Yacht Charters & Cruising » Buying a Berth: Why a Mooring Specialist is the Best Route to Market

Buying a Berth: Why a Mooring Specialist is the Best Route to Market

When it comes to securing the perfect berth for your yacht, there are many factors to consider.

Availability in terms of moorings and which port you want to be based at are likely to be your chief considerations but add to that a heap of contractual paperwork and legal documents and the yacht owning dream can start to feel a tad overwhelming. This is where Jo Long of Zen Yachting comes in.

Why use a berth specialist? 

A berth and mooring specialist with a bulging contacts book and a close affinity with the Côte d’Azur’s prettiest ports, especially Port Vauban in Antibes, Jo’s vast experience coupled with her intimate knowledge of the area is a huge advantage.

She is perfectly placed to guide new owners or owners who are trading up efficiently through what can sometimes be a complicated process.

“The majority of clients who approach me to buy a berth have chosen Port Vauban specifically and want to be there,” she explains. “I am a specialist at Port Vauban – I know it inside out as I’ve sold many berths there and it has so many plus points.

“The old town is right there, it’s part of the port and is strategically placed slap bang on the coast. You can sail to Monaco, Villefranche and Italy or just as easily in the opposite direction to St Tropez and the Porquerolles.

“Some clients will ask for a berth on a particular quay or will have seen me advertising a berth on Quay 1 or Mole Sud and will enquire about that berth. In this scenario, I don’t need to do a hard sell, I have the berth they want so the only discussion needed is on price.”

Port Vauban 1

First steps – a port walkabout 

For those who are unfamiliar with Port Vauban, Jo will invite them to come and meet her for a walk through the port. “I’ll show them where berths are available and which ones have parking right on the quay and which others have parking at the bottom of the quay. Some people want their car right by the berth, others hate looking onto a car park and are searching for something more tranquil with a lovely view overlooking the Fort Carré area.”

Port Vauban: The year so far

Three months into the brand new Port Vauban 21 year lease, Jo has already witnessed a healthy first quarter, adding: “I’ve already resold two berths and I have three other resales on behalf of people who only bought them a couple of years ago. They have both sold their boats and won’t be renewing, which is unusual because the market is currently very buoyant.  

“I thought as we approached the period of the new leases being introduced that there would be a big lull for a few years until people started reselling but that hasn’t happened.

“The pandemic also brought a new market to me; I’m seeing an impact where people’s situations have changed. I have regular enquiries coming in, there are new boats in build and people are continuing to forge ahead with their projects.”

Berths for sale at Port Vauban

For anyone interested in purchasing a mooring in Port Vauban, Jo has three prime berths currently for sale. The first is a category T2 23.99m x 6m berth in the old port. “It’s a popular area because it’s right against the old wall near the beaches and lighthouse so very tranquil with parking in front of the boat,” she adds. “You have to go through two security barriers to get there so it’s also very secure.”

The second option is a category U berth of 28.99m x 7m, which could be moved anywhere in the port where there is an available berth of that size. “It’s very versatile being able to move it wherever you want - obviously you stay there for the duration but you have a choice to begin with,” she explains.

Lastly, a category X berth of 43.99m x 10m would suit a discerning mid-range superyacht buyer. “It’s the only mooring of its size available in the port, the rest have been sold,” adds Jo. “This one is on the Capitainerie quay and can’t be moved.”

Other Côte d’Azur ports of interest

As Port Vauban enjoys a surge of interest, the end of lease period is approaching in many other Riviera ports and with their new leases not yet up and running, sales elsewhere are a little slower.  

“Cannes Port is now rental only since being taken over by IGY while Port Camille Rayon in Golfe Juan will hopefully have new leases running from 2024,’ says Jo, who is about to start working with a well-known company which owns a few marinas in the Mediterranean.

One other area bucks the trend though. “Cap d’Ail has some nice big berths and I have a couple for sale there too.”

Jo Long 1200

Jo Long

What should you be aware of when buying a berth?

For any new yacht owner, an awareness of the potential pitfalls of securing a berth is as important as the yacht purchase itself…after all, you can’t take possession of your shiny new purchase until you have a place to moor it!  

“This is how I get so many repeat clients,” explains Jo. “It’s always advisable to work with a berth specialist as maritime law is quite complicated – you have to be aware of your rights and your contractual obligations. At 18 pages, the Guarantee of Use contract is very long.

“Whether or not you buy from a broker, you still have to go through the port to take over the original contract. You can’t own the water, it belongs to the local mairie, so you lease it and there are lots of conditions attached.

“I always get a flood of questions from the buyer at this stage about what it all means. That’s when a client needs the most reassurance because there’s a lot at stake and I can guide them through that.

“There are also charges that you need to understand and get a good explanation of regarding how they are applied. It’s quite complicated and a lot to take on for a buyer so it’s good to have someone with experience, knowledge and knowhow by your side.

“I have regular ongoing contact with buyers after the purchase is finalised, for the whole period of their lease in some cases. They often ask me about documents that have been sent to them by the port, so this is a full after-sales service that continues for the duration of their ownership.”

The lowdown

It’s also pertinent to note that unless a berth seller strikes a deal with a neighbour or a friend, they have to use the services of a broker to sell on the open market as they can’t ask the port to advertise it. 

While some yacht companies factor berth sales into the rest of their business model, there are very few berth specialists out there.

“Most are brokers who sell boats and once the sale goes through, they need a berth and approach someone like me to do the transaction together, especially with bigger berths,” explains Jo. “I have the berth and they have the client. However, some clients don’t want to commit to a boat purchase until they know where they are going to put it.”

Whereas previously a berth price did not include annual charges – these were added syndique-style on top of the purchase price – berth prices have now integrated the annual charges, with electricity and utility bills on top. 

The sale process from first show of interest through to berth completion can take anything from one month to three months in total and Jo aims to take all the stress and anxiety out of the process. Quite simply, this leaves the owner to concentrate on the reason they bought their yacht in the first place and enjoy getting to know the beautiful sailing grounds of the Mediterranean.

Jo’s check list for potential berth buyers

  • Research and check available berths, making sure the size matches your vessel.

  • Choose your preferred area in the port if possible.

  • Provide requested documentation, depending on if purchasing the lease as an individual or a company.

  • Include all vessel documentation and proof of the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO).

  • Sign the 18 page Guarantee of Use Contract, checking the English language translation if necessary.

Image credit: Port Vauban, supplied. 

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