Interviewed by Diane MacDonald-Mackenzie

Tell us about your sailing adventures and what led you to opening a brokerage.

We were teachers in remote rural areas of South Africa, before and just after the end of Apartheid. Our mission was to work in schools which gave Black children in rural areas an opportunity for a good education at a time when that was not an easy thing to achieve. At the end of that mission, we were in need of a change of direction. As inveterate travelers we would take off into Africa in our Land Rover during the school holidays. Having no children of our own, we had some freedom in our decision making and decided to follow Jon’s dream of buying a yacht and going cruising. We purchased our Young Sun 35, ‘Jacana’, in Knysna, South Africa in 1998.   In March of 2000 we set out across the South Atlantic with stops on St Helena and Ascension Islands. 

Later we cruised the North coast of Brazil, French Guyana and on to Trinidad and Tobago. For the next two years we worked called as Captain and Hostess on 50’ charter catamarans.

After two seasons we took time off to do a refit on Jacana. We undertook all of this ourselves, in Trinidad. We continued our cruising on through Venezuela, the ABC islands, Haiti, Cuba and on to the USA. Several months of cruising the east coast brought us to the Chesapeake where we found work at the 2004 Annapolis Boat Show, as boat cleaners. We were introduced to the then owners of Annapolis Yacht Sales, Garth and Sue Hichens, who offed us the opportunity to open a branch office of Annapolis Yacht Sales in Deltaville.

In 2020 we made the decision to start our own company and YaZu Yachting came into being right at the start of the COVID pandemic. Little did we know what excellent timing that would be. Not only were we known in the community and able to build on existing relationships, but at the same the boat market went crazy.

What does the word YaZu mean?

YaZu is a contraction of Yankee and Zulu from the international phonetic alphabet: the Zulu alludes to our home country and the Yankee to our adopted country. It rolls off the tongue easily! Starting our own business has been one of our best decisions, right up there alongside the decision to go cruising!

I am sure there are many distinctions between purchasing a vessel for day and coastal cruising in the Chesapeake versus a long voyage cruising yacht. Can you talk a bit about this?

There certainly are. The first thing we ask when we meet people is ‘how do you plan to use a boat that you purchase?’. We talk about the “Eighty/Twenty Rule” (make up your own ratio) when helping clients to focus on their use of the boat they intend to purchase. On the Chesapeake Bay and for coastal cruising, which is largely close to the coast or on the ICW and the Sounds, a lighter displacement boat with a shoal draft fin or bulb keel is a good option. They move easily in light wind and are highly maneuverable, so you can sail in almost any wind conditions and get into and out of slips with ease. For this kind of sailing 35’ to 45’ is ideal. Sailors doing this type of sailing are generally using their boats on weekends or for one or two weeks during the summer months.

For Bluewater cruising something a bit longer (40’ plus) and/or heavier is good. Mainly because once you are out there, you have to take what Mother Nature throws at you. Lighter displacement boats tend to be less comfortable in big seas, but realistically, all boats are uncomfortable in big seas!  Beneteaus and Jeanneaus have done more open ocean miles than any other manufacturers’ vessels, so to write off high volume manufacturers for passage making is a mistake. The increasing popularity of catamarans, initially in the charter industry has led many people towards ‘two hull’ cruising. Cats give a lot of space and are not as ‘rolly’, but have a very different motion to monohulls and are of course much more expensive to purchase and maintain.

Realistically for most sailors we encounter, the long passage-making portion of cruising occupies less than five percent of time aboard. Ninety five percent of the time they are in a marina, at anchor or making a short passage. One has to find a balance between a yacht that is comfortable at sea and one that is comfortable/liveable for the majority of the time.

What sets your yacht brokerage apart from others?

Our first priority is to build relationships. That is the foundation for everything we do. We believe that a solid understanding of people and their needs allows us to better serve them when helping them find a boat.

When listing boats for sale, we work with the sellers to help them understand the market and come up with realistic pricing. We advise them on what to do to get the boat ready for sale and we draw up DETAILED LISTINGS with GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY and video, which is posted on our website, our YouTube channel as well as on a Yacht World listing. We keep track of boats and people so that we can “match-make” when the right combinations occur. We regularly act as buyer agents and travel on with and behalf of clients to preview boats.

We keep our listings close to Deltaville so that we can show the boat easily and show it ourselves. That way we can ensure that all is well aboard (no leaks etc) and communicate with the owners if we spot anything amiss or if the boat needs to be cleaned after a period of time.

We do everything in-house (unless there is another broker involved). From listings to negotiations to closing paperwork. That approach allows us to keep close tabs on deals and there tend to be fewer hitches along the way. Our Office Manager, Rachel Dickerson, takes care of all the closing paperwork and deals with financing companies and closing admin at other brokerage houses. Interaction with YaZu Yachting is very personal.

We now have three other brokers on the team, two based in Deltaville and one in Florida. Bob Hoefer is our Power Boat Specialist and Matt Lambert is our Sailboat Specialist. Dave Hibberd has just opened an office in Florida. His presence in Florida opens up new opportunities for listing and selling boats in Florida. Our small team is totally committed to our relationship-centric approach to business.

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