Chartering beautiful boats in exotic locales will give your wallet a workout. Expenses go well beyond the cost of the vessel and airfare. It all adds up quickly, but there are ways to pinch enough pennies on each charter to get a head start on the next one. Here are some tips on how to cut costs without devaluing the experience.
Bareboat charter weeks are a perishable inventory, and when a boat sits unused, that’s lost revenue. That’s why charter companies have last-minute deals that can be up to 20 percent off at specific destinations or added days (10 for the price of seven). If you’re open to various locations and have a flexible schedule, sign up for their newsletters and special offers. Then work with their in-house travel department for short-notice deals on airfare. Fly mid-week and not only will you save on air, you’ll arrive when the base personnel aren’t as harried as they are on the weekends. Also, for small parties, consider a monohull. Catamarans are not only more expensive, they’re also harder to squeeze in while, say, Med mooring in Europe.
Definitely consider shoulder seasons, which differ depending on where you’re chartering. You can usually save 20 percent to 30 percent by going earlier or later than everyone else. The Caribbean is generally good all year except September and October during hurricane season. The Med can be good in May and June, and also September and October. You can save a third or more during these times, and you’ll have most anchorages to yourself.
Also, consider second tier charter companies. The boats are usually older and perhaps not as equipped, but ask yourself how much you really need. That said, definitely check out the company’s reputation beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Most companies now start their charters at 1700, allowing you to sleep aboard the first night. Ask for a technical checkout and chart briefing that afternoon/evening so you can leave early the next day. If the boat isn’t chartered before or after your week, you may be able to stay another night at the dock for 50 percent off the day fee and save on hotels.
Just like at home, dollars disappear when it comes to eating. However, there are numerous easy fixes that won’t leave you feeling cheated. When it comes to provisioning, for example, do it yourself. Even if you get full provisioning from the charter company (which almost nobody does), you’ll still end up at the market looking for more of something—usually alcohol—so why not just do it all yourself? You’ll get exactly what you want, and it will definitely cost you less per person, even including the cost of the cab ride back to the boat with all the frozen goods. For staples like sugar, salt, pepper and seasonings, consider bringing your own in Ziploc bags. You won’t go through much so why waste the rest? Make a list of what you need and aim to come back with nothing. The amount of waste when it comes to charter provisioning can be staggering.
Along these same lines, build in opportunities to eat out so you can get the local flavor—pun intended. Eat like, and with, the locals: stock local brands/types of provisions (like beer, yogurt and fruit) and eat at smaller establishments rather than big hotels and tourist traps. Also, eat out for lunch rather than dinner, which is often half the price of the same meal six hours later.
When you do decide to go out, have happy hour aboard to save on pricey cocktails and wine. Then after dinner, have a nightcap aboard as well. In most cases, a sunset view before or after is guaranteed on the boat, but not at the restaurant. The drinks will also be cheaper and never watered down.
Unless you’re in an area where moorings are mandatory (like parks) choose to anchor rather than pay a fee for a ball. Doing so can save you $25-$75 per night. I’d just as soon trust the boat’s ground tackle as a mooring anyway, so don’t assume they’re safer. If you have the swinging room, save the money.
Finally, consider fuel costs. If there’s a genset aboard, charge with that rather than your engine(s), since it’s more fuel-efficient. If there’s just enough wind to motorsail but not enough to really sail, keep the rpms low or run just one engine on a cat (usually the leeward will provide the best balance).
Finally, pack light and save on luggage fees. You’ll surprise yourself with how little you’ll need for a week in the sun, and that’s $25 that will start the charter kitty for next time.
Photos by Zuzana Prochazka