Perhaps a bit intimidating at first, allow us to make it a little easier. Here’s a quick How to Charter Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Vacation yacht charters were once one of the best-kept vacation secrets in the world. Today, the cat is out of the bag. In fact, the global yacht charter market is projected to exceed US $20 billion by 2029 with sailboats representing 60-plus percent of the fleet due to eco-friendly demand, according to the 2019 Analysis and Review Yacht Charter Market By Yacht Type – Sailing Yacht and Motor Yacht for 2019 – 2020 report, published by Future Market Insights, a market research firm with offices in New York and London. This worldwide market includes everything from a couple chartering a 39-foot sailing monohull or 40-foot cat to billionaires renting out an entire 255-foot superyacht for family and friends – both options that are available in the Caribbean.
For those who have never thought about or booked a charter yacht vacation, ALL AT SEA has opened the door to learning more by asking a sampling of industry professionals the answers to some of the most asked questions.
How to Charter Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to charter a yacht in the Caribbean?
The most popular months to charter in the Caribbean are December through April. Rainfall is low during these months, and the moderate temperatures in the low 80s paired with consistent winds attract charter guests from colder climates up north, according to Ian Bockman-Pedersen, senior marketing manager at The Moorings and Sunsail, in Clearwater, FL. “The shoulder seasons in November and May can also be beneficial for charter guests to find better availability and more advantageous pricing.”
Christmas and New Year’s weeks are often booked a year or more in advance and there is often a 10 to 15 percent price premium, says Ann McHorney, director and charter yacht specialist for Select Yachts, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “Mid-August to mid-September has the biggest hurricane potential.”
What type of experience do I need to charter a bareboat?
“Most of our destinations, including the Caribbean, do not need bareboat certification, says Dan Lockyer, the London, UK-based vice president of global tourism for Dream Yacht Charter. However, “sailors need to have experience sailing a boat of similar size and ideally have a crew member on board with similar experience. That said, parts of the Caribbean are popular for sailing due to their line of sight navigation, short voyages between islands and calm waters.”
MarineMax Vacations offers sailing and power catamarans for bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). “Overnight, docking, picking up mooring balls, etc., is some of the experience we look for,” says Raul Bermudez, vice president of the charter division for the Clearwater, FL-based company. “The best is to complete a simple online boating resume and we will let you know what size of boat you qualify for and if you need to hire a local captain.”
Can the yacht’s crew cater to my family’s tastes and dietary requirements?
“Absolutely!” according to Dick Schoonover, manager of the crewed yacht clearinghouse, CharterPort BVI, on Tortola, BVI. “So many of our crew members have professional culinary training. Vegans, pescatarians, the panoply of sundry gastro-disorders… Kosher beyond casual can be a challenge though.”
“The yacht crew provides a Preference Sheet in advance so all the provisioning can be done according to what the charterer likes,” adds Select Yachts’ McHorney.
How flexible are charter itineraries? What if there is an island or an anchorage I want to visit?
For crewed charters, the captain works with customers to design their dream itinerary while advising on the weather and sharing local knowledge and recommendations. This is a custom package tailored to the customer and we work to make sure they see as much of their wish list as possible,” says Dream Yacht Charter’s Lockyer.
For bareboats, “we do have some navigational restrictions due to the potential of clients getting into difficulties in these locations. However, we will review their resume if they request visiting a limited destination,” explains Lesley Hayes, reservation assistant at Horizon Yacht Charters’ St. Vincent base, one of three in the Caribbean.
How suitable is a charter for babies and toddlers? Can I bring our pet dog along too?
A charter is great for babies before they start walking, says MarineMax Vacations’ Bermudez. “We have been taking our kids since they were 6 months old. Bring a pack and play and you are good. Once they start walking, we make sure they know how to swim/float before we take them. Bring your child’s lifejacket to make sure it fits properly.”
Fido is best left at home, recommends CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “Asking a skipper to sneak in the pup is above and beyond the role of the charter captain, and local jurisdictions outside the U.S. Virgin Islands have much stricter rules regarding bringing in pets, including possible inspection by the government agriculture rep or a local vet, or even mandatory quarantine regardless of Fido’s clean bill-of-health from home.”
Will I have internet access during the entire charter?
There is usually access to onboard Wi-Fi via 4G or satellite, according to Select Yachts’ McHorney. “Ask ahead of time how onboard systems are set up and if there are any added costs. I usually advise my clients to download movies etc. in advance and avoid any ‘streaming’. Also, monitor the kids’ access,” recommends Select Yachts’ McHorney.
Some areas are less internet user-friendly than others, such as Anegada in the BVI, says CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “North Sound, Virgin Gorda, used to be weak, but with the recent influx of billionaires, not so much anymore.”
South in St. Vincent, “clients can access the internet for most of their charter via their mobile phones. They can either pay for a data roaming package from their provider or purchase a local SIM card on arrival.”
What type of clothes should I pack?
Bringing hard suitcases is the most common mistake we see, according to Dream Yacht’s Lockyer. “Customers often feel frustrated that there isn’t storage for them at the marina or onboard. Pack using a soft bag. Lightweight dresses, T-shirts and shorts are the best. Most customers underestimate how much time they will be barefoot and in swimming gear.”
Ashore in towns or villages, swimwear is not appropriate dress, adds CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “T-shirts and shorts are fine. In the evenings, between the air cooling down and tradewinds, some may feel a wee bit cool. So, a sweatshirt, cotton cardigan, or a windbreaker, even a long-sleeve type T-shirt is just the ticket.”
What changes will there be to charters this season due to COVID?
Yachts have always been well cleaned between charter. Now, says Select Yacht’s McHorney, “they are using further sanitizing products. COVID tests may be required by the governments of some islands or by the yachts. The turnaround times between charter bookings could be a little longer with the increased logistics.”
Horizon Yacht Charter’s Hayes adds, “Checking in and out will be different as we exercise strict COVID protocols at the bases including social distancing, hand sanitization, mask-wearing, and temperature checks.”
How much should I expect to pay for the crew’s tip at the end of the charter? Does this need to be cash?
The quality of service should dictate the gratuity.
“As a guideline, we suggest an average of 15- to 20-percent of the total charter cost for crewed yacht charters, and 15- to 20-percent of the daily skipper fee for skippered bareboat sailing or power yacht charters,” advises The Moorings & Sunsail’s Bockman-Pedersen.
Cash is always appreciated, adds Select Yacht’s McHorney. “As a broker, I have always been happy to hold a gratuity in escrow for the charterer if they are not comfortable with carrying too much cash. We release it upon the charterer’s confirmation at the end of the charter.”
What if I need to cancel or postpone my charter?
“We recommend Trip Insurance,” says McHorney. “But most Trip Insurance cancellation coverage is only for illness or a death in the immediate family. There is such a thing as ‘cancel for no reason’ insurance. But it is becoming harder to get and is costly. We are at least covering the ‘what if’ of COVID with the addendums we are writing so people should not be concerned to book. However, a charterer needs to be aware that deposits are non-refundable.”