Former NASCAR team owner Todd Braun has been a boater his whole life. Braun grew up in northern Indiana, but spent his summers in Clearwater, Florida, where there was always a sailboat, Jet Ski or powerboat to play with — this is where he developed his love of life on the high seas. Braun is a true maverick yacht owner. The yachts he’s owned run the gamut from fully crewed, five-star service charter yachts to small, self-run-cruisers; he has been a charter guest, an owner-operator and everything in between.
Braun got his start in the yachting industry in 2006. NASCAR is an extremely busy sport, with an almost-year-long season that requires a lot of travel.
“I’ve always been a water guy and I needed an escape,” says Braun. “A lot of racing guys, have boats and I became interested, so we went to a few boat shows and then I bought one.” Braun’s first yacht was a 106-foot Westship that he purchased with his mother called MAMA B. He then sold MAMA B and, in 2009, purchased OFF TRACK, a 92-foot Hargrave. In 2010, OFF TRACK was sold after a refit, which included new paint, soft goods and more, and Braun bought 99 PROBLEMS, a 112-foot Crescent. After its purchase, Braun and his fiancée moved aboard. For a year, they cruised up and down the U.S. East Coast as liveaboard owners, stopping in little towns and big cities, including Nantucket, Charleston, Hilton Head and Sea Island, Georgia,
where the couple married.
“It was something I had always wanted to do,” says Braun. “I was in a good in-between place, as I had just sold my race team, and I thought: What better time to live aboard the yacht?” Braun sold 99 PROBLEMS in 2012 and purchased LEFTURN, a 75-foot Lazzara, the following year. In 2014, Braun bought WHISTLE, a 76-foot Lazzara, and sold LEFTURN shortly after.
“I go through stages,” says Braun. “I’m always onto the next adventure and I love the deal. I can’t say that I’ve liked one type of yacht that I’ve owned more than another. I enjoyed the five-star service on the bigger yachts, but I also enjoy what I’m doing now…but I’m thinking of going bigger again. I want to go farther south.”
For Braun, yachting is all about the journey, “I like to go out and explore,” he says. Braun has chartered yachts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, but on his own yachts, he’s spent most of his time in the U.S. and The Bahamas. “I love Staniel Cay,” he says. “I’ve always loved it. It has a lot of charm. We always do the usual Bahamas circle and we love Key West. I also spend time with friends in Hilton Head.”
When on board, Braun enjoys spending time with his family and friends and go diving. “I really love diving, exploring and seeing what’s out there. I have dived all around the world and I have to say I think some of the best diving I’ve ever experienced is The Bahamas. I once saw a sea turtle that literally was bigger than my body.” Braun also enjoys running the show on board. “I really like planning the trips and driving the boat,” he says. “I took my 75-foot to Hilton Head by myself. My wife and I have a lot of fun when we’re on board just the two of us.” But more than diving and driving, Braun enjoys his yachts because they are a way to bring family and friends together. “I’ve had so much fun on my yachts,” he says. “They’ve allowed me to be with my friends and family, get away from it all and have fun. Without that, yachting wouldn’t be enjoyable for me — if I wasn’t able to enjoy it with them. And if you don’t enjoy it, why have it?”
Yachting has become a favorite pastime for Braun, who not only enjoys being out on the water with his friends and family, but also the hunt for the deal. “I love buying and selling boats,” says Braun. One extremely important facet to owning yachts to Braun is the broker. Braun has been in yachting for nine years and has bought and sold at least six yachts. Through it all, he has worked with the same broker, Northrop & Johnson’s Wes Sanford. Braun feels that a relationship with a reliable broker “is everything. You need someone who will be there.” As Braun’s tastes, wants and desires run the gamut of yachts, Sanford has been there as a friend and an advisor. “I trust him. I feel confident in that. He’s not just in it for a one-and-done deal. He creates relationships and will fight for his clients.”
Braun is now contemplating his next step and his seventh yacht sale and purchase. He’s considering a 130-foot yacht to explore the Caribbean. “My tastes and wants will always fluctuate,” he says. But no matter the size of the yacht he owns, Braun says one thing is for sure, “Everywhere we go on the yacht, we have a good time.”