While it helps to have your sea legs, knowing how to sail is not a pre-requisite to hopping on board a charter yacht for your next holiday
The Dali Lama may not have had yachting in mind when he suggested that one should ‘as often as possible go someplace you’ve never been before.’ But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was most certainly on to something. Discovering new places with a private yacht at your disposal provides an intimate water-borne experience like no other. Whether anchoring within a sparkling reef-fringed lagoon or partying dockside at the finest island restaurants, when boating it’s definitely a case of the haves and the have yachts.
Unlike any other journey, chartering a yacht dishes up an ever-changing destination beyond the portholes. But while it helps to have your sea legs, you don’t actually need to be a sailor to enjoy the yachting lifestyle. Not when there’s a full crew on hand to see to your every whim.
Yachts are as subjective as hotels so it pays to make a few decisions beforehand to prevent any on board mutiny. Charter yachts come either fully crewed or bareboat. Don’t be disheartened by the term bareboat though, which refers to the absence of professional crew rather than a lack of creature comforts. However if you’re going to charter a bareboat you’ll need to know the difference between the pointy end (that’s the bow) and the blunt end (that’s the stern) of a yacht. As the skipper you’ll also be responsible for the crew and yacht’s safety. If you can’t imagine a sunset without sassy sundowners and you don’t want to stand accused of being the fun police, then a fully crewed charter is the way to go.
With a professional crew on hand to take care of all the pesky details like navigation and keeping everyone fed and hydrated, you’ll likely be more concerned with other important issues. Like which bikini to wear. Or how many dive sites to visit. But long before stepping on board the hardest decision you’re likely to make is in choosing where you’re going to cruise.
Chartering a yacht is a uniquely intimate experience, both in the planning stage as well as while you’re on board so it pays to ensure every last detail is perfect. From exotic destinations to catering for on board entertainment through to the skills of the crew, planning a yacht charter requires expert advice from those in the know.
A yacht charter broker is your essential link to making the right choices, smoothing the way for a seamless voyage. Any broker worth his or her salt will be able to recommend a range of enticing yachts to suit your particular desires. Let’s face it, there’s no point chartering a sailing yacht to explore Tahitian archipelagos (where ocean passages can get rough) if you get seasick in the bathtub. Or cruising the outer Great Barrier Reef if you’re not into scuba diving.
Once you’ve found a broker you feel comfortable with, choosing your yacht and cruising location is where the real fun begins. In the southern hemisphere, the main cruising areas are Australian east coast, New Zealand and South Pacific islands. The Kimberley region is becoming increasingly popular too. Uninhabited tropical isles or remote reef-fringed lagoons (Great Barrier Reef and Tonga)? Or charismatic harbour docks buzzing with an early morning vibe (Sydney, Hobart or Auckland). Colourful islands rocking to rhythmic tunes (Fiji, Tahiti or Whitsunday Islands) drifting across a busy anchorage? Or forest-clad fjords (Marlborough or Milford Sounds) and inland waterways? Tropical or cool climate, it’s your choice.
While some yachts are available for charter year round, others are only here during the summer, relocating to the northern hemisphere around April. Repositioning voyages (when a yacht is moved from one cruising region to another between seasons) are a novel way of undertaking an extended blue-water passage, but are definitely not for the seasick-prone.
Fully crewed yachts are usually chartered at a weekly base rate, either inclusive or non-inclusive. All inclusive means standard food and beverages, ships fuel and crew are included in the base rate. Non inclusive means additional costs for provisioning, fuel, docking, crew gratuities, taxes and cruising permits (if applicable). As a guide, add a further 5-15% onto an all inclusive rate and around 25% for a non inclusive rate. Expect also to find seasonal fluctuations in pricing.
When deciding on which yacht, you’ll soon discover that the choice is almost overwhelming. An award winning Super yacht like Kokomo III (58m) is perfect for sailing purists wanting to explore the South Pacific and New Zealand in style. MY Galaxy (26m) and MY Eendracht (36m) are based year round in North Queensland while Emerald Lady (34m) is based in Brisbane, island hopping the Queensland coast.
If you have the sailing skills to charter a bareboat, operators like Moorings have modern fleets based at Tahiti and Tonga, and there’s a huge choice in the Whitsundays, though somewhat limited at the luxury end. Look for brands such as Lagoon, Jeanneau or Dufour for superior catamarans and yachts in the 15m plus range.
Sitting somewhere between full luxury charter and bareboating is a crewed charter where you’ll share the yacht with other guests. Often utilising spacious catamarans around 15m in length for their premium space and comfort, fully crewed charters come with a Skipper and Chef/Host. Guests are welcome to participate in sailing the yacht, trimming sails and taking turns at the helm. Or not, it’s your holiday and your choice. With someone special by your side and sails billowing gently overhead, it’s pretty easy to slip onto island time as the sea rushes gently beneath the hull.
For many this is what yacht charter is all really about. The luxury to explore. To dream. To discover. As Mark Twain put it so succinctly: ‘throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.’ Between he and the Dali Lama, there’s plenty of reasons for an indulgent yachting holiday.
Yacht Charter: Australian Superyachts – Sydney based yacht broker representing a boutique fleet of luxury yachts based in Aust & South Pacific
Yacht Charter: Charter World – prominent global yacht broker acting for the best and biggest yachts worldwide
Bareboat Charter: Moorings – bareboat and crewed charter yacht fleets located in popular cruising destinations
This article first appeared in Luxury Travel magazine