Fight Back This Winter

By Tom Neale, 8/26/2005


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It’s coming. As sure as Hell is Hot, the Ice Age is coming. I’m talking about this winter. It’s only a few months away. We’re all sitting here now, thinking about where we’ll be swimming or skiing or anchoring or walking the beach next weekend, but in the back part of our brains are memories of icicles, frozen waters and unusable boats sitting cloaked in snow or covers. Depression isn’t the word for it. The words for it—they probably wouldn’t let me say here. But you know the words. That’s one of the reasons why, in 1979, we moved aboard, vowing to stop doing winter. We take our home south and we use it 365 days of the year. Maybe you can’t do that. Maybe you’ve got better sense and don’t want to do that. But you still don’t have to be looking forward to that long dead downtime of no boating. There’s an answer, and it’s called “Florida charters.”

The state of Florida has great boating when most of the rest of the country has its worst. In the winter, its days, instead of being oppressively hot and humid as in summer, are often crisp and just warm enough. Also Florida doesn’t have so many of its famous thunderstorms then. Its nights make for good sleeping without air conditioning. And there are a lot of yachts, large and small, waiting to be chartered for a vacation cruise.


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.

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There are many different boating regions in Florida, so that if you charter a boat there you can take your pick of the type of boating you like the best. There’s fresh water fishing on the St. John’s River and in many other areas. There’s like cruising along the south west coast that’s, in many ways, a lot like cruising in the Bahamas or Caribbean. True, it’s not the Bahamas or Caribbean, but the waters, islands, beaches and anchorages have some significant similarities, particularly to the Abacos. And you don’t have to deal with the hassle of crossing the Gulf Stream, dealing with customs, and not having the good ol’ US of A infrastructure when you need it for things like supplies, conveniences, or medical emergencies. There are high class resort areas, such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami, with fine restaurants, plush marinas, ocean beaches, and non stop night life. There are offshore fishing hot spots like Lake Worth, St. Augustine, and Fort Lauderdale. And then, there are the Florida Keys where you can snorkel over coral reef and shipwrecks, hang out behind islands, go to outdoor bars, do what people do in the Keys and need I say more? During that trip you could be hanging out in Key West. There’s the East Coast and Florida west coast ICW that takes you to many types of boating areas, without going into the ocean, so that you can pick and choose from whatever turns you on and go there easily and safely. What there’s not is snow. Ice. And cold (except sometimes it’s pretty cool in the northern part of the state). What there is, in addition to the choices of cruising areas, is a choice of boats. You can charter power and sailing yachts. You can charter bareboat yachts or yachts complete with provisions and captain and crew. If you’re rich you can even charter mega-yachts, but I don’t know much about that because I don’t know much about being rich.

I do know that one of the reasons people choose to hang out and freeze rather than charter yachts is because it’s so expensive. Yes it is, but not nearly so expensive if you do it in the States rather than down in the Caribbean or somewhere else out of the country. It’s cheaper because you don’t have as much travel expense, provisions and fuel are cheaper, and sometimes the boats are cheaper. And when you look at the expense, you’ve gotta look at what you’re getting. If you go on a vacation, you’re going to be paying for hotels and restaurant food as well as travel. If you charter a bareboat, you can buy your food in a grocery store and cook it on the boat. That alone can be a huge savings. Also, you’ll be staying on the boat, not in a hotel that costs a couple hundred or more a night. Go figure. It’s not necessarily that expensive when you think about vacations. And you deserve a vacation--especially in the winter time when you’re deprived of your boat which is your source of sanity (if you’re like me). And there’s one more consideration. Often “bosses” are happier when we want to take a vacation during a time when everyone else isn’t also wanting to take a vacation.

I’m not saying these things because I own any charter boats or have friends in the business. I’m just saying them because each winter while I’m sitting down in warm Florida or in the Bahamas on my boat, I hear people up north saying on the internet how terrible it is to not be on the water. Rejoice. It doesn’t have to be that way, at least not all winter long. Check it out. Don’t be trapped when the snow starts to fall. Below are some tips that can help you get a good deal if you decide to do a Florida yacht charter. There’s a lot more to know than I can cover here, but this will hopefully get you started.

Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale