by Kim Kavin
A charter yacht captain recently told me a story about guests who came aboard after many years of vacationing on cruise ships. They were used to itineraries that started in Florida and included the entire Caribbean in a single week. Now they were stepping aboard his yacht in Antigua, around 10 o’clock in the morning, and they wanted to know if he could sail them to Martinique in time for lunch that afternoon.
He laughed out loud—the distance was about 150 nautical miles. Sailing at 8 knots, the trip would take about 18 hours. They’d probably be hungry for lunch well before then.
The guests were not happy with this answer. They could not understand why their private charter yacht was unable to accomplish something that they’d always been able to do on cruise ships. The concepts of travel speed, distance, and the crew’s need to sleep at night had not been a factor in their thinking when imagining their yacht charter itinerary.
It’s a far-too-common problem for first-time charter clients, a problem that is complicated by brokers who fail to educate them about the realities of private cruising.
Cruise ships spend a great deal of time under way, as opposed to in port. The companies that own them want you on the ship—they want you buying drinks at the bar, shopping in the souvenir shops, and dropping money into the casino slot machines. That’s why a single week’s cruise-ship itinerary can cover the entire Caribbean. You’re actually spending the majority of time on the ship, and not so much in the ports.
Yacht charter is different. The entire idea is to go places and explore the area from the comfort of a home-away-from-home. A one-week Caribbean itinerary aboard a charter yacht generally includes four or five islands, at maximum. You select a segment of the Caribbean—say, the Grenadines—as opposed to attempting to see the entirety of the region at once.
With this in mind, the best way to plan any itinerary is to have your broker contact your charter yacht’s captain in advance of your vacation. Put into writing the specific islands that interest you, and ask the captain whether the particular yacht you’ve chosen can cover those distances in the time allotted.
Most captains are more than happy to work with you to achieve whatever itinerary you like, and they will help you understand how things like weather patterns and currents might affect the trip you are suggesting. Some captains even go so far as to ask about anyone who gets seasick in your group, so the crew can tailor each day’s sailing times and routes to avoid rougher seas.
Last, if you know the region you want to visit but not the particular islands, then ask your broker to provide a sample itinerary from the yacht itself. Many charter yachts have these on hand, compiled from the captain’s experience with that particular boat in that particular part of the world. Sample itineraries are the easiest way to plan a great itinerary, one that is both realistic and achievable.
Photo courtesy Neil Rabinowitz