What Is Chartering? A Newcomer's Guide

What is chartering, and why do so many sailors want to take charter vacations?

For newcomers: to charter a boat means to rent one for a vacation or an outing. One “charters” a sailboat or powerboat. This can also be said as “to do a charter,” “charter sailing,” or “take a charter vacation.” All mean the same thing. 

Crew or not?

There are two types of charters: crewed or bareboat. A crewed charter can also be called a “captained” charter: one in which a professional captain and crew mates come along on the boat to steer, help navigate, and perhaps cook for and serve the guests. Crewed charters can be high end (think uniformed crew serving gourmet meals and champagne on a superyacht) or more modest (think crew wearing tee shirts and flip flops serving fish tacos on deck of a catamaran). Crewed charter vacations can often be tailored to your preferences.

The other type is a bareboat charter, or one without crew. This is less expensive than a crewed charter but more difficult, as you must know how to provision, captain, moor, navigate, and manage the yacht’s systems on your own. For many sailors, being qualified to do a bareboat charter is the ultimate goal and one for which they take a series of courses and gather certifications. Sometimes when a charter company is not fully confident you’re ready to handle their boat on your own, they will send you out with a licensed captain for an hour, or a day or two, to test your skills.

Regardless of their skill level, some sailors would rather have a captain and crew do the work than trouble themselves with managing a boat while on vacation!

Where to go?

Whether day charters for enjoyment or corporate events, boat charters tend to be offered in attractive waterfront towns. Charter vacations tend to take you to beautiful island chains or ports around the world.

Popular charter destinations include the Bahamas; the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Grenadines, and elsewhere in the Caribbean Sea; Greece, Croatia, France, and elsewhere in Europe; and Tahiti and elsewhere in French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Of course if you want to charter a boat right here at home on the Chesapeake or elsewhere on the East or West Coast, it’s an easy thing to do.