Should you consider chartering a boat? The answer: Of course, CHARTER! By all means get out there. The number one reason my husband and I chartered for over twenty years was because we chased a sense of freedom that we found on the water.
Our chartering experiences led my husband and I to decide to buy a boat in 2016 and to place it with a company for charter rentals; hence, I have experienced both sides of the charter world. Therefore, I believe that I can share straightforwardly that when chartering: great freedom comes with great responsibility.
The best piece of advice that I can offer to anyone considering a charter is do NOT rush anything. That is a key point. Do not rush out of an anchorage. Do not rush to a mooring ball. Do not rush boarding and exiting the boat. Heck, you are on vacation, relax.
Josie Tucci, VP Sales and Marketing for Sunsail Charters acknowledges that, at first, most charterers are on the nervous side taking out a bigger boat than they may be familiar or chartering in a new destination. Her advice is, “Do NOT rush; the slower you go with a maneuver the better.”
Unfamiliar waters can be stressful. Navigating with electronic charts, interpreting the weather, reading the water to understand reefs, shallows, currents, tides all pose potential concerns. Simply approaching the fuel dock and filling water tanks can cause stress. The best advice, again, is do NOT rush.
Charter companies know the value of an experienced captain on board. If you are the designated captain, then communicate with your crew. Share what you need from them: the processes for docking, setting up fenders, pulling the anchor, raising and lowering the sails, keeping watch for lines in the water. Clarify the day’s sail/motor plan with those aboard.
Tucci also shared that, “Most mishaps occur when the lead skipper or captain has not given everyone a role or the next step; like when tacking.” Crew that have participatory roles in keeping safe and providing input feel more pride and satisfaction in keeping the fun happening.
Ultimately chartering provided us a realistic expectation of what owning a boat would entail. If you are thinking about purchasing a boat, then chartering first provides valuable understandings in boat selection and feature options.
The charter companies that we used were vital in building my confidence from being a charterer to becoming a competent live aboard cruiser. Truthfully, I am still learning some of the boat systems and their respective maintenance schedules: e.g. the water maker, the battery charging and discharging amperages. My husband gets a bit frustrated with me if I break the soft start/ shutdown pattern for the air conditioning. You get my drift.
Pay attention to the on boat charter company briefing as every boat has particular nuances. Having a basic understanding of the different boat systems that you will be using matters. Why? Because, first, they add to your enjoyment or, conversely, they can add to your frustration. We have never, and I mean NEVER, chartered and not have something break on a boat. The larger the boat the more complicated the systems. The good news is that after the very unfortunate damage to charter fleets from hurricanes in the Caribbean and the increasing demand for charters, a lot of the boats are relatively new which means less repairs.
Sunsail Charter offers a “flotilla” charter option where up to twelve boats travel loosely together; the lead boat has a captain, hostess AND a mechanic aboard. On the Moorings website I saw they have a 4-hour repair guarantee.
The growth in the industry has made it possible for just about anyone with basic boating experience to charter in select destinations. I simply offer a reality check. Consider your skills and abilities; if you need a captain the first time out, then pay for one. A captain and crew for a few days or the entire trip may actually enhance your overall experience and accelerate your learning curve. Do not exaggerate your sailing/ boating resume.
Face it…Boats are expensive. Our boat cost more than our house. A new Lagoon 46 catamaran at base pricing costs over $570,000+ (as of the Annapolis 2019 sailboat show pricing). A large percent of boats offered for charter are privately owned. When you charter a boat you probably are renting out someone’s second home. Be careful and treat it as if it was your own.
As my mother taught me, be “a good scout and leave the rental in better shape than you found it.”
Here are a few websites of top charter companies exhibiting at the Annapolis Sailboat Show in 2019: