San Juan Sailing & Yachting - History
San Juan Sailing
It was a gamble, really. Back in 1982 we were warned that making your hobby your vocation would ruin a perfectly good hobby. I have always loved sailing, even before I had ever set foot aboard a sailboat. I checked out a sailing book from the library, got confused by all that strange terminology and frustrated, procrastinated.
But in the summer of 1975, I gave my hard-working office staff a half day off and we went sailing together—first time. The wind whispered along at about 2 knots and I still was hooked!
We bought a sailboat, chartered it out to help pay the expenses, and found we were making money by accident. So in 1982 we started SJS with two sailboats—ours and a friend's. We chartered them out, taught school on them and sold boats.
I made many mistakes. And I quickly learned that I hated it when my guests encountered mechanical difficulties or dirty boats or growth on the bottoms. But I took such vicarious joy when they had a great time, that is was almost as if I'd been sailing myself.
We learned a lot over the years, through good times and some really tough ones. I saw a number of my colleagues/competitors fail, and tried to learn from their experiences, as well as our own failures.
But the passion that infused our staff to be rated as tied for the top charter company in the world by the readers of Cruising World has never left us.
We brought that same perspective to our school (Marlene and I are both professionally trained teachers). Many of our charter guests and a good number of our boat owners first learned to sail from us. We were charter members of the American Sailing Association, and served on its Standards Committee and its Executive Board.
Our brokers earned the reputation of looking out for our clients' interests. It has been fun hearing people enter the office saying “My friend bought a boat from you and says you are the only way to go." Ditto for sellers. Then, so a buyer could make an offer with confidence, we required a reputable survey before listing—the only company we know of with that requirement. And 100% of our brokers are required to be board certified.
If our clients are having a great time, with boats as flawless (ask for our Preventive Maintenance Schedule) as possible (ok, they ARE boats), our whole world smiles. And if any one of them has a problem, I take it personally.
Thankfully, we have been fortunate in having staff that shares our passion, boat owners who make the investment in boats, equipment, and preventive maintenance; and instructors who love to teach as much as they love to sail, to make it all happen.
Best of all, we seem to attract a quality of charter guest that strives to bring their boat back in better condition than that in which they received her…if that's possible.
Oh…and the hobby? Still our hobby. Among my greatest joys? Sailing in our islands, grin on my face, sighting another one of our boats doing exactly what we are…marveling in the beauties of God's great green earth.
San Juan Yachting
Nearly two decades after we founded San Juan Sailing, Joe Coons, a friend known locally as “Mr Powerboat", approached me.
"I've been chartering out my own and a number of friends' boats", he began. “But I'm getting too old for this. And you are one of only two companies that I trust to handle my and my friends' boats in charter. Can we talk?"
So we did. And Joe and his friends' boats became the foundation of San Juan Yachting.
We made mistakes there too, back in 1999. It took us awhile to discover that not only were powerboats fundamentally different to manage and maintain than sailboats, but the personalities of powerboaters and sailors differ as well.
They study differently, react differently and just approach life differently. So we've adjusted accordingly. Our Owners Notes, training programs, checkouts…all are uniquely powerboat oriented.
Our Powerboat School adopted a style and a schedule ideally suited to powerboaters.
Our brokers have become yacht specialists and nationally accredited.
Our charter fleet gradually shifted toward more trawlers and fewer “fast boats" (Motoryachts, to be more precise), which has attracted a clientele that appreciates taking life at a bit more relaxed pace.
Along the way, we became charter members of the national Recreational Power Boat Association and helped develop the curriculum.
Our SJY staff are indeed powerboat specialists, and some may even call them “Mr Powerboat-ers. I think nearly 15 years later, Joe is proud.