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CHARTERING

The bareboat chartering industry with standardized boats and the corresponding economies of scale got its start in the Virgin Islands in the late 60’s.

This is when CSY (Caribbean Sailing Yachts) moved a fleet of 14 small, identical cruising yachts from their trial ground in Connecticut to St. Thomas. And the rest is history. CSY went as far as designing and building its own boats just for the charter trade.

Today, there are close to 15 charter operators in the Virgin Islands. The selection includes first tier firms such as The Moorings or Sunsail. These companies offer only new boats, usually no older than four or five years old. The higher charter rates of these companies reflect the fresh boats and the extra services they provide. The second tier companies such as Footloose Charters (a division of The Moorings), charter vessels that have run the life of their original four or five year contract but have been maintained to the highest standards. There are third tier companies chartering vessels that are reliable and well maintained but are even older such as Conch Charters. Though more research might be wise when chartering from third tier firms, these companies can offer substantial savings for those on a more stringent budget. While most charter companies now include sailing catamarans in their fleets, some such as Voyage Charters, and The Catamaran Company only charter cats. The Moorings, Virgin Traders, North/South Charters and most of the other companies offer comfortable power boats and power catamarans for the non-sailor. Mark Bunzel offers some tips about other factors to consider in Selecting Your Boat. Most charter companies can set you up with a checkout captain for a day or two if you feel you need some pointers before striking out on your own.


Your Charter Contract

Some of the vagaries of chartering are important to understand, especially for first time charterers.

READ YOUR CHARTER CONTRACT!

There’s a lot of fine print. The contract may restrict areas of use. For example, some charter contracts do not allow sailing to Anegada. Some charter companies will waive this exclusion if you ask (Cross out the exclusion or get it in writing). Some even arrange weekly flotillas to Anegada for those who want to go.

All charter companies prohibit sailing at night.
Some companies will only credit half the charter fee for any lost days due vessel breakdown. The best companies guarantee repairs within 4 hours or they credit you the FULL day against your charter fee. But not all contracts are this generous. Unfortunately, even with the best of maintenance boats do break down and you need to know your company’s policy and your responsibilities.

Note carefully the costs and responsibility for repair of the marine heads aboard your vessel. The companies’ policies vary widely on this issue. It is not unusual for a charter company to charge a standard $100 fee if a clogged head has to be serviced during or after your cruise. This can be a critical point with an older boat as often the discharge tube, if not maintained, will be heavily calcified which restricts the outflow and causes clogging under even the best of circumstances. So, even if the tubing is calcified, a flapper valve is broken, and the heads are not the best quality, if the head clogs it will probably be considered your fault and you will be billed for fixing it.

Refrigeration is another common problem.

If the refrigerator quits and you lose food, some companies will not reimburse you. So, read your contract carefully and ask plenty of questions when you book your charter and review the contract with the company representative. Some items may be negotiable and are worth asking about.

Other Fees

There are a few other fees that may be add-ons to your contract. In the BVI, there is a National Parks Trust fee that runs from $25 per week for a 4 person crew to $55 per week for a 10 person crew.

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