Bareboat or Captained Sailing Charter... Which Is Right for You?

Whether you choose a captained or bareboat charter sailing vacation depends upon your skill level, your desire to run the boat, and in some cases, location.


Although the old joke states that all you need to charter a sailboat is a pulse and a credit card, good sailing charter companies will dig deeper than that. Before agreeing to let you sail one of their boats, they will ask for your skipper’s sailing resumes and those of your crew. They will want to know which boats you’ve owned or chartered and which certifications you’ve earned, such as a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license or ASA or U.S. Sailing bareboat certifications.

If the charter companies are not satisfied with your skill level, they may ask you to take one of their captains along for a day or two—or for a week. Many charter companies’ captains are certified instructors as well as licensed captains, so if you want one, you can have a learning vacation.


If you’re not confident enough to run your own boat for the week—or you’d really just relax with a drink in your hand—a captained charter is right for you. You may have a captain onboard for the whole vacation; having a paid crew and cook are options, too.

Sometimes even seasoned charter sailors will need a captain because different charter locations have different regulations. If you’d like to charter in Croatia, for example, your ASA certification won’t be enough. The International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft, or International Certificate of Competence (ICC), is accepted as evidence of competence in most European and Mediterranean waters. It proves that the holder has undergone formal training and has the necessary boating skills to manage a vessel in international waters. If you don’t have your ICC, you will need a captained charter. (See this article about one such experience)

By the Stateroom

As a different type of captained sailing charter vacation, some companies offer “by the cabin” or stateroom charters. You just pay for your private berth rather than the whole boat. You may bring friends or meet new ones on the boat. It may be a more affordable option for those testing the waters of chartering or experienced charter sailors who need a vacation, don’t have a full boatload of travelers, and would rather have someone else do the work.