in, with others ashore, and everybody was testing ahead of time. So as long as sort of you started with a clean slate, so to speak, for lack of a better description, it seemed to work well. And then owners were also using their boats for longer extended periods of time. So I think they were talking about it more, really enjoying their boats. And that got out to their sort of circle of friends as well. And maybe that’s what expanded upon first time charters or otherwise to. So it was a benefit the areas that of course, may have suffered and didn’t have the same reaction and charter were the ones that, you know, there were a lot more governmental restrictions for entering and exiting, etc. So we, we did see some challenges, for instance, in the Caribbean and in the Mediterranean, but by all means Florida and Bahamas had a huge uptake.
Diane Byrne 11:17
Right, that little closer to home experience for a lot of the Americans. Yeah, for sure. For people who are looking to charter for the first time, where would you recommend that they go? Because there are so many places that they can venture to when now that the world is a little bit more open? The places that were shut down and much more restrictive are no longer in that situation?
Daphne D’Offay 11:42
Yes. I mean, so that sort of twofold there, I think first time charters tend to not want to take the risk by going so far away for the first time. So I wouldn’t necessarily see a first time charter choose a boat in the South Pacific. That’s the kind of place that we’re seeing experienced charters want to go Central America, places where we actually don’t have a huge inventory of boats to choose from, because they’re a little more remote. And you know, just sort of in passing boats go through these areas. And instead of being based there for a whole season, for example. So that that I think gives you an idea, you know, between Central America, Panama, Belize, Costa Rica type of areas, they’re really getting bigger attractions and demand. And then when it comes to separately a first time charter, would if if they’re American, for example, or even European, I think the Europeans first time typically stay in their own grounds and do Europe. Whereas the Americans either choose the Bahamas, or the Virgin Islands, the US or BVIs. The reason being is that number one, you have more inventory to choose from. So there’s a wider range to start with maybe a smaller budget to not feel that they’re taking a huge risk for a first time experience like this. That may be beyond, you know, a larger budget than they’ve spent before. But the islands for an itinerary are closer together too. So any concern that maybe even only one or two family members or friends have in a group of let’s say, six or eight, they can see that there’s only maybe an hour travel time to get to the next one spot. It’s shallower waters as well. So you have less good, less of that sort of variable of sea conditions being rough. And what’s that going to be like? So it makes a little more fun and exciting to move from Anchorage to Anchorage easily in the course of maybe a week, which is kind of our average itinerary. And then from there, they sort of determine, oh, can I do this again? And I’m okay with three to four hours cruising instead of just one hour, two hours. That’s what I’m seeing typically.
Diane Byrne 14:12
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And since you were mentioning the destinations that the more experienced, charter clients are gravitating towards. Tell us a little bit more about them. What is it about Costa Rica? What is it about Belize? What is it about Panama, etcetera, that’s making them say I really want to go there. I really want to see what it’s all about.
Daphne D’Offay 14:34
I think the first item that stands out to me when I’m speaking with owners and clients about those areas, is that it’s not overrun with lots of other boats. They’re doing it as sort of a an experience that stands out and not everybody gets to do these areas that also are a little more unique. You have exceptional diving. So if you are a true kind of boater yachting person that, that likes to be in the water, the water sports side of things, and especially diving are huge there. And it’s much more untouched because of their remoteness. So that makes it you know, everybody gravitates there. And then I think second to that is that both areas when it well, when it comes to sort of the Panama Belize area separate to Costa Rica is that there’s a lot of exciting excursions that you can also pair with the yacht itinerary ashore. And they’re also one of a kind, unique experiences, whether it’s rain forest, you know, venturing or, you know, a ziplining experience or a volcano that you’re going and taking a helicopter, you know, ride over, these things are, you know, still well paired with being on the water, and close by to Adventures ashore. Whereas not all other yachting itineraries have that, necessarily. So I think that’s a big part of it. The South Pacific is a little different because of how far it is to fly. So we we do have fewer people that will take the time, because to have a lot of time to get there. But the difference there is, I think, also very cultural. It’s, you know, for Americans, especially you go out there, and it’s something that you don’t see anywhere nearby here. So not just from the terrain standpoint, and the cruising but from the people ashore. So similarly the same, and dairy untouched.
Diane Byrne 16:50
Yeah. Oh, definitely. Definitely. We just actually ran a story about the Kimberley region, sure, of Australia on. And I have to say, when I read the first draft, I thought, Oh, my God, I want to get on a plane and go, This sounds amazing. Yeah. Because it’s so untouched. It’s so stunningly beautiful from the photos and just the experiences like what you were describing, between the people you can encounter and the wildlife, you’ve seen the nature You see, in the underwater experience, the whole picture was just something that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Daphne D’Offay 17:29
Well, and it’s interesting you say that, because several years ago, I represented in a boat owner from Australia. And that was one of his main reasons for buying a boat was to explore that coast. Because he he was Australian himself and yet, didn’t feel he ever had the chance to experience who the outer edges of his own country unless he had a yacht. And fortunately could afford one. And then of course, carried on being able to expand his his travels from there. But that gives a perfect example.
Diane Byrne 18:08
Yeah, definitely, definitely. Probably not unlike some Americans who have never been up to Alaska. And once they have a yacht hunting setting, Alaska by yacht is just the way to do it. Right?
Daphne D’Offay 18:20
Yes. Yeah, there are just so many I think that’s, that’s the one thing that’s missed, in concept, right about being on a boat in any, whether it’s a small catamaran or a big yacht, is that there are so many places that nobody gets to see. Unless you’re on a boat.
Diane Byrne 18:40
Definitely, yeah. So let’s, let’s turn the tables a little bit. If you were a charter client, where would you go?
Daphne D’Offay 18:48
So I’ve never been to South Pacific myself. So that is one region I’m very desperate to experience. A second to that I have been to the Seychelles and I have been able to experience a little bit by boat. And I would love to do more of that, because there were so many islands it didn’t get to see. And to me, that is easy cruising grounds. It’s also quite shallow. In most places, everything’s fairly close together, but yet very untouched. And some of those other regions that are untouched and farther off, have a lot of deeper passages. So this keeps it all a little concentrated. But lastly, I would say our Galapagos that that’s next on my list, too, is to get over there by boat because, again, you know, there’s nothing you can experience in that region other than by water. Really, really, and there are a lot of people that do it otherwise, but I think, you know, it’s a completely different experience, but Well, I’ve
Diane Byrne 19:53
I’ve never been to any of those. So I’m right behind you. My bucket list has just gotten a lot longer. I think that’s a good problem to have in the grand scheme of things. Without a doubt! Well, Daphne, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It’s been really fun listening to your insight on what first timers want to do and what’s good for them, as well as where the people who are a little bit more experienced are seeking to go. It’s really cool to hear how people are really adventurous and their outlook in their desires and how the first timers are getting to see things that they ordinarily wouldn’t see a little bit closer to home.
Daphne D’Offay 20:38
Yeah, it is my pleasure. You know, getting the word out I think is is important. We’re we feel like a small and very tight industry and I don’t think it should necessarily be kept. So I agree this expands it a little bit more.
Diane Byrne 20:52
Definitely. I think it will charter is certainly the best kept vacation option that’s out there.
Daphne D’Offay 20:59
Yeah, shouldn’t be a secret any longer.
Diane Byrne 21:01
No, definitely not. Everybody, you heard it straight from Daphne, give her a call. You’re very welcome. Thanks for being on. Everybody, If you want to learn more about Chartering and you have certainly questions you can contact Daphne and the Ocean Independence team via their website, which is oceanindependence.com. That wraps up this episode of Megayacht News Radio. Thanks for listening. Until next time, I’m Diane Byrne.