A beginner’s guide to yacht charter

Hiring a boat or yacht is generally referred to as chartering. You’re essentially renting the use of a yacht, but because large vessels cannot simply be driven by anyone, you will normally be provided with a captain and crew that can safely operate and navigate the waterways and open sea. Smaller yachts can be chartered to experienced skippers without a captain or crew but they will need to provide qualifications to prove their abilities.

yacht charter

Sailboats and yachts are complex vessels requiring years of experience to be able to safely sail and navigate, therefore, charter companies will sell you an experience with the means to simply enjoy the boat and any luxuries that might be included. As a newbie to this experience, you might have a handful of questions about yacht charters, so we have pulled together some of the most important and frequently asked questions to help.

Yacht sizes and capacity

Yacht charters can vary quite widely in terms of size, starting from small 4-person vessels or can be huge, suitable for a group of up to 12 people.

A small yacht normally starts at around 32 feet in length and will have a capacity for a family or group of 4-6 people. Facilities on board will consist of a single separate bedroom, a small kitchen and dining area, a navigation system and storage space.

Large yachts for groups of 12 people are also available for charter from locations all over the world. These floating hotels are ideal for a luxurious experience for those who like to live a little. Sizes start from around 90-foot in length and go upwards of 200-feet. They also range in age, with many older vessels receiving modern makeovers. Classic yachts from the 1960s are often refitted with all modern facilities, which allows them to retain their nostalgic charm but keep up to date with everything you’d expect from a 2020s vessel. Vessels of this size are generally only chartered with an experienced crew.

Charters tend to be limited to groups of 12 passengers. This is due to international marine regulations stating that a vessel carrying more than 12 passengers is considered a passenger ship and has to comply with SOLAS (safety of life at sea) convention to ensure the safety of the passengers. This means that charter owners would have to adhere to a comprehensive list of stringent safety restrictions that are expensive to implement. If you are planning to have a party on a yacht charter this will be limited to 12 unless you are hosting within a dock or harbour.

Destination and duration

We live in Cornwall in the UK, a popular holiday destination for many holiday makers and tourists. With its fishing heritage and beautiful coastlines, there’s no shortage of harbours and dockyards, which makes for the ideal charter experience location.

But there are many more charter locations across the UK. Oyster Yacht Charter is a well-known company operating in the UK and US, providing yacht sales and charter experiences for destinations across the globe. So, whether you’re looking for a British Isles tour experience, or you want to explore further afield, you’ll easily find something suitable in most locations across the globe.

Most yacht charters will be available to book for either a weekend, a midweek (Mon-Fri), a full week or two weeks. There will be further options available depending on the company and destinations.

What qualifications do I need to charter a yacht?

As mentioned above, many companies will provide you with a captain, skipper and crew as part of the experience, especially with yachts over 50 feet in length. This means you don’t need any qualifications or prior experience.

For smaller yachts, you may be able to skipper the vessel yourself if you have the relevant qualifications.

To skipper a yacht by yourself you will be expected to have completed an ICC (International Certificate of Competence assessment). This internationally accepted qualification is a mix of theoretical and practical assessments.

Before you can be accepted onto an ICC course you will be expected to have an RYA Day Skipper qualification. This course generally consists of 5 days of practical lessons in piloting, preparing for sea and the care and maintenance of a yacht.

A prerequisite to the RYA Day Skipper course is a basic sailing ability with 5 days, 100 miles and 4 night hours onboard a sailing yacht. These can be gained by completing a Dinghy Level 2 basic skills course and practising with another qualified skipper. The Dinghy Level 2 course will cover rigging, launching and building confidence in sailing. It normally takes 2 days or 16 hours to complete.

How much does it cost to charter a yacht

Chartering a small yacht for a week can start from as little as £2000, if you are able to skipper. Adding a skipper for the week will cost another £1500.

If you’re looking for an experience on a large vessel with a skipper included, expect prices to start from around £12,000 for the week.

Of course, these are just starter prices and there really is no limit to how much you can spend on a yacht charter experience. There’s an unlimited number of options available if money is no object.

You can even add entertainment to your experience with the use of jet skis, a personal chef and an onboard movie theatre. The options are endless.

On top of the standard charter cost, expect to pay additional costs which we’ve covered in the next section.

What is included in a yacht charter?

Most yacht charters will include the hire of the yacht itself and the crew’s fee. There are however additional costs that you should understand and budget for. These might include food, beverages, bar, shoreside transport, fuel, dockage, port fees and cruising taxes.

On average you should expect to pay between 20 – 25% for sailing yachts and 30 -35% for motor yachts.

Depending on you location, destinations and charter length these costs will differ. It is also customary to tip the crew between 10 and 20% of the charter fee at the end of the charter.

If you have onboard water sports toys and equipment these are normally included in the charter price. Scuba diving equipment might also be included in the charter but if not, these can be added and arranged with local diving companies.

If you’re on a large yacht, the crew will generally be there to take care of your comfort. They’re not only there to sail and maintain the yacht but will look after you whilst you are on your charter. In many charters there will also be a dedicated chef who will cook and prepare meals whilst onboard.

Communication – Access to mobile signals and the internet

Pretty much all yachts will be equipped with a satellite phone for safety reasons, but using these for personal calls may incur charges. You may wish to use alternative methods of communication whilst on board your charter.

Personal mobile phones will work when near the shore in most locations. You tend to pick up a suitable signal when you are within 15 miles of land-based cell towers. Many yachts will be equipped with signal boosters which could increase this range up to 25 miles. This however doesn’t help when you are crossing an ocean.

It’s also quite common now to have access to satellite internet. Many yachts will be fitted with satellite equipment to access the internet and have their own onboard Wi-Fi network which can be used by the crew and guests. This will then allow you to communicate via Whatsapp or any other internet-based form of communication.

yachts of different sizes

Safety – How do I know the yacht will be in good condition?

All charter companies must adhere to strict local maritime regulations and laws in order to operate. Coastguards will regularly check the papers of the yachts to ensure everything is being checked and maintained. Operators can face large fines if anything is missing or not kept up to date.

If you are nervous about any aspect of a boat’s history and maintenance you can ask to see these papers which must be made available by law.

A full safety briefing will be provided on all charters which will go into detail about emergency procedures, life jacket locations and where lifeboats or craft can be found. Further details of fire extinguishers, blankets, first aid kits, distress signals and portable VHF radios will all be provided as standard on all charters.

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