The Internet is abundant with helpful articles about how to choose
the best charter company for your needs. What doesn’t get quite so much attention however is the sorts of questions you should be asking once you’ve found a suitable company. We all dream of (and deserve!) the perfect charter holiday, but we know (especially with boats!) not everything goes to plan. To help give you peace of mind and avoid unwanted surprises, here’s a handy list of things to ask and keep an eye out for before signing on the dotted line. What’s included in the quoted price, and (importantly!) what’s not?
Knowing what is, and what isn’t included in your quoted price will help you calculate the total cost for your charter. Some companies charge extra for things like renting snorkelling gear, a spinnaker, mooring fees, cruising taxes and permits etc. Have a think about what you assume will be included, then just double check.
Does the company enforce any restrictions?
Typical examples of restrictions can include not sailing outside a designated area (maybe a 30 mile radius), only
sailing in daylight hours, not allowing any other person to manoeuvre the yacht in a marina, not leaving a port or anchorage if the wind force is (or predicted to be) above BFT6. Often these are pretty reasonable and there for your own good, but it’s good to be aware of them. What happens if the boat breaks?
Boats are boats and do have a tendency to stop working, so find out how your charter company will handle the situation if it arises. If the boat becomes totally unusable then what happens? If they provide a replacement, ask how long will this take to arrange. They might give you a refund (pro rata) or add extra days. If it’s extra days, will these work with your homeward-bound flights?
If you break down at sea, some companies will have a chase or service boat to get you back to shore. With others, you may need to find your own help.
What happens in the event of loss or damage?
Damage usually falls into two categories, wear and tear, or through
negligence, and they’ll be keen to figure out what happened. Find out what the reporting procedure is, and what questions they’re likely to ask. If they perceive the damage happened through negligence, will they ask you to pay an excess, or for its repair? What happens if you lose a fender overboard? What’s the situation with boat insurance?
As with car hire, some things come as standard and some don’t. You can purchase additional insurance through 3rd party companies (Google “yacht charter insurance”) to cover you against things like damage which we mentioned above (a common example, bumping the nose on a marina wall).
What happens in the case of severe weather?
Charter companies want to keep you (and their boat!) out of unnecessarily dangerous situations so they’re likely to stipulate what happens in severe weather. Some may restrict you leaving the marina, or go so far as to recall the boat upon a bad forecast. They may reimburse you for missed sailing days, or give you a credit. On the contrary, if they deem the weather to be
safe but you decide it’s too much for you and your crew, and cancel, they are unlikely to offer a refund and enforce a cancellation fee. Cancellation fees
Often if you cancel within certain time periods before the charter, you’ll be refunded a percentage of your money paid. Take a good look at this to make sure you understand it (you can insure yourself against cancellation which is handy).
Finally, know the boarding and disembarkation times
Most companies will stipulate the earliest you can arrive on the boat, as well as when you need to have it ready for its drop-off inspection. Usually the times are early evening and early afternoon respectively which can feel like you’re losing a few days on the water, so it’s good to know which are your full sailing days.