Charter a Passage
I think it’s fair to say that a significant difference between finding a passagemaking opportunity through a course or membership group (see page 60) and going the crewed-charter route is the wealth of options offered by the worldwide fleet of crewed boats. These have to do primarily with the size of the boat (from around 40 feet on up, and up some more), the length of the passage (from a week on up), and the variety of the routes these boats sail.
At any given time there are any number of circumnavigating boats out there somewhere that are available for charters en route. Of these, some are operated by their owners, who feed the cruising kitty by taking on paying guests. Others have owners who join the boat from time to time and offer charters
There are crewed boats that base themselves in a particular area—say, the South Pacific, or the high latitudes. It’s easier than you might think to find a sailing charter at the bottom of South America, where the options include the Chilean glaciers, Cape Horn, and Antarctica. It’s not easy sailing, to be sure, but these boats are purpose-built and the crews have a wealth of experience. In addition, some of these Cape Horn boats do passages into the Pacific or Atlantic during their off-season.
One such boat is the 70-foot ketch Fernande, which is now on an extended family cruise in the Atlantic after 10 years in southern South America. The owners encourage active participation in all aspects of passagemaking, and you should get all the hands-on experience you want on a boat of this type (to get an idea of what’s involved, go to www.fernandexp.com).
Soren Larsen, a 145-foot brigantine based in New Zealand, is one of a number of tall ships that offer sail training on extended passages. The itineraries of these boats vary from year to year; in 2006 Soren Larsen’s itinerary included New Zealand to Easter Island (34 days) and then on to Tahiti via Pitcairn Island, the Marquesas, and the Tuamotos (49 days).
My go-to person for chartering exotica like this is Mary Crowley, who is herself a passagemaker and erstwhile delivery skipper.
Her company, Ocean Voyages (www.oceanvoyages.com), acts as a clearinghouse for many bluewater boats. Before you talk to her, or to any other charter broker, have your requirements sorted out: the kind of experience you’re looking for (and the kind of experience you have), where you’d like to sail and for how long, and when you’d like to go.
If you have a specific stretch of ocean in mind, you’re best off staying flexible; it may take considerable time to find a boat in the desired area. Be very specific about how much you want to participate in running the boat; on many boats you’ll be passage crew and expected to pitch in. Expect to pay $100 to $200/day (a ballpark figure); this could well be less than it would cost to fly the route in these days of high airfares. And the meals will be much better. —Amy Ullrich