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How do charters make money?

Old 02-09-2012, 03:40 PM
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Default How do charters make money?

I was wondering how do charter boats make any money? Im from eastern NC and the average charter is about $1600/day for offshore fishing. Went on one last summer and the captain said he was burning about 60 gal/hr. It was about a 2 hr ride from the dock. So thats 240 gallons just riding. I figure about 80 gallons trolling. So 320 gallons and lets just say diesel is $4.50/gal that will be $1440 just in fuel. Im sure the mate gets paid something other than tips, plus bait, insurance, dock fee, regular maintenance on boat, etc. Dont see where they make any money.
Old 02-09-2012, 03:45 PM
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A lot of them love what they do and exaggerate fuel consumption...
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Old 02-09-2012, 03:51 PM
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60 gallons an hour well.......What part of NC did you go out of?
Old 02-09-2012, 03:52 PM
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30 gph per diesel engine is probably twice as much as his motor was actually burning at cruise....
Old 02-09-2012, 03:56 PM
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A charter boat like the one you're talking about is a very expensive purchase and even if the boat is 5 to 10 years old the owners probably still making payments. When I talked to one charter Capt. that last summer he said his payments were $8500 a month and he definitely did not have the biggest or fanciest boat at the Marina. He also said that it takes him an average of nine charters per month just to cover the payments on his boat.

He also said that he spends an average of $1500 a month on small repairs and parts here and there as well as occasionally having to replace some big-ticket items. And then there is insurance, marina costs for the slip etc. etc. etc.

The only way I can see them making money is that their fuel costs have to be much lower than what your captain said he was spending on fuel.

No matter how much you love fishing, if you lose money on every trip you make than the bank is going to come and take your boat and your credit get very thin because you're not eating.
Old 02-09-2012, 03:57 PM
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What kind of boat?

A large sportfish with big diesels will burn that kind of fuel. Anything in the 50 foot range, with older engines and an older hull and it is entirely plausible.

A newer/smaller boat, not so much.
Old 02-09-2012, 04:09 PM
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Offshore charters don't make money. Don't forget to take into account the boat depreciation, costs to refit the boat with tackle when current tackle gets old. Add in all the days you can't fish because of weather. I own a charter boat and have no boat payments. I'm lucky if I break even at the end of the month. Most months are a loss especially in this economy.

Last edited by ThreeLittleFish; 02-09-2012 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 02-09-2012, 04:15 PM
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I sure like my 6 gallons a night
Old 02-09-2012, 04:16 PM
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Seriously I doubt that he burns 60gph. I burn that at cruise in my boat with twin Cr900s. Most of the charter boats around here burn 40gph or less and thats at cruise. Trolling burns a couple of gph thats all. But your right it is tough for them to make a buck. You've got to love it as many of them do.
Old 02-09-2012, 04:45 PM
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The only way you make money as a charter captain is to have a real job too.
A typical inshore charter on a 32-35' diesel sportfish up here is $750 for an 8 hour inshore trip Fluke/SeaBass/Stripers/Bluefish. The owner will burn about 45-50 gallons of fuel for they day - $225; another $30-50 for bait; $40-50 towards tackle - so about $300 in trip expenses, leaving $450 per trip to pay for the boat and captain. The mates normally aren't paid from the boat share, but get the full 15-20% tip ($105-150 for the 8 hour trip, meaning $10-15/hr max). Captains for an 8 hour day rate get $200 ($25/hr), and the balance ($250) goes to the boat expense. Break even is about 150 trips per year, which is a very full season.
So the real answer is most charter guys starve.
Old 02-09-2012, 05:34 PM
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We went on the Qualifier out of Oregon Inlet, 57ft Paul Mann. He actually said a gallon a minute (60gal/hr). I know another guy at Oregon Inlet that on days he doesnt have a charter he will go catch fish and sell them. Still, dont see a lot of money being made doing just charters.
Old 02-09-2012, 05:52 PM
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I worked as a mate 20 years ago and frankly the capt did not really make any money. He had another job that paid the bills, the chartering paid for the boat and his fishing. Don't think he really cared about reeling in fish, just wanted to be on the water and fishing...
Old 02-09-2012, 06:00 PM
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56' viking I fished on for a while, burned 100gph @ 31-33knts. Spencer canyon..90 miles. Fuel cost...ALOT
Old 02-09-2012, 06:06 PM
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does 56 foot viking cost $1600 to charter??
Old 02-09-2012, 06:16 PM
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I can burn 60 an hour at 25 knots very easily! I have burnt as much as 300 a day but 240 is the norm.
Old 02-09-2012, 06:19 PM
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One of the more popular offshore charters out of Cape Canaveral " The Ticket" run by captain Ed Dwyer sold their boat recently. It was a 55' custom carolina sportfisher. He was around for a long time and was one of the better know captains.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:25 PM
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I don't know how the bigger charters make money, if any. The guy down from my boat charters with a 26 Cat with 140 zukes. His current boat was bought like a fire sale and is paid for. He charges 950 a trip up to four people. He said he did almost a hundred trips last year and is booking up nice this year. If he averaged 100 tip, thats a pretty nice haul for something he obviously loves to do.
Old 02-09-2012, 06:44 PM
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You are most definetely not going to get rich in the fishing charter business but it sure is exciting!
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:46 PM
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( i am not done with this rambling answer but I will post it for now and finish later)

excellent question. I often wonder that my self. it is difficult.

if you look into it, you can see that if you are serious about fishing, finding good charter operations that you enjoy fishing with, are a great deal verus trying to privately own comparable boat.

as for the 60 gallons/ hour cruise issue, it probably pretty close for a mid 50ft-60ft cold molded Carolina boat with decent power twin diesels. I know they build some fairly big boats there with singles, or you could have a stripped down wood (or foam) cored boat with small engines that get better.

one of the boats I run is a 57 Bertram(not an charter boat, but for example only), which is fairly heavy glass boat (solid fiberglass bottom, foam cored on sides and other places) with twin C--30 Cats (1550hp each) , at cruise,it burns right around 100 gallons/hour at 1850rpm doing around 28-30kts, depending on load. it does have a 13 whaler on front, with a davit which i wish wasn't there. at troll speed it burns about 6 per hour.
Here in Los Suenos CR we usually only need to run 20-30 miles to start, and try to be under 30 running home. i usually burn 250-300 gallons/ day. currently @ $4.60
+$50 or $60 bait, $200 to $300 food and drink, try not to think about hooks and leaders etc
(I will finish this part Later).
with big boats, and hired crews, allot of it is just to keep the boat running and offset costs (pay for themselves bit). most really don't make money(profit) when you look at the big picture.
this does not account for oil changes around $3000 every 200 hours or other maintenance and repairs. wear and tear, and deprectiation.
a 2000 hour service which may cost $10,000, can easily balloon into $30K or more if something is out of spec, and out of warranty.
if you figure a boat that has a $2,000,000 replacement hours (new) and your average day fishing is 10 hours, 10 hours on the boat/ engines probably depreciates the boat more than $1000 dollars of resale value.
so if you charged $2500 day, and had $1500 in operation expenses, it sounds like your cashing in $1000 a day. after 100 trips you made $100,000 , except you put 1000 hours on your yacht, 1000 hours on a nice sport fish definitely depreciates it $100,000 tand when you get 4000 or 5000, or more hours on you yacht, no nobody wants to buy it, and definitely not pay top dollar. ( with the exceptions of a few immaculate high end custom boats)
so why do it if it isn't profitable? some owners want the dream but not want all the expense. another good reason is boats break.
they break if you use them , they break if you don't. in fact they break worse ( and more) if you don't use them.
if you don't keep your boat running enough yourself, chartering it out regulalrly , even with the wear and tear, can be a great way top keep a boat running smoothly always ready to go,.and /or in a good local, with and with experienced crew


i think small boat are possible to make money,( especially if hit is owner operated (and single diesel ))
My Charterboat is a 31 contender walkaround, with tower and spreader riggers, and bottom paint which all adds to reduced efficiency.
add in the weight 4 or 5 clients, my mate and I, coolers of Ice, bait, drinks, food, lots of tackle, 45 gallons of water, 145 gallons of fuel, and she starts getting heavy.
I have been really trying to fine tune her to get what efficency out of her,and help with the load( 4 blade 19p rev 4s props,wedges, faired and blocked out the bottom with VC offshore teflon paint), but I usually burn about 22gallons/hour @27knots. I could cruise faster, but 26-27knots a fairly good safe comfortable speed for most conditions
what really sucks about gas outboards it they still drink gas while trolling, it burns 5 to 7 gallons/hour trolling. my average burn is 80 gallons a day. currently @ $4.90.
a cheap trip is low 70's gallons, an expensive one is almost 100 gallons. ( usually during july when gas is almost $6 a gallon)

my average fuel costs is around $400/day

other basic daily expenses for a typical offshore charter based on 4 clients 2 crew ,
40 Bait $50
food & drinks $100-$120
terminal tackle $50 if nothing get broken, lost etc. but it can be over $100 very easy
Ice $14
mate $50 + tips.
oil changes contribution $15

then you have repairs mantainence and upgrades and about $20,000 in fixed costs- slip, insurance, licenses, bunch of legal BS.

when my trips are $1200 a day (&minus a big chunk if you have to pay a commission to someone)

I am not getting rich , and non-boat owners/ non fisherman tourist just think we rake in the dough.
the business side of it can be very frustrating and allot of work, but I do it because I love it. i wouldn't trade it for the world.

I could go do something else and make more money, but I would just be trying to make enough to pay for me to go fishing when and where I want
still not done

Last edited by La Vida CR; 02-09-2012 at 08:22 PM.
Old 02-09-2012, 06:47 PM
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Freebird's a full time Captain and a Good One.
I run a 31 Contender on trips and we will burn anywhere from 150gal to 200 on a full day trip. But the boat is paid for and will need to be repowered, soon. It does not make a living for my family, instead it is a way for me to enjoy running a business and do what I enjoy,. I'm lucky, my wife is the bread winner, with a graduate degree ,and CPA cert. So I have also been Mr Mom for 20 years, running a GC company while the kids are in school. Now I do what I love. Money can't buy that!

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