One-Stop Shopping At Yachting Solutions
If you've ever wished you could buy a boat and have it repowered or restored, berthed in a slip, crewed by the day (or week or month), maintained, winterized, stored and eventually resold - all by the same company - read on.
Yachting Solutions, of Rockport, Maine, is the brainchild of former yacht captain Bill Morong. Eight years ago, Morong was working for a number of affluent Camden, Maine-area island residents who used their boats for pleasure and commuting to and from their island homes.
Since they didn't need full-time crews, Morong provided a concierge service providing part-time crew as needed. Along with running the boats, he also provided seasonal maintenance and detailing.
Customers told their neighbors about the service, and the business steadily grew. As more families were added to his roster, Morong started to tap into a network of yacht crews he'd developed when working in the Florida market. In 2006, he asked Chris Lawton, who grew up in Rockport and had been a captain in the large-yacht business for a dozen years, to come back to Maine and help run the business. Chris was ready to come ashore and he joined the company as a partner.
"It's very difficult to teach someone to run a boat or yacht and also have the attitude and people skills that it takes to successfully build a loyal clientele," says Morong who in addition to business development also handles new-boat sales, restoration and repower projects, slip rentals and winter storage. "Chris thinks like I do about these things, so he was a natural and he already knew a lot of the same people in the area."
Lawton started by focusing on the crew services side of the business and then, as the yard grew, on daily operations both on the shop floor and on the water. Yachting Solutions now has more than 60 clients, providing each boat owner services that range from annual hauling, winterizing and launching to complete turnkey yacht care, including providing a slip, crew on demand, and registration renewal. The company also offers project management services for owners having boats built or restored elsewhere.
Yacht Response is the fast-reaction repair component of the business, offered exclusively to Yachting Solutions customers. Available 24/7, the business has three support boats based in Penobscot Bay, along with vans in Rockport and Mystic, Conn., that provide support from Nova Scotia to Delaware Bay.
Yachting Solutions services and stores boats home-ported from Maine to Nantucket, Mass., and Long Island Sound. Their owners can get service anywhere they happen to be along this stretch of the East Coast as part of one customer care package by calling (877) YACHT-911. Yacht Response also provides first responder repair and warranty service in the Northeast for such vendors as Wesmar thrusters and stabilizers, RGM Industries, which makes the ISIS Integrated Ship Information System, Steyr Diesel, Bass power distribution systems, and Nautical Structures, manufacturer of yacht davits and cranes.
Using the same service infrastructure, the company offers mobile repair service based on territory - for Volvo-Penta, from Connecticut to Maine, and for Volvo-powered Hunt and Lazzara yachts anywhere. They are the new Maine representative for Steyr, the Austrian diesel manufacturer, and are attempting to build the brand's presence and reputation in that area.
Yachting Solutions also is the Maine agent - and a service center - for Hunt Yachts, whose boats make ideal island commuters, given their superb ride. Yacht Response is the Northeast repair rep for Lazzara Yachts, which should give these owners a warm and fuzzy feeling about bringing their big, expensive boats - a growing number of them Volvo IPS-powered - from Florida to Maine in the summer. Conrad Herr-mann, who joined the firm recently to grow its boat sales business, spent 35 years at Lazzara as vice president of customer service, making this relationship a natural fit.
The yacht management side of Yachting Solutions includes crew recruiting and training, maintenance, developing and administering operating budgets, insurance arrangements, fueling, provisioning and storm response. In other words, it takes all the work out of owning a boat; the owner just writes a check once a contract is signed specifying the level of care to be provided.
The company is headquartered on Route 1, the main road in this part of coastal Maine. A 6,000-square-foot building out back is used for storage and restoration, repower and painting projects, including the Huckins IPS repower discussed here.
Maintenance is a big part of the firm's business, so Morong and his partners recently bought 2.5 acres adjoining their location. Starting late this year, this land will be used to establish a yacht maintenance campus of sorts, with vessels to 80 feet accommodated in heated, lighted structures. Rack storage, a first in this area, will be included. In fact, it's not the building that limits the size of the yachts serviced, but the roads leading from the nearest launching facility in Rockport.
Morong and company also recently established the nearby Trident Yacht Basin in Rockland harbor. This deep-water facility has 250 feet of pier space with a 13-foot controlling depth and 16 slips, soon to be expanded to 60. The location is ideal for the private commuter boats servicing the nearby islands. Clients can tie up at the dock and then hop into a gassed-up-and-waiting courtesy vehicle for local shopping and reprovisioning. Transportation to a local airport for flights to Boston also is provided. Two restaurants, restrooms and a laundry are on the property and the docks are equipped with shore power and pumpout.
Lastly, Yachting Solutions' acquisition of brokerage firm Cannell, Payne and Page (www.cppyacht.com), which specializes in classic sailing and motoryachts, is helping to round business. "Diversification is key to our strategy," says Morong. "It's the reason for these acquisitions, both to protect us in down times and to offer a comprehensive yacht ownership service."
Morong says so much of the marine industry is segmented - boatyard, brokerage, slips, repower - so his strategy is a one-stop approach. "The best car dealers offer a clean, late-model loaner car, service your car and they even clean it before returning it," he says. "In short, they have a good attitude and they do more than they have to or even promise to. That's what we're trying to do in the boat business."
Morong would like to grow to around 90 clients, but that's it. "We want to stay small enough so Chris and I can be the primary face of the company for all of our clients," he says. "We run a very personalized operation and if we got much bigger we'd have to hire a couple of service managers and that's something we'd rather not do. It works very well for just the two of us to be in this role on an interchangeable basis. We can give our personal attention to all of our clients, most of whom are seasonal residents, and we can make decisions on the spot, committing resources and time slots depending on our schedule."
Makes and models of yachts and their needs, of course, vary widely. Yachting Solutions' Safe Haven Program is tiered in three different levels with a number of features at each level. Options such as indoor heated storage vs. indoor cold or outdoor storage are some of the variables that go into pricing, as each package is tailored to the customer. As an example, the annual cost for the average 35-foot lobster yacht can range in price from $7,000 to $37,000 depending on the level of service, program protections, finishes, summer slip requirements, insurance and storage options.