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Yacht Charter 101: The Who, What, Where, When, and How of Private Yacht Charter Vacations

Yacht Charter catamaran Tahiti Neil Rabinowitz

A private yacht charter can take you to remote islands that few others have ever seen.

Who charters?

Charter guests come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring with them an even wider array of reasons for hiring a private yacht. Maybe it’s the simple joy of a week in a warm climate, during a season when snow shoveling is the only outdoor activity at home. Maybe it’s to learn a new skill: sailing, scuba diving, windsurfing. Maybe it’s to check out a particular yacht that might be the next family purchase, or to host a dockside party. Or maybe it’s a way to spend time with a select group of friends and family, away from the distractions of everyday life.

Charter yacht loungers Neil Rabinowitz

Lounge chairs and lunch await two lucky charter guests.

What yachts can you charter?

The type of yacht and even the type of charter that will work best for you depends on what kind of vacation you want. If you prefer not to worry about practical details like cooking and navigation, a crewed yacht charter will be best. If you like to be independent and get away from the rest of the world, a bareboat yacht charter will be the right option. A certain skill level is needed for bareboat chartering, but most charter companies will work with you to make sure you have the necessary knowledge, both for safety and for your enjoyment.

Once you choose a bareboat or crewed yacht charter, then you need to decide what type of yacht you’d like to spend your time on. Sail or power? Monohull or catamaran? It’s also important to choose the overall size and level of complexity. Simpler boats will be cheaper and easier to manage, but they will not provide quite as many of the creature comforts that many people consider essential for a relaxing vacation.

Bareboat yacht charters are generally set up through the yacht’s owner, who may own one, two, or an entire fleet. Larger companies own fleets that are designed to be trouble-free, easy to learn, and located in a few prime charter spots around the world.

Crewed yacht charters are booked through a broker, though with single-owned vessels sometimes the owner or captain will handle the paperwork. For smaller operations, the owners may also be the yacht’s crew. This makes for a much more intimate charter, but a management group will be able to offer you a wider array of choices in yachts, dates, and locations.

Each particular yacht will reflect the personality of owner and crew, so experiences can vary widely from one boat to another. As Kim Kavin puts it in her book, Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Charter Vacations, “Try to imagine every cruise ship on the world’s waters being owned by a different person with his own quirks and demands, and you’ll start to understand the world of private yacht charter.”

Private charter yachts Neil Rabinowitz

Charter yachts give you the flexibility to decide your own itinerary.

Where to charter?

Chartering a private yacht allows you to choose how far away from it all your vacation will take you. Unlike cruise ships, you control the itinerary and daily destinations. You can opt to stay in one harbor all week or visit several each day. You can also choose how many meals you eat on board and how often you go ashore to try out the local cuisine.  If your idea of a perfect evening is enjoying a quiet cockpit cocktail, choose a location with anchoring options and mooring availability. To please younger members of the crew who want a little shoreside adventure, choose somewhere with access to docks and marinas.

Traditional vacation spots like the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Pacific Northwest are quite popular for yacht charter and offer numerous options in boats and companies. If you’re looking for a more unusual location like the Seychelles, Alaska, Patagonia, or Tahiti, privately owned yachts can be booked for a week or longer (between the owner’s visits). Where do you want to go on your dream vacation? There may well be a charter yacht available for you there.

Charter yacht sailing upwind Neil Rabinowitz

Sailing on a crewed yacht provides a rare combination of luxury and natural surroundings not found on other vacations.

How to Charter?

Once you’ve found your dream yacht in your ideal location, setting up the dates and managing the paperwork should be fairly straightforward. For bareboats, you’ll be asked for an insurance deposit and resume up front and then checked out on the boat upon arrival. You may also be asked to provide some form of certification, depending on local regulations.

For crewed yachts, any broker who is a member of a broker or yacht charter association will take care of the pre-charter paperwork. After that, you only need to figure out How to Plan a Yacht Charter Itinerary, and How to Pack and What to Bring. We can also help you plan How Much Cash to bring along, and How to Leave a Crew Gratuity.

And if you don’t see the answer to your charter question, just ask. We’ve got a host of experts who will help you figure out your dream private yacht charter vacation.

Read more

10 Tips for Charter Planning

Is your Charter Yacht Broker Trustworthy?

10 Basic Skills for a Better Vacation

The Inside Track on Yacht Charter Destinations

How to choose a Yacht Charter and Travel in Style


Photos by Neil Rabinowitz

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