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Charter business full time

Old 04-12-2019, 11:54 AM
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Default Charter business full time

So I have been browsing THT for a few years now trying to gather information on starting a charter business full time. I joined in hopes to gather even more information, either good or bad. I grew up offshore fishing out of hatteras with my dad all the time and in high school landed a commercial fishing job in virginia beach as that's where I am from and currently still live. skipping a bunch of stuff, I am 29 years old with a wife and 2 kids. I approached my wife with the idea of starting my own charter business as I am over the 9-5 job deal just for a steady paycheck. I did own a small landscape business for 5 years on the side so I have general knowledge of the business side of things. I really would like your thoughts, opinions or experiences in anything on making the jump into chartering full time with a family to still take care of. Is it something to start on the side and keep the fulltime job until the charter becomes busy enough to leave your other job? Any and every response is much appreciated.
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Old 04-12-2019, 12:43 PM
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Good luck. The charter game is tough enough on people who are already established and have young kids. I would say it's next to impossible if you're just starting with 2 young kids. Expect to make little to no money or less the first several years. Not being around is tough on kids. Not being around and being broke in the process is even tougher.
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Old 04-12-2019, 12:46 PM
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Best way to make a small fortune in the charter business...
Start with a large one!!
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Old 04-12-2019, 12:48 PM
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Dropping the 9-5 job for a 2am-10pm job for hardly any money is not a good choice. I have a charter buisness but it is strickly side hustle
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Old 04-12-2019, 01:29 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I knew the industry was tough to make it in. I don't mind hard work especially at something i would enjoy doing. My wife of course is afraid of the same things yall mentioned. I have just always loved being around the fishing industry and community.
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Old 04-12-2019, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by mouse4x4 View Post
Dropping the 9-5 job for a 2am-10pm job for hardly any money is not a good choice. I have a charter buisness but it is strickly side hustle
Let this soak in for a while. The hours will kill you, More shit will break than you ever thought possible and it usually breaks the night before so you get to work on it all night then go try to find a fish on no sleep. The people that charter the boat will break more shit than you ever thought possible. I worked my way through school running a boat and I’m sure glad that I don’t have to do it any more. You have to be a “people person” and love to fish. I was neither so my views may be a little jaded. What size boat are you thinking about using?
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Old 04-12-2019, 01:48 PM
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If you buy the boat; they will come...
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Old 04-12-2019, 02:00 PM
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Yea i could imagine how much stuff people could break considering its not theirs. I am a people person and like meeting new people. I also love to fish. I am looking into running a 34 to 36 foot sportfish.
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Old 04-12-2019, 02:15 PM
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I’m of a similar age, and always had the same idea/dream. I grew up tournament fishing, worked headboats, commercial fishing, mated for private charters. I’ve heard “Get your captains license and I’ll put you on a boat” nearly my whole life. I have two boats of my own, more gear than I can ever use, I live walking distance from a boat ramp and keep a boat slipped year ‘round.

I know guys who run charter boats who are in a better position than me...and they struggle. Seeing guys I personally know with waaay more resources, guys that are much better fishermen, guys that are much more professional and they still struggle. I’ve had the same discussion with my wife, hell, the end of last season I brought it back up...but I just can’t bite the bullet and put our financial standing and the life we’ve built for my daughter at risk and put all the household duties on my wife, miss spending time with my daughter because I want to be on the water...deep down I know its not for me.

I’ve heard it a million times “1200, 1300, 1400 bucks a day to go fishing? Shiiiit...they’re making a killing”...no they’re not. It’s excruciatingly long hours, its back breaking work, its sun burns, knee pain, cuts and bruises, lost gear, fuel bills and maintenance bills....and thats with no hiccups.
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Old 04-12-2019, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by rdiesel01 View Post
Best way to make a small fortune in the charter business...
Start with a large one!!
That's my line pal!

Getting started in the charter boat biz with no existing clients and all the upfront costs with 2 little kids at home is a tough bid.
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Old 04-12-2019, 02:37 PM
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Thanks Heathen86, those are things i have been looking for to compare to. People that are either in it or know people in it. I guess it looks like im going to have to stay a weekend warrior for now and maybe think about it for a retirement plan. I have been away from the commercial and charter for some time now so i these replies definitely help in making a decision. Wish it wasnt that way, because being on the water is a lot better than an office
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Old 04-12-2019, 04:54 PM
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I run charters and know a lot of people that do as well. Some make a pretty decent living from it, and others struggle from day to day.

