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How to Pick a Bareboat

Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d be sailing the Caribbean and reviewing charter boats for a living, I would have laughed. But as luck (and deliberation) would have it, that’s precisely what I do. As the founder of CharterAdvisors.com, I’ve reviewed just about every charter boat out there. Now, I help folks figure out which is best for them.  The question I most often get asked is, “What bareboat do you recommend?” To answer, I’ve created Capt. Kev’s Formula for the Perfect Bareboat.

Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d be sailing the Caribbean and reviewing charter boats for a living, I would have laughed. But as luck (and deliberation) would have it, that’s precisely what I do. As the founder of CharterAdvisors.com, I’ve reviewed just about every charter boat out there. Now, I help folks figure out which is best for them.

The question I most often get asked is, “What bareboat do you recommend?” To answer, I’ve created Capt. Kev’s Formula for the Perfect Bareboat.

Location:

Location is an obvious and important factor. Knowing where you’re going narrows the list of boats to consider. Geographic considerations, including distance between islands, water depth, docking and mooring availability, all factor in to selecting the size and type of your bareboat. Once you know where you’re going, read local cruising guides, study charts and browse the websites of charter companies in the area.

How Many:

The number of people in your party will dictate the minimum size of the boat and potentially the type of boat (catamaran or monohull). Make sure you have one berth space per person, and that you only put very small people into crew berths. Settees make fine sea-berths, but they’re not ideal sleeping quarters during a week-long vacation.

Who:

Knowing “who” is in your crew is paramount. In fact, it will likely be the deciding factor. The crew’s preferences can be the difference between a slick, deep-keel, sporty monohull with a small stove and no A/C, and a large catamaran with more technology than a space shuttle. An experienced crew may prefer a go-fast performance boat, while newbies will want a stable, comfy multihull.

Remember, this is not about your personal preferences; it’s about your crew and what they need to have a good time on the water. Consider interviewing them about their hopes and expectations before you pick a boat.

Time of Year and Time on Board:

It’s important to pick a boat well suited to the conditions you’ll be sailing in. If it’s rainy season, you want good cockpit protection and comfy cabins. If it’s hot, you want shade, A/C and a solid swim platform. If it’s cold at night, you want a trusty heater and a cozy main saloon with plenty of room for eating warm meals.

If you’re sailing shallow waters, you want a shallow-draft keel, and if you’re sailing long distances with the wind on the nose, you want a boat that points. If you plan to dock, multihulls with twin engines can be a relief, and if you’ll be zipping around a breezy bay, a deep-draft monohull will provide a thrilling ride. 

Regardless of season, longer trips warrant more amenities, as you’ll have more time to notice what you’re missing. A watermaker, for instance, is unnecessary for a week’s charter, but crucial if you’re out for a month. Longer trips also warrant more stowage, especially for refrigerated items, and more space on deck for toys like kayaks and windsurfers.

The Formula:

Now that you’ve thought through the basics, it’s time for The Formula: Location + How Many + Who + Time = Perfect Yacht.

For example: BVI + 8 (4 sailors/4 non-sailors) + (Spring-7 days) = ?

In this case, I would select a 42-50 foot catamaran or a 50-52 foot monohull with four cabins and plenty of on-deck lounging space. In the spring, a generator and A/C is nice, but not a necessity. If all eight were family, I’d think about squeezing into fewer berths, while friends might need more seperation.

Apply The Formula:

Truth be told, you won’t know if your boat is “perfect” until you’re sailing on it. But if you consider these four deciding factors before calling your charter company, you’ll be well equipped to make a decision.

If all else fails, try my trick: close your eyes and imagine you and your crew sailing each of the boats you’re considering. Where is everyone hanging during the day? While under sail? At meal time? When sleeping? Is there enough private space and enough social space?

And take solace. No matter what you choose, it’s still a bareboat with a sail, and you’re still on charter. That, in itself, is the start to a perfect vacation. 

Kevin LaFond aka Capt. Kev has been testing and reviewing charter yachts for CharterAdvisors.com since 2011, where he reports on charter news and offers charter advice

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