Inexpensive Bareboat Charters in the Caribbean
Chartering a sailboat isn’t cheap, but savvy travelers can arrange a bareboat trip comparable to a moderately priced vacation at a Caribbean resort.
Reputable charter companies will typically require a seamanship application or brief run at sea to determine your competency at the helm, but once cleared to sail alone, you’ll be able to spend a week or more at sea for a significantly lower cost than hiring a captain and crew.
Location, Location, Location
With charter companies scattered throughout the Leewards, Windwards and Virgin Islands, choosing a sailing base may be the most difficult decision you make while planning a trip. Tortolla in the British Virgin Islands and Abaco in the Bahamas are popular sailing ports located relatively close to the U.S., which means you’ll likely save on airfare and lessen the flight time to your charter boat.
Before booking, ask the charter company if economical grocery stores are located near the dock. This will allow you to stock up on food the day before you set sail, limiting your need for provisioning fees. Since you’ll likely arrive the day before your charter begins, consider islands with affordable overnight lodging or charter companies that allow you to sleep aboard your boat the night before departure for a small fee.
Size Does Matter
Although charter boats typically span more than 36 feet in length, a few companies offer at least one or two smaller selections. You can save around $300 by opting for a 32-foot boat — which is likely all you’ll want if you’ve never sailed without a captain and crew in the Caribbean.
Even boats as small as 32 feet offer separate sleeping cabins and room for four passengers, so consider bringing close friends or family along to cut the charter fee in half. Island Sailing LTD and The Moorings offer a limited selection of small boats, sometimes with further reduced rates on three- to five-year-old models.
Sails on Sale
It’s true — bareboat charter companies offer discounts. This might mean 20 percent off the normal weekly rate or significantly slashed prices during late summer off-season.
Examples of past off-season specials include a five-day charter from Sunsail aboard a well-appointed 36-foot Jeanneau for $1336 and a 10-night sail for the price of seven nights from Horizon Yacht Charters.
Moor For Your Money
Before deciding if a sailboat charter fits your budget, remember that many fees will be added to the advertised base price listed in the brochure, including mooring fees, park permits, departure taxes, cruising fees, cleaning, and fuel for motorized vessels.
On the other hand, don’t get too wrapped up in these fees. Although fees add up, most are minimal; mooring is likely to account for the bulk of them, since the typical price to moor is around $25-$30 per night…far cheaper than a hotel, and you can sail toward better scenery every day.