If you’re thinking about launching into charter vacations, the first item on your list of considerations is the type of vessel to select for transportation and accommodation.
Depending on where you’re going and fleet availability, the decision comes down to power or sail. Once you’ve narrowed that field, a new round of possibilities will surface with varying degrees of luxury or simplicity to sift through. Chartering alone, with a crowd or hired crew, brings on the question of boat length and number of hulls.
The myriad of options available might look a bit overwhelming but chances are you’ve already got it figured out.
For many, cost narrows or eliminates the “what, where and when” of vessel selection. In the Caribbean, the top end starts aboard crewed yachts during winter high season and slides down the balance sheet to a bareboat cruise in the summer. Your dream vacation will lie somewhere along that chain of choices.
Most likely your own yachting experience will drive you toward the perfect pick when you plan to “bare boat” (serve as your own captain). If all your miles have been logged on a powerboat, that’s probably the way to go; the same is true for sailboats. There are plenty of unknowns and unexpected events you’ll encounter on foreign waters to begin with, so excluding factors that could affect your confidence is a smart tack to take.
If you’re looking for a challenge or a chance to learn new skills, go for a variation on a vessel type familiar to you.
Power yachtsmen might want to stretch their skills by taking out a powercat; monohull sailors can try their talents with a catamaran. If you opt for a boat that’s a bit out of your league, do so with a hired captain aboard for a day or even the duration of your trip.
Simon McDevitt of TradeWinds Cruise Club tells clients, “I believe that your choice of boat reflects your attitude to life.” He’s right—since some folks want a tame vacation while others are out for adventure. According to McDevitt, “Sailing is about the journey; power is about the destination.” Certainly for all, a charter is about a great getaway.
Most motor yachts available for charter without a captain fit in the category of trawlers or power cats.
The fleets are small compared to sailing vessels, yet many companies throughout the Caribbean now offer a wide selection. The upside to paying for power is the ability to get from one anchorage to the next quickly with stability and comfort. Other advantages include a spacious interior with plenty of headroom and a great view from the fly bridge; newer boats feature amenities such as air-conditioning and bow-thrusters. Size of the smallest bare powerboats begins with the Heritage 36 available from Bareboats BVI or the Moorings-featured Leopard 37 Powercat. Length and options increase up to the 50 foot range, at which point captains and crew are usually added in.
A major advantage of catamarans, both power and sail, is their minimal draft, allowing yachtsmen to tuck up close to a beach or anchor in shallow areas. The accommodations on a cat are, of course, twice as nice. Below decks, there’s plenty of privacy, a plus for families, and topsides feature plentiful space for cooking, dining and stellar happy hours.
These two-hulled wonders are growing in popularity for all the right reasons despite a few obvious quirks. A wide beam can make it difficult to find room at a dock. A crowded anchorage can be challenging and can give new meaning to the term, “swinging room.” Chartering a cat is more costly, yet the extra space allows more friends to split bill.
If your tastes in yachting are more traditional and you consider one hull to be better than two, you’ll have a diverse range of boats and locations to choose from. For one or two couples or families with small kids, a mono-hull might be the best boat for you. Traditional sailboats have as much to offer as their feline counterparts and they do it by creative compression. The biggest advantage to mono-hulls, beside their ease of handling, is the cost. In general, they are less expensive and the money saved can be used for shore excursions or put toward your next yachting excursion.
Charter qualifications for most fleets are based primarily on experience and, although there’s no formal certification required, honest answers about skill and limitation are crucial for a success voyage. Get yours underway by choosing a yacht that balances comfort with cost and experience with skill—and adventure will join you on the journey.