How to Start Cruising via Yacht Charter
Many dinghy sailors dream of their personal sailing adventure: get a cruiser and sail the World. Where does dreaming end and acting start? There are several easy ways to get into cruising slowly and without devastating financial impact. In this article, I try to give some advice on how to start cruising.
The dream of many dinghy sailors it to change boats some day, get a cruiser and sail the World. However, in reality starting a cruise is often a lot less dramatic and adventurous than many people might think. Generally, beginners are not advised to buy a cruiser right away.
In many cases, people get started on sailing on cruises with a professional crew and skipper. If this is the case with you, I would recommend you to do a general course on sailing first and acquire the basic skills on a dinghy. Most techniques that you learn to control a dinghy are essentially the same as the ones you need for a cruiser. Once you got some confidence, you can always go back to cruisers later.
No need to buy a boat
But even if you are an experienced dinghy sailor and very skilled with all essential sailing techniques already, you might still prefer some types of cruisers over others. There are plenty of cheaper and more sensible ways to find out what cruiser suits you than buying one. Sailing clubs often organize cruises on a variety of boats; and an increasing number of sailing schools offers courses specifically designed for cruising, that include trips on different boats.
Finally, you can always get a group of people together yourself and try a cruiser with a yacht charter. There are several ways in which yachts are offered in charter packages. The cheapest is a bare-boat arrangement. This means that you get only the boat with neither crew nor skipper. Many bareboat companies require an official sailing certificate from at least one member of the crew. However, this requirement depends on the country you cruise in and on the individual company.
Hidden costs of bareboating can occur through additional insurance fees that might be due for every individual crew member, so be careful with bareboat packages. They are often not quite as cheap as they seem at the first glance.
The Different ways of Yacht Charter
A very popular way of chartering a yacht is the captain-only package, in which you get the boat with an (ideally skilled and experienced) captain. Captain-only charters are very common in the Mediterranean and an excellent way of trying a cruiser, even if you don’t have the confidence of operating one completely on your own.
The “quality” – meaning reliability and skills – of captains can vary hugely between companies. Especially in the Mediterranean they are often praised as being fluent in English, French, German and whatever else; a claim that normally lacks the diploma to provide evidence for it. Be careful and go for companies that are in the charter business for a long time. Try to follow personal recommendations if possible.
Finally, many companies offer you to charter a boat with a complete crew and a captain. In that case you are probably not involved with the sailing itself. Therefor, this kind of arrangement is probably not suitable for people who are looking for “hands-on” experiences with different cruisers. They might still make a great sailing vacation, though.
Individual Arrangements from Charter Companies
Many charter companies have only one boat and offer all three arrangements (bareboat, captain-only, fully crewed) upon request. I think it is always worth calling them up and see whether they can make you an offer that you find appealing. Once you had your hands on a couple of cruisers and know which one suits you, you can go ahead and look into sales.
You can buy cruisers directly from manufacturers or boat dealers. If you are interested in recent developments, you should keep looking for boat shows and fairs. Sailing magazines often have reviews on new yachts, too. Furthermore, they might point you towards second-hand boats. Most yacht brokers sell both second-hand and new sailboats.
If you want to buy second-hand, you could be able to save a great deal of money. Be careful, though, not to buy an overpriced or stolen boat. Always get a boat surveyed before you agree on a price. You can find survey contractors in sailing magazines or through your local club or boat association.