A skippered charter is basically a yacht charter where you book both a yacht and arrange for someone to also skipper the yacht for you. This kind of holiday is something that can be booked by people with no previous sailing experience, or those who may have prior experience, but not enough, or who are not qualified to skipper the yacht themselves.
Because this option is often chosen by beginners who may have very little knowledge of how yachts and yacht chartering operates, it is important to clarify the main details of what a skippered charter is, and what you should and should not expect from a holiday of this type.
With a skippered charter, you can usually book a yacht, between 30 and 55ft, and in any location where yacht charter is offered. You do not have to have any prior experience and normally you charter for periods of one week at a time.
The party leader making the booking will always be regarded as the main charterer and you can bring enough people up to the maximum number that they yacht is licenced for, including the skipper. All crew must be declared on the crew list, at the start of the charter, and you cannot have different people arriving and departing at will during the holiday.
The contract for the chartering of the yacht is between you and the charter yacht supplier, (via us as the booking agent) and is no different to any charter that someone may arrange where they are skippering themselves. The only difference is that there is no requirement for you to have any skipper licences.
The skipper is normally arranged by the yacht supplier and will be a local freelance skipper. Their fee is separate to the yacht charter fee and this is paid directly by you when you arrive on site. Where we are arranging a skippered charter for you, we will not usually know who the skipper will be.
All charter yachts will either have a refundable deposit to cover the excess on the insurance policy or will offer an alternative insurance option. You will still be responsible for this even when you are hiring a skipper. The skipper's main purpose it to safely skipper the yacht and to bring it back in an undamaged condition, while also ensuring that you have an enjoyable holiday. All suppliers will only want to let safe and responsible skippers take charge of their yachts, but accidents or incidents can happen, so irrespective of the cause, the responsibility for the insurance excess rests with you as the person hiring the yacht.
The start and finish point of the charter will be clarified at the time of booking and after that all decisions on where you go during the holiday, how time is spent sailing versus motoring, etc are directly between you and the skipper. The skipper will be happy to advise on suitable destinations based on local knowledge and their prior experience.
The skippers main concern will be safety and so any decisions made not to sail on a particular day or to a specific port, or to change a pre arranged plan has to be made by them based on their judgment and the prevailing weather forecast, and they cannot then be held responsible if the predicted conditions do not materialise.
Any problems with the yacht will be the responsibility of the Charter company supplying the yacht, although usually if there are any minor issues the skipper will attempt to deal with these as you go along.
The skipper will not only be skippering the yacht by day, but he or she will also be living on board the yacht with you, (day and night !) for the duration of the charter.
Some suppliers will insist that the skipper must have his own cabin, while on others, especially on smaller yachts, the skipper will sleep in the main saloon. Some larger yachts may have a small dedicated skipper's cabin usually in the bow of the yacht and which is separate from the main yacht and accessed from its own hatch.
A skipper normally has no responsibility for any of the on board meals. All provisioning of the yacht is your responsibility and you must include the skipper in all meal plans for the week. If you choose to eat in a local restaurant in the evening, you must either bring the skipper with you, or alternatively ensure that there is food on board the yacht so that the skipper can prepare a meal for himself, or make an alternative arrangement. You are the person that has chartered the yacht so it is your responsibility to clarify how you want to manage this.
You are not however expected to have to cook meals for the skipper, but equally you should not expect the skipper to get involved in preparing meals for you. Everybody is usually expected to pitch in with cleaning and washing up etc, but you cannot assume that this is a duty for the skipper. If you do require a service of this nature then you can also book a hostess as a separate item, or alternatively book a crewed charter which is a different holiday type.
The skipper cost is normally based on a daily rate and this can be for six or seven days for a one week charter. Yachts are usually available from between 1600 and 1700hrs on the day you check in and if you plan to sail that afternoon, the skipper needs to be booked for seven days and paid accordingly. If you are sure that you will not want to sail on the first afternoon after check in, and are happy that you can sort yourself out on the yacht for the first night, then you can request the skipper for only six days.
A skippered charter should not be confused with a Learn to Sail holiday, which is a different holiday type. The skipper will be happy to you get involved in the sailing of the yacht, and will explain bits to you as you go along, but it will not form any kind of structured tuition, and cannot lead to any form of certification.
When you arrive in port the skipper, will virtually always insist on being at the helm for the mooring of the yacht. He will want to ensure that no damage is done to the yacht, and so will usually be reluctant to allow anyone else to take charge at anytime that he feels there is potential for damage. He will however need assistance from you as the crew with the lines and fenders while mooring, and even total beginners have to understand that they have to assist in mooring a large yacht in windy conditions.
You must pay for all fuel used and mooring fees incurred during the charter.
A skippered charter can be a wonderful holiday and it is a great way for newcomers to try out a sailing holiday. For it to be a success however it is vital that the above aspects of the holiday are clearly understood, and hopefully misunderstandings about what the holiday involves are avoided.
The following points should also be carefully considered
A skippered charter involves sharing the yacht with a stranger. A yacht is also a confined space, so if you are new to sailing holidays, and either you or key members of your family or crew have no idea of what a yachting holiday involves, then for your first time a one week charter is all we would recommend. For a longer holiday then the remainder of the time can be spent doing something else. This recommendation is purely to reduce the risk of two weeks on a yacht being too much.
Do not make the mistake of aiming for over ambitious distances between islands or ports. A 20 mile passage could end up taking over five hours if the wind is against you, meaning that you end up motoring into head seas rather than having a more relaxed sail, or having time to stop and swim. Equally of course you could do this same trip in three hours on a larger yacht and have a great sail. If you do not have enough sailing experience to understand the significance of this point, then beginners or mixed groups should always choose an area with a lot of options in easy reach of each other, as this then offers the most flexibility. Longer distances are best left to more experienced sailors, who understand what is involved. Remember that guide books are written based on using large fast ferries with professional crews to go between the islands, so they may be able to do in just over an hour what takes all day to sail.
Remember that anywhere with lots of good, cost effective flight options, lovely sailing, great bays and islands and a good choice of yachts, will be busy in peak season. This applies to virtually all of the main Mediterranean sailing areas. You will still find lots of quiet bays by day and out on the water numbers of yachts are rarely a problem. In the ports in the evenings however expect things to be busy, and the only way that you will find quiet places in the evening will be if you choose to anchor in the smaller bays away from the main ports. This however then means eating on board at night, which is not for all groups.
It is essential that you sit down with the skipper on the first day to discuss what you want from the holiday directly with them. As an agent we will always pass on any key requirements, that you discuss with us, such as requesting a non smoker, someone that speaks English, any proposed route that you may have etc. This however is not the same as discussing your preferences with them and there is no point in coming back after the holiday and saying that you spent too much time motoring, or did not have enough lunch time stops for swims etc. You have to monitor this as you go along and adapt any plans that you may have made if you feel that you are not getting what you want from the holiday.
If you plan to have larger numbers on board like 8 or 9 people plus the skipper, then you would normally be advised to sail in an area with good marinas and ports. This will give access to good toilet and shower facilities, shore power, and generally some larger resorts with a bit more going on which gives more flexibility for larger groups. A very popular option for a Skippered charter, is where two families get together and take a larger yacht between them. This is a great way to experience sailing on a larger 45ft plus yacht, and you share the yacht and skipper costs. In this regard Croatia is an excellent choice and while using marinas will be an additional holiday cost, flights are generally much cheaper so overall this is a cost effective option for larger groups.