If a seven to 10-day Caribbean charter isn't enough, but full time cruising would tip you over the edge, there's a compromise available. Purchasing a boat and placing it in the hands of a charter company just might be the ticket for ample on-the-water time without the relentless expense and responsibility of running your own boat. Put simply, you buy it, use it and someone else does the work.
Buying or owning a boat placed into charter eliminates the day-to-day, nickel-and-dime hassles of moorage, insurance and chasing down the small and large parts that sooner or later break. You won't need to call the mechanic, the sail maker or the boatyard. When the head breaks, it won't be your dreaded job to fix it. All of the maintenance and hassles will be managed by the company you chose; all expenses rolled into one, offset by the money your investment will return.
Begin by deciding upon your favorite yachting destination. If the Virgin Islands are where you'd like to spend your time, check out the numerous charter management companies in that area; each has different offerings. If you'd like to sample more Caribbean islands, look to the yacht management systems that have multiple bases in the region; there are several. Perhaps the Med, Tonga, the Seychelles, the Bahamas or Phuket are on your radar and if so, you will want to work with a worldwide company that allows you to go yachting around the globe without the long passages involved in getting there.
One of the largest charter yacht companies in the world, TUI Marine, includes the extensive Moorings and Sunsail fleets. After 40 years in the business, the company's staff is experienced at helping potential yacht owners chose the right vessel, whether a monohull, catamaran, sail or power boat. An owner in the program can enjoy up to 12 weeks each year on his or her own boat or on a sister ship at many of their exotic locations. There's guaranteed income involved that will cover mortgage payments. As your vessel ages, TUI Marine provides the option of selling it, upgrading to a new one or possibly placing it in a second tier charter program with Footloose.
Richard Spindler, publisher of California's Latitude 38 Magazine, purchased a used, Leopard 45 cat for $270,000 and put her into a yacht management program at BVI Yacht Charters. Their compound in Tortola doesn't have a pool or high end restaurant, amenities provided by some larger companies. But for Spindler, who can't wait to put up the sails, it works just fine. "It's basic big bang for the buck," he said. "I love the personal service and great attitude at BVI." He's allowed to use the boat whenever he wants, for as long as he wants, which for the past several years has been 10 to 12 weeks in high season each year. He's happy with the care his boat has received and, best of all, "I haven't had to put another cent in since."
Another satisfied owner of a yacht placed into charter, Larry Harasym, a Pennsylvania surgeon, took a different tack. He and his wife Sandra purchased a new boat through Sun Yachts, giving them the ability to configure the interior as they wanted with equipment to suit their needs. The Harasyms arranged to use it annually beyond the standard time allotment which meant, of course, decreased income. "We did not purchase the boat primarily for chartering. We purchased it for us," he said. Their boat, Beats Working, was successfully in the hands of Sun Yachts for several years. "Someone to look after the boat, especially during hurricane season was an advantage. For anyone living a distance away from where their boat is docked or moored, it is comforting to know that the vessel is being cared for." Once the Harasyms moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to live year round, they took it out of charter.
If owning a charter boat sounds too good to be true, be aware there are some issues, relatively minor. "When a boat is in charter with a fleet, equipment that was originally included on the boat will often be transferred to other boats," Dr. Harasym said. He cited examples of missing winch handles, cushions or propane tanks – but all was replaced by the company.
In some respects, your charter yacht will be like a rental condo unit that floats; a familiar place without the personal touch of home but with spectacular, ever-changing scenery. And like all vacation getaways, it will be a place where you can make a boatload of memories.
Jan Hein and her husband, artist Bruce Smith, divide their time between the Caribbean the US Pacific Northwest with a boat and a life at each end.