Sail Away

How to save money while bare­boat char­ter­ing

SAIL - - Contents - By Zuzana Proc­hazka

Char­ter­ing beau­ti­ful boats in ex­otic lo­cales will give your wal­let a work­out. Ex­penses go well be­yond the cost of the ves­sel and air­fare. It all adds up quickly, but there are ways to pinch enough pen­nies on each char­ter to get a head start on the next one. Here are some tips on how to cut costs with­out de­valu­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.


Bare­boat char­ter weeks are a per­ish­able in­ven­tory, and when a boat sits un­used, that’s lost rev­enue. That’s why char­ter com­pa­nies have last-minute deals that can be up to 20 per­cent off at spe­cific des­ti­na­tions or added days (10 for the price of seven). If you’re open to var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and have a flex­i­ble sched­ule, sign up for their news­let­ters and spe­cial of­fers. Then work with their in­house travel depart­ment for short-no­tice deals on air­fare. Fly mid-week and not only will you save on air, you’ll ar­rive when the base per­son­nel aren’t as har­ried as they are on the week­ends. Also, for small par­ties, con­sider a mono­hull. Cata­ma­rans are not only more ex­pen­sive, they’re also harder to squeeze in while, say, Med moor­ing in Europe.

Def­i­nitely con­sider shoul­der sea­sons, which dif­fer depend­ing on where you’re char­ter­ing. You can usu­ally save 20 per­cent to 30 per­cent by go­ing ear­lier or later than every­one else. The Caribbean is gen­er­ally good all year ex­cept Sep­tem­ber and Oc­to­ber dur­ing hur­ri­cane sea­son. The Med can be good in May and June, and also Sep­tem­ber and Oc­to­ber. You can save a third or more dur­ing th­ese times, and you’ll have most an­chor­ages to your­self.

Also con­sider sec­ond tier char­ter com­pa­nies. The boats are usu­ally older and per­haps not as equipped, but ask your­self how much you re­ally need. That said, def­i­nitely check out the com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion be­fore­hand to avoid un­pleas­ant sur­prises.

Most com­pa­nies now start their char­ters at 1700, al­low­ing you to sleep aboard the first night. Ask for a tech­ni­cal check­out and chart brief­ing that af­ter­noon/evening so you can leave early the next day. If the boat isn’t char­tered be­fore or after your week, you may be able to stay an­other night at the dock for 50 per­cent off the day fee and save on ho­tels.


Just like at home, dol­lars dis­ap­pear when it comes to eat­ing. How­ever, there are nu­mer­ous easy fixes that won’t leave you feeling cheated. When it comes to pro­vi­sion­ing, for ex­am­ple, do it your­self. Even if you get full pro­vi­sion­ing from the char­ter com­pany (which almost no­body does), you’ll still end up at the mar­ket looking for more of some­thing—usu­ally al­co­hol—so why not just do it all your­self? You’ll get ex­actly what you want, and it will def­i­nitely cost you less per per­son, even in­clud­ing the cost of the cab ride back to the boat with all the frozen goods. For sta­ples like sugar, salt, pep­per and sea­son­ings, con­sider bring­ing your own in Zi­ploc bags. You won’t go through much so why waste the rest? Make a list of what you need and aim to come back with noth­ing. The amount of waste when it comes to char­ter pro­vi­sion­ing can be stag­ger­ing.

Along th­ese same lines, build in op­por­tu­ni­ties to eat out so you can get the lo­cal fla­vor—pun in­tended. Eat like, and with, the lo­cals: stock lo­cal brands/types of pro­vi­sions (like beer, yogurt and fruit) and eat at smaller es­tab­lish­ments rather than big ho­tels and tourist traps. Also, eat out for lunch rather than dinner, which is of­ten half the price of the same meal six hours later.

When you do de­cide to go out, have happy hour aboard to save on pricey cock­tails and wine. Then after dinner, have a night­cap aboard as well. In most cases, a sun­set view be­fore or after is guar­an­teed on the boat, but not at the restau­rant. The drinks will also be cheaper and never watered down.


Un­less you’re in an area where moor­ings are manda­tory (like parks) choose to an­chor rather than pay a fee for a ball. Do­ing so can save you $25-$75 per night. I’d just as soon trust the boat’s ground tackle as a moor­ing any­way, so don’t as­sume they’re safer. If you have the swing­ing room, save the money.

Fi­nally, con­sider fuel costs. If there’s a genset aboard, charge with that rather than your en­gine(s), since it’s more fuel-efficient. If there’s just enough wind to mo­tor­sail but not enough to re­ally sail, keep the rpms low or run just one en­gine on a cat (usu­ally the lee­ward will pro­vide the best balance).

Fi­nally, pack light and save on lug­gage fees. You’ll sur­prise your­self with how lit­tle you’ll need for a week in the sun, and that’s $25 that will start the char­ter kitty for next time. s

An­chor­ing out, as op­posed to pay­ing for a moor­ing, is a quick and easy way to save money when char­ter­ing

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