Here’s my third post about what to do once you pass your Day Skipper course.
For most people the end goal in learning to sail is to be able to charter a yacht themselves. Chartering is normally sub-divided into skippered charter (sometimes called crewed charter) and bareboat charter. I’ll cover skippered charter in the next post. This is about the most common form of chartering, which is bareboat charter.
With bareboat charter you basically get what it says on the tin – a bare boat. Depending on the charter company you choose, all sorts of things that you might consider essential may be ‘extras’. These can include linen, towels, autopilot, outboard engine for the dinghy etc. When comparing prices it’s important to note exactly what is and what isn’t included from different companies.
The price of a yacht charter depends on three main things:
- size of yacht
- age of yacht
- dates of your charter
For a given budget you may have to choose between a smaller, newer yacht or a larger, older yacht. If you are a novice skipper I suggest that you choose the newer boat, even if it is smaller. You’ll be less likely to have problems. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sailing yachts operate in a hostile marine environment, have lots of moving parts, and are sometimes handled by inexperienced crew. These combined mean you’re far more likely to experience a breakdown on a yacht than you would in a car, for instance. As a general rule of thumb, the newer the yacht the more chance that nothing will go wrong – although it doesn’t always work out that way.
Once you have more experience you can try different options to see which you prefer. Just because a yacht is older, it doesn’t mean it will be in poor condition; many older boats are kept in excellent shape. An experienced skipper will be able to deal with any little problems and may prefer the extra room on board, and the bigger sails and engine of a larger yacht.
Of course, if your budget will accommodate it you can go for big and new! I’d suggest that you don’t go bigger than 46 ft for your first bareboat charter however.
If you intend to charter a yacht that is bigger than you learned to sail in, I suggest taking a skipper for at least the first day. He will be able to show you how everything operates and give you some mooring practice to give you confidence. We can often provide an RYA trained skipper for a day or two.
Most charter companies have 3 or 4 different price bands, depending on the time of year. Around 27 July to 25 August is the peak period in Greece, corresponding with the main Mediterranean holidays. Yachts are more expensive and harder to find then. Don’t leave it too late to book if you want to sail in this period. Now is the time to start thinking about it for next year if you want a good choice of yacht as many clients who have just finished sailing will book for next year at the end of this year’s holiday.
The cheapest time is after mid October and before the end of April. Although it is not as warm then, it’s still possible to have sunshine and good winds. You can get a great bargain on a nice boat if you can sail out of season.
When you first charter it’s a good idea to choose a make of yacht similar to that on which you learned to sail. Our training yachts are Jeanneau and Bavaria, which are very popular makes. You’ll find lots of charter companies have them. After that you may like to try charters on some different makes of yacht to see if there is one that you like better. Reading yachting magazines is a good way to learn about different makes and models that you might enjoy sailing.
You’ll find a huge number of charter companies, all apparently offering similar yachts. You can make general comparisons based on age and size of yacht but what is difficult to measure are the hidden things that can make a huge difference to how you enjoy your charter. Companies vary enormously in their customer service, the quality of the handover by base staff, the inventory on board, how good the linen and pillows are (a recent survey on what people most disliked about charters found that No1 hate was poor pillows!). Personal recommendation, either by a friend or your sailing school, is the best way to find a company you’ll enjoy chartering with.
As with most things in life, you’ll often get what you pay for. You’re unlikely to find a good boat, great service and a cheap price, so you have to decide which are the most important to you.
If you are a first-time or second-time charterer I recommend you use a company that offers a non-refundable damage waiver rather than a refundable security deposit. The non-refundable waiver is usually around 200 euro but it means you don’t need to worry if you burst a fender or drop a winch handle overboard. You could be safely moored in harbour when another yacht hits you while it is trying to Med moor in a cross-wind and damages your navigation lights – then disappears (it happens!). In this case the charter company would hold you responsible for the damage even if it was not your fault. 200 euro is a small price to pay for peace of mind and it also avoids any arguments among your crew as to whose fault is was should something be damaged or broken. Contact me for companies in Greece that offer non-refundable security deposits.
If you are going to skipper a yacht for the first time please take some experienced crew with you. It is much harder to sail a yacht if you are the only person who knows what they are doing. Our instructors have years of experience and training to qualify them to go to sea with inexperienced crew … yet people who have only just passed Day Skipper often attempt to sail with friends or family who know nothing! You may be fine until you are in a situation where you need your crew to react quickly. If they don’t know what to do it could make a difference between an accident or damage and a happy outcome.
If you intend to sail with friends or family, I’d strongly advise either bringing them on a Competent Crew course or hiring an RYA instructor to teach them on the yacht you will charter. We can supply instructors to do this.
I’m going to write a series of blog posts on various aspects of bareboat chartering over the autumn so I’ll let you know when they are up. Meanwhile if you want to ask anything about chartering either later this year or in 2014, please feel free to contact me.
As I mentioned at the start, I have one more post in this series to come. It’s on skippered charter sailing. For some people that’s the perfect solution to what to do after passing Day Skipper as you can take the helm when you want and hand it over when you feel like sun-bathing or not having responsibility.
Best regards and happy sailing
PS: A little reminder that we have a few places left on the second yacht sailing on our Cyclades mile-building trip 5-12 October. Contact me for further details.