Monday, December 5 2022
  • Fiona Maureso is a senior yacht charter broker based in Antibes, France.
  • She began her career as a deckhand and air hostess before progressing to train as a broker.
  • That’s what her job is like, as writer Molly O’Brien once said.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Fiona Maureso, a yacht charter broker, about her job. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I started my career working as a deckhand/hostess on a 40 meter motor yacht. Now,

I work as a senior charter broker with a luxury yacht brokerage,​ Northrop & Johnson, with people from all over the world in different time zones. As a yacht broker, I am like a matchmaker between the client and the yacht.

With new customers, our initial conversation is to get to know them to find out what they hope to do on their trip. We send our customers a detailed questionnaire asking them what they like to eat, what brand of sunscreen they like, the brand of toiletries they prefer and their favorite Nespresso capsules. Once they are on board and everything is exactly as they want it, the yacht should feel like home.

There can be all kinds of challenges when it comes to arranging charters

Fiona Maureso Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson An aerial view of a 157ft tri-deck charter yacht called the BIG SKY.

An aerial view of a 157ft tri-deck charter yacht called the BIG SKY.

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

I’ve had people show up without papers for international travel and we had to try to get their visas quickly. I’ve had business associates on charters whose wives and entourages argue.

We serve customers from all over the world and make sure to train our crews to be aware of various cultural differences. For example, in my experience, Russian customers generally like to see a lot of food at every meal, which is a sign that they’ve done well. We place it as a family in the middle of the table, and they help themselves. American and British customers, on the other hand, might prefer a plated dinner served by the crew.

Either way, we never jump to conclusions based on the customer’s background and always ask them directly what they want.

Yachts are not always synonymous with luxury and fine dining, sometimes guests just want a pizza night or a nice movie night

Fiona Maureso Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

A lounge inside the Aqua Mare, a luxury yacht that can accommodate up to 16 people.

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

Sometimes, after two days of very fine dining and gourmet food, guests turn to the yacht’s chef and say, “Can we just eat burgers and pizza?” Some nights they just want to use the boat’s popcorn machine and hide under blankets and watch a movie.

I often plan family vacations — and these are families who may not spend a lot of time together in their day-to-day lives because mom and dad work or travel a lot.

The beauty of yacht charter is that you can gather your whole family in one place and move from place to place without ever having to unpack. These are precious times for families, and I think it really brings them together.

We receive unusual requests for material to be airlifted to yachts

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

The master follows the CHASSEUR, a 160-foot yacht with six cabins.

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

People sometimes ask for specific equipment like a particular jet ski or the treadmill they use at home. These things are really heavy, so I have to organize cranes and aerial lifts waiting at the docks to lift the equipment on and off the boat.

One of our most lavish requests was for a client who was having a birthday party on his yacht in the Maldives. A friend of his sent a private jet to a hotel in the Swiss Alps with a chef famous for his macaroons. They ordered a huge box of macaroons and flew it on a private jet from Switzerland to the Maldives. His box of pastries was the only thing on this plane.

Sometimes things can go very wrong

I had a case in Sardinia where a client went kite surfing against the advice of the captain and the strong winds took one of his arms out of his socket. He had to be airlifted and transported to a hospital in Switzerland.

You cannot train for these types of unpredictable situations. It comes with experience and working with a very good team trained and prepared to handle sudden crises.

Chartering a yacht is more accessible than most people think

There is no typical price budget as we are dealing with yachts that cost between $25,000 and $1,400,000 per week, and no two charters are the same. But if there is a group of 12 participants, it can cost about the same as staying in a very nice hotel.

We are very clear with clients on all upfront costs. Regardless of the boat rental costs, the actual charter will cost double, at a minimum. There is the cost of renting the boat, then the cost of food and drink, fuel, taxes and crew gratuities. All items purchased for a specific charter (from food to flowers and special equipment) are charged at cost, with no markup.

One of the perks of my job is spending time on different yachts before recommending them to clients.

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

The HUNTER’s solarium and jacuzzi.

Fiona Maureso/Northrop & Johnson

We go to boat shows all over the world to see different yachts, and sometimes we get invited on familiarization trips where we spend three or four nights on board.

Knowing and experiencing each yacht is crucial as a broker, as it helps us speak to our clients with authority and make good recommendations. I had the chance to travel to the Seychelles and spend a week aboard a 160ft yacht. I have also visited the Virgin Islands, the South Pacific, Norway, etc.

I try to meet clients when they board the yachts to introduce them to the captain and crew. By doing this over the years, some of my clients have become friends and I have watched their children grow up – and now their children are chartering yachts.

No two charters are ever the same so it’s never boring and I meet and work with amazing people

I have always loved my job. Needless to say, yachts are fascinating and going to inspect them at boat shows all over the world is a big plus.

The yachting industry has changed a lot since I joined it over 30 years ago, but following those changes and gaining experience and expertise has enhanced my career. It’s a privilege to do this job and I certainly couldn’t imagine working in any other industry.


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