The Bare Necessities

Twelve things no one told you about bareboat chartering



#1  There are tiers of joy.

Charter companies tier their boats into pricing/age categories. They use terms like “Club” level, “Executive” and “Premier.” The newer the boat, the higher the charter rate. Why? Because a single year in the charter fleet is equal to 5 years of private use….and it shows. (Think Hollywood without makeup.)

Do this: Book the mid-level boat, unless you’re splitting the costs with another family, in which case you should splurge for a higher grade vessel. Avoid the bottom rung.





#2  You’ll pay no attorney fees.

By keeping your marriage intact, you’ll maintain rights to both halves of everything you own. If you’re traveling with another family…

Do this: You (Captain) and the navigator depart a day early. Book a nearby hotel or reserve what’s called a “Sleep Aboard” from the charter company. This eases the burden of trying to find numerous available seats on the same flight and it allows you to handle all of the check-in requirements (provisioning, boat inspection, chart briefing, etc…) without barking orders and snapping at children underfoot. When your brood arrives the next day (sans their prodding spouse), everyone merrily casts off on the right foot.




#3  Your boat stinks.

Seriously, it’s bad with a capital “B”… as in bilge. Unless you charter a brand-new boat, this stench is more the rule than the exception. You’d like to think it will dissipate once you open up all of your hatches and get a good breeze flowing. Yeah… no.

Do this: Pack a small bottle of vanilla extract. Place a few drops on an obscure section of the floor of each berth and each head. Give it 30 minutes and voila!…your boat smells sweet. Rinse and repeat every 2 days.




#4  No one’s watching.

It’s crowded where your boat is moored…like, a gabillion dollars in floating inventory crowded. The docks are filled with people beginning and ending their respective charters. The thought of dodging harbor traffic in front of a gaggle of onlookers is enough to trigger a kegel reflex.

Do this: Call the dock-master on your VHF radio and let him know you’re ready to cast off. He’ll send a skipper down who’ll commandeer your boat out of the harbor while a deckhand follows closely in a dinghy. Once clear of traffic congestion, you’ll take the helm and your skipper will hitch a dinghy ride back to the dock. Works pretty much the same upon your return.



#5  You’re an idiot.

Clearing through Customs/Immigration sucks…especially when you’re the captain and you have to clear in your entire crew before anyone can go ashore. Rest assured that the island agents take great pleasure in watching you stare blankly at the procedure. They’ll help you…but only after assuring everyone in the room that you’re dumber than a bag of hammers. The paperwork is not that difficult, but it‘s tedious and time consuming. Typically there are 8 of us on our bareboat charters. That’s 8 passports I have to rifle through in order to locate and transcribe each individual’s immigration info…twice.

Do this: Before leaving home, lay out all of your family’s passports (open to the photo page) and frame them in one shot. If you’re traveling with another family, have them do the same and then email you the pic. Now print both pages (1) Your family passports (2) Additional crew’s passports … place them back-to-back and laminate them. (or don’t and wish you had) Now, instead of 8 passports you have one waterproof sheet with everyone’s information readily accessible. Oh…and bring your own ink pen.



#6 You’re a hero!

Your initial guided “walk-through” will cover fairly mundane stuff (life vests, tool box, GPS, dinghy, water, etc…), but there are certain areas (including the intricacies of operating the generator, A.C., water-maker, fuel transfer, etc..) that you’ll need to actually grasp. With everyone giddy to shove off, the tendency is to just nod and say “got it.” Problem is, the generator only coughs in the middle of the night and the A.C. only sweats when you’re on your 3rd Painkiller. It’s been 4 days since your tutorial and you can’t even remember where they said the manuals are stored.

Do this: Get your wingman (or woman) to iPhone video record your initial walk-through. Be sure your videographer zooms in for a close-up while you pompously nod and say “got it.”



#7  Your boat’s not gonna rock.

The chances of you boarding a charter boat that has a fully functional stereo system is on par with the pending success of your modeling career.

Do this: Pack a small Bose boombox.



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#8  It’s okay to feed the Pelican.

You’ll be gangly stepping off of a rolling boat and into a bobbing inflatable dinghy. You’ll come and go this way at least twice daily…and at least once while inebriated.

Do this: Pack a small Pelican case for phones, wallets and valuables. This case will double as your document box (passports & boat info) when you clear in and out of Customs/Immigration.




#9  Pack some Lifesavers.

If you’ve got young children, chances are slim the charter company will have life- vests that’ll fit them comfortably. Chances are slimmer still that they’ll have two or more on hand. I once purchased one in Antigua, where the saleslady looked me squarely in the eye and charged me $140.

Do this: Teach your kids the “3-point rule” weeks before your charter…and pack comfortable life-jackets for any kids in your crew.




# 10 Safety first.

Your boat comes replete with clean linens and towels. Problem is: The towels all look the same and not everyone tends to his/her ownership during the voyage. Carefully hanging your towel out to dry is the same as placing a placard on it that reads: “Just grab this one!”

Do this: Pack some colored safety pins and assign colors to crew..affix to respective towels.




#11 Skip Lunch.

When you’re provisioning your boat with groceries for the week, you’ll be tempted to stock up on sandwich bread, hot-dogs, deli meat, PBJ and the usual suspects in the condiment department. Go easy on this stuff…you’ll just leave it behind at trip’s end. Double up on your snacks and apps instead. 

Do this: Mid-day is about the time you’ve reached your destination and decided to go ashore to check things out. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone in your crew willing to forego an inviting restaurant (replete with icy rum concoctions)…in lieu of piling back into the dinghy and returning to the boat to fix sandwiches for all aboard. Just fork over your wallet and think of all the money you saved by not buying that extra loaf of bread. 




#12 Booty call

You’re traveling; you’ll want to look the part…a bit swanky, maybe.

Don’t: There’s no upside to a diamond display; conversely, there’s plenty of downside opportunity for lost, stolen or damage to your precious metals.

Toe rings are cool, though.