Steve McCrea, the general manager of Ed Hamilton & Co. (which sponsors this blog), recently spent two days at the annual charter yacht show on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He saw about 30 boats at Yacht Haven Grande marina, which is shown in the photograph at right.
McCrea talked with me about how this year’s fleet compared with boats displayed at St. Thomas in years past, and about the effect that the continuing global recession is having on the charter market in this part of the world.
My last visit to the St. Thomas show was two years ago, and I thought the quality of the boats was different overall than the quality of what I saw on the British side of the Virgin Islands. How did the St. Thomas fleet look this year?
You have to take the quality of the boats into perspective for the location and the market. There are a lot more monohulls in St. Thomas than in Tortola, and there are definitely some older boats in St. Thomas that you don’t see in Tortola, but there is a segment of the charter market that’s interested in what St. Thomas has to offer.
Tortola is more catamarans that edge onto the larger size of medium. St. Thomas is more monohulls, and a good number of them are smaller. That of course affects the price of the charter, and for some clients, St. Thomas is a perfect fit.
Did any charter yachts stand out in your opinion?
Most of the boats that I saw presented themselves well. Interestingly, there was a boat called Executive, a 73-foot catamaran, that had great exterior space and offered great performance—but that was not as formal a boat as the 76-foot catamarans Akasha and Zingara that you see in the British Virgin Islands. People interested in performance sailing would love Executive, or she would be great for larger groups.
And at a lower price point, too, than the similar-size boats on the British side. Executive is definitely unique in the St. Thomas market, which is why it sticks out in my mind.
What trends did you notice on the docks?
I did notice a few more two-pack boats than usual coming in, small monohulls entering the St. Thomas fleet for the first time. These would be good honeymoon boats, entry-level boats for people trying charter for the first time.
A lot of brokers aren’t interested in booking those charters, but we are. You never know. Those couples might come back next year and want a bigger boat with their friends.
Do you think the appearance of smaller yachts has anything to do with the continuing recession?
I do not. Overall, things are much better this year than they were at this time last year. In St. Thomas, yes, there is still a lot of availability in the smaller size ranges for charters this winter, but I don’t necessarily think that is a reflection of the economy. Instead, it is probably because a lot of brokers don’t book that size boat.
You can reach Steve McCrea directly through the Ed Hamilton & Company website.