Over my years as SAIL’s charter editor, I’ve worked with many bareboat-charter companies both as a charterer and as an editor. Truth is, the people you interact with in setting up a charter vacation and dealing with the details are almost invariably as helpful and knowledgeable as you could wish.
When a friend who was planning a first-time charter came to me with questions, I seized the opportunity to find out how you find out—in addition, of course, to using company Web sites and your good friend Google. I talked with Van Perry, of The Moorings (a representative large company), and Barney Crook, of TMM Yacht Charters (a representative smaller company), and learned this: Whichever company you’re dealing with, you’ll be put in touch with knowledgeable people who can answer your questions and help to solve your problems. Here are some of the things first-time charterers are likely to ask about.
•Planning your charter. Your charter company will work with you in coordinating air arrangements and boat availability.
If you’re chartering in the Caribbean, you’ll receive a copy of the appropriate cruising guide once your charter is confirmed. Read through it carefully, and generate a list of questions about the route you’re thinking about. If you’re considering doing a one-way charter, discuss the possibility sooner rather than later.
If your itinerary involves stops in more than one territory—this is likely in parts of the Caribbean—or if you’re sailing in Europe and need a sailing license, discuss this with the company in advance and get any required paperwork done ahead of time.
•Provisioning. Most charter companies have provisioning information and order forms on their Web sites. If you’re unable to download the forms, you can ask to have them sent to you. The option of self-provisioning is viable in most locations; this is something you’ll want to confirm. You should make your provisioning requests as far in advance as possible.
•Arrival and checkout. If you’re arriving late in the day, you may be able to arrange an “evening start” or “prior-night sleepaboard”; whatever it’s called, it means you can spend the night onboard at a reasonable cost and be ready to sail off in the morning. If necessary, the company can help you find a hotel room for the night. You may (or may not) be able to do the boat and chart checkouts late in the day; it pays to ask.
Also ask the company if they can arrange for you to be picked up (and dropped off) at the airport. Most work with a number of cab drivers.
•Special interests. If you want to dive, go fishing, or find a guide for hiking/climbing, you can set up some of this in advance—say, get a fishing license, make arrangements with a recommended guide, or sign up for a rendezvous dive ahead of time (recommended if you’re chartering at heavy-tourism times like school vacation weeks).
You can wait for the chart checkout to get other kinds of information—for example, in which anchorages or marinas you can leave the boat unattended while you go off for the day; where you can restock provisions or simply find local specialties; where you can find the best snorkeling or the easiest, if you’re sailing with kids or novices.
The Moorings, www.moorings.com; TMM Yacht Charters, www.sailtmm.com