On Watch

Cruising World - - Contents - Cap’n Fatty wrote this is­sue’s On Watch while on watch aboard the Good­lan­ders’ Wauquiez ketch, Ganesh, some­where in the Pa­cific be­tween Panama and French Poly­ne­sia.

To the unini­ti­ated, chartering can seem ex­pen­sive, com­pli­cated and con­fus­ing. It’s not. In fact, it can be sur­pris­ingly af­ford­able for fam­i­lies, yacht-club groups, cor­po­rate get-to­geth­ers, mo­ti­va­tional sem­i­nars, etc. The main rea­son it seems com­pli­cated is be­cause there are as many rea­sons to charter as there are boats and skip­pers.

One thing to bear in mind is that you are buy­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence, not merely rent­ing a boat. So, let’s see if we can de­mys­tify chartering in terms ev­ery­one can un­der­stand.

The two main di­vi­sions of yacht chartering are bare­boat and fully crewed.

A bare­boat charter is ex­actly like rent­ing a car. They toss you the keys. This gives you max­i­mum free­dom, and max­i­mum re­spon­si­bil­ity as well. In essence, the bare­boat you rent is your pri­vate yacht for the du­ra­tion, with all the ad­van­tages and lim­i­ta­tions that en­tails.

Chartering a fully crewed craft is more like rent­ing a limo. It comes with a driver who does all the work and takes care of all the trans­porta­tion, nav­i­ga­tion and safety de­tails. All you have to do is lie around and be catered to; the crew at­tends to that. You have the world’s small­est, most lux­u­ri­ous, most mo­bile sea­side re­sort en­tirely at your beck and call.

Think of it this way: You can have your limo pull up be­fore your desti­na­tion and cir­cle while you party ashore. On a bare­boat, you can­not. Ev­ery bare­boat has a skip­per who has signed on the dot­ted line that they will re­turn the boat as re­ceived. And he or she must be di­rectly re­spon­si­ble, 24/7, for do­ing so.

If you’re in­ter­ested in fully crewed chartering, you ei­ther have to go with an ex­pe­ri­enced friend’s sug­ges­tion (chancy) or use the ser­vices of a pro­fes­sional charter bro­ker. Good bro­kers don’t merely match cus­tomers to boats, they match crews and cus­tomers as well. A fam­ily of Mor­mons, a group of cruis­ing cou­ples or some va­ca­tion­ing friends of Bill (Al­co­holics Anony­mous mem­bers) all re­quire a dif­fer­ent pack­age than, say, a group of West Coast rap­pers with an emerg­ing in­ter­est in wa­ter­sports.

Many estab­lished bro­kers don’t al­low a client to charter with a skip­per or crew they haven’t per­son­ally met both pro­fes­sion­ally and so­cially, so charter cus­tomers and skip­per are com­pat­i­ble while un­der­way. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Our main fo­cus for the read­ers of Cruis­ing World is on bare­boats, for the sim­ple rea­son they al­low our sail­ing read­ers max­i­mum free­dom at min­i­mal ex­pense to en­joy ex­actly the sail­ing-style va­ca­tion they de­sire.

Are there other vari­a­tions? Sure. You can bare­boat with a live­aboard captain or “ad­viser” to help you with the ropes and nav work. (But never for­get the toss-you-the-keys as­pect of bare­boat­ing. You tem­po­rar­ily have all the rights and priv­i­leges of a yacht owner for the du­ra­tion of the charter. Thus, if your ad­viser tells you to sail into some rocks and you do, the courts only see that you’ve sailed into some rocks. They don’t care who was bend­ing your ear at the time.)

Or you could charter a fully out­fit­ted rac­ing yacht with the pre-ne­go­ti­ated un­der­stand­ing that you and your home­town rac­ing crew will be us­ing the trip to sharpen your rac­ing skills.

I’m a con­firmed mono­huller, but I’d love to have a fam­ily re­u­nion aboard a cata­ma­ran with a bunch of wa­ter toys. What fun we’d have belly-flop­ping for a week with our grand­kids! BY CAP’N FATTY GOODLANDER A bare­boat charter is ex­actly like rent­ing a car. They toss you the keys. This gives you max­i­mum free­dom, and max­i­mum re­spon­si­bil­ity as well.

