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Yacht Charter ABCs: Understanding the Jargon

by Lynda Morris Childress

If you've never booked a holiday or vacation aboard a charter yacht before, you may find some of the commonly used terminology a bit daunting. The following words and phrases are in standard use throughout the yacht charter industry, and knowing what they mean before you start can prevent frustration when you try to book a trip.

yacht charter terminology

If you're considering a yacht charter, knowing these terms and phrases will help you talk the talk.

All-Inclusive: Generally, this means a yacht with at least a captain and chef/crew, three meals onboard per day including wine and ship’s bar. Fuel, shipboard water, and harbor fees (dockage) are sometimes included, but not always.

A.P.A., or Advance Provisioning Allowance: If you book a “plus expenses” charter, the company, owner, or broker may collect from you an Advance Provisioning Allowance. This is forwarded to the yacht’s owner or captain for disbursement to your chef, who will then shop for and stock onboard the provisions you ordered for your charter. Receipts and ongoing accounting of expenditures are provided to you. If you exceed the amount paid in the A.P.A., additional payment will be required during your charter.

Bareboat: A boat that is chartered without captain or crew. You, the charterer, must be licensed, knowledgeable, and fully qualified to act as the boat’s captain. At least one of the people in your party must, in certain areas, also be licensed to operate the yacht.

Bareboat With Hired Captain and/or Crew-Cook: Basically, a bareboat that is hired by you, with a captain only, or captain and crew or crew/cook, also hired by you from a qualified pool of freelance crew; generally this can be arranged by the charter company or broker with whom you book.

Charter Contract or Charter Agreement: When you book a yacht for a charter vacation, part of the booking process requires that both you and the yacht’s owner or legal representative sign a standard charter contract, or yacht charter agreement. These agreements are legal documents, and they can be daunting, but remember that they are designed to protect both you and the yacht’s owner. Contracts should clearly state the rights and responsibilities of both. (See “Charter ABCs: Contracts.”)

Crewed: Crewed yachts are yachts with at least two full-time crewmembers, including a captain. Some, usually larger yachts, sail with additional crewmembers. Many crewed yachts are owner-operated; those that are not employ the crew  on a full-time basis.

Delivery Fee: This is applied at varying rates to charters that fall outside the boat’s customary chartering area, requiring that the boat be relocated to suit your desires, or for pick-up or drop-off at the beginning or end of a charter at a port that is not the yacht’s home base.

Flotilla: Usually sponsored and organized by charter companies or other organizations, this simply means a group of three or more chartered yachts that sail the same prearranged itinerary in company with one another, usually with organized dinners, parties, and other events during the course of the charter. Flotillas can be comprised of bareboats, often offering a “lead” boat with professional crew and/or guides, or they may include crewed yachts or a combination of both.

Food Preference Sheets: Almost all yachts with a chef or cook onboard will ask you to fill out a Food Preference Sheet in advance of your charter, listing your dietary likes and dislikes, any food allergies, and specific information about what type of food and beverages you’d like to consume during your charter. (See “Preference Sheets: The Documents That Can Make Or Break Your Charter.”)

Full Board: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner aboard.

Gratuity: At the end of your yacht vacation, if you’re happy with the performance of your captain and crew, it’s customary to leave a gratuity in the amount of between five and 15 percent of the charter price. (See 11 Tips For Crewed Yacht Charter Etiquette” and “Luxury Yacht Charter: How To Leave A Crew Gratuity.”) Depending on the cost of the charter, this can be a significant expense that definitely should be included in your overall trip budget.

Half Board: Breakfast and lunch onboard only.

Harbor Fees: The cost to dock the yacht per night at marinas or town harbors.

Luxury: Think “super yacht.” Luxury charters are extremely high-end, expensive yacht charters aboard large, ultra-luxurious yachts with multiple crewmembers that can include trained chef, stewardesses, engineers, deckhands, and perhaps even dive masters or jet-ski instructors.

Plus Expenses: This generally means that the costs for food, fuel, water, and harbor (dockage) fees are not included in the listed price per week. Read the fine print carefully, as this can vary by yacht and/or company. Usually these terms are specifically listed under the headings “Included” and “Not Included.”

Provisions: The nautical term for all the food and beverages you will consume during your charter.

V.A.T.: For charters in the European Union, you will be required to pay a Value-Added Tax, at rates set by the governments of individual countries. This is comparable to the tax you pay at hotels, or when booking airline tickets. This is sometimes – but not always – included in the quoted weekly charter price.

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