Want to take a charter vacation with people who have never done it before? No problem, so long as you consider their needs, interests, fears, budgets, and passions—and remember that it’s their vacation too. Even if you’re an old pro with multiple charters under your belt, new people have no idea what to expect and you’ll need to make accommodations to keep a happy boat.
Consider the Location
Discuss your crew’s expectations and choose a location together. If they hate to be cold, hot, seasick or stuck solely aboard a boat, you’ll have to choose cruising grounds that make sense for all, or at least most, of the guests aboard. If the priority is sightseeing and shopping, remote anchorages with little opportunity to go ashore will not be acceptable. If they get seasick easily, long upwind passages will be no fun. And if your crew just wants to relax aboard with cocktails, plentiful cultural activities will be less in demand than a swim-up bar in a tropical locale. When you’re dealing with couples, make sure you ask each individual what they need to make a successful vacation.
Consider the Boat
Some people don’t mind roughing it, while others can’t survive without air conditioning, twice daily showers, and a hair dryer. Review the amenities and the tankage on your charter vessel and discuss what is or is not likely to be aboard prior to booking. Also, if your people aren’t used to sailing, living in close quarters, or are prone to seasickness, consider a catamaran. Multihulls provide more room so couples can enjoy their own cabin and head and the motion is often a little easier with less heeling and therefore less stomach upset and general nervousness. Inquire at the base as to the age of the boats, too, as that will give you some idea of their condition, although older well-kept boats can often be as good as or better than newer boats with little additional equipment.
Consider a Captain
If your experience is light, you may want a professional captain aboard to run the vessel so you don’t have to be stressed by the experience. A charter captain will have local knowledge to find the most interesting anchorages, show you the best snorkeling places, steer you away from tourist traps, and have a good knowledge of navigational hazards. Even if you have lots of experience, you may prefer to enjoy time spent with your family and friends and not have to worry about managing the vessel. Hiring a charter captain will minimize the distractions as well as any familial pressure, and everyone will be able to relax.
An overly-ambitious itinerary is almost always a recipe for disaster, as people feel rushed to visit multiple destinations without really experiencing any of them fully. On a weeklong charter in compact cruising grounds, plan on no more than one new anchorage or marina a night. The number of places you’ll visit will depend on how far apart they are, how much there is to do in each, how much one differs from another, and how much time your crew wants to spend aboard and underway. Many new sailors feel that chartering is all about the sailing, but non-sailors look forward to more of a comprehensive vacation rather than sail camp.
Don’t Forget the Kids
Kids can complicate or enhance a charter but regardless, they will make it different than if only adults congregate. When chartering with kids, remember that for the most part, they’re not self-entertaining. Consider their ages and their preferred activities. Ask the charter base for additional equipment like mask, snorkels, and fins, kayaks, and water toys. For evenings when the adults want to have sundowners in the cockpit, a TV/DVD and a few movies can make for a peaceful boat. Mostly, remember that you’re vacationing with your kids so get them involved. Show them how them how to sail, anchor, snorkel, or run a dinghy. They’ll be much more enthusiastic and therefore more pleasant.
Don’t Make it Like Camping
Even if it’s glamping (glamour camping), life aboard can be like camping, which many people don’t like. Provide some upscale options on your vacation. Unless you have someone aboard who loves to cook and clean up, make provisions to eat out a couple of times during the charter. It’s a great way to sample local cuisine and give the galley slave a break. Also, provide plenty of water for the crew to take showers. Nobody likes to feel dirty, sticky, and itchy on their vacation when they were planning to wear their beachwear finest, so be sure to learn where you can replenish your tanks or if there will be a watermaker aboard. Make sure the boat provides plenty of shade or shelter so the elements are manageable and above all, discuss a budget with everyone and how to share expenses before even setting foot aboard. People have different priorities for their money so be respectful of their wishes and needs.
You can’t please everyone all the time, but managing expectations beforehand and planning ahead can make a real difference when chartering with people new to this kind of vacationing. If you do it right, it may result in having lots of crew for future trips.