We’re in the April 2021 issue of All at Sea!
Chris Warwick, principal at Universal Yachting, on making your first charter – home or abroad – a success.
Thinking of a holiday this year – one to get you away from the crowds? Hiring a yacht, known as a charter, could be just the answer. If it is not something you have done before, as with any holiday, getting the balance right and keeping your whole group happy is important.
Whether you are a group of friends or a family, work out in advance what everyone wants from the experience. An element of compromise will always be essential and, if it is a family holiday, consider which items are negotiable with the younger members – democracy can have a cost!
This choice will, in part, depend on your level of experience and what you wish to do.
Whilst chartering is popular in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, do not forget the UK offers great sailing options, especially in these current times. You can take a quick weekend break or spend a week exploring the coastline, enjoying everything it has to offer, all on your doorstep.
Every sailing area will suit different groups, so decide whether you prefer:
Whilst no one can predict the weather, especially these days, every charter company will highlight which are low and high wind destinations. No wind can be as frustrating as too much, so always work around the person with the least sailing experience.
An experienced yacht will shrug off no wind and still have a good day, yet someone new to sailing could get put off by high winds. Be prepared to adapt, after all you would not expect a new skier to do a black run!
Budget will play its part, as will experience and the number of people in your group, with your choice of boat. Most yachts will normally sleep eight people, although some newer yachts above 45ft may boast additional cabins with a capacity for 10-12 people. Be wary of cramming more in to get the price per person down. Do not let the reality spoil your holiday and consider:
Whilst you plan to spend most time outside, space can be important, especially off-season or where there are no weather guarantees. As a general rule, if a boat sleeps eight then six onboard will be comfortable.
Although older yachts are often cheaper, it does not have to mean that they are tired and worn out. However, build age into your expectations, especially if chartering privately online. Do not rely on ‘brochure shots’, and if booking with a larger charter company by phone, remember they may never have seen the actual yacht.
For most people, sailing is the easy part. However, anchoring a large yacht in an open bay is different to trying to manoeuvre in a crowded marina or harbour. Whilst it is tempting to go for the biggest yacht you can find, be realistic about your abilities. Why put yourself under unnecessary pressure?
You may prefer smaller, family-run companies with a more personal service, or a wider choice offered by larger companies. Either way, be clear about booking conditions and cancellation terms, especially in current times.
Overseas travel can eat time out of your hard-earned holiday, as well as adding hassle or cost if flights are not part of the package. A holiday you can reach by car may be preferable.
Sailing out of season has great appeal, often being quieter and lower cost. There is a risk the weather may be less reliable, so assess whether you are prepared to tolerate some cloud, rain or even storms.
Getting some refresher training before your trip may make a big difference to your break, especially if you are a little rusty or taking inexperienced sailors with you.
If you are completely new to chartering, book a day with a skipper locally to see if everyone is going to enjoy your holiday idea before you commit to the booking.
Always check with your charter company what sailing qualifications and certificates are required before you go. Most countries in Europe, for example, require you to have the International Certificate of Competence as a minimum.