Five Ways to Ensure Your Crewed Charter Is the Best Vacation Ever
Steve McCrea, president of Ed Hamilton & Co., shares these tips for finding the best crewed charter vacation.
Steve McCrea, president of Ed Hamilton & Co. , shares these tips for finding the best crewed charter vacation. McCrea is a member of the American Yacht Charter Association, the Charter Yacht Brokers Association, and a former general manager of Sunsail Sailing Vacations in the United States.
1. Choose a Broker and Stick with Him:
It’s good to shop around at first to find a good fit, but at some point it’s advantageous to choose one broker to work with rather than trying to pit one broker against another, which is usually the worst way to utilize a broker. A good broker will be your advocate and should act more as a consultant than a salesperson, and you should get that feeling. Your broker should have seen the boats and met and interviewed as many crews as he or she can, will let you know when they haven’t, and will be prepared to vet the boats and crews they haven’t seen. It’s best to use a broker who is a member of AYCA, (American Yacht Charter Association), CYBA, (Charter Yacht Brokers Association), preferably, both.
2. Choose a Location Wisely:
This is key for bareboat charters as well as crewed charters. It ties into choosing a broker as well, as a good broker should have good destination knowledge, not just a sense of the various stops and general ambiance of the area. Your broker should also be able to advise on the sailing conditions, and particularly, the expected sea state.
When considering the sea state, it’s important to think primarily of the lowest common denominator, i.e. — your guests with the least amount of boating experience. Very often we have clients choosing locations solely by where flights are most direct, (or more frequently, cheapest).
Certainly ease of air travel has to play a role, especially for families, but choosing a sailing location only on flight availability is rarely a good idea. One may save two hours in an airport, only to lose five hours beating or motoring upwind - airplanes go upwind far better than sailboats! Naturally the more unspoiled locations are harder to fly to, but they’re often worth it.
3. Set a Realistic Budget:
Everyone has a budget, from most economical to the biggest spenders. It’s important to set this realistically — neither too low, nor too high, as both can be problematic. Everyone wants a good value, of course, but setting a budget is all about maintaining expectations. At the end of the day what matters more than what you spent is whether or not your expectations were met, or hopefully exceeded, by your experience.
If you set too low a budget and focus too much on getting a deal, you’re bound to compromise on the quality, and need to lower your expectations accordingly. There are sometimes discounts and offers, but they’re generally not large with most good crewed yachts, and fairly rare with the most popular ones. If a boat is offering a big discount, there’s probably a reason, and not usually a good one. The best deal is always found by choosing the right boat and crew for your group.
It’s perhaps counterintuitive, but it can be difficult, impossible even, to meet expectations if your budget is too high. If you’re pushing to the top of your budget because your heart is set on the newest, shiniest, largest boat you can possibly attain, it’s not unlikely that your expectations will rise to an unattainable level. Keep the budget comfortable enough to enjoy your vacation (and to be able to afford another!).
Remember also to budget for a crew gratuity, which can be a notable expense. Your broker should advise you of this, as well as explain what tip levels are appropriate. If you have a broker suggesting crew gratuity as a place to save money, you’ve found a completely unscrupulous broker and you should move on. They likely have a poor reputation with the boats and crews and that’s no way to start the relationship.