The Caribbean is one of the best-kept secrets in terms of charter destinations come the summer. That’s because while many folks head to perennially favorite spots like the Mediterranean or New England, there are unique advantages to chartering in the Caribbean this time of year – for clients and crews alike.
“The Caribbean is definitely a year-round destination for yacht charters,” says Raul Bermudez, vice president of the charter division for Clearwater, FL-based MarineMax Vacations, which offers yachts in the British Virgin Islands. “In fact, June is usually busier than some of the winter months.”
For Charter Clients:
The face of charter parties become families in the summer.
“Kids are out of school and families aren’t restricted timewise like they are during the winter holidays and spring break. Plus, kids get really excited about an active vacation like a charter,” says Kathleen Mullen, charter broker for Regency Yacht Vacations in Tortola, representatives for the luxury Xenia Charter Fleet with crewed catamarans from 50 to 74’ based in the Virgin Islands and Caribbean.
2. Deserted Isles
Megayachts ship out for the Med, cruise ships relocate to Alaska and bareboats are often transferred to busier bases. This means Caribbean anchorages are definitely much quieter in the summer.
“This means you don’t have to fight the crowds for the best mooring balls or prime real estate on the beach,” says Ian Pedersen, marketing manager for The Moorings – North America, headquartered in Clearwater, FL, with bases in the BVI, Grenada, St. Martin and St. Lucia.
In fact, in the Southern Caribbean “you could find that you are just one of half a dozen yachts in the Tobago Cays, versus perhaps 75 yachts on a day in the winter months,” says Narendra ‘Seth’ Sethia, manager at Barefoot Yacht Charters in St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
3. Lower Rates
“Some yachts new to charter will operate throughout the first few summers as they need to start building a charter history and clientele,” says Ann McHorney, director of international charter sales for Fort Lauderdale, FL-headquartered Select Yachts, with offices in St. Maarten and Dominica. “Boats new to charter often have a little bit better price in general compared to their competition that already have so many loyal brokers and repeat guests.”
Europe-based charter clients can especially find good deals.
“In spite of the higher cost of air tickets, the huge discounts on bareboat yachts during the Caribbean summer can make it less expensive for a family to fly from Europe for a sailing vacation than to hop on a cheap charter flight from, for instance, the UK to the Mediterranean, where the summer high season yacht rates make the overall vacation pricier,” says Barefoot’s Sethia.
4. Fair Weather
“It does get warmer in the summer, but a plunge off the side of a yacht seems to be a sure-fire remedy to this small problem,” says Dick Schoonover, manager of the crewed yacht clearinghouse, CharterPort BVI, in Tortola. He adds that when booking, summer charterers might want to consider the A/C options available, whether on a fully crewed yacht or a bareboat.
“Generally calmer seas and less wind means it’s possible for sailors to overnight in certain bays that you ordinarily wouldn’t use in the high season due to swells,” explains Jacqui Pascall, director of Horizon Yacht Charters – Grenada, located at the True Blue Bay Resort and Marina in St. Georges.
Lighter winds open the door to a power charter.
“Power catamarans are made for summer chartering and will get you from point A to point B in speed, style and comfort. It’s no wonder they are so popular this time of year,” says The Moorings Pedersen.
5. Make Money
Crewed charter yachts that want to work in the summer will find it worthwhile, says Regency Yacht Vacation’s Mullen. “You can’t do a full 24 to 26 weeks in just the winter season. It’s not a frantic pace in the summer, but there is enough work that boats will make money.”
There’s a cost savings associated with staying in the Caribbean.
Speaking from an operator’s point of view, Barefoot’s Sethia claims the cost and associated wear-and-tear of a delivery back to Europe or North America not only results in a couple of months (or more) of ‘down-time’ when the yacht cannot be chartered, but also minimizes the beneficial financial results of a limited high season in those locations.
“Remaining in the Caribbean keeps cash flow going throughout the summer. Our company is busy throughout the summer. Last year, in addition to bareboat charters, we operated 13 separate live-aboard ASA sailing schools in the traditionally quiet month of September,” she says.
6. Go Below the Belt
“Staying in the Virgins through the summer may require a brief conversation with a yacht’s insurers, as well as some advance planning such as what tackle to keep onboard and where to safe harbor in the event of a hurricane,” says CharterPort’s Schoonover.
This isn’t the case for yachts that reposition further south out of the hurricane belt.
“The southern Caribbean remains lively with carnival celebrations and sailing regattas, therefore lots of businesses remain open and there’s always a nice welcome ashore,” invites Horizon’s Pascall.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.