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Decades of boat deals: Yacht broker marks career milestones – Petoskey News

BOYNE CITY — As a yacht broker, Wes Dilworth is happy for his opportunities to help set clients up for an enjoyable pastime.

“Basically, I sell family fun,” said Dilworth, whose Dilworth Yacht Brokers is based in downtown Boyne City. “I give families the opportunities to fill albums full of pictures.”

This year brings two business milestones for Dilworth — the 40th anniversary of the first boat sale he helped arrange, and the 30th anniversary of his independent business — rare in Northern Michigan for its exclusive focus as a yacht brokerage.

Dilworth, 63, first took an interest in boating during his youth, buying his first boat at age 13. Roughly three years later, he got his first job at Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs, where he would handle a variety of tasks. The first boat deal he brokered, in 1977, occurred at the Kalamazoo Sailing Center — not far from Western Michigan University, where he obtained degrees in economics and business administration. After a stint in sales management at Irish Boat Shop, he set up his own operation in 1987.

As a broker, Dilworth’s assistance is sought by prospective sellers as well as potential buyers. The transactions he handles typically involve boats of 30-50 feet in length, and he recently has helped conducted about 50 such sales per year.

“I’m one of the few brokers that sell both sail and power,” he said. “Usually they’ll focus on one or the other.”

Dilworth has handled transactions involving boat purchasers from far-flung locations — as far away as Europe and Australia. But his base of sellers is typically located within easy driving distance of Boyne City. Dilworth finds it important to get an up-close view of watercraft that he potentially could sell, and an often-used saying of his is, “We see every boat we list; we don’t list every boat we see.”

As Dilworth sees it, setting such quality standards is one factor that likely has helped his brokerage endure.

“Most of my business is repeat business and referral,” he said.

The boat brokerage business has evolved technologically during Dilworth’s career. While print-based marketing and direct mail were key methods earlier on, he increasingly has put the Internet to use to help arrange sales. Although transactions in the boating marketplace slowed in the late-2000s recession, Dilworth Yacht Brokers’ fortunes more recently have been on the upswing.

“Last year was my best year ever,” Dilworth said.

Looking ahead, the 63-year-old Dilworth sees some potential to stick with the yacht-brokerage business for plenty more years.

“I have no plans to retire,” he said. “A job like this you can do well into your 80s.”

Dilworth’s current office at 120-A Water St. — in a building also occupied by Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars — is the third in Boyne City which his brokerage has used. He’s found the community to be centrally located among Great Lakes boating destinations, and also “a good place to raise kids.”

Eric Kammermann, an experienced harbormaster, currently works with Dilworth in the brokerage operation. Dilworth’s wife, Donna, who has had a variety of sales-related work experience elsewhere, has assisted with his business as well. The Dilworths have four children between them, as well as two grandchildren. Wes Dilworth continues to be an avid boater himself.

The Dilworth Yacht Brokers office is open by appointment. It can be reached by phone at (231) 582-6886 and has a website at

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