About Chartering By Tom Neale
1. There’s a good way of checking out charter boats and companies that many people never consider when they’re investigating a yacht charter vacation. Often, charter companies are essentially managing boats owned by other people. You buy your boat (perhaps through the charter company) and turn it over to the company which will manage and maintain it, charter it, and at the end of the term return it to you in “good condition.” The “good condition” can easily become an issue, because it usually means the charter company must spend a considerable amount of money on the boat to refurbish it. Of course, the arrangement between the owners and the charter companies is or should be contained in written agreements. These agreements may include, with great specificity, details as to what the company agrees to do to maintain the boat and to refurbish it at the end of the term. Ask to see a sample of that agreement. Inasmuch as charter companies are regularly looking for more people to buy boats and put them in the service of the company, they may quite willingly allow you to see those agreements. This may help you to determine how well your boat will be maintained when you step aboard.
2. Always carefully check out the charter company. Look for one that’s been around for awhile and that’s built a good reputation.
3. Try to talk to people who’ve recently chartered with a company. Ask the company if they will give you references. Many won’t simply because their customers don’t want to be bothered by people calling them, but sometimes you can get written testimonials. If there’s no help whatsoever from a company on the issue of satisfied customers, look even more carefully.
4. Ask how many boats the charter company has. While many very good charter outfits have only a few boats, a large fleet may be an indicator of a strong and stable company.
5. If possible check out their boats. We’ve seen charter boats that were full of cockroaches, worn out, smelly, and with operational problems. This is NOT what you want to see after that long trip down from the frozen north. One way of doing this without having to make an expensive trip down before booking is to ask a friend in the area to visit the charter base.
6. Another thing to carefully ferret out is exactly how well and how quickly the company will respond if something breaks on your boat. (And you know that that’s what things do on boats, no matter how well maintained.) We had a Moorings charter boat in the BVI once. A water pump broke. They had a guy out installing a new pump within a couple of hours, and we were way down island from their base. Find out from the company you’re considering not only what their policy is, but what their assets are for coming to the rescue for repairs or whatever. For example, if they have a big Whaler, will they also have a person who will be free to run out to you right away and who can make the repair? You don’t want to be paying for down time. You want to be paying for good times.
7. Look closely at refund policies. Charter companies must insist on deposits because if they book a boat for you and you walk, they will have lost a chunk of money. They must pay their own bills and they have an obligation to the boat owner to keep his boat chartered as much as possible. But there should be some exceptions such as, obviously, hurricanes.
8. You can cut down on expenses by sharing the charter with friends. Many people do this, and many charter boats are set up to accommodate two or more couples. BUT, be sure you know those friends very well. Hanging with another couple for a week in the small confines of a charter yacht is a lot different from hanging with them for a weekend in separate boats.
9. Below is a list of a few Florida charter companies. I’m not recommending any and I don’t make any representation as to how good any are. These were mostly found from internet search and other reference sources. I give them only as examples to give you an idea of what’s there. Investigate thoroughly before you decide.
Examples of Florida Charter Companies
Chitwood Charters, Sarasota, 800 769 1399 www.chitwood-charters.com
Florida Keys Bareboat Charter Company, Marathon 305 743 0090 www.bareboat.com/florida.html
International Yacht Charter Group, Ft. Lauderdale (international) 866 492 4768 internationalyachtchartergroup.com This is for high end large yachts.
Jung Charters, Sarasota 941 366 0073 www.boat-charters.com
Treasure Harbor Marine Islamorada, 800-352-2628; www.treasureharbor.com
Go to www.tomneale.com for other tips and information
Copyright 2004-2010 Tom Neale