Rent, Charter and More
Chartering and Houseboats
If you’ve never chartered a boat before , there are a few things you should know. Few vacation experiences can top that of chartering a boat for a week or two in an exotic boating location. The Caribbean is the world's most popular yacht charter destination, with its sparkling waters and its ideal year-round climate; however, there are many other great destinations for charters. Charter sites let you choose charter spots from all over the world. Charter boats also are available in many locales along all the U.S. coasts and abroad.
Bareboat chartering means you’ll be running the boat yourself, with no professional skipper or crew aboard. As a result, bareboat charters are best for at least moderately experienced boaters who want to learn more, travel to places more exotic than their home waters, and spend some real time on different boats that are maintained by someone else.
Getting started in powerboats. If you’re coming into boating with only a little bit of experience, how can you learn enough to take on your own bareboat charter? The Power Squadron is a great place to start. A visit to their website will lead you to classroom and on-the-water courses in your area, plus several good online boating courses. Their illustrated textbook, America’s Boating Course, is an excellent introduction to the basic techniques you’ll need to command your own charter bareboat. Another great resource is BoatUS, as they offer a variety of courses including a free online safety course.
Getting started in sailboats. If sailing is what you’re into, then you’ll want to learn the special techniques related to sailhandling and maneuvering with the wind. US Sailing and The American Sailing Association each provide top-notch instruction. ASA’s Sailing Made Easy: The Official Manual of the American Sailing Association’s Basic Keelboat Sailing Standard is available through the website. Offshore Sailing School (which is affiliated with The Moorings), offers a seven-day course set in the British Virgin Islands that takes you from basic skills through the intermediate knowledge you can use to command a boat on your own.
What qualifications should you have to charter? “In most locations, no formal certification is required to charter from us,” says Shannan Brennan, head of global marketing for The Moorings. Some exceptions apply. In the Mediterranean Sea, for example, specific qualifications are required. For the most part, Brennan says, “we base qualifications on the résumé individuals must fill out online, which shows us our customers’ boating experience.” Together, the vacation planner and the charterer choose a boat that’s a good fit. If during the application or the onboard check-out process either party feels more experience is needed, the charter company may recommend a skipper — for just a half day or for longer — to oversee boathandling and navigation. “During the voyage, your skipper can answer questions and give advice on sailing to help prepare for a future solo career,” Brennan explains.
Final thoughts. Being honest about your experience on your bareboat application will ensure the best fit with a boat. If you’re like me, paying close attention during the equipment briefing will teach you more in a couple of hours than you can learn in weeks of your own trial and error. All told, bareboat chartering may be the most fun you’ve ever had while learning skills that you’ll use for the rest of your life.
Companies typically offer boats suitable for anywhere from four to 12 or more people. Rentals usually come equipped as a land-based condo would, with full kitchens, barbeque grills and air-conditioning. Some have water slides and hot tubs. You can spend your week aboard cruising casually from cove to cove or you can raft up with other renters for a night or a week of partying and communal boating fun. You can find lots of great information on sites like Houseboats.com if you are thinking about renting a houseboat.