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Financial expert Suze Orman: Why I will always choose to charter

Serial charterer Suze Orman knows a thing or two about sound financial decisions. The New York Times bestselling author literally wrote the book on personal finance — actually, about a dozen highly regarded tomes on the subject. And as an Emmy award-winning TV host, magazine columnist and motivational speaker, her message of no-nonsense financial empowerment has spread like wildfire. So when she says that chartering a yacht simply makes good financial sense, it’s worth taking notice. 

“Financially speaking, chartering is really the only way to go,” Orman says. She is fresh from a visit to the Bahamas, a place she fell in love with five years ago with her first charter on board the 32 metre Heesen Lady Arlene (ex.Lady J). This family friendly charter yacht was the perfect fit for Orman’s eight-strong clan, comprising her partner of 16 years Kathy Travis, and Travis’s two sisters and the sisters’ kids. This original cast has varied little since that first adventure and forms a tight-knit group Orman lovingly calls “the Pod”, who have gone on to charter a 44 metre yacht in Alaska and explore the BVIs by boat.

The first charter was an experiment more than anything. Orman, a novice to yachting, wanted to find out if she had what it took to be on the water before deciding to buy a boat. She not only found her sea legs but discovered an overwhelming love for being at sea. “There is a feeling when you’re on the ocean that is unlike any other feeling in this world,” she says. “Nothing is as adventurous, realigning and rejuvenating. I loved that and, to this day, we spend the majority of our time on the water.”

Orman was so taken with the experience that she bought her own yacht, but the complications that guests are shielded from on charters soon turned her off ownership. “The depreciation, the cost of crew, the cost of upkeep and of fuel — it didn’t pay in my opinion,” she says. “It didn’t make financial sense to the ‘money lady’.” 

So she sold the motor yacht, bought a 10 metre Boston Whaler to support her newfound love of fishing, and went back to chartering. Her charter bucket list is ample, with far-flung destinations such as the Galápagos, Antarctica and South Pacific taking top spot, as well as a return trip to the Bahamas, where it all began. The ease of chartering appealed as much as the financial good sense. She relished adventures being pre-planned for her, never having to know if anything broke, feeling safe because the crew had everything under control, and the all-out luxury of superyachts. “I loved how the second you get on board until the second you leave, every need is taken care of before you knew it was a need,” Orman says. 

Chartering wasn’t all rosy, though. There was the pesky problem of gaining weight from all the excellent food. Now she has very specific requests for the chef: “gluten-free, nothing fried, stay away from sweets — and take us out fishing to catch dinner.”

Not only must a chef cook healthy food but Orman will often help with the provisioning. It’s a financially practical decision, as she explains: “We’re usually flying private anyway, so I don’t have a problem loading the plane with what we want.”

Orman is quite exacting about her requirements for a charter, to the extent that she will go and inspect a yacht before signing. Her checklist: cleanliness, a non-boat smell, lots of outside areas — the family often enjoys sleeping on the upper deck — a clean tender, and absolutely no one in the crew can be a smoker. “If any of the crew smokes, I do not take the boat,” she says. 

Having the right crew can make the charter experience, she says. It’s important the crew is proficient in diving and fishing — two of the main preferred activities of the Pod — and she wants a crew she can feel secure with. “When I look back on some of the things we’ve done, like swimming with sharks, I think we had to be crazy,” Orman recalls, “but when you’re with a captain and crew that exude confidence, they take your fear away.”

For Orman, chartering has gone far beyond being a new favourite holiday — it has changed her life. She is now an avid fisherwoman. “The chartering and boating experience opened up an entirely new life for me,” Orman says. “I wanted to spend time exploring, so I have taken a sabbatical, to really explore what the water can reveal to us and add to our quality of life.”

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