A few observations -
Keep the boat simple so there is less stuff to break and maintain
You want bums on seats for max return based on the price per head, so get a boat that will fish as many people as you can, but within the size range and budget you want. For instance a 36ft Sporty might fish 4 to 6 comfortably or 8 to 12 comfortably depending on the layout. 8 to 12 will make you more money than 4 to 6. Same costs, same work, but more income.
Your weekend life is over. Does that work with your family OK?
You need to build a client base and that takes time. Best start is to carry on your day job and build a weekend charter business. Hard work, but get used to it.
Some people will really annoy you. How much control you have of that depends a lot on how you communicate pre-trip. You need to be hard nosed about bad behaviour. Clients get told before the trip what the rules are around stuff like drink, drugs, waste, being on time, captain is the boss etc and they know before they pay that breaking the rules may see the trip instantly terminated with no refund. On the other side, make sure that they give you plenty of pre-trip and in-trip feedback on what their goals for the day are. I literally ask that question 1 or more times during a trip - "are you happy with what we are doing and do you want to do anything different now?". Mostly the answer is "yes', but sometimes it is they have enough fish and want to finish early, or they would like to try for a different fish, or can we BBQ some catch etc.
You need some goto spots or techniques. You then need to be prepared to move often and check out those spots on the days when fishing is tough. Don't get to the end of a tough day and have only fished 2 or 3 spots. Fish 5 or more and the clients know that you tried for them. Communicate what you are seeing and why you are making those decisions.
There is a lot to do to get ot right, but those who do get it right have a better job than most.
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Old 04-12-2019, 05:56 PM
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In most charter operations (at least every one that I have been/am a part of, the guy that makes the best money with least headaches is the hired captain running the boat, not the guy who owns the business and is responsible for fixing and paying for the broken stuff/booking the boats/advertising/answering phone calls/etc.

If you do a search on here about opening a charter biz, you will see lots of threads asking the same question you are.
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Old 04-12-2019, 08:40 PM
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Not to hijack your thread but I’ve been tossing around the idea myself but more of a side hustle than for income. I currently own a landscape business on the side when I am not working at the firehouse. The landscape business is my current side hustle and the sole reason for it is to make money to buy my boat. Once I get my boat I would like to run a few inshore charters on my days off from the firehouse. I’m thinking one or two a week during the peak season to help cover costs of owning the boat and to help use it as a tax write off. Any thoughts on this idea?
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Old 04-12-2019, 09:02 PM
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Definitely good info. I was also thinking of doing it as a side hustle until clientele built up. I ran my landscape business on the side with a fulltime job, so maybe my wife wont be mad haha. Does anyone have a round about number of bookings you have during busy season? In terms of when the business finally has a good customer base, are most boats running a charter everyday of the week or more like 3,4 or 5?
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Old 04-13-2019, 05:40 AM
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Default Part of the problem

People doing it for a “ side hustle” or “ few days a week durning peek season” are going to make it harder
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Old 04-13-2019, 05:43 AM
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at one point in time in my life it was my dream to either run a charter or comerccial hook & line. but in my older age I'm definitely not a people person enough to charter & fishing and weather is just not consistent enough anymore to consider full time hook & line for a living. but most of all I came to the realization that all I want to do is ride around in my boat relax have a few cold beers & some laugh's with my friends & we usually luck into a few fish ...if you turn your passion into a job at some point it may no longer be your passion
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Old 04-13-2019, 05:47 AM
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If you don't have a rich wife or money coming in from some where else it's gonna be tough.

There is no pension plan and you will be hard pressed to make enough to actually save much on your own. You are one illness/injury from being out of business and there is no health care plan. I'm going on 25 years of it but I have always had other sources of revenue. Seems like every time the business starts making money it's time for a re power or some other major expense.

You want a 36 sportfish. The insurance and slip fees you pay every day. Your not going to get to fish everyday no matter how many clients you have. Some areas are seasonal as well. Kinda why the folks in the Carolina's became boat builders part of the year.

Then there is the chance of an engine issue and it will happen. I have had the 20K plus repairs on my Cats.

To be honest I make more money out of my flats boat than I do my offshore boat. It's on a trailer, needs no slip nor the level of maintenance as the slipped boat. Can run a 1/2 day inshore trip and pocket 300 bucks after costs and be home and cleaned up by 1 PM. The offshore boat is a 12 plus hour day, a big fuel bill and a mate to pay. That is if the weather allows the trip to begin with.

DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!
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Old 04-13-2019, 05:47 AM
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Don't listen to the naysayer's. Follow your dream but go in with eyes wide open. I used to be a charter captain and in the long run wasn't for me. I was simply too spoiled from making good money from good jobs and quite honestly didn't have the drive because I was getting older and had children. But you may be different. I have a friend who just started his charter business (down here in the Keys) and he is now up to two boats and doing well. Now...he hustles like hell but a living CAN be made.
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Old 04-13-2019, 06:04 AM
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I think everything said here can be summed up by saying you do it because you love it not for the money.

For any hardcore fisherman - the thought has at least crossed your mind............get paid to go fishing.

Some take the risk, many don't. Some will make it, many won't. It's like trading stocks - 99% fail and lose, but there are some that make it. One thing is for sure, you'll never know if you are in that 1% if you don't try - that's a fact.

My recommendation would be to figure out a way to maintain a paying job so that you have income - and start on a part time basis.
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