Thanks to sites like craigslist, ebay and amazon, we are better equipped than ever to make informed decisions when it comes to what we buy. Rather than blindly purchasing items and services promoted in catchy ad campaigns, we can now make our purchases after studying reviews and information posted by those who know the products first-hand.
Nowhere is this more true than in the world of chartering. Putting your family and friends on a boat for a week in a foreign locale is a big commitment, and you want to be certain you’re selecting the best vacation possible. With all the information available in cyberspace, a simple search can be overwhelming, but there are a few Web sites that do the legwork of aggregating directories and reviews to make the job a lot easier. With some clicking around, you should find a great charter in no time.
Type “charter a boat” into a Google search, and you’ll be overwhelmed with Web sites vying for your attention. Use these online guides to focus your search, and I’m sure you’ll find the process a bit more pleasant.
Begun by a pair of chartering buddies, this site provides a forum where charterers can share their thoughts on charter companies and destinations. “When we realized there were not great online resources for information about charters, we created a platform for charterers to share their experiences,” explains site co-creator Stephen Daimler. Under each destination, users find information such as the high/low seasons, the average temperatures and the best anchorages. In addition, each location and charter company receives reviews and rankings. The site is set up like Wikipedia, so viewers can add and edit the information to build the site. Though it has great potential, it requires the contribution of hundreds of users to become a valuable source of information, so get on board.
It’s no secret the Caribbean is a favorite charter destination, but the selection of boats and companies can be overwhelming for a newbie charter-seeker trying to pick the right one. To help ease this burden, the Charter Yacht Society markets itself as “The Matchmakers” of crewed charter yachts. They take the time to get to know you, the charterer, and what you want in terms of boat, crew, pace and sailing style. Then they refer to their membership list of 60-plus crewed yachts and pair you up with the best match. Their site serves as a landing page for all of their member boats’ individual sites, making it easier for you to research the best of what is available. Think of this as the match.com of chartering, where everyone is searching for the perfect combination.
Created by a sailing school hoping to get more feedback, this site is a great resource for reading up on the experiences of sailing school students across the country. It allows students to review their instructor, course material, boat and base location, then averages the reviews to rank sailing schools. Like CharterExpert, this community-reliant site will becomes helpful as students provide feedback, so click in post your reviews.
If you know where you want to go, who better to ask than the locals? Most popular chartering areas have sections on their tourism board Web sites dedicated to chartering. There, locals aggregate their information into one useful location. Some of the best are for the tourism boards of the BVIs, St. Vincent, the USVIs, the Florida Keys and the San Juan Islands.
Last, but not least, SAIL’s online charter directory provides a thorough listing of over 300 charter companies, organized by region. If you know where you want to go, you can visit this directory and click around to get a feel for the companies in the area. Each one includes contact information, fleet size and a link to their Web site. Think of this directory as a yellow pages of charter companies.