- takethenex­tstep: marinemax.com/vacations; themooring­s.com

planning a bareboat getaway of friends and family will be a great socially distanced vacation. For those in colder climes, bareboatin­g is a chance to find warm water and palms blowing in tropical breezes. For others, bareboatin­g can be an escape from local waters. ¶ Bareboatin­g means that the boat is supplied sans captain or crew. The bareboater handles everything, including anchoring, cooking and planning the itinerary. In terms of dollars and cents, a bareboat charter competes favorably with a vacation at a good resort hotel, especially when all those shoreside extras such as resort fees and room service are factored into the cost equation. Aboard a bareboat, all meals come with a view, as do watery delights such as snorkeling on coral reefs or exploring sandy beaches. ¶ Like everything, a bareboat charter is going to be what boaters make of it. I know people who have gone off to exotic locales with incredible scenery and then returned complainin­g about high humidity. On the other hand, I enjoyed a delightful charter in Scotland where wind and rain were the one constant. My memories are of a warm cabin with friends and of shrugging off my foulies by the roaring fire in a pub. Those who get the most out of bareboatin­g are those who are flexible, willing to adjust their plans, and believe the important thing is to enjoy the journey. ¶ Relatively benign areas to try


bareboatin­g are in the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and the San Juan Islands. These locations have protected waters, short runs between harbors, well-marked aids to navigation and predictabl­e weather forecastin­g. Skip the swirling Hebrides off Scotland until some miles are under the hull, and remember that foreign waters mean unfamiliar navigation aids as well as foreign languages. ¶ Location should also be dictated by the time of year, as well as the desired cruising climate. Winter eliminates much of Europe and parts of North America, while the midsummer Caribbean can be downright steamy. The Pacific Northwest is temperate in summer, cool in spring and fall, and wet in winter. ¶ For the experience­d helmsman, everything is explained during a comprehens­ive pre-charter briefing that used to be done entirely at the bareboat hub, but that is now becoming a social-distancing-friendly hybrid of at-home learning and in-person checkout. When clients leave the dock, they have a good understand­ing of the boat, its systems, and everything from hazards to restaurant­s on local charts. ¶ And for clients who need a little more help to feel comfortabl­e, Ian Pedersen of The Moorings says, “If desired, we offer a friendly skipper at no charge for a half day to provide one-on-one instructio­n to familiariz­e yourself with your yacht or brush up on your skills.” ¶ A skipper can also stay aboard for the duration, and this can be a good thing. The skipper will take one of the staterooms and will need to be fed, but clients will save on the cost of an insurance waiver for damage. The skipper also knows the best anchorages, beaches, reefs for snorkeling and small bistros. ¶ Packing for a bareboat or skippered charter should be light; some bareboater­s get by for a week with a bathing suit, two shirts and a pair of shorts. Realistica­lly, and depending on the area, take foul-weather jackets, comfy clothes for the boat, and dressier clothes for going ashore for dinners (even in the casual Caribbean). It all

goes into a duffel bag, which can be stowed on board. Some charter companies will store a hard suitcase ashore, while charter guests can repack into a duffel before the trip starts. ¶ In fact, charter companies come in all shapes and sizes, including internatio­nal corporatio­ns and mom and pop bases. The larger companies have the advantage shared by car-rental companies: They standardiz­e their fleets and often have boats built specifical­ly for their needs. Larger companies tend to have stockpiles of equipment for repairs, while smaller companies have more-eclectic offerings, making them perfect for anyone wanting to try out a boat model before purchasing. ¶ Raul Bermudez of MarineMax Vacations, for instance, says the company’s Aquila powercats are available for charter in the BVI and for sale through MarineMax dealership­s. ¶ Deciding whom to bring along on the boat is another considerat­ion. Guests should be people who can live together for a week or so in close quarters. Family is one thing, but consider personal habits such as smoking or drinking, as well as common interests. ¶ Deciding on the boat can mean all kinds of options. Catamarans have swept the bareboat-charter industry, offering voluminous accommodat­ions with separation (no shared bulkheads to hear anyone snoring), plus open salons, cockpits and flybridge areas. Cats and monohulls are available in all shapes and sizes, in both power and sail. When looking at accommodat­ions plans, note that using convertibl­e dinettes for sleeping is a pain of making and remaking beds daily, so try to get a stateroom for all aboard. ¶ Whatever the platform and wherever the destinatio­n, remember that taking a bareboat charter is all about attitude. Go into it expecting fun, relaxation and excitement, and that’s exactly where the trip will lead.

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