“There are so many factors in every charter trip,” says Ann Wallis-White, owner of Annapolis-based Ann-Wallis White Yacht Charters, who advises clients and answers these questions daily.
The points to consider when organizing a yacht charter are much the same as when planning any other vacation, adds Ian Pedersen, assistant marketing manager at The Moorings, headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, “You have the opportunity to create your own vacation from scratch. Whether you are an experienced boater or a landlubber, whether you have two people in your party or ten, or whether you would prefer to stay close to home or travel farther afield. This is your boat, with your friends, on your schedule.”
Should you Charter Sail or power?
The advantages of chartering a sailboat include lower fuel usage and the romantic ability to travel under windpower, with no engine running, explains Jules Norwood, vice president at Carolina Wind Yachting Center, based in Washington, N.C. “Powerboats, on the other hand, can cover more ground more quickly, and some offer more spacious interiors. The cost of fuel needs to be factored in as a significant portion of the total cost of the charter, especially in a powerboat.”
A hot trend in sailing charters is catamarans. Like powerboats, sailing catamarans can offer lots of space and multiple private cabins which is ideal for larger groups.
Should you do a Bareboat or crewed Charter?
Some charterers love the feeling of privacy and independence they get from sailing their own boat, while others love being able to relax on deck and let the captain and chef do the work. In the end, the choice between a bareboat or crewed charter usually comes down to experience.
“Most charterers who are experienced and capable of handling the boat they want to charter are interested in bareboating,” explains Norwood. “Those who are less experienced, or a little rusty after a period of time away from boating, may be interested in a captained charter. Of course, there are some charterers who are experienced and knowledgeable, but just want to relax and have someone else be in charge of the vessel.”
Pedersen agrees, “I remember organizing a charter for a sailor who had once competed in the Olympics. Even though he was undoubtedly qualified to sail the vessel himself, he chose to take an all-inclusive crewed charter simply because he loved the total relaxation that it offered.”
Some charter companies will arrange hybrid trips. This is where a captain comes aboard for the first day or two as a refresher, then the charterers take off on their own for the remainder of the trip.
Eat in or eat out on Charter?
“The answer to this question is a no-brainer if you choose a crewed charter. On a crewed charter all food and beverages are included for the week,” says Pedersen. “When you wake up in the morning, your breakfast is already waiting for you. Your gourmet chef prepares the most exquisite meals for lunch and dinner, and hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are served at seemingly all hours of the day. It is truly 5-star dining, and remember, it is all included in the price of the trip!”
The real decisions come when choosing a bareboat charter.
“A fully provisioned boat provides the opportunity to visit quiet anchorages far removed from the hustle and bustle, which is what many seek,” explains Norwood. “Others like to spend their nights in marinas with access to restaurants and other activities. Most choose a combination of nights at anchor and nights in port. Provisioning and cooking aboard is less expensive but requires planning and forethought, while eating ashore is a simple matter of choosing a restaurant.”
Where to go on your Charter?
There are excellent cruising destination all along the Eastern Seaboard.
The Chesapeake Bay is flexible, offering everything from the bustle of Baltimore to the quaint village of St. Michaels to the peaceful anchorages up the Chester, says Annapolis Bay Charters’ Christine DeSimone. “It’s all a matter of how much time you have. You could spend several weeks exploring the bay and her tributaries.”
North Carolina has a wonderful variety of places to visit by boat. “For beginners sailing from our base,” explains Carolina Wind Yachting Center’s Norwood, “There are several unique small towns to visit, including Bath, which is home to a pirate museum and the oldest church in the state, as well as Belhaven and Oriental. Each can be reached within a day’s sail on beautiful protected waters.”
Those who want to venture farther can pay a visit to Ocracoke Island, which requires crossing the Pamlico Sound. Accessible only by boat, ferry, or private airplane, Ocracoke is relatively isolated from the mainland and has a culture and a vibe all its own. It has great restaurants and shops, beaches, and even a herd of wild ponies.
Finally, many charterers visit the Caribbean due to its proximity to the Southeastern U.S. and year-round tropical climate, says the Pedersen. “The most popular destinations we offer are the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Miami, specifically because they are perfect for beginners and seasoned cruisers alike.”
This article is the first in a series that looks in-depth at the many options and opportunities to charter a yacht in the U.S. southeast. Next month: The catamaran trend.