Types of Sailboat Charters

Crewed? Bareboat? Flotilla? We break it down.

Chartering a Catamaran

David Kory

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 good, you never realize that they’re there. 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 a hassle about navigation, provisions, or vessel maintenance. For a few precious days, your wish really is your crew’s command.

Captain-Only charters lie somewhere between fully crewed and bareboat charters. With just a captain, you as crew are more involved with sailing the boat, but the responsibility ultimately lies with the captain, so the pressure’s off. You also are involved in provisioning, cooking, cleaning; usually, you also pay for and provide the captain’s meals.

Bareboat charters means that you and your crew are fully responsible for safely operating the boat and navigating successfully in unfamiliar waters. Meeting these new challenges will improve your skills. 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. Bareboating is like owning a boat for a week, with all the joys and agonies that ownership entails.


Bareboat flotillas, such as those conducted by King Yacht Charters, 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 some of the details of provisioning and itinerary and act as navigational guides during your weeklong sailing adventure. You’re part of the crew on your own boat, and it’s a great opportunity for people of mixed skill levels to participate and learn.

Flotillas are 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.

Realize that with groups come disadvantages (your course and schedule aren’t completely your own) and advantages (instant camaraderie, for example). The choice is yours.


Click here to read more about how to plan a charter vacation.
Click here for Cruising World’s directory of charter boats and brokers.