Pacific Northwest Fleet Shines at Charterfest

"Chartering" from our April 2007 issue

AprCharteringSt

Charterfest in Bellingham, Washington, is a nautical open house where visitors can scope out their next charter boat.San Juan Sailing

As sailors, we're used to attending shows to scope out a boat we may want to buy. But what about strolling the docks to scope out a boat you may want to charter?

That's the theory behind the Pacific Northwest's springtime show called Charterfest. The weekend display, scheduled for April 14 and 15, 2007, features a mixed fleet of more than 100 power and sailing vessels available for charter from six companies at Squalicum Marina, in Bellingham, Washington.

"What better way to assuage the panic of tax time?" jokes Roger Van Dyken, the president of San Juan Sailing and the founder of Charterfest.

The free event, in its third year, now includes vacation incentives as well as displays from marine-related businesses. Special invitations to the general public will target individuals who are new to chartering and curious about cruising vacations, sailing, and powerboating.

Yet the main draw of the display is its function as a charter-boat open house, says Van Dyken: "Gate number three is sardine-packed with boats available for people to board, inspect, and ask questions of the owners."

The event has its origins in an annual boat-owners meeting that took place some time ago at San Juan Sailing. "We told owners that their boats must be charter-ready, so I came up with a Boat of the Year-type competition," Van Dyken says. The concept, a takeoff on the annual CW competition for new production models, provided the right incentive for the company's boat owners. Van Dyken eventually decided to expand the event by inviting the general public and his local charter-company competition.

"The event has become more sophisticated each year," says Van Dyken. "The owners' boats are in spectacular condition. They arrange special decor, play excellent music, and they serve such treats as champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate. Guests enjoy meeting the boat owners, and it gives them more than just a physical connection with a fiberglass hull.

"If we start with boats in excellent condition, charter guests treat the boats as they would treat someone's home," he says. "Then we don't get the 'rent-a-wreck' syndrome.'"

Participating companies are Bellhaven Charters (800-542-8812, www.bellhaven.net), Bellingham Yachts (360-671-0990, www.bellinghamyachts.com), Northwest Explorations (800-826-1430, www.nwexplorations.com), Par Yacht Charters (360-752-5754, www.paryachtcharters.com), San Juan Sailing (800-677-7245, www.sanjuansailing. com), and San Juan Yachting (800-677-7245, www.sanjuanyachting.com).

Companies will offer discounts. San Juan Sailing will offer $100 off any sailboat charter of seven days or longer and $100 off its bareboat-charter certification. Bellingham Yachts will offer 5 percent off any booking confirmed at the event and will include a free boathandling lesson. Par Yacht Charters will offer a 5-percent discount and will give away a two-hour boating lesson in a drawing. Bellhaven will offer a 5-percent discount at the show. For more details, contact Ann Grimm at the Port of Bellingham, Washington (360-676-2500, ext. 388; www.portofbellingham. com).