As Seattle Yachts International continues to expand locations and the cruising brands it represents, it was only a matter of time before it added yacht transport to its operations. And this service is offered to the rest of the industry, not just for Seattle Yachts dealers and customers.
I recently spoke with Cory Gracey, brand manager for the Nordic Tugs line at Seattle Yachts. Cory is also spearheading this new service, as he has been transporting yachts of all shapes and sizes for the last 18 years and is extremely knowledgeable about moving a boat safely and efficiently from one location to another. Talking to him was enlightening and gave me a look behind the scenes of a niche business that few of us notice.
I caught up with Cory by phone as he drove through Iowa, after a failed attempt the day before outside of Butte, Montana. Cory is driving a diesel GMC 2500 to transport a 35-foot Fountain to Seattle Yachts’ office in St. Augustine, Florida. The center console, equipped with four 350hp outboards, is capable of 100mph, and will be much easier to sell in Florida than in the Pacific Northwest, so the move makes lots of sense.
The trucking component adds a missing piece to Seattle Yachts’ growing network, as it connects the dots between offices and add flexibility to its dealers. Boat can move to offices around the country to better serve customers, while Seattle Yachts remains fully in control of the operation. The company manages all aspects of the timing and scheduling with the exception of bad weather or equipment failures.
That is a big deal when you think about it. Using outside transport companies can try the patience of anyone who has ever had that experience. The inevitable open-ended schedule for a transport must wait until a return transport makes it into a two-way trip. This means a trip that should take five days can easily be delayed a month or more. That is undesirable for a positive customer experience.
Seattle Yachts now has full, end-to-end responsibility and control. Once a boat is loaded on the trailer, and all antennas, radar, and mast removed for the trip, the delivery driver is responsible to transport the boat safely to its destination. States issue the necessary permits, and the process identifies any construction that might suggest alternate routes to ensure safe transit.
Cory added the customer value of this in-house operation is they insist the drivers maintain a connection with the boat’s owner during the trip. Each driver must send photos to owners every other day, so they can be assured their boat is okay and on its way. Cory said they have fun with this if a short side trip means they can photograph the boat in front of the Alamo, or Mt. Rushmore, or the Corn Palace in South Dakota. Owners love it.
Most coast-to-coast trips take about five days, as drivers are legally limited to 11 hours of driving per day.
There are many reasons to consider using a yacht transport service, besides the obvious delivery of a new boat from a boat builder to one of its dealers on the other side of the country. One may buy a boat, for instance, that is too far away to practically consider bringing it home on its own bottom. Buying a boat in Texas and getting it to the Chesapeake Bay takes a lot of time and often requires the services of a delivery crew. This gets expensive.
The cost and effort to do it yourself is simply beyond the means or interests of most people. One needs a big truck, a trailer sized for the boat, and all the liability is on you. The 8’6” width limitation cannot be exceeded unless one has permits to pass through each state along the route.
After his years of transporting boats, Cory has many repeat customers. They use his services to take their cruising boat to different areas to cruise or attend rendezvous events. He has transported one couple’s Ranger Tug 10 times around the country so they could attend events in Florida, the Pacific Northwest, and at planned festivities along the Great Loop. It is also common to annually take a boat north for the summer and down south for the winter months. It happens all the time.
The current limitations of Seattle Yachts’ transport capabilities are 16 feet wide (it is better to keep width to 14 feet for more roads and bridges), 16-feet high on the trailer, and 53 feet in length, depending on weight. Their current trucks and trailers are limited to about 50,000 lbs. There are plans to expand this capability in the future.
The cost of transporting a boat depends on its size and weight. For example, the cost of moving a Nordic Tug 26 is $3 per mile, and $4 per mile for a Nordic Tug 34. Delivering a new Ranger Tug from its builder in Kent, Washington to a dealer Georgia is about $13,000. And it is around $34,000 to take a new Nordic Tug 44 from the yard in Burlington, Washington to Annapolis.
It is always more efficient to schedule a second transport for the return trip, when possible. Ideally, one offloads a boat and then loads the next boat onto the trailer the same day. Cory said this is not as difficult to arrange as it might seem, as they serve the needs of Seattle Yachts as well as other established customers. Once Cory drops off the Fountain center console in St. Augustine, he will transport a new Nimbus C9 from there to Seabrook, Texas. He will then change hats. An experienced broker, he will complete the sale, give the new owner a thorough walk through, and go over everything needed to operate the 30-foot, commuter-style cruiser.
Life on the road has its ups and downs, of course. Cory said that he and the other drivers love seeing the country with its changing landscape and enjoy the many friendships made delivering boats to dealers over the years. But it is not a joyride across country. Each driver’s professional responsibilities remain top priority, to maintain situational awareness while on the road. Snow or ice on the road surface reduces bridge clearance, for example. The last thing any transport driver wants is to turn a yacht into a convertible. It has happened.
The inevitable, occasional breakdown or bad weather can also create some frustrating if amusing memories. He recalled when his transmission broke, it forced him to live inside a shrink-wrapped boat for several days. He ordered a pizza one night and told the delivery driver to come to the white plastic-covered boat in the parking lot and knock on the hull. It can be a struggle sometimes to eat right and exercise. But the joy of driving cross country outweigh these challenges.
As Seattle Yachts refines exceptional customer service, this new component will serve the needs of everyone. Keeping it all in the Seattle Yachts family is the only way to ensure the best possible service while providing the most value.
It is a win-win all around.