While a spouse enjoys a cocktail, you may want to take the helm, read a chart, or help the crew pick up a mooring ball with a boathook. Even if you’ve never attempted such things before, an instructional yacht charter can allow you to experience the best of both worlds during a boating vacation.
There are two basic types of instructional yacht charter: formal and informal. The formal type is advertised with words like “hands-on” and “classroom onboard,” while the informal type is available aboard just about any charter yacht in the world.
The type of instructional yacht charter that is best for you depends on how you want your overall charter experience to go. If your primary goal is to earn a bareboating license, for instance, then a formal situation is ideal. You will have several hours a day of workbook instruction, plus several hours a day of onboard practice.
On the other hand, if you’d just like to learn a bit about boating while you are on vacation with your friends or family, then an informal situation is likely to be more comfortable. You can hang out with the yacht’s captain and crew whenever the mood strikes, and you can learn as little or as much as you care to at your own pace and at your leisure.
Formal experiences are available aboard yachts that can be booked by-the-cabin or by-the-boat. If you’re the only person in your family who wants to learn to take the helm, then you can book by-the-cabin and share the boat with other, similarly minded classmates. The same companies that offer those experiences—such as Sea Sense, Offshore Sailing School, and Southwest Florida Yachts —also make their boats available for full-boat bookings. Destinations range from St. Petersburg, Florida, to the River Shannon in Ireland. A full-boat booking through a company like this is the most economical choice for a family or group of friends who want to learn boating together.
Formal courses are available aboard many types of yachts, including monohull sailboats, catamaran sailboats, trawler powerboats, and power catamarans. Most classes take the better part of a week and involve living aboard with the instructor and your fellow classmates. In some cases, once you graduate from a first-level course, the same company will allow you to charter its other yachts on a bareboat basis.
Informal experiences, as the name suggests, are far less regimented. A good number of charter yacht captains got their start as boating instructors, and they have teaching skills that often go unused during regular charters where guests simply want to relax. These types of captains can be found everywhere from entry-level catamarans in the Virgin Islands to megayachts in the Mediterranean. They often are thrilled to have guests onboard who want to learn a bit about running the boat.
In addition, informal experiences do not affect the rest of the yacht charter experience. While formal onboard classrooms require everyone to participate in learning the basics of running the boat for the better part of each day, informal lessons can take place at the helm of a “regular” charter yacht while family and friends play a game of cards or sit in the hot tub on deck. Many people who want to learn about boating, but whose spouses and children simply want to relax, find this type of informal instruction to be ideal.
The easiest way to find a charter yacht whose captain is keen to provide informal instruction is by booking your charter through a broker who is a member of MYBA , the American Yacht Charter Association , the Florida Yacht Brokers Association, or CYBA International. Brokers who are members of these professional organizations earn a living by getting to know charter yachts and their captains on an individual basis, and thus can tell you which captains are most eager to welcome curious students onboard.