Have you ever wanted to explore beyond your own waters but didn’t have the time for a long haul transit to your dream destination? Try chartering.
“We’ve found that many people who sail have never chartered. It’s a great vacation whether you choose bareboat, a flotilla or skippered charter,” says Karen Morris, marketing manager for Sunsail, an Annapolis, MD-based charter company with 35 bases in 19 countries worldwide.
BAREBOAT VS. CREWED
The first question to answer in planning a charter is whether you’d like to go bareboat or crewed. Narendra Sethia, charter broker at Barefoot Yacht Charters, located in St. Vincent’s Blue Lagoon, offers these three points to consider.
“First and most important is your level of experience. In order to bareboat, you need to be comfortable with your sailing experience and skills. Second is price. Crewed yachts are generally going to be more expensive than taking a bareboat and then adding on the extras. Third is how important it is to you whether the equipment is standard or luxury. If you’re looking for luxury, then a crewed charter is the best route.”
You don’t have to be a graduate of a sailing school in order to bareboat charter. Sunsail’s Morris says, “Most people are more qualified than they think. We do ask you to fill out a sailing resume. What we’re looking for is if you’ve handled a similar size yacht in similar conditions to where you’d like to charter.”
More specifically, Barefoot Yacht Charter’s Sethia, says, “You should sail reasonably frequently; not once 20 years ago. You should be familiar with coastal navigation and rules of the road. You should be comfortable handling a yacht under sail and power, tacking and jibing, sailing to and from an anchor, docking, mooring, and anchoring, including use of twin bow anchors and use of bow and stern anchors, and you should be able to handle the day-to-day routines such as monitoring engine and battery performance, refrigeration management, and minor repairs. We don’t expect our clients to be marine engineers, but we do expect that they are able to change an impeller, clean a stuck bilge pump float switch and other such tasks.”
Cindy Chestnut, sales and marketing director at BVI-based Conch Charters, adds, “If you don’t have enough experience, you can take a check out captain with you for a day or two.”
The advantage of a crewed yacht charter with skipper and cook is that “it takes every bit of stress out of the vacation,” says Pamela Wilson, general manager for the St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands-based Virgin Islands Charteryacht League.
Wilson adds, “Especially for individuals who have little or no sailing experience, a crewed boat is the best way to get the feel for what it is like to be out on a week-long vacation on the water. But even if you have the experience, there is nothing like a crewed yacht. You have the benefit of a captain with the local knowledge. You get to see some of the coves and anchorages that are not necessarily in the guidebooks. Your meals are prepared, cabins cleaned, beds made up everyday, turn-downs at night, you can sail and take the helm as often as you like but at the end of the day the captain is the one who will take responsibility for anchoring and being sure you are set for the night. While he is doing that you are sitting back and enjoying a cocktail and appetizer while your chef is below preparing yet another gourmet meal.”
If you’ve got some landlubbers in your group, consider a land-sea vacation. Horizon Yacht Charters, a bareboat sailing charter company with Caribbean bases, offers a combination ‘sea and shore’ package at its Antigua base. The package combines a two-bedroom waterfront villa in Jolly Harbour with a new three-cabin Bavaria 42 at the end of the villa’s private dock. Qualified sailors can take the helm themselves or an instructional skipper can be arranged to captain the yacht. “This is a great solution for families or groups of friends who would like to go on vacation together, but who enjoy different elements of a Caribbean destination,” says Alastair Ashford, owner/operator of Horizon Yacht Charter’s Antigua base.
CHOOSING A DESTINATION
First time charterers usually enjoy easy sailing grounds with line of sight navigation like the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
Josephine Williams, sailing vacations and yacht sales marketing manager for Clearwater, Florida-based Footloose Sailing Charters, the Mooring’s second tier budget-sailing brand, says, “Tortola in the BVI is certainly the most popular destination and a great place for first time charterers, although many of our cus tomers keep going back. It’s so easy and offers a large variety of great anchorages, beaches and things to do.”
After the BVI, recommendations are mixed. Sunsail’s Morris says, “ St. Martin would be the next most popular. It still offers line of sight navigation, but just a little more bluewater sailing. The draw here is the duel nationality and provisioning opportunity for French foods and wines.”
Footloose’s Williams adds, “The cruising ground of St Vincent and the Grenadines is also very popular. It’s a mix of cosmopolitan lifestyle with many local hangouts favored by the rich and famous, whilst maintaining a natural feel to the landscapes.”
CHOOSING A BOAT
In the bareboat market, says Conch Charter’s Chestnut, “the trend is for bigger boats, but there is still an important place for the 30 to 40-footers, which are great for people who are new to bareboating and want to try out a small boat in a new location.”
There is a steadily increasing demand for multihulls for both bareboat and crewed charters, says Barefoot’s Sethia. “Ten years ago, our fleet was 100 percent monohulls. Today, it’s 20 percent multihulls and 80 percent monohulls. We think we could sustain a ratio of 40 percent multihulls and 60 percent monohulls and are working towards this.”
Footloose’s Williams adds, “Our fleet consists of 25 to 30 percent cats and we expect this to grow over the next few years.”
IF YOU DECIDE TO CHARTER
To find out the best time cost-wise to take a bareboat charter, companies like Sunsail offer a quick quote service online. “We added this when we recently upgraded our website,” says Morris. “You can get a quote anytime of the day or night.”
Splurging on a crewed charter? The VICL’s Wilson has this advice: “I would recommend working with a broker who will do his or her job in matching up the personalities of the crew with your own. The broker provides you with a preference sheet where you can give the chef detailed information on your food and drink preferences, any allergies, and if there is a birthday, anniversary or other special celebration that week. Prior to the trip, the crew will call to discuss the types of activities that you would like to do. They will ask questions about how active you’d like to be or if you’re just coming to relax. Basically the more you can tell the crew about you and your expectations, the better the charter will be.”