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Capt. Ted's excellent adventure: Indiana's only charter yacht broker.

First of all, he really is a captain.

Capt. Ted Sputh, owner of Capt. Ted's Yachting Adventures, is a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain, but most of the year he serves as a broker for other captains from his Indianapolis office.

In fact, Sputh is Indiana's only charter yacht broker. As such, he places vacationing Hoosiers on yachts, mainly in the Caribbean.

"My clients have access to vessels that range from 40-foot sailboats to 160-foot mega-yachts," Sputh says.

The captain doesn't just stay put in his hometown office, however; several times a year, he flies to the Caribbean to attend boat shows, meet and greet fellow captains, tour boats on which his clients are likely to vacation, and, on occasion, serve as a "delivery captain" for boat owners who want their yachts moved from Port A to Port B.

These frequent visits to the sunny shores of the Virgin Islands are definitely working trips. In fact, Sputh believes his continual research on the amenities, captains and crews of some 200 yachts--with names like "Ocean Sunrise," "Resolute" and "The Salty Five"--gives him a distinct edge over others who book clients onto boats sight-unseen.

"I match my clients with their needs. I know which boats will be best for them, from price to on-board features to the layout of the cabins--even to the personality of the captain and cook who will be with them for a whole week." Sputh also works as a supplier to area travel agents who bank on his background and experience.

Prices for the charters, usually a week long, range from $2,100 per couple to several thousand dollars more a week, depending on the depth of one's pocketbook. The prices include all food, drinks and operating expenses. Gourmet meals served inside the yacht or on the deck are par for the course. And, speaking of par and course, golf-sail vacations are extremely popular, according to Sputh. "Golfers can sail from island to island--golf course to golf course--playing on a different island every day, if they choose."

While yacht cruises may seem costly to some travelers, the price is not out of line when compared with high-end hotels and comparable food in seaside restaurants. Sputh believes vacationers accustomed to the luxuries of a cruise ship will find the chartered yacht an even more attractive alternative. "The service, the privacy and, of course, the personal attention on a yacht is not to be matched anywhere else."

The truly adventuresome can obtain a "bareboat" cruise through Sputh's company--in this case, the boat has no captain or crew.

Whether crewed or bareboat, honeymoon cruises are popular items. In addition to the "standard" gourmet meals and the island-hopping itinerary, the captain will provide champagne--and, if requested, even a minister.

Sputh first became interested in sailing at Indiana University, where he served as captain of the IU sailing team--and where he met his future wife, Chris, at a team party.

Today, in addition to the charter yacht brokerage, he and Chris own Thread Letter Embroidery Corp., which produces patches, emblems, enamel pins, monogramming and other lettering for teams, organizations and individuals.

Capt. Ted's Yachting Adventures is producing about $200,000 in sales, about one-fifth of his eventual goal. Is Sputh optimistic about increasing sales? "Definitely," he says. "As more and more people become aware of the value of chartering your own yacht, whether you have it to yourselves, take your kids or share it with one or two other couples, we'll certainly see an increase in sales."

Word of mouth is an important aspect of the captain's business. "You can't beat it," he says. "Once someone has taken a yacht vacation, they can't wait to tell all their friends."
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Title Annotation:Ventures; charter yacht broker firm Capt. Ted's Yachting Adventures
Author:Sherman, John
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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