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Spending It: Well Chartered Waters

Escape the grips of deep winter with a trip on a yacht. Tips for a successful sailboat vacation.

Looking for a great vacation that involves some pampering — no cooking, cleaning or other dirty work? Here's a tip: It typically costs more to stay at a five-star resort in the Virgin Islands than it does to sail on a crewed boat of comparable quality. Where a resort package might charge extra for snorkeling, guided hikes, kayaking and trips to other islands, a chartered boat package usually includes all these activities. Further, a resort hotel's modified or full American plan will not include fine wines, sailing instruction, diving or the flexibility to shift gears when you want to. And it most certainly won't include an aromatherapy foot massage, which my trip on the Three Moons happily provided.

So for me, the boat's the way to go, and even if you're a sailor, the crewed boat is a good idea. As a sailor among landlubbing friends, you're likely to spend more time working the lines and rationing water consumption than enjoying the trip.

Charter a crewed boat if:

  • You want the same level of service and cuisine you'd get at a five-star resort, but you prefer an on-the-move vacation to a sedentary one.

  • You have any misgivings about handling the boat. Should you want the experience of piloting the boat, many charters in the Caribbean fleet offer opportunities to improve sailing skills.

  • You are travelling abroad and you need someone to act as an interpreter of language and/or local customs.

  • You want to see how a particular kind of boat fares in the waters you're planning to travel.

What to Expect

On board a charter you can expect a fully customized vacation. Crews generally are open to accommodating customer requests for itinerary, daily sailing distances, meal times and activities, both on-board and ashore. About meals: Whether you're looking for vegetarian, low-fat, high-chocolate or some other specific fare, demand and expect cooking that meets your needs and preferences. Most chefs on crewed boats have professional cooking experience and formal instruction, so such expectations are reasonable. Your experience with on-board cuisine can be the equal of that in a land-based resort.

How to Arrange It

Crewed boats are best booked through a broker familiar with the sailing area, its local fleets and its crews. Boats have personalities and crews have personalities, and the more experienced brokers will be able to place you in a vessel that will suit you best. Before you call a broker, be prepared to discuss the following:

Basics: budget, number of people in the party, timing of the trip, locations of interest, special occasion the charter might be celebrating. (The cost of a crewed-boat vacation varies widely, depending on the length of the trip, desired amenities and size of the party).

Sailing preferences: type of boat, sailing conditions with which you're comfortable, amount of sailing you're willing to do.

Activity preferences: shore-based activities (shopping, hiking), water-based activities (diving, water sports) or both?

Lifestyle preferences: special diet, early/late rising.

Health issues: physical limitations that a crew should accommodate.

Above all, be prepared to take and seek advice from the broker. A pro should be able to tell you about seasonal differences in cost, weather and sailing conditions in the area you're interested in cruising.

Also, it's important to work with a broker with whom you're comfortable. If you seem to be on different wavelengths, call someone else. In addition, be sure to work with only one broker at a time. Brokers generally have access to the same boats and crews at the same prices.

The prices quoted for Caribbean charters typically are all-inclusive, but don't forget to factor into your budget a tip for the crew — 10 to 20 percent is customary. Also, give serious consideration to trip-cancellation insurance. Above all, though, remember to plan carefully. The thrill of discovery is in no way diminished when a trip goes smoothly.

Writer's BIO:
Amy Ullrich
is managing editor of SAIL. She oversees the magazine's charter coverage and is a frequent visitor to the Caribbean.

Going for (Yachting) Brokers

The following brokers are experienced in booking crewed-boat charters in popular cruising grounds worldwide. Their regional specialties are noted.

Albatross Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-377-8877
Alpha Yachting Greece 800-479-1766
Aqua Safaris Charteryachts Caribbean, Mediterranean, Greece 800-524-3444
Bajor Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-524-8292
Boatz ‘n Yachts Worldwide 800-414-9004
Caribbean Sailing Charters Worldwide 800-824-1331
Catamaran Company Caribbean, Florida 800-262-0309
Charter Specialists Worldwide 800-479-9054
Club Voyages Greece, Turkey 888-842-2122
Crewed Charters Worldwide 800-522-3077
Cruzan Yacht Charters Caribbean 800-628-0785
Ed Hamilton & Co. Worldwide 800-621-7855
Fair Wind Charters Caribbean 888-622-6065
Florida Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-537-0050
GPSC Charters Ltd. Eastern and Western Mediterranean 800-732-6786
Horizon Yacht Charters Caribbean 284-494-8787
Island Charters Caribbean 800-844-4204
Island Yachts Caribbean 800-524-2019
Jolly Mon Sailing Worldwide 800-565-5984
King Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-521-7552
Le Boat Worldwide 800-992-0291
Lynn Jachney Charters Worldwide 800-223-2050
Moorings Yachting Holidays Worldwide 800-437-7880
Nicely-Dunn Yacht Charters Caribbean 800-874-0724
Nicholson Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-662-6066
Ocean Charters Worldwide 800-922-4833
Ocean Voyages Worldwide 800-299-4444
Port O'Call Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-742-9919
Poseidon Charters Worldwide 800-448-6877
Regency Yacht Charters Caribbean, Mediterranean, Bahamas 800-524-7676
Richleigh Yachts Worldwide 800-578-4348
RNR Worldwide 800-525-2526
Russell Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-635-8895
Sail Paradise Yacht Charters Caribbean 800-392-1350
Sailscape Vacations Caribbean, Florida 800-922-4820
Sailing Vacations Worldwide 800-922-4880
Seven Seas Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-346-5355
Stewart Yacht Charters Caribbean 800-432-6118
Sun Yacht Charters Worldwide 888-772-3502
Swift Yacht Charters Worldwide 800-866-8340
Top Cat Worldwide 800-333-9049
Virgin Island Sailing Ltd. Caribbean 800-742-7641
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