Making Your Decisions
As always, when making important decisions about your vacation, it is wise to consider your needs and wishes for the trip. Rushing yourself into a selection of boat or crew, without first considering your options and needs, can result in changing the course and quality of your experience on the boat. Taking the time to consider your needs and wants will help ensure that when it is finally time to sail, you are getting the most out of your experience.
Be flexible and consider options for itinerary. Would you prefer to island hop or make a round trip, would you like to spend the days lounging on the water or getting to know an island, Snorkeling or kayaking, all of these things can be decided by you as you plan your sailing trip. Remember to also consider what kind of crew you would like and if you plan on trying to learn more about sailing while on the vessel.
While considering these general questions, also consider the time of year you plan to visit, the budget that you will have, and the number of people that you plan to have on the boat with you.
When choosing your boat, it is wise to consider your comfort level at sea and the number of other adults and children that you will have on board. Among the benefits provided by catamarans are that they typically provide more space in all areas of the boat and will not roll at anchor. For those who believe seasickness will be an issue, or for those who will have children running across the decks, this may be especially appealing. Rooms in catamarans provide more space and privacy as well, as the walls do not allow for conversations to be heard.
Consider the number of people you will have on board: it may be wise to select a boat with one more room than you will need. Generally, 45 foot catamarans will have 4 large ensuite rooms while a 38 to 42 foot catamaran will have 3 rooms and 2 to 3 bathrooms. Be sure to also think about any extra amenities you would like for the boat, such as a CD player, cell phone, or power windlass to assist in anchoring. While catamarans provide comfort and space, sailing purists may desire the authentic sailing experience of rocking about in the water. The technique for tacking and anchoring will also be different, depending on which type of boat you choose.
Costs and Paperwork
While making important decisions about your boating trip, it is always wise to consider your budget. While there are a great number of extra amenities and activities that will add to your overall costs, a primary consideration should always be food. Charter companies will provide food ranging from all of your meals to basic supplies. Provisions will generally run about $35(USD) per person and day, but will take the complication out of supplying food for those on board. Many times, food supplied by the charter guests cannot be brought through customs and so shopping must be done on islands that are not always well stocked. For those looking to save money, or for those who will be traveling to more popular islands, stocking food can be a good option. Keep in mind that the crews on chartered crew yachts will expect, and deserve, a 10 to 15 percent tip on the cost of the rental. Skippers on skippered bareboats will command a wage of $150(USD) to $250(USD) per day. Be sure to also read the fine print of your rental agreement so you are aware of cancellation policies and insurance. It is important to understand your liabilities while on the boat.
Charter Styles Regardless of your sailing experience, cruising through the waters of the Caribbean make chartering a boat an appealing option for the untrained novice or the elite skipper. Options include bareboats, skippered bareboats, and fully crewed charters.Bareboats are for the sailing elite and put the person in charge of the charter in full responsibility for the sailing and use of the boat. These boats will often be without extra amenities, such as kayaks and scuba gear, but give people the opportunity to experience the adventure of exploring the waters of the Caribbean by themselves. Those who undertake this challenge should have significant sailing experience, as well as some knowledge of the Caribbean and its waters. Charter companies will ask to see proof of sailing experience before allowing you on the challenging waters of the Caribbean. Be sure to thoroughly prepare a list of supplies, as well as any other desired amenities you may have, so as not to forget anything in your preparation.
If a charter company believes you are a competent sailor, but need some introduction to the Caribbean, they will often recommend a skippered bareboat. Charter companies will assign a skipper for a few days or for the duration of the journey to assist in the sailing of the boat. Travelers taking this option will find it is a great way to educate themselves about sailing in the Caribbean while still having a bareboat. Freelance skippers do charge by the day, however, and their food must be provided by the person responsible for the charter. Fully crewed charters will have a knowledgeable captain and cook and will often include amenities such as kayaks or scuba equipment. A good crew can make your experience of sailing through the Caribbean an unforgettable one, and if lounging on open waters is not enough, will sometimes allow you to assist in some sailing chores under direct supervision. The captain of a crewed charter is in full control of the journey from the care of the ship to the itinerary, and will not put the safety of the crew, ship, or passengers at risk. Passengers have input in routes and activities, but should safety concerns merit a change of itinerary, the captain will have the final word.
Chartering a Yacht
Charter companies and brokers remain the easiest and most popular way to secure a boat and, if needed, a crew. With charter companies, there are divisions in size and tier. Charter brokers, meanwhile, act as agents, finding the best charter for your situation. Charter companies are divided into both large and small sizes and first and second tiers. Large companies maintain large fleets of boats and can often offer customers guarantees such as boat replacement in the event of a certain type of boat being in shortage. Smaller companies usually choose to maintain smaller fleets, with the goal of providing the best customer service.The tier of a company relates to the age of the boats they maintain in their fleet. First tier companies will have newer boats and the amenities that come with newer equipment such as cell phones and CD players. All boats used by these companies will be under 4 or 5 years old. Second tier companies usually buy boats off of the first tier companies as they age, and will provide their boats at a lower cost.
Charter brokers will assist in the selection of the charter and crew. Charter brokers can be especially helpful in finding a crew that will be compatible with those chartering the boat. Finding personalities that are agreeable to yours can be important for the enjoyment of your voyage. Brokers are paid by yacht owners, so their services can be secured at no charge.
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