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Boat Like a King with This Well-Kept Charter Secret

Have you ever dreamed about climbing aboard a large high-end yacht and taking your friends and family for a vacation to some beautiful islands in the sun?

This need not be a fantasy, because as a boater, you can make this your next vacation. Yacht chartering is totally doable, and the cost is about the same as a packaged resort holiday. It's called bare boating, and here is how it works:

There are many exotic areas in the world that boaters identify as a yachting paradise. Most marinas in these locations have yachts whose owners use their boat only a few weeks each year. The remainder of the time, charter companies will sign up interested boaters to 'bareboat' one of these super yachts, in much the same way as you would rent a car.

If a yacht owner leases his yacht with a crew provided, it is called a 'demise' or 'captained charter.' These are understandably quite pricy. But if the yacht owner leases his yacht without any crew members it is called a 'bareboat charter' and the persons renting perform their own driving and cooking. These types of charter companies have become very popular and, having the use of a high-end yacht, makes for a fantastic vacation. Yes -- you can easily do such a holiday.

As a boater, there are several good reasons for you to consider a bareboat charter.

First, hiring a bareboat charter allows you to choose a vessel of your choice, whether it's a motor boat, catamaran, or sailing yacht, and in sizes that suit your comfort zone. Second, as captain you get to choose the friends or family you will spend valuable time with. You will no doubt become closer to your chosen crew, trust me.

Lastly, you have control of your itinerary. You choose which islands, bays, and beaches you want to include, and you can decide how long you stay or how often you travel. You can enjoy quiet times on deck or visit rowdy shore eateries, depending upon your mood. A bareboat offers the ultimate in freedom and privacy.

The big question is: why don't more boaters choose to take a bareboat holiday?

There are two main excuses that people tell me. Number one -- "it is too expensive." Number two -- "I am not qualified to drive a large yacht."

Lets first consider the realities of cost. While the total cost of packaged holidays will differ, a typical one week all-inclusive resort vacation will cost between four and five thousand dollars per couple. If you charter a three stateroom yacht with two other couples contributing, a typical all-in cost per couple is the same.

What about your concern with driving a boat larger than you are accustomed to? Here, people tend to either underestimate their boating experience or overestimate the degree of difficulty. If you have some boating courses, a Pleasure Craft Operators Card (PCOC), and/or several years of boating experience in any type of boat, you might be more qualified than you think. Every charter company will spend time with you before you depart to explain the various functions of the boat. They may even take you for a brief familiarization run. They will also provide local tourist information along with a long list of items you might need on your trip, from a first aid kit to marine charts. If you want to do a bareboat cruise, but still have qualification concerns, I'd suggest that you participate in some skill building experiences before booking, such as driving a friends larger boat.

Last month I took my wife and six friends on a bareboat holiday in the British Virgin Islands. It was our second trip to the BVIs. We decided to use a charter broker, rather than contacting a number of different companies directly. The Virgin Island Sailing company located a boat that worked for us and they negotiated the best price. The yacht we chose was a Lagoon 46 sailing catamaran with twin diesel engines. This boat offered all the amenities of a true luxury yacht. Air conditioning, water maker, full galley, multiple appliances, indoor and on deck tables for eight, four comfortable staterooms, and four heads, each with a hot water shower. The helm included the latest electronics and even an autopilot. Being a catamaran, the twin engines were far enough apart that you could rotate the yacht within its own length, making docking a breeze.

Every location you look at for a bareboat vacation will offer different features. A big advantage of the British Virgin Islands is that the islands of interest are only separated by two or three hours of boating. We travelled to a different island every day and spent most nights moored in a beautiful bay, tied to a permanent mooring ball that rents for 40 USD per night. As with most of our bareboat adventures, we ate breakfast onboard then enjoyed a relaxing cruise to a different island. Restaurants offered 'feature meals' such as fresh lobster. Casual bars offered happy hour specials and the remarkable beaches were a sun lovers paradise. For us, the best part of the trip was the beautiful, clear, blue, warm water. Swimming and snorkeling are prime activities.

If a boating holiday in an exotic location, shared by other boaters in their million dollar yachts, appeals to your adventurous nature you must look into the reasonable cost of a bareboating holiday. Tell them Captain Bill sent you.

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