Fatty's Guide to Chartering Options

Editor at large Cap'n Fatty Goodlander explains the three main options for charterers-- bareboat, crewed, and bareboat flotilla. Online supplement to our July 2007 issue

KNOW368

Along with the responsibilities entailed on a bareboat charter comes unlimited freedom--freedom to do exactly as you wish, when you wish, how you wish.Michael Lovett

Charters fall into two distinct categories: fully crewed-the boat you charter comes complete with a captain and a crew-and bareboat-you're the captain, and your family and friends make up the crew. Both styles offer distinct advantages.

There's nothing quite as relaxing and stress-free as a well-organized crewed charter. It's as if your every whim is answered before it's even voiced. Drinks appear. Food is served. Destinations come and go.

Want a perfect sunset photograph? Well, sir, here's the perfect west-facing anchorage for it. Ditto for a snorkeling spot, a wreck dive, or some spanking good breeze.

If the crew's really, really good, you never realize that they are. They simply seem to be elsewhere until needed, and then they magically reappear. Things aren't merely thought of; they're anticipated. There's never any rush, and, no, the genset doesn't ever get cranked while you're napping. Life afloat just seems effortless. There's never a hassle about navigation, provisions, or vessel maintenance. For a few precious days, your wish really is your crew's command.

Bareboating is completely different. Everything is your responsibility: You're the captain, not only of the vessel but also of your vacation. But along with this responsibility comes unlimited freedom-freedom to do exactly as you wish, when you wish, how you wish. Bareboating is like owning a boat for a week, with all the joys and agonies that ownership entails.

Bareboating flotillas, such as those conducted by King Yacht Charters in CW's Adventure Charter series, as well as those organized by other charter companies, lie somewhere in the middle. In a flotilla charter, a group of bareboaters agree upon a single itinerary. The Kings, who broker crewed and bareboat sailing vacations in addition to conducting the CW program, take care of the details of provisioning and itinerary and act as navigational guides during your weeklong sailing adventure, but you're on your own boat, doing your own thing.

This is particularly appealing to first-time bareboaters, who, while competent to handle the particular vessel, aren't as comfortable with the navigational, social, and safety aspects of chartering in an unfamiliar destination.

Repeat customers say they appreciate the convenience: "I don't have to think about anything before I arrive," says Ruth LaBlonde, "and the moment we're back at the dock, I'm gone. It's just pure fun. They've taken all the work and worry out of bareboating. That's why I keep coming back."

But be forewarned: With groups come disadvantages (your course and schedule aren't completely your own) and advantages (instant camaraderie, for example). The choice is yours.