We North American sailors tend to take our “away” sailing vacations in the Caribbean, where the charter companies are well known through advertising and magazine articles. And it’s certainly not hard to find a fellow sailor who’s been there, done it, and can’t tell you enough about it. That’s the good news. We’ve also come to expect, and get, a high level of service and a certain amount of hand-holding from these companies.
Let’s talk about Mediterranean charters, keeping in mind that December isn’t too early to do your planning; many charterboats are booked at the European winter boat shows, and the boats are, of course, finite in number. While increasing numbers of U.S. sailors are chartering in the Med, it is first of all Europe’s primary summer playground, especially Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and the increasingly popular coast of Croatia; the demand is high. You may, or may not, need a sailing license; the question of licenses remains a moving target to a certain extent. There may be other paperwork. You may, or may not, have problems getting a response to your phone calls or e-mails to European companies.
If you book with a U.S.-based company—The Moorings and Sunsail both have numerous bases in the Med—the process will go as you’ve experienced with a Caribbean charter. Your questions will be answered, the paperwork will be dealt with, and your boat will have appropriate numbers of sheets and towels. The staff at the base will hold your hand to the extent you require.
But if you’re looking for a charter out of a different port, say, or if you simply can’t find a bareboat at the right time—well, that’s where a charter broker can be your new best friend. I talked with Steve McCrea, who keeps up on the subject for Ed Hamilton & Company. As a broker, Steve maintains a knowledge base you can tap into and can help you make a choice based on time of year plus sailing conditions plus your requirements. You might think of it as one-stop shopping, in which it takes one call (for you) to find a boat, get information on a company that’s unfamiliar to you, deal with any paperwork, and get your questions answered. E-mail Steve (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 800-621-7855. Another useful contact is Nigel James Yacht Charter in England (nj-yacht.com); check yachtcharterguide.com for other options.
A broker can’t get you a boat for less than the published rate, but he or she can save you money and time by doing the investigating, recommending reliable companies, and doing the due diligence in finding a combination of boat, place, and time that fits your needs. Is chartering in the Med worth the extra effort? You betcha. Good planning will keep you out of the worst of the crowds and in the best of places.