Any bareboat skipper who’s experienced a restless night at anchor knows that bareboating can sometimes be stressful. And while some veteran bareboaters positively enjoy planning trips and controlling ships, others know how glorious it can be to give up the helm and embrace the vacation. That’s when they try out crewed yacht chartering.
“In the planning stages of our bareboat charters, I like doing it my way,” says Mike Rutstein of Massachusetts, who charters in the British Virgin Islands each winter. “But by the end of the week I realize there is a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I enjoy it, but wouldn’t consider it a relaxed vacation.”
Several charter companies offer crewed yacht charters in the BVI, including The Moorings, Horizon Yacht Charters and Dream Yacht Charters. Organizations like BVI Charters, Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League and the BVI Charter Yacht Society also represent dozens of privately run crewed yachts.
In addition to lightening the load on guests, crewed yachts offer increased luxury and comfort. Generally, married couples run the yachts, so captain, crew and chef add up to just two people. They provide three meals a day, keep your boat tidy and take care of all of the planning and entertainment along the way.
Of course, deciding to share your vacation with two virtual strangers can feel risky, which is where organizations like the BVI Charter Yacht Society can help. Now in its 30th year, the group hosts an annual trade show in which 120 yacht brokers and 80 crewed yachts gather in Tortola for a week of mingling. “The brokers come to see the boats and meet the crew, who are a big selling point for the overall charter. Brokers try to make the personalities fit their customers,” explains Janet Oliver, executive director of the BVI Charter Yacht Society.
Matching crews and customers is essential, and Charley Zahr, who has skippered the 54-foot ketch Crystal Clear for 11 years, believes the benefits go both ways. “We spend the days sailing with our guests, and we eventually swap stories about our lives,” says Zahr. “I believe a lot of the people who have sailed with us were changed by the experience. On the flip side, my wife and I have one of our guests to thank for convincing us to start a family. They are now the godparents to our young son.”
Naturally, cost is a factor when choosing between a bareboat and crewed charter. Though costs vary from company to company and boat to boat, a party of six can expect to pay about $2,700 per person for a week on a crewed yacht, which includes meals, provisions and activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing and kayaking. By comparison, a bareboat catamaran costs roughly $1,000 per person, not including provisions, food and activities. Additionally, a bareboat charterer is responsible for any damage to the boat.
While many bareboat sailors are not interested in giving up their independence, others agree that a lot of knowledge can be gained from sailing with a local pro. Yacht broker Margo Rose of Slip Aweigh Charters says, “A crewed charter is great because any sailor can learn from the professional crew. The crews love these waters and will share their many secrets with you.”
For South African Sheldon Lindsay, skipper of the 57-foot catamaran Nexus, the laid-back crew lifestyle is part of the appeal of the job. And that rubs off on the guests, too. “However you sail in the Caribbean, you are ultimately escaping the pressures of modern life,” he says. “That experience is one worth sharing.”
Photos courtesy of the BVI Charter Yacht Society