Bareboat Charters – What You Need to Know

That means no captain not no bikini!


Confession time. When the word Bareboat Charter comes up in relation to renting my own sailboat without a captain, my mind goes directly into the gutter. Visions of rum, beer, loud beach music, and tiny bikinis that have a habit of falling off dance through my head. Chances are I’m not alone, there is no denying that the lure of the sea, the relaxation of the sun and gentle rolling of the sailboat are a perfect storm in the world of aphrodisiacs.

The first step in making all of this a reality is getting a charter company to lease you a boat. How do you go about that? Who do they rent to? What kind of license do I need? These are questions I hear all the time. The idea sounds perfect, but the hurdles between idea and actually raising the mainsail with no supervision seem insurmountable. Not so fast, it’s not as onerous as you might believe.

First, you must realize that the charter companies want to rent you a boat. Short of putting you, your passengers or their boat in jeopardy they will do everything possible to make that happen.

Cat attack in White Bay, Jost van Dyke

Cat attack in White Bay, Jost van Dyke ©2011 Carl Grooms

If you haven’t chartered and skippered a boat before, or you are light on experience, the good news is that the Virgin Islands are a perfect place to start. Unless you are renting in Greece or Croatia you rarely are required to have a sailing certificate or formal classroom endorsements. What is most important to the charter company is your experience and knowledge base. Here are a few questions that Bareboats BVI ask:

Do you presently own a yacht?


Have you ever chartered in the past?


Are you able to read and understand a nautical chart?


Are you aware of the internationally accepted rules of the road as they pertain to yacht handling and sailing in general?


Are you confident that you you have sufficient knowledge of boat handling, marine navigation and boat systems to safely handle and pilot the sailboat or power boat you have contracted to charter?


Do you have certification from any recognized bodies such as the American Sailing Association or Royal Yachting Association?


Please provide details of your sailing experience.

The bottom line on what Bareboats BVI and all charter companies really want to know is are you safe? Prior to departure an experienced briefer will come onboard and walk you through every detail of the vessel. This takes as long as necessary to ensure you are comfortable. The briefer will also assess if you match your resume. Don’t lie or stretch the truth here. They will be able to tell inside of five minutes if you know what you are doing. The best policy if you are worried about passing their muster is to communicate with them prior to spending any money.

If there is a question in your competency they might take you out and see if you can handle the boat. A couple tacks and they’ll know immediately where you stand. Again, remember they want to rent you the boat as much as you want them to rent to you.

Worst case scenario? If you fail to impress them with your knowledge they may suggest you take a captain for the entire trip or if you are borderline send you with a captain for a day. They may also tell you to leave the sails alone and just motor around, though this is rare. If you don’t know what you are doing and still are able to get the boat beware. If something happens to the boat and an insurance claim is required, the insurance company will uncover all of your shortcomings and bluffs, negating coverage. It’s just not worth it. Furthermore, as captain of the vessel you are also responsible for your passengers and their well being. Don’t be a fool and hurt anyone because of your ego.

If you feel you need more experience there are a number of other solutoins as well. You can join a group. You still captain your own sailboat but follow a leader who is always nearby to help and give you advice. You can hire a captain for a few days to knock off the rust or increase your skill. You can also take a sailing course and get certified while you are sailing and enjoying your vacation. This too is a great option.

Bareboat sailing is one of my all time favorite vacations. The key is to just be safe. That is all anyone really wants to ensure. Enjoy your rum once anchored, and good luck in convincing one of the ladies that they should loose the swim suit.

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One Response to “Bareboat Charters – What You Need to Know”

  1. Ann, TS November 18, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Great info and blog content…thanks!

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