Sail Away

Each char­terer has dif­fer­ent ideas about the type and size of boat they want, says Zuzana Proc­hazka

SAIL - - Features -

How to pick the right boat for your char­ter

Like Goldilocks, char­ter­ers look for a bare­boat that’s not too big, not too small, not too ex­pen­sive, not too com­pli­cated and gen­er­ally “just right.” Just right, though, means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and each char­ter has its own cir­cum­stances, so what’s a sailor to do? Here are some guide­lines to help you choose the best boat for you on your next trip.


There’s a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween char­ter­ing as a cou­ple and char­ter­ing as a group. Two peo­ple need less space and less wa­ter, but they also may not be able to man­age a larger rig, or the rel­a­tively large main of a cata­ma­ran in a blow. Sim­i­larly, a 34ft mono­hull may be just the ticket for four or less. How­ever, larger groups will need room to spread out, not to men­tion larger wa­ter tanks and big­ger bat­tery banks to keep lots of lights and fans run­ning. In this case, a 50ft-plus mono­hull or a cat of 45ft or longer would be the right choice. That said, be mind­ful how much boat you’ll have to man­age, reef and dock, es­pe­cially when the weather isn’t co­op­er­at­ing.


If you’re char­ter­ing with small kids or older folks with mo­bil­ity re­stric­tions, a cata­ma­ran may be ideal. Gen­er­ally cats are more sta­ble both un­der­way and at an­chor. Plus, they have more deck space giv­ing, say, tod­dlers more lat­i­tude to ex­plore. Cats also pro­vide bet­ter sun pro­tec­tion for sen­si­tive folks and of­fer less like­li­hood of sea­sick­ness due to their mo­tion and lack of heel­ing. Fi­nally, non-sailors may pre­fer cats due to their greater space, pri­vacy and ameni­ties, while the larger wa­ter tanks and room for in­stalled wa­ter­mak­ers on cats can help new­bies deal with the con­ser­va­tion that goes with liv­ing aboard for a week.

Again, though, ex­pe­ri­ence also plays a part, so when pick­ing a boat be sure to con­sider both the level of your ex­per­tise and the skills of your crew. Are you re­ally up to the task of driv­ing and dock­ing a large cat or a 57ft mono­hull sans bow thruster? Sim­i­larly, Med-moor­ing a big boat on a small quay in Greece or Croa­tia is no pic­nic with­out a good skip­per and some sea­soned deck­hands. As an added ben­e­fit, if you’re not too handy me­chan­i­cally, go­ing smaller and sim­pler means you’ll have fewer sys­tems to run and/or fix along the way.

Man­ag­ing the ten­der is also a con­sid­er­a­tion. Most char­ter mono­hulls are forced to tow a dinghy, which slows the boat and can be in­con­ve­nient when dock­ing and even dan­ger­ous in fol­low­ing seas. Cats, on the other hand, usu­ally have davits, so you can lift the dink ev­ery trip and ev­ery night so it won’t be stolen.


Think long and hard about how much of your va­ca­tion bud­get should go to the cost of the boat. Big­ger boats are costlier. Com­pa­ra­ble cats are more ex­pen­sive than mono­hulls (usu­ally). Newer and bet­ter-equipped boats will also cost more than those that have seen sev­eral years of ser­vice. If you don’t need a wa­ter­maker, a large fridge, an on-deck BBQ or a brand-new dinghy, bar­gain char­ter boats may make sense. If, how­ever, you’re plan­ning the trip of a life­time with mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of fam­ily, you may want to splurge.

Go­ing with off-brand char­ter com­pa­nies can help tight bud­gets too. Of course, with some, you may get what you pay for. But with oth­ers, you may have the plea­sure of deal­ing with a fam­ily-run op­er­a­tion that makes up in good main­te­nance and ser­vice for what it lacks in brand aware­ness and the age of its fleet.


Fi­nally, as in life, tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. If you ab­so­lutely must char­ter dur­ing hol­i­day weeks, be pre­pared to pay more for less. Shoul­der sea­sons, on the other hand, of­fer good deals that may al­low you to get a larger or newer cat for the same rate as a smaller, older mono­hull in high sea­son.


The type of boat you char­ter will have a ma­jor im­pact on the qual­ity of your va­ca­tion, but even if you get the old­est, small­est or worst boat in the fleet, your at­ti­tude can still make it the best va­ca­tion of your life. No mat­ter the boat, the most im­por­tant thing to bring along when char­ter­ing is a sense of hu­mor. s

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