The Bit­ter End Yacht Club in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands’ North Sound used to of­fer part-ho­tel and part-bare­boat stays. They catered both to cruis­ers (Ane­gada, any­one?) and club rac­ers with en­tirely dif­fer­ent pack­ages. There are also fully crewed so-called “head” boats that will book sin­gles or cou­ples by the cabin to form a larger group — with mixed re­sults.

Or, if you al­ready have a boat­load of ea­ger crew but aren’t sure you’re ready to tackle un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain, you and your friends can em­bark on one of the many flotil­las avail­able. You’ll fol­low a lead boat and have an ex­pe­ri­enced captain nearby to an­swer any ques­tions, but you can still get away on your own at times if you like.

And there are many learn-to-sail char­ters, in­clud­ing those that is­sue bare­boat cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. (I’d rec­om­mend one that pro­vides a cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor and estab­lished cur­ricu­lum, not a piña co­lada-wav­ing skip­per who burps, “No prob­lem on de learn­ing-to-sail ting, mon!”)

An­other im­por­tant de­ci­sion is the desti­na­tion.

I’ve cruised South Africa many times, but I’d never con­sider a charter along the Wild Coast be­cause it has long stretches of bad weather, ex­tremely rough seas and dan­ger­ous har­bors that are phys­i­cally far apart and dif­fi­cult to an­chor in. Plus, the wa­ter is cold and (in the Si­mon’s Town area, any­way) filled with great white sharks. Ar­eas of the Med can be sim­i­larly chal­leng­ing, with strong sea­sonal winds, plus the need to Med moor, that is tie stern to, on a nightly ba­sis.

It is hard to beat the be­nign Lesser An­tilles for first-time char­ters. I rec­om­mend the BVI, St. Maarten and the Gre­nadines, in that or­der. Then the tamer ar­eas of the Med. And then Tahiti/moorea/ Bora Bora. Af­ter those, the sky is the limit, with New Zealand, Aus­tralia, Fiji, Tonga, New Cale­do­nia, Thai­land and the Philip­pines beck­on­ing.

It’s time now to re­turn to this buy­ing-an-ex­pe­ri­ence con­cept.

A boat’s a boat, but new­ly­weds in search of pri­vacy, large fam­ily re­unions, div­ing groups, club rac­ers, fish­er­men, nud­ists and drink­ing clubs with a sail­ing prob­lem will all ben­e­fit from slightly dif­fer­ent craft and to­tally dif­fer­ent an­chor­ages and party styles.

I’m a con­firmed mono­huller, but I’d love to have a fam­ily re­u­nion aboard a cata­ma­ran with a bunch of wa­ter toys. What fun we’d have belly-flop­ping for a week with our grand­kids!

Honey­moon­ers might, how­ever, pre­fer a smaller shoal-draft ves­sel to get as far away from the dis­tract­ing crowd as pos­si­ble.

Fish­er­men might choose a more heav­ily pow­ered craft than, say, club rac­ers, who might en­joy the deep­est-drafted, light­est, most weath­erly ves­sel in the charter fleet.

Sailors in­ter­ested in the evo­lu­tion of West In­dian sail­ing craft (that would be me, for sure) al­ways grav­i­tate to An­guilla, just north of St. Maarten, and Be­quia, just south of St. Vin­cent, as well.

The last time my wife, Carolyn, and I were cruis­ing the Med, we met a doc­tor from Aus­tria who had flown into St. Vin­cent specif­i­cally to charter a par­tic­u­lar model of Catana cata­ma­ran. He ul­ti­mately pur­chased a brand-new sis­ter­ship.

That’s the beauty of bare­boat­ing: If you know the ropes, it can be the most ful­fill­ing, most in­di­vid­u­ally tai­lored va­ca­tion in a life­time.

Cap’n Fatty coaches a cou­ple of stu­dents dur­ing one of Steve and Doris Col­gate’s Off­shore Sail­ing School’s charter cour­ses in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands.

A cos­tume night al­ways proves pop­u­lar with the crews on a flotilla va­ca­tion (top). A cata­ma­ran charter flotilla in the BVI, hosted by Cruis­ing World, brought Goodlander brothers Mor­gan and Fatty to­gether for a few days of fun and sun.

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