The joy of chartering knows no limit when it comes to age. Just ask 84 and 87-year-old Claire and Dick Reed. The two seniors accompanied their son Glenn and daughter-in-law Heather Dawson on a family yacht charter aboard Select Yachts’ 47ft Beneteau, Piggybank, for this year’s St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Dick worked the starboard Genoa winch throughout the race, while Claire tailed for the main. “We enjoyed it immensely, not only for the pleasure of the sail, but being all together with the whole family on an adventure,” says Claire.
While there are no known statistics on the number of seniors who charter and whether or not this number is increasing, Steve McCrea, president of Ed Hamilton & Co, based in Edgecomb, Maine, says, “We certainly charter to a lot of seniors, often as part of a multi-generational family group, where the family patriarch has taking the whole family sailing on his bucket list.”
What is the best type of charter for seniors – bareboat or crewed?
Carol Hansen, the Clearwater, Florida-based North American marketing manager for The Moorings, says, “Many seniors still love the challenge of sailing and skippering their own vessel. And, many from the younger generation appreciate the ease and comfort of having a captain and chef. Recently, age seems to be less of a factor in the choice.”
However, adds Ann McHorney, director of Select Yachts N.V., in St. Maarten, “unless they have exceptional experience, I would certainly recommend crewed.”
Sarah Sebastian, a broker for Nicholson Yachts in Antigua, agrees. “Most of our senior clients look for crewed and choose a large cat or medium-sized megayacht.”
One hull or two depends on the preferences of the charter client, says Narendra ‘Seth’ Sethia, base manager for Barefoot Yacht Charters & Marine Centre in St. Vincent & The Grenadines. “A traditionalist monohull sailor might be 93-years-old but still may never choose a cat. A 61-year-old who gets seasick would probably prefer a multihull.”
In addition to the greater stability of multihulls, Kate Amor, the BVI-based marketing manager for Horizon Yacht Charters, says, “Cats are easier to get on an off, when swimming or getting in and out of a tender, but a few of our new models (Bavaria 36 and 45) have electronic transoms which allow for easier access onto the vessel and they are proving very popular.”
More seniors are considering power cat charters, says The Moorings’ Hansen. “It allows them to skipper their yacht without the hoisting and winching.” She says some seniors new to chartering may think this is an Outward Bound-type of vacation. It’s not. “Bareboat sailing charters certainly require a little more energy than some vacations, but our newest yachts help with the heavy work with electric halyards and winches.”
Ultimately, says Ed Hamilton & Co’s McCrea, “it is up to the charter guest how active they want to be on their vacation. For example, you can swim, snorkel and hike, but especially if it’s a crewed charter, you’re not doing the physical part like actually sailing or cooking meals.”
Nicholson’s Sebastian agrees and adds, “Two or three older couples tend to look for creature comforts like large decks or outdoor areas for socializing, while multigenerational charters look for activities to keep the grandkids happy.”
In the end, it was the chance to charter with so many generations onboard that proved an experience of a lifetime for the Reeds and their family, which also included two 60-year-olds, three 50-year-olds, plus three 20-year-olds. “We were so happy that our octogenarians were fit enough to do the charter and race,” says daughter-in-law Heather Dawson. “And, it was thrilling to hear our 23-year-old niece say this was the coolest thing she had ever done!”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.