Each charter destination offers its own special aspects. You may have nursed a life-long fantasy to loll on a snow-white beach in Tahiti or climb the ruins of the Parthenon. Advance research will inform you how to fulfill those dreams or where to go for new adventures. Travel books, boating magazines and charter company brochures are good places to start. Charter brokers with firsthand experience can advise you on appropriate choices that suit your needs and experiences. Other sailors who’ve chartered can also be helpful.
If you’ve never been to your charter destination, there are a few factors to keep in mind as you plan your trip.
Climate. If you want hot, tropical weather, aim for a spot near the equator, which is warm all year. As you head farther north or south, expect cooler weather with seasonal changes. Make sure that your trip coincides with a favorable time of the year at your destination.
Experience. Sailing skill is one factor in choosing your first charter. Will you feel comfortable handling the boat in the waters and winds of your charter area? Are you confident enough in your anchoring skills to sleep through the night? Consider also that you may be in a foreign country with its unfamiliar language and customs.
Affordability. In addition to the boat, your charter costs will include transportation, pre- and post-cruise lodging, food (on board and dining out), extra equipment, additional supplies such as cooking gas, water, fuel, and incidentals. To ensure a good time, leave extra room in the budget for the unexpected.
U.S. East Coast. Good sailing waters can be found on the east coast from the southern tip of the Florida Keys to the northern tip of Maine, including the Chesapeake Bay and inland on the Great Lakes. The more northerly climates feature excellent summer weather, but you’ll want to go further south to areas like the Gulf Coast of Florida in the winter.
U.S. West Coast. The rugged Pacific coastline offers a variety of opportunities near the busy harbors of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as coastal and island destinations such as the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, CA. You’ll also find an abundance of protected waterways extending from Seattle’s Puget Sound north to the inland passage of Alaska.
Caribbean. The most popular charter area in the world, the Caribbean possesses many attractive features, including easy access from the United States and Europe, warm and protected waterways, safe anchorages and a color-ful infusion of cultures from both sides of the Atlantic. The Virgin Islands are ideal for first time charterers.
Peak sailing season in the Caribbean runs from December through May, with steady trade winds from the southeast. Substantial discounts may be available during the off season.
Europe. The waters of the Atlantic around northern Europe and the Mediterranean present a wide array of sailing options. Most chartering takes place during the summer months. July and August in the Mediterranean can sometimes bring strong meltemi and mistral winds, but they are followed by excellent sailing weather in the fall.
South Pacific and Asia. Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji support an active charter industry. These islands enjoy a dry season with steady trade winds and occasional tropical squalls fromearly May to late October. Other areas, including New Zealand, Australia and Thailand, enjoy warm weather during North America’s cold winter months.
Other Areas. Good bareboat chartering can be found in many other areas of the world, with reputable charter companies there to serve you.
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