There was a time, not too long ago, that sailboat chartering meant renting a boat, gathering a crew, learning to captain it (or paying a captain) and taking off for some time in paradise. While crewed and bareboat chartering still rule the industry, a number of interesting alternatives have popped up in recent years for charter guests in search of a slightly different way to get away from it all.
1) Last-minute discounted bookings
LateSail calls itself a charter “consolidator,” meaning the company works with hundreds of charter companies worldwide, consolidates their unsold charters, and offers the boats at discounted rates. Guests can book charters online using a “Name your Price” option that allows them to specify their preferred destination, boat, dates and price. LateSail’s “Price Promise” policy will then not only match any charter price, but beat it by either 10 percent of the difference or $75, whichever is greater. The company has been offering late-booked discounted charters in the UK since 1999 and has rapidly expanded in the United States since it arrived in 2010. LateSail also offers similar deals on crewed yachts and canal cruises.
A company like LateSail is ideal for impulsive vacationers and charter guests with flexible schedules. It’s also the only site we know of that consolidates so many discounted charters in one easy-to-navigate place.
2) Member-based Points Systems
TradeWinds CEO Magnus Lewin spent a decade in the resort business mastering the points-and-rewards system, so it’s no surprise that he was able to successfully translate it into the sailboat charter market. With TradeWinds, guests pay to become members, then purchase Plus Points, which can be used to book single cabins or full boats on TradeWinds crewed catamarans in 11 destinations around the world. TradeWinds yachts range from 41ft to 70ft, and point prices vary based on boat size and the season. The points can also be used to purchase a single cabin on a circumnavigation or even book a room in an onshore resort.
TradeWinds’s member base includes over 3,500 families globally. It’s a great option for frequent travelers who enjoy company consistency, crewed yachts, and varying charter locations.
Charter flotillas are certainly not new, but it is only recently that they’ve been able to gain any kind of real traction here in the States. Back in June and December of 2011, SAIL teamed up with Sunsail to host a pair of flotillas, and it was easy for us to see the appeal: imagine a bareboat charter where you don’t have to worry about planning, provisioning, making reservations or even making friends—it’s all there if you want it, or far away if you want privacy.
This year, Sunsail is not only continuing with its flotilla program, but bringing in U.S. Olympic sailor Zach Railey to join the fun. You can also sail in a flotilla with the American Sailing Association at one of the organization’s many member flotillas, which take place throughout the year, or with the charter enthusiasts at charteradvisors.com.
Flotilla charters are great for social sailors, families with kids and guests who are newer to bareboat chartering and want to get some helpful tips.
4) By-the-cabin bookings
Several charter companies around the world allow guests to charter on large luxury boats by renting just one cabin at a time. This arrangement is perfect for singles or couples who don’t want to go through the trouble of arranging the boat, the captain, the plan and the provisions. Instead, they can rent a single luxury room on a ready-to-go boat and set sail in comfort. Mainstream companies like The Moorings, Dream Yacht Charters and The Catamaran Company all offer by-the-cabin bookings in bases around the world. For something a bit more personalized, Capt. Bob Riley took the idea one step further with his company, Cabin Charter Sailing. Through this online service, guests sign up alone or with friends and then Bob groups together parties of like-minded sailors on a variety of boats. You choose the destination, he finds participants to fill berths, you get a faraway charter at an affordable price.
By-the-cabin charters are a good option for guests traveling alone or as a couple, and for those who want a relaxing vacation without any of the work.
Every month, I get letters from readers asking about ways they can book cheaper charters, charter alone, charter in intimidating destinations or charter in a learning environment. Here’s hoping these ideas inspire.