How to Plan a Yacht Charter Holiday

When booking a charter holiday a little pre-planning will go a long way. 

When to go?

Don’t make your decision based entirely on price as there is most likely a reason for the low price. Off season in a sailing context is a little more relevant than with a beach holiday. Hurricane season might be cheap - but is it going to give you a week of inclement weather - or worse?

Where to go?

Some locations are easier than others. The BVIs or various parts of the Greek Islands provide relatively easy, ‘line of sight’ sailing. Other locations such as Sardinia or Croatia, whilst stunningly beautiful, may require a slightly higher level of experience in order to safely navigate the local waters (and weather).

Yacht charter in Gibraltar.

What to charter?

Location and time of year are important. So is the type of vessel you are planning to charter.  A multi hull will usually allow for many more guests to travel in comfort with each cabin likely to have its own heads (toilet facilities). Multi Hulls also have a shallower draft than most monohulls meaning that some shallow anchorages (or even beaches) might be available to you when sailing a multihull but not on a monohull.

The downsides to multihulls are subjective in large part, but marina fees are usually more expensive because you are wide (very wide)! But, of course, there are more of you to split the costs. 

The other primary objection to multihulls, at least for the writer, is the sailing experience. I’m a monohull man. The experience I associate with sailing a cruising catamaran is much inferior to that of sailing a monohull. I guess you need to decide what to prioritise, the day’s sailing or the more spacious accommodation a catamaran offers for apres sailing.  Many charterers consider their charter vessel merely a floating base for an annual holiday in the sun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that philosophy.

When deciding on a boat type be careful you don’t charter something too big for your figurative sailing boots. A 46ft boat is very much different to ‘park’ than a 36 footer and a 60 footer is a whole different experience again. The bigger the boat the more damage you can do in a marina or to your crew, so make sure you choose your boat based on your experience and that of your crew.  And if you do end up stretching yourself, make sure the boat has plenty of fenders and the bow thruster works and is reliable!

The charter itinerary

Planning a charter itinerary should take into account several factors, not least of which is the primary objective of the charter party. Sailing 8 hours a day, every day, is probably far too much for most groups, especially when the group comprises of one or two keen sailors and their compliant spouses.

Together with your crew, make a bucket list of not only where you want to go and what you want to see, but also, what you expect from your holiday. You’ll quickly find that the bucket list needs to be trimmed to fit in everyone’s ambitions. Long lunches at anchor and shopping for bargains in local markets is not conducive to a whistle stop tour of 14 ‘must visit’ locations. 

Discuss and agree a compromise solution and don’t be over ambitious on each day’s sailing.  If your boat has a cruising speed of 5 kts and you are looking to get underway most days by say 1030 am, you may well want to be in and relaxing by 4pm. If you don’t stop for lunch that leaves you 5 ½ hours sailing. That’s a long time in the sun, so consider a bimini ! In most cases 10 - 15 miles a day is more than enough for the mixed group of sailors and none sailors on holiday - and allow for the odd day in port for exploring too.

The next thing is contingency. OK, so your longest sailing day might be 25 miles. But what if the weather doesn’t play ball? It’s worth passage planning, especially the longer voyages. 

Allow for that day of 25-30 kt headwind or the 60kt Mistral that arrives for a couple of days, making for a longer than expected stopover!  Sea sick children or engine failure are also possibilities so allow for alternative ports in such circumstances.  Also, make sure you cover most of the ground early in the holiday so that you have time to spare at the end when bad weather might prohibit you returning in time to catch a flight. Plan a lazy day or two at the end to allow for delays.

Charterer’s knowledge

Only a fool would not listen to the locals when it comes to planning a safe and achievable itinerary. Of course, you are still the skipper, but take knowledge from all credible sources and evaluate it accordingly. Your charterer will be able to advise you on many things from where you can’t get fuel, which crowded islands and anchorages to avoid in high season and what there is to see in each port. They’ll also be able to ‘sanity check’ your itinerary and advise on alternatives where necessary.

If you are a first time charterer then we’d recommend you consider either taking a skippered charter or take a space on a bareboat flotilla where you have the reassuring presence of a lead skipper and engineer as well as a ‘hostie’ or tour guide. A good lead team can make a big difference to your experience, helping you to anchor or raft up in tricky conditions or organise that beach BBQ with your fellow guests.

Be safe!

Whatever you decide, make sure you and your crew are properly qualified for the sailing area and charter a yacht from a professional company. British registered charter yachts must be inspected by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and coded for the area in which they are sailing. Not all charter companies are equal. Be careful when choosing a provider.

At Jolly Parrot we offer RYA Competent Crew, RYA Day Skipper and Fast Track Day Skipper courses to suit your diary and pocket. Our Gibraltar base guarantees you lots of experience in a tidal Mediterranean environment. As an accredited RYA Training Centre, we also undertake International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Tests for experienced sailors with no RYA qualifications.

Related articles: