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Yacht Charters

By Larry Benedict

Photos Courtesy Sunsail

Chartering your own sailing yacht is one of the most exciting and unstructured ways to experience exotic travel destinations. If you read our previous TravelASSIST article, "Sailing Schools," and decided the captains hat was not for you, you can charter a yacht with a crew to sail her.

Few holidays combine adventure and leisure to the same degree as spending a week or two aboard a charter craft. You can work like a deck-hand rounding the horn one day, then lay back with a tall drink and idly watch your live-aboard crew take over the tacking, sail changes and galley chores the next.

Sun Yacht Charters describes a sailing vacation this way: "What is a sailing vacation? It is the thrill you feel when you see a beautiful yacht at the dock and realize, with a flush of pleasure, that itís waiting there for you. Itís taking the wheel and sensing the power of the wind in the sails and the lift of the sea beneath the hull. Itís lying on the foredeck in the sun lulled by the murmur of the bow wave foaming below . . . Itís swimming and snorkeling and walking hand-in-hand for miles along a pristine sandy beach."

When considering a charter, there are two main choices; "crewed" and "bareboat." "Bareboat" means that you rent and sail the boat yourself, while "crewed" includes a skipper and crew. Some charter companies are world-wide, and can supply a complete vacation package. Many include recreational sports as well as parties and excursions ashore. Their sailboats are standardized which makes them highly predictable. This gives the holiday sailor a much shorter learning curve when getting used to the boat.

There are those of us who equate sailing with the Caribbean and nothing else will do. If it was good enough for pirate Henry Morgan, itís good enough for us. Fortunately, yacht charter is one of the Caribbeanís primary industries and charters are available for almost every type of sailing vacation. But there is practically no reasonable stretch of water on earth that does not offer a yacht charter to explore its coastlines, islands and waterways. You may wish to spend your time exploring the hidden coves of South Sea Islands like Tahiti and Fiji or sail Lake Huron in Canada, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and visit unspoiled rocky, pine-forested islands.

Selecting Charter Options Wherever you plan to sail, your choices break down into several categories. Bareboat charters are considerably cheaper than crewed charters but require experienced sailors who must prove their proficiency in handling the boat. Bareboat is the puristís choice, pitting oneís sailing skills against the elements. On a bareboat, if you donít do it, it doesnít get done.

In contrast, The "crewed" experience is a matter of selecting the degree of luxury you desire. Whatever amenities youíre willing to pay for can usually be found. Large yachts have every conceivable appointment including king and queen beds, private baths in every stateroom, pools, Jacuzzis, dance floors and party rooms (saloons).

Photo Courtesy Stardust Marine

There are many types of boats to choose from. The single-hull traditional sailboat, with a cockpit either at the stern or amidships usually has more convenient quarters that a catamaran (with two hulls) but the catamaran is faster than a single hull. The motor-sailer is designed to spend more time under power than an average sailboat, and a motor-yacht has no sails at all.

To give you some idea of cruise vacations available through charter companies and to help you sift through the vast stores of information about cruising, we have selected a few charterers, each with their own unique offerings that will give you a starting point and, presumably, whet your sailorís appetite.

Charter cruises can offer the sailing vacationer most of the amenities found in resort hotels and on large cruise ships. In addition, on a chartered yacht, you will have the ability to discover hidden coves and islands unavailable with the other vacation choices. You will visit nightspots and fine restaurants wherever you sail and your crew, (on crewed vessels), will be well acquainted with the life ashore in your chosen areas.

If you just canít part with the idea of a land based resort, most charter companies have packages that combine a hotel or resort stay with a traditional cruise. This can be combined with sailing school instruction before setting off. When looking into the packages offered examine the possibility of an all inclusive holiday with air transportation as part of the package.

The Bitter End Yacht Club, (see Sailing Schools) offers exactly this type of vacation, beginning with their land-based resort and sailing school and ending with your cruise.

What to Wear

When sailing in the Caribbean or other tropical destinations, you will spend much of your day in a bathing suit, so bring more than one. At night, trips ashore will require shorts or slacks and sundresses while the occasional restaurant may require the men to wear jackets. A windbreaker is also an asset on cool, breezy evenings.

Footwear is most important aboard a cruising yacht and rubber-soled shoes are required. The most effective of these are ďdeck shoesĒ created specifically for sailing with scored soles to provide a grip on wet decks. Sperry Topsiders are a favorite of world-class sailors everywhere.

Wide brimmed hats and caps to ward off the intense sun are important, as is plenty of sunblock. Suitcases are difficult to store aboard a sailing yacht and the best idea in luggage is a collapsible duffel or other cloth travel-bag.


Itineraries can be booked for almost any length of time, from a daysail to a lengthy cruise but a popular duration is the seven-day vacation. Some trips are rigid and specific, often geared to a particular sport such as snorkeling and skin diving. Others are fluid and easily changed. When you discuss your plans with a Charter Company ask how their itineraries are organized.

Wherever you decide to sail and whatever type of yacht you choose, you can be certain that the tinkling of the rigging, the swish of the bow wave, the surge of power when the wind takes over, the camaraderie, the romance and the nightlife ashore will create sailing memories that will last a lifetime.

The selection of Charter Companies that follows will give you
an overview of the types of cruises available.

The Moorings is one of the oldest and largest Charter Companies in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the South Pacific. They pioneered the charter yacht industry in the British Virgin Islands more than 27 years ago. Today they have 26 locations, 1,000 service-oriented employees and 650 impeccably maintained yachts.

Three classes of yachts offer you a choice of yacht size, on-board amenities and level of service - choices intended to provide a cruise that is tailor-made for you. Prices include yacht, professional crew, meals, bar beverages and transportation to and from the airport. Youíll find the cost comparable to a fine resort or cruise ship.

The three classes offered by The Moorings:

Luxury Class, with sleek, fast 76 foot multimillion-dollar vessels.

Prestige Class, with 62 foot monohulls or 47 to 55 foot catamarans, having spacious cockpits, sunning platforms and sun awnings on deck. Below decks, air conditioning, CD and cassette players and a cellular phone are some of the luxuries you can expect.

Leisure Class provides a casual and relaxed atmosphere aboard 50 foot yachts with awning-covered cockpits and plenty of area for sunning on deck. You will find equal sized double cabins below decks with private lavatories and showers. Most yachts are equipped with CD players or cassette players and cellular phones. Your crew includes a professional captain and talented cook.

There are also Stateroom-Only packages offering the best value in Leisure Class cruising. Two other couples will share your Leisure Class yacht with you.

You can decide the itinerary in all three classes, or leave it up to your captain. If you wish, you can make the decisions in mutual consultation. The Moorings itineraries can change at will, putting the yacht entirely at your command.

The Moorings
19345 US Highway 19 North 4th Floor
Clearwater Florida 34624-3193
(800) 437-7880 (813 533-8760 outside Canada and the US)

Freedom Yachts offers a completely different approach, as it is the only fleet in the Caribbean owned and managed by a yacht manufacturer.

"We have a little more incentive to keep our fleet in peak operating condition. In addition to pleasing our charterers and wanting them to return, boat buyers very often charter before they make a final decision, so our charter fleet is an important selling tool for our company. It has to be perfect."

The fleet is small, only ten privately-owned boats. They are maintained by Charter Manager Bill Shroer and his wife Georgia who live aboard their Freedom 39 on the same dock at Village Cay Marina on Tortola BVI, where the boats are located.

Freedom Yachts, a quality Rhode Island Yacht builder, is proud to be the only fleet to receive an excellent rating in Cruising World Magazineís "Bareboat Charter Scorecard" opinion poll in both 1994 and 1995 (August 1995 Issue).

Freedom Yachts
305 Oliphant Lane - Middletown - Rhode Island 02842
Phone (401) 848-2900 or (800) 999-2909 / Fax: (401) 848-2904

Trade Wind Yachts offers prices they consider unbeatable while maintaining the highest standards of excellence. They have been in business 15 years, developing an impeccable reputation for dependability, even though they point out that they offer lower prices than other companies.

They will provide sleep-aboard accommodations the night of your arrival, where possible, and free sailing days, depending on the season. Trade Winds Yachts has a wide variety of itineraries lasting from 7 to 10 days. The fact that they are a small company allows them to provide a high degree of personal service. Their on-site Manager oversees a full support staff of mechanics, electricians and cleaners.

Their brochure states - "If you want the vacation of a lifetime at a price you can afford, sail with Trade Wind Yachts." Trade Wind Yachts
PO Box 1186 Court Circle - Gloucester Virginia 23061
(804) 694-0881 (International) / Fax: (804) 693-7245 / (800) 825-7245 US & Canada

Stardust Marine has some special aspects that make it unique. With Bases in the Caribbean and Tahiti, Stardust Marine also offers a unique cruising locale on the coast of Turkey. Here a fleet approaching 20 yachts is available to take you along the rugged, picturesque coastline of Turkey where its grand historic past is visible displaying ruins of ancient cities from the Roman and Ottoman civilizations.

Stardust Marineís large main fleet includes two 100-foot-plus motor yachts and the 100 foot ketch-rigged sailing yacht Gemini Star. For the cruising sailor fully crewed and bareboat charters are available in many sizes and styles of yachts. All Stardust boats are fitted with over 200 Stardust specification improvements for reliability and comfort. In the event of a mechanical malfunction at sea, Stardust maintains a fleet of chaseboats that come quickly to service your yacht.

Annapolis Sailing School has teamed with Stardust Marine to offer a variety of instructional programs to help ease the transition from weekend sailor to bareboat charterer. These include a 7 day cruising course from Martinique or St Martin.

Stardust Marine is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Credit Lyonais Banking Group and offers you the security of working with a major fleet owner and registered public transporter.

Stardust Marine
2280 University Dr Ste 102 - Newport Beach California 92660
(800) 634-8822 (NW/Canada) / (714) 650-0889 / Fax: 642-1318

Paradise Yacht Charters with a full range of cruising and charter options Paradise Yacht Charters is a good example of a company with a charter-yacht ownership program. When you invest in a yacht, it will be located in the Caribbeanís premier cruising waters, the British Virgin Islands, and owners can enjoy free use of their yacht for up to four weeks a year.

After an initial down payment, there are no further expenses for five years. Paradise Yacht Charters takes care of everything, guaranteeing mortgage, dockage and insurance payment for five years. Depending on the down payment and other factors, your loan balance could be zero at the end of the five year period.

Paradise Yacht Charters
PO Box 8309 Cruz Bay USVI 00831
(809) 494-0333 or (800) 258-8753

Sunsail Worldwide Sailing Vacations is one of the worldís premier yachting companies owning and operating its own fleet of over 650 yachts in 29 beautiful locations around the world. Sunsail yachts are chosen for their comfort and sailing performance and are equipped to a high specification. The Sunsail Guarantee states that in the unlikely event of anyone losing sailing time as a result of breakdown, we refund the proportionate part of the charter fee without question. (Full details of the guarantee are available from Sunsail).

Sunsail offers many unique sailing locations. New to the list are the Seychelles, Thailand, and the continental USí most famous sailing location, Chesapeake Bay.

Sunsail US
115 East Broward Blvd - Fort Lauderdale Florida 33301
(305) 524-7553 / Fax: (305) 524-6312
Reservations, US: (800) 327-2276

Sunsail UK
The Port House Port Solent - Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 4TH
Reservations UK: 01705-210848 / Fax 01705 219827

Sunsail France
50 rue de Paradis 75010 Paris
Tel: +33 1 44 79 01 10 / Fax: +33 1 42 46 39 90

Sun Yacht Charters, while large enough to provide you with a wrinkle-free charter vacation, Sun is small enough to provide unequalled personal service. Their boats are rigorously equipped and maintained with one of the youngest fleets in the Caribbean. They back their commitment to the charterer with their exclusive double guarantee. If they canít get you going in four hours they will refund one sailing day or provide you with two free additional sailing days.

With cruising available in the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the Mediterranean, one unique area for a cruise with Sun Yacht Charters is New Caledonia. New Caledonia is called the Land of Eternal Spring because of its marvelous climate and can be reached via Sydney, Australia or Fiji.

Sun Yacht Charters
PO 737 - Camden Maine 04843 USA
(800) 772-3500 / Fax: (207) 236-3972

Sun Management -- Customized Yacht Ownership (800) 772-3503

To experience fresh water sailing, try one of the many Charter Companies on the Great Lakes in both the US and Canada. North Huron Charters in Ontario Canada offers the following:

Experience wilderness-cruising on Lake Huron's northern shores. Cruise among the thousands of fresh water islands in the protected waters of the famous North Channel. The offer three Grampian 26 ' sailboats and a Catalina 30 for the 96 season. The Grampians have full 6' headroom and sleep 4 comfortably (berths for 5) and the Catalina has berths for 7 and sleeps 6 comfortably.

1266 Queen St. East
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, P6A 2E8, Canada
Phone/Fax: 1-705-253-9346

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