January 24, 2016

Chartering a catamaran with crew supplied

By Robert Cross

Consider a catamaran charter with paid crew aboard to take care of all the responsibilities that come with boating, and who do the housekeeping chores as well. It’s your holiday, and you are free to put all your energies into enjoying it. Charter a bareboat with skipper and/or cook arranged to look after you and the boat. Or consider a boat that comes complete with permanent crew included. Both options are available and can be presented in the same quote. But which is better for you and your group? Read on to compare the options: bareboat packaged up with crew included, or fully-crewed luxury charter.
Relax aboard with your own skipper and hostessRelax aboard with your own skipper and hostess
The main saloon on a Lagoon 52 with table set for guestsThe main saloon on a Lagoon 52 with table set for guests
Guest cabin on a larger crewed catamaranGuest cabin on a larger crewed catamaran
An experienced crew is what's required on the big cat Sunreef 70 An experienced crew is what's required on the big cat Sunreef 70
Lagoon 450 layout - four doubles and crew quarters in the bowLagoon 450 layout - four doubles and crew quarters in the bow

Bareboat with crew added vs. permanently-crewed vessel: explaining the difference

These days it is common to find a 'bareboat' charter with crew included to take on the work and responsibility. Crew support allows you as chartering guests to relax and enjoy your holiday to the full. That's what it's all about. At the same time, there's a parallel trend that can confuse.

The permanently-crewed luxury superyacht market is moving into smaller vessels - models that may just as likely be available for 'bareboat' charter. The luxury market segment is growing without compromise to the premium level of service that is its point of difference. Sometimes the sales pitch makes the two options hard to distinguish between, and the only way to differentiate is by the price. While the different levels of services provided may appear minor, they certainly exist. Let us explain.

In this article we are talking about sailboats and specifically the larger, roomy, well-appointed catamarans now so prevalent in the charter market. Boats such as the Lagoons 450 to 620, the Saba 50, Catana 55, Sanya 57 and Sunreef semi-custom cats over 60ft. These are serious sailboats that require hands on deck and below. To get what's right for your group, there are different crew configurations and service levels to consider.

If you dream of a sailing holiday with family and friends but don't have the full measure of experience or the confidence to charter on a bareboat basis, rest easy. Support is at hand in the form of a crewed charter. But what is the difference between 'bareboat crewed' and 'permanently crewed'?

Crewed bareboat: a contradiction in terms?

Consider the larger bareboat fleet options available, select the model you dream of vacationing aboard, add a contract skipper and you have a crewed bareboat charter. The boat is domiciled in your chosen destination, as is your skipper, selected from a pool of professional sailors who work the season there. These are people who know the boats, sailing grounds, local people, and attractions. They come aboard as effectively a member of your party, with the experience to know how much to offer, and how little to intrude.

Permanently crewed catamaran: luxury living aboard

Or consider the named boats individually marketed as available for crewed charter only. These boats are generally at the top end of the size range, set up with luxury in mind and with a permanent complement of crew members who each has a pre-determined role.

Two distinct ways of taking a sailing holiday with paid crew aboard. Two forms of charter that coexist happily in the marketplace, one not necessarily superior to the other but each quite different nevertheless. Choosing how to configure your crewed charter comes down to your expectations and how we as brokers present our recommendations.

For various reasons a crewed bareboat is generally the lower-priced option. But it's just not about getting what you pay for. It's also about getting the holiday that's right for you.

Practical differences between crewed bareboat and permanently-crewed charter

1. Location
As with all bareboat charter options you see advertised, crewed bareboats are domiciled in a specific destination. Contract crews work as required, picking up and returning to base under the direction of the operator, assisting you to travel the itinerary of your choice within the particular destination.

Luxury crewed charter boats are also found in the popular destinations. However in different seasons the same permanently-crewed boat may be in a different part of the world, often in an unlikely place. It is not uncommon for the owner to require the boat himself for part of the season. So if he happens to want to sail in Burma for instance, that