At first, he didn’t want to share. The yachtsman had owned a 28-foot Chris-Craft as well as 64- and 95-foot Azimuts, but at boat shows, he always admired the Westports. He loved the speed and style of his own rides, but he craved more space, which he got with the impulse purchase of a Westport 40m at the 2014 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. “We said we were going to put her in charter,” he recalls, “but once we got on her, I thought we wouldn’t. Why would I want strangers on my boat?” Like a lot of Westport owners, he softened after the first few years of ownership, and he found a near horde of clients clamoring to charter his yacht. Far Niente, during the first half of 2018, booked seven charters in six months. That’s more business than many yachts get in a year — a level that has kept owners of Westport 112s and 130s flush with revenue for years, and a marketplace that the builder now hopes to tap into itself.
This past May, Westport announced the creation of a charter department run by Kim Vickery, a longtime broker who helped establish the HMY Yachts charter division. Westport aims to create an in-house fleet that would-be buyers can try, and that fans of the brand can charter for fun.
“Up until this point, it really wasn’t a big thing unless the potential owner spoke about charter or tried to justify the costs” of ownership, says Ron Nugent, Westport’s director of marketing. “We could tell him, ‘Yes, you can charter and get X amount,’ and we’d put them with somebody we were comfortable with in the industry. But now, we have so many potential owners who want to charter, to try the boat out, that if Kim can put them on these boats, we have a way to try it.”
As a broker with other firms, Vickery says, she has booked 20 or 30 weeks of charter aboard Westports, including placing the first-ever charter aboard a Westport 164. While nearly two dozen of the smaller Westport models are available for charter, only a handful of the 164s are advertised.
The Westport 164 Hospitality, built in 2011, just joined that group, under the command of Capt. Gavin Hurd. He says the owner plans to offer Hospitality this winter in the Caribbean with a 42-foot Yellowfin tender, and that the yacht is an example of how, while Westports are series builds, each one is a little different.
Hospitality was built so her original owner could cruise the world. “Her stabilizers are slightly oversized, and she runs with four. That makes her extremely stable,” Hurd says. “She also can run at 15½ knots for cruising. That’s extremely comfortable. So many yachts out there are running at 11 or 12 knots. I can kick in a turbo and get to 24 knots. We don’t run at that speed, but the old owner used to do 20, 21, and they went everywhere from Norway to China to Australia.”
The owner of Far Niente also sees his Westport 40m as having unique attributes for charter. Though he bought it after the yard had built it on spec, he added cushy seating around the sun-deck hot tub, a sitting and dining area at the Portuguese bridge, and beds that convert from twins to a king in one of the staterooms, allowing for charters with four couples instead of three.
And it doesn’t hurt that a lot of Far Niente’s charter clients want the types of toys that his family enjoys.
“I just bought the Seabobs a couple of months ago — boy are they a hit,” he says. “My kids and I, we can’t stay off of them. And we have these turbo kayaks that you pedal, and we got the Hobie Mirage, which is like a paddleboard elliptical. It’s so much fun.”
That’s the name of the charter game — fun — and Westport is eager to introduce more people to it through its new division.
“We’ve been talking about this for the last three years,” Nugent says. “We know it’s going to be great.”