Whenever contemplating whether to put a sportboat on a transport ship, I ask myself, Would a true seaman put their vessel on a ship? There’s a certain feeling you might get when considering the option, similar to a sense of discomfort, as if it undermines the boat’s ability to make the journey on its own bottom. But there is also that feeling of accomplishment you get when you have finally reached that faraway destination that’s hard to beat, and there’s also something to be said about the adventurous feelings you get by traveling in general—a certain sense of excitement.
Yea or Nay?
There are several factors to consider when it comes to cost, safety and potential damage to the boat during a long trip—on the boat’s bottom or via transport ship. If you’re a captain working for someone else, there are serious decisions that need to be made. Our ego tells us we should do it on our own because we’re capable, and that might be the best decision, but it’s also important to consider the fact that you’re also managing someone else’s multimillion-dollar asset. And safe is better than not.
Today’s sport-fishing boats are finely crafted for fit-and-finish and are highly tuned machines built for speed. This equates to expensive equipment and running gear that can cause a multitude of issues when damaged, even if only a slight amount. And the chances of running over something while traveling a thousand miles is unfortunately pretty high, especially when chugging at night.
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While the possibility of your yacht getting damaged on the ship does exist, in theory, the boat should arrive practically turnkey when it reaches its destination. You’re able to complete all of the major maintenance prior to its departure with your own vendors stateside, and the boat can be loaded with more spare parts and maintenance products than what would be ideal for a long trip on its own bottom with the crew on board. Putting a boat on a ship does has its advantages, and while it might not be completely necessary, it is often the better choice.
The Destination Vs. The Journey
If the goal is to travel, fish along the way, and experience everything each stop has to offer, then by all means, do the trip on your own bottom. On the other hand, if you’re just trying to get the boat to a distant fishing destination in one piece, then consider shipping it.
After speaking with several top captains, I discovered that the biggest challenge is the ability to work within the schedule of the yacht-transport shipping companies. Owners often have limited time to use their boat, and there is plenty of planning and coordinating that goes into meeting up with their boat for a week of good fishing. If the ship arrives late to its destination, then the entire trip can be compromised, putting additional pressure on the crew to make things happen in an unreasonable amount of time. Not to mention the inevitable maintenance and repairs that now need to be done, which eats up even more time out of the owner’s busy schedule.
The initial cost of the shipping option is more expensive, but when you consider the engine hours, maintenance cost for those hours, and the general wear and tear the boat receives during the extended periods of time traveling in the open ocean, the advantages of putting it on a ship start to become reasonably clear.
Preparation and Riders
Like anything else in boating, the more prep and research you do, the better your results will be when you arrive. Is someone riding with the boat on the ship? Individual shipping companies have a litany of rules riders must abide by, and this can be quite challenging because the person riding along is at the mercy of the ship’s schedule, rules and requirements.
No rider(s)? Then resign yourself to the fact that the boat will be on the ship for an extended period of time at sea without being washed unless your boat has a designated rider/crewmember; the water supply is also evaluated based on ship-wide consumption. And depending on your position on the ship, you could be dealing with exhaust soot. The entire boat should have a solid coat of wax on it to protect it against salt and other ship-borne contaminants. Many crews will remove the bridge enclosure and seal up hatches using shrink-wrap tape. It also doesn’t hurt to coat all of your stainless and pipework with insulator wax for extra protection. But rather than polishing it off, just put a coat on and leave it for the remainder of the trip. It might be somewhat of a challenge to remove it when you get there, but the protection is worth it.
You also want to consider power, refrigeration and air-conditioning options. The shipping company might have power for you, but you need to be sure to prep your shore cord for a hard-wire application because marina-type connections are rarely an option. If you are blocked up in a location on the ship where you can set up a water line, make sure you have the correct plumbing fittings and hose sizes set up ahead of time, and consider your pressure requirements.
It also should go without saying that you need to discuss international yacht transport with your insurance company before you stroke the check for a deposit or sign on the dotted line. Yacht-transport companies aren’t responsible when it comes to damages, and while they might be able to facilitate insurance placement, they make no warranties or assume any responsibilities, so you’re on your own.
Be sure that the shipping company has all of the boat’s specs and is aware of any special details such as chine blocking, transducers, sonar and running gear. Take photos of everything right before your trip with a time stamp so you can assess any damage that might occur during shipment.
So, before you decide to ship your boat, take the time to talk to someone who has. If you are an owner, talk to other owners and not just their captains. If you’re a captain, be sure you understand everything that’s involved so you can inform your boss and make an educated decision together.
This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of Marlin.