Buy the ticket, take the ride
Kevin Merrigan, president of Northrop & Johnson, offers his advice on how to get the most out of ownership…
There are certain values of ownership that should never be relinquished, overthought or taken too seriously. Having advised clients on buying, selling and chartering in a yacht-brokerage career spanning more than 30 years, Kevin Merrigan knows every trick in the book. Here, he shares his wisdom on how to make the most of ownership.
From a very early age, I dreamt of owning a boat. After receiving what some might loosely describe as an education from the University of Colorado, I found a good job in Denver working in the oil and gas business. Having achieved some success, I thought it was a good time to make my childhood dream a reality.
Guided by an impulsive need for a new adventure, I flew home to San Diego and began shopping for my first boat. I zeroed in on a 52ft Irwin. The yacht broker representing the boat was a very fine, honest gentleman who gave me excellent advice and unwittingly changed the course of my life. As I worked with this broker, I kept thinking he had the best job in the world. He then quit being my broker and became my muse.
So I quit my job and, following my broker’s advice, set my course for Newport, Rhode Island, to fully immerse myself in my new dream of becoming a yacht broker. As luck or fate would have it, the prestigious firm Northrop & Johnson took a chance on me, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The best strategy for yachting is coming at it from a Hunter S. Thompson point of view: ‘Buy the ticket, take the ride’. After 30 years assisting clients with buying, selling and chartering yachts, as well as my own forays into boat ownership, I have learnt a thing or two, and perhaps it is my turn to play the muse.
Buying a boat should be fun
I love boat shows – I take advantage of every opportunity to talk to crew and yacht owners. You get so much out of them, from first-hand intel on industry innovations to the latest gossip – you get a lot of free advice. If you go to a boat show and you’re not having fun, you are doing something wrong.
Fall in love
At some point, all the research, talking and thinking will lead you in a certain direction. When you fall in love, put a ring on it! There is someone else out there who is also thinking about that boat. And they might have thought about it for longer, so get there before they do.
Don’t worry about the bottom line
I was raised by a wonderful, thrifty, Irish-immigrant mother, so I love a bargain as much as the next person; probably more. You need to get past the point where you’re stuck on the edge of the diving board because you are worried the water will be too cold. Saving money is great but yachting is not the best place to do it. You don’t aspire to own a yacht because it’s logical; you dream of yachting because it gives you freedom, so don’t let the numbers hold you back.
Make every day an adventure
Yachting is one of the great rewards of financial success. Whether your yacht is 17ft or 100m, when it is your yacht or your charter, you set the tone. All of us in yachting have a story, an anecdote or an adventure that we love to share. We all have friends and places that we enjoy visiting as a result of yachting. If you can dream it, yachting can provide it.
Create priceless memories
My wife, Mariette, and I had a wonderful dinner with our friends the other night. I mentioned this article and asked what they love best about yachting. They both answered in tandem immediately: “It gets the kids together!” Family and friends love to get invited on board.
The next big thing
Owning a boat does teach you a lot about what you want in a boat. It is perfectly normal to start dreaming of what else you’d have liked, or what you’d have done differently. As your life changes, your wish list for your boat changes.
My family and I bought a new boat this year and I’m already thinking about the next one. I am very happy with the boat right now but in a year or two I know I will be ready for a different one. And when I find it, I know better than to let a great opportunity pass me by.
Whatever the reason for wanting to sell, when it is time to sell, price the boat fairly and take the first offer that makes sense. All too often people fall in love with their next boat, wait until they think they’re getting the right money for their current boat, then find themselves up a creek without a paddle. It’s common for sellers to find out that the first offer was the right one, or that the boat they wanted is no longer available. Buyers are well informed and want to pay a fair market rate for a boat. When the right (sensible) offer comes in, take it and move on. Because then you get to repeat step one!
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