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How to charter a yacht

Most people know about the superyacht experience from web sites of photographs of the beautiful people in alluring swimwear, celebs relaxing on sun cushions or knocking back champagne next to the on-deck pool of an absolutely fabulous yacht someplace in the Mediterranean under a perfectly blue sky. It is a highly idealized vision, designed to draw you in. What is less well-documented outside of the staged photo ops for the media are the photographs of people living the actual superyacht experience.  What does this entail? Most of what you see is visual with little information attached. Kylie Jenner in Portofino and so on. But this doesn’t mean you can’t thoroughly research the right superyacht experience for you. Provided you have the cash to splash, there is the perfect yacht get-away ready and waiting. No one experience fits all. That is the beauty of a personal charter. And it begins with the contract of charter.

The right contract defines what you want and what to expect. A contract is actually pretty straightforward and not so troublesome as you might suspect once you have the basic principles right. Let us walk you through the need-to-know subtleties of how to contract a yacht. Regardless of whether you need to go straight for one of the top-dollar yachts on the ocean today or something moderate and less extravagant, you will need to define your aspirations expectations in a contract of charter.

Picking Your Charter

The initial step is to decide your route to charter: Would you like the assistance of an established broker with the personal touch or use one of the web apps for charter? A broker will present you with options according to what you are looking for: a family getaway, a fun party time, a gourmet chef experience, a tour or just to relax offshore in privacy.   Brokers know the type of yachts captain and crews and which might suit your personality. Reputable brokers are generally affiliated to the MYBA (Monaco Yacht Broker’s Association ) and the International Yacht Brokers Association. Established follow well-established standards for charter and a legal framework to protect all parties.

For the individuals who feel more secure behind a screen, there are web apps,  such as Ahoy which present you with a host of options and filters which allow you to book your yacht online. The better web apps will always have a human interface as well and adhere to the same high standards of professionalism as the personal brokerage companies..

Before you can pick a yacht,  you should decide where you want to go and when? Are you are thinking of funtime watersports and swimming in the Caribbean or Bahamas, or exploring World Heritage destinations n the Adriatic Sea?  Do you want the St Tropez buzz? The Greek Island experience? Some yachts have well-established cruising areas, the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. You will also find yachts that cruise the seas of Central and South America, Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand, Northern Europe, New England—and so on. Antarctica cruising is best in November and April, while New Zealand and Southeast Asia are in season all year.
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Have a Plan

How do you see yourself spending time during your charter. Do you imagine yourself doing yoga? Surfing, or water-skiing ? or possibly going in a sub to the depths of the sea looking at marine life? Most yachts are equipped with water toys and tenders for fun times in the water, but not all have mini-submarines, scuba gear, and inflatable slides. Or on the other hand, possibly you and your fellow charter party just want to relax in the marina at St. Barts or Monaco or Dubai, or perhaps host a conference or a special event. Whatever your plan is it is important to check out what amenities a yacht offers.

If you intend to use your yacht to tour a region, checking out every little town along the coast, there are various factors to consider: the yacht’s speed, size, depth and registration that will impact how many stops you can make and where. For instance, cruising in the Bahamas requires a shallow draft in some islands,whereas more established ports have deeper berths. You will want to check out the tender for getting to shore in case the yacht cannot berth. Speed is important as that defines how far you can travel. And if you have a fast yacht, what type of stabilizer does it have to ensure comfort?

Next – how long is your proposed charter? Quite often a charterer will charter one week for business partners or friends and a second week for the family. Prices for charters are invariably on a weekly basis.

When you know when and where you’re going, the next factor to consider is the number of guests. Generally, a yacht will accommodate no more than twelve guests The reason for that lays in regulation. Once a vessel carries more than 12 passengers, even if it is being used as a private yacht, it is considered to be a passenger ship and has to comply with the SOLAS Convention (Safety of Life at Sea) set out by the IMO (International Maritime Organization)

What about the kids? Does the yacht offer bunking facilities?  Will the crew multi-task and babysit while you go for dinner onshore? And what extras are on offer? Yoga, massage, hairstylists, dive, and jet-ski instructors? These little extras need to be discussed with your broker. You are paying a lot of money after all.

Yachts come either will sails, a sailing yacht, or with engines, a motor yacht. A sailing yacht offers a more salty dog experience as a communion between wind and sea. A motor yacht is more popular for the larger yachts as they are more flexible in their movements. If you are concerned about sustainability, many of the newer motor yachts have very high green credentials such as waste and water recycling and are marketed as such for a particular audience.

Many yachts cater for guests with disabilities.  Standard passarelles (gangways) are too narrow for a wheelchair, but some yachts have been fitted with passarelles wide enough not only for a wheelchair but for three people to allow for assistants either side. Some yachts give access with an electric lift, land lifts to the different decks. These bathroom suites also have thoughtfully designed heads with handrails and over-sized showers to allow for caregivers. A yacht that is designed to cater for disabilities will list every feature so that there is no ambiguity.

When to Book

The best yachts are booked well in advance, often as much as a year ahead. Leaving your decision until late in the season reduces your options considerably. Although you may benefit from a discounted rate by leaving until late, you may have to accept what is available, rather than what meets your aspirations. Book early
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Special requests and features

Pursers and chief stewards on yachts are all used to receiving charter requests, such as nappies, magazines, medicines , special equipment. These should be communicated well in advance as these may have to be transported to a local agent to hold until the charter starts. You can be assured though that any special request you make will be taken seriously. The industry is supremely customer focussed. New yachts have superb entertainment systems. Older yachts appealing to a different charter base may consciously go low tech.

You will also need to communicate your dietary needs so the necessary provisioning can be sourced and the chef prepped about you preferences. The captain will also want to know what you want to do: for example, checking out local restaurants, excursions, and sight seeing, maybe a party, or a cooking class. Or you may just want to chill out on the deck. The more info the captain has, the better he can communicate your expectations to  his crew.

Internet connectivity used to be a problem. Most yachts nowadays have fast wifi. Out a deep-sea, cost is a problem as the connection may have to come from VSAT but in most cruising areas there is good coverage which specialized data providers stream throughout the yacht. Wi-fi will feature in the tech spec of the yacht but you need to check out speed if this is a must for you.

Privacy

Non-disclosure and confidentiality is in the DNA of the yachting industry. Agents, brokers, crew all know that owners and charter parties want their privacy respected.  Many yachts have NDAs incorporated in the crew’s employment contracts. If in doubt you can insert one in the contract

How much

In the world of superyachts, it is very much a case of you pay for what you get. Many factors influence the weekly price: the size, the age, the time since the last refit, the number of crew, the construction or refit cost, the amenities, water toys, tenders, the number of crew, the number of guests and of course the time of year – high season or low season.

The charter web sites list the many yachts for charter, with filters to refine your search. Where a broker comes in is guiding you to a boat that meets your budget and expectations of how you envision your superyacht experience. You must bear in mind that the prices on the web sites are starting prices and exclude food and drink; costs for docking, fuel, and other charges directly incurred, and tips will attach approximately 30 to 50 percent of the charter price. The tips, usually given to the captain at the end of the charter, if you follow the recommendation of MYBA, should be 5-15% of the basic charter price.

The most popular yachts are often booked a year in advance. Leaving your charter to the last minute may allow you to get a reduced rate on a yacht that has not been chartered out – the risk there is that there may be a reason why a particular yacht has not been taken. Really, for the perfect charter, you need to start talking to a broker at least six months in advance if you want a shot at securing a particular yacht you have your eye. It is also worth bearing in mind that some owners charter out their yachts when they are not using it, so being on the charter market does not necessarily mean the yacht is available when you want.

 

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