Charter Tales to Tell

_Cruising World _ requested charter stories from readers. "Editor's Log" from our March 2012 issue.

Editor's Log March 2012

One slice of paradise can be found in Neiafu, in Tonga's Vava'u Group. Have you chartered there? Take our online survey, open until March 15!Mark Pillsbury

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, reaching across the trades, gin-clear water for snorkeling, rum drinks on the beach—who doesn't lust for a charter vacation? But while the dream awaits, what you may find when you arrive is a nightmare. Take the California couple who recently contacted Cruising World to describe their travel adventure: "We were so excited to start our honeymoon in the beautiful Virgin Islands," they wrote. "The pictures of the boat on the website looked alluring, and the owner of the chartering company led us to believe he was an honest, nice man. We were really looking forward to our first romantic time on the water." (Cue the scary music here.)

And so, with a deposit paid and their bags packed, they flew from L.A. to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, eager for the honeymoon to begin. They caught a late ferry to Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, and arrived just before dark to find a maintenance worker rather than the charter-company owner waiting for them. The owner, it seems, had left the island for the foreseeable future. They also found that their boat didn’t look a thing like the 2005 Beneteau 463 that they’d seen in the pictures and had been assured they were renting. No, the boat they found “looked worn and tired.” Its refrigerator required bagged ice to keep things cool, and the GPS had the screen of a circa-1980s computer. The boat lacked the promised dodger and AC and, as they were soon to find out, leaked like a sieve. Their captain, who’d accompany them for the first couple days while they regained their sea legs, was apparently a beaut, too. They described him as drinking beer from dawn to dusk, when he’d switch to hard liquor. He joined them for every meal ashore, talked incessantly, and further padded the dining tab with orders for more wine.

You get the picture. Turns out, there are still pirates in the Caribbean—and most probably in other charter destinations around the globe. So with that in mind, Cruising World is asking for your help. If you've chartered a sailboat within the last couple of years, we'd like to hear about how you were greeted, treated, accommodated, and cared for.

Participate in our online survey. Once there, you'll find detailed questions about your charter company, its base and staff, and the boat and equipment you were given, and you'll be asked to rate your overall charter experience and level of satisfaction. The survey is open through April 23. Participate, and we'll make a donation on your behalf to one of four marine-related charities; be one of the first 100 Cruising World or Sailing World readers to log on, and we'll also send you one of our 2012 calendars.

But that's not the reason you should participate. When you give us your input, you'll help fellow sailors research their options when they go to book their own charter vacation. Cruising World plans to compile the survey results and publish them in our August bareboat-chartering issue. They'll also be posted online. We're guessing this is going to be a very interesting article to read, especially if you're planning on spending your hard-earned dollars on a sailing getaway.

Most of us encounter all the nightmares we'll ever need right here at home. CW's Charter Survey should help you to avoid them in paradise.

Take the survey here! [SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED]