It never fails to disappoint me how often I’m asked to find the cheapest yacht rather than recommend the best yacht. Yet there is a difference between suppliers, both in terms of what they offer on paper, and what they deliver. There are companies I would happily take a 10 year old yacht from in preference to a 3 year old boat from someone else. And I’d save a lot of money doing so!
There are four areas where you might experience a difference:
- At check in. I know one supplier who’s briefings are so in depth you wonder if they’ll ever finish. Elsewhere, you might get a cursory guide to your yacht’s equipment and a minimal briefing on the sailing area.
- Initial preparation. Everything should be there and working, and the boat should be clean. If you want to know how thorough the cleaning is, the areas that often get missed are behind the cooker, the shower drains, the shower filters and the bilges.
- Maintenance. Other than checking obvious signs like how dirty the oil is, whether the water filter is clean and the belts are correctly tensioned, this can be harder to discern, but if the supplier hasn’t attended to minor issues like fraying warps, he may well not have bothered about the bigger things either.
- Response to a failure. How quickly is the problem fixed, and do they come to you, or do you have to go some way to them?
The one common facet of the above is you can’t really be sure how good your supplier is until you’re there. Some suppliers offer guaranteed response times to breakdowns but these are sometimes too long to be useful, or only give you credits against future holidays if they fail to deliver.
You could try booking with a big player, on the grounds that with more staff and possibly more spares they are better resourced to help you if needed. But who would you trust most to bust a gut; an employee of a large firm (who will still get paid if he takes a while sorting things out, or may even only be there for the season), or a small owner/operator who knows his yachts intimately and will go the extra mile to make sure you’ll come back next year.
One thing you can do is use an agent (like me) who will have some experience of some (though doubtless not all) the suppliers and can give you some advice. He won’t guarantee a perfect result (all yachts break down sooner or later) but some recommendation is better than none. The difference in price between a good supplier and a less good one may only be a few pounds (and it may even be cheaper). And if there’s a big difference, it might suggest which one may be cutting corners.
If using an agent though, do ask how many suppliers he deals with in the area, as some agents are closely tied to one or two suppliers.