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What are your Sailing Vacation Options?

What are your Sailing Vacation Options?

Today, there are several options for someone who would like to enjoy a sailing holiday. The “sea dog” or the complete novice, can both find a holiday which will satisfy their needs. Singles, pairs or a group of people, can all enjoy the pleasures of sailing holidays, thanks to the wide variety of options offered. Price also, can significantly vary to match all budgets and desired luxury levels.

I will attempt to analyze for you all the given options and leave to you the decision, as to which one of the sailing vacations suits you the most.


What is it: Bareboating is the chartering vacation, where you charter the whole boat for a certain time period -usually from one to three weeks- and you are fully responsible for the condition of your vessel, until the moment you will return her to the charter company/owner. You may skipper the boat by yourself (you must have the necessary skills for that), or appoint a member of your crew to be the skipper, or even hire a professional skipper. You will always need to leave a refundable security deposit with your company/owner, to cover possible damages to the yacht. Provisions, breakfasts, etc. are never included in the price. The boat is “bare”

Most bare boats are from 30 to 50 feet in length and you can charter a conventional single hulled yacht (mono-hull), a catamaran or a powerboat. Sailing yachts are far more popular, and common, than powerboats. Bareboats come equipped with everything needed to operate them from kitchen utensils to towels, sheets and bedding. Almost all bareboat companies provide you with a dinghy, when the outboard can be at no charge or charged as an “extra”.

Advantages: In one word freedom. To sail anywhere you like at any time you desire (within your sailing area and charter period limitations of course). Another advantage is your privacy, the luxury to be with your family or close friends only.

Disadvantages: The nature of bareboat requires the yachts to be as simple as possible for “ease of use”, as well as to minimize the chances of a problem occurring. So, forget fancy electronic equipment -a VHF, an echo sounder and a GPS- are the basic instruments you will find on all bareboat vessels. I don’t mention speed logs, as they usually do not function. Also, chances for something to go “wrong” are rather high, therefore a good and effective owner/agent is a must.

Costs: The price for a charter/week may vary due to the different yacht size, but per person the price is approx. euros 50 per day (a 44 feet -at euros 3.000 per week- for 8 persons will cost (per person) the same, like a 32 feet -at euros 1.500 per week- for 4 persons). You may reduce the cost if you choose a budget boat, an one-way trip or to sail out of the high peak season.

Other bareboat categories

Skippered bareboats: Like the simple bareboat, but you hire a skipper. You “lose” your privacy but you gain “luxury”, as there is somebody else to worry in the nights if the anchor is holding. Notice that the need for the security deposit applies, as when you hire a captain for a bareboat it is similar to hiring a driver for your rental car. You are still responsible for the operation of the yacht and the captain is treated as your employee. Skippered bareboats are also more expensive, as well as the skipper’s fees (approx. euros 130 per day), he is usually required to have a private cabin. This means you’ll need a larger yacht than would otherwise be necessary.

Flotilla sailing: Although by many is considered as a different type of yachting holidays, flotilla sailing is a bareboat, with the addition of a leading boat and crew. You still charter the whole boat and you are fully responsible for the condition of your vessel. You also need to leave a refundable security deposit.

Usually the flotilla boats are from 27 to 36 feet and they are sailing in a group of 6 to 12 yachts. You enjoy privacy but you lose the freedom (to a degree), as you have to follow a pre-scheduled program. You also gain the comfort of a leading crew to guide you and provide you assistance whenever needed. This assistance and the large number of people in a flotilla group, has made this type of sailing holiday popular for families. As expected, is more expensive (approx. 20%) than simple bareboat…

SAILING CRUISES (cabin charters)

What is it: A sailing cruise (you may find the term as cabin charter, berth charter or skippered share boating) is the type of sailing vacation, where you will reserve a berth (or a cabin if you are a couple) on a yacht on a pre-scheduled trip. Is very similar to an ordinary cruise, only instead of a big cruise liner you sail with a yacht. As there is always crew on-board, you are not responsible for the condition of the vessel and there is no need to leave a security deposit.

The vessels in sailing cruises are usually yachts from 45 to 55 feet, although in some countries you may find other sorts of vessels (in Turkey you will find the “gullets”, which are 60 to 90 feet motorsailers, when in Holland they use traditional 30 meters boats). Sometimes breakfast is included, when in others it is not. Notice that, although this holiday is similar to a cruise, by no means you should expect the luxury and comforts a large cruise liner can offer you. It is always an “adventure holiday”.

Advantages: You can book a single berth, or as many as you want and there is no need of sailing experience on your side. You may choose to be as active or passive as you like. Since these yachts are operated continuously by professional crew, chances for major breakdowns are less than in bareboat.

Disadvantages: You have no choice as to where to sail to and which places to visit, as the trips are pre-scheduled. Yet, as the groups on-board are small, a decision to extend the stay in a nice place or vary the itinerary is a common practise. Neither will you enjoy privacy, as you will probably need to share your cabin with someone you just met.

Costs: The average cost is approx. euros 100 per day and although this might look a lot more expensive than bareboat, it isn’t, as this price includes expenses which on bareboat are “extras” -on top of the basic yacht price. The skipper’s fees, the diesel, harbour fees during sailing, are only some of them..

Booking a “berth” on a flotilla: Recently it has been common practice from the flotilla operators to accept “passengers” -for a fee, of course- on their lead yachts, in order to “cut” down their expenses and create some extra income. Nothing wrong with that, but you are entitled to know upon your booking (and they should make sure that they inform you) what that means exactly for you. For example, if a sudden storm occurs and all yachts will seek shelter, your boat will probably go “out” to the open sea to provide assistance to one of the other flotilla boats which has difficulties, or, in a perfect morning, when all other yachts will leave the harbour, you will probably need to stay there because one of the flotilla yachts had engine problems and the lead boat cannot leave the harbour until a mechanic comes and the problem is sorted out. In my opinion, when you book your sailing cruise on a flotilla leading boat, you should pay a “heavily” discounted charter fee.

LUXURY BOATS (crewed charters)

What is it: You can charter a “Gin Palace” motorboat, a motorsailer or a sailing yacht. Just like in bareboat, you book the whole boat (including the crew) for as many days you like. Since the vessel will have her own crew (usually from 3 to 10 people) you are not responsible for the “well being” of your vessel, thus you don’t need to leave a security deposit. Unlike bareboat, where the charters are usually based on a weekly turn-round base, these yachts are so expensive that you can book them for as many days you like – even for one day only. The price-list usually includes breakfast -sometimes half board- and the diesel for certain hours of motoring every day (usually 2 – 4 hrs). Several extra costs are involved in a crewed boat charter (from the diesel to tipping the crew). A good rule of thumb is to estimate 25% on top of the daily price-list rate.

Although a “crewed charter” might look the same like a “skippered bareboat” on a vessel of the same size, they are not

Advantages: You enjoy the freedom of sailing wherever you like (time and weather permitting, of course). Your boat will be fully equipped, offering facilities like satellite communication -or plasma TV. For some people, the prestige of being on such a boat also “counts”. The luxury offered can be beyond your dreams. A helicopter, jacuzzi, speed boat(s), jet skis, etc. are only some of the inventory and facilities you will find on these boats.

Disadvantages: You don’t enjoy the bareboat’s privacy, since there always will be crew on-board, but the truth is that, in most cases, this crew are fully trained professionals and they will make their presence felt only where -and “if”- it’s necessary.

Costs: The charter of a luxury crewed boat is the most expensive way to enjoy sailing vacations. The cost per person/per day will start from EUR 300 (for a 60 feet sailing yacht capable of carrying 6 guests), to infinity (some Mega Yachts exceed $300.000 PER DAY). If you are looking for something more expensive and prestigious, you should consider booking to NASA for a trip to the stratosphere 🙂

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