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Boat Transport: A Guide to Getting Your Boat from A to B

How to get a boat from A to B seems like a trick question…don’t we simply sail it there? Of course, the main point of having a boat is to sail it, yet there are times when the distances involved are simply too great for some vessels. The solution lies in boat transport, a huge and innovative industry which often remains misunderstood and under-used by private boat owners. 

Boat builders ship their yachts all over the world to waiting customers who don’t expect a salty boat to cruise in with 2000 miles on the brand-new engine’s clock looking like she needs a good clean and good rest. Instead, they transport them, either by road or by sea. Whether it’s towing a vessel by car yourself, getting a ship transported longer distances by road, hiring a delivery skipper and cruising the yacht to its destination, or having your boat transported by sea on a larger vessel, the choice is usually made apparent by the distances involved and the size of the boat. 


Why Do I Need to Move my Boat?

As a private boat owner there are many good reasons not to restrict yourself to one geographical area. Northern Hemisphere winters could see you migrating south to enjoy the milder climes of the Mediterranean or Caribbean seas. You might want to move home or relocate country and take your beloved boat with you. Or you could be in the market to buy a boat, and flinging open your search parameters will give you not just a wider choice of vessels, but foreign currency exchange rates might mean, even with the additional cost of transport, you find competitively priced boats. 

Moving your boat can open a new world of cruising grounds, but to get there might involve using more than one of the transport methods available. Don’t be put off, as it is rarely as complex as it may seem, and could in fact save you money and time. Transporting your boat by road could cut out a lot of sea time, and then cruising it or getting a delivery skipper to transport it shorter distances would complete the journey. Likewise, using transport by boat method will likely require the boat to be moved to the departure port by sea or road to start its journey. Transport companies are very experienced in working out the logistics and offer ever-increasingly competitive rates as the sector grows. 


Boat Transport by Sea

The most obvious option for moving a boat is by sea under its own steam. This option will be more favourable for larger boats or those doing shorter distances. A quick jaunt down the coast, a skip across the English Channel or a move from one marina to another within proximity are all feasible for most boats. Superyachts regularly cross the Atlantic, chasing the sunshine from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and back. The limitations are obvious however, and a smaller, older vessel is not well positioned to spend several weeks at sea, especially if it is newly purchased and its condition not fully known. 

Where it’s practical to move a boat under its own steam, delivery skippers are commonly hired to do the voyage. They will allocate time to checking the boat over, ensuring its seaworthiness, before setting sail and do their utmost to minimise wear and tear on the vessel. Because wear and tear is the greatest drawback to this method of transport, with the engine used for most of the journey which can then require servicing or maintenance. On the flip side, using a delivery skipper (or indeed moving the boat yourself) can be the most cost effective transport solution.  


Boat Transport by Road

Often the route from A to B is far shorter over land than it is by sea – imagine trying to get from Italy’s Adriatic coast to Southampton, England where a sea route is 4,500 Kilometres (2,800 miles) and a land route 1,170 kilometres (1,100 miles). In this situation boat transport by road is an excellent and surprisingly common option. Smaller, lighter boats can be towed by a 4x4 vehicle yourself (this is common for weekend boats, small fishing boats or RIBs) but the towing weight limit is around 2.5 tonnes (plus the 1,000 kg for the trailer itself) which usually limits self-towing to boats under 9 metres (30 feet). 

Larger boats can set off on their own road trip with delivery companies who use specialised trailers and pilot vehicles to lead the way. The size of boat which can transported is dependent on the height and width restrictions of the route, and delivery companies will ensure that all permits are sought well in advance. It may be that certain sized boats are not allowed on motorways, or that they have to be transported at quieter traffic times but during daylight hours. Specialist low-loader trailers are now extremely sophisticated and even 15-18 metres (50-60 feet) boats are regularly hoisted on to trucks and transported across Europe. 


Boat Transport by Ship

So now we come to one of the fastest growing divisions of the boat delivery scene, especially for larger ships, and that’s transport by ship. Moving boats across oceans on cargo ships might seem far-fetched but in fact has been around for decades and is a well-established, competitively priced and safe option. There are various means open to private boat owners, and again the size of the vessel and the route you want to take will dictate which is the most appropriate. Regular timetables of set routes allow you to choose where and when to transport your boat, and this method is often used in conjunction with another transport method for getting to and from departure and arrival ports. Each company varies its departure points, but popular yachting hubs include ports in Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands, the UK, the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Hong Kong and the South Pacific.

There is virtually no limit to the size of boat which can be transported by ship, and even the largest of superyachts can get passage aboard a semi-submersible (or float on/float off vessel). The benefits are many, ranging from fast delivery times, to no wear and tear, unlimited geographical destinations, and full insurance giving peace of mind. 

Specially adapted semi-submersible ships allow boats to be floated on and off, which means hoisting isn’t required. While all sized boats, even those which could easily be hoisted onto cargo style ships, can travel on the semi-submersible transport ships, the system lends itself particularly to very large boats which wouldn’t be able to be accommodated otherwise. The other option is cargo ships, where special loading gear is used to place boats inside containers or directly on the deck in the safest and most space-saving position possible. This type of transport usually accommodates boats between 14 and 21 metres (40 and 70 feet) in length. 


The World is Your Oyster when it comes to Buying a Boat

Buying a boat is a major consideration, and it is vital that you take your time and buy the one which fulfils all your criteria. Keeping your search parameters small means you will either be waiting a long time for the perfect boat to come up for sale or find yourself compromising. Boat transport is a viable and straightforward option allowing you to expand your search across the country, continent or even globe. Rightboat.com has thousands of boats for sale all across the world, and brokers are able to assist in arranging transport to your marina of choice. So don’t settle for what’s on your doorstep. Widen that search and find your dream boat!

A kind Suggestion - Charter a boat before you buy. We have 10000+ boats and yachts for charter online. 


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6. USA: Licence to Sail a Boat

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Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

Get in touch:Linkedin

More from: Samantha Wilson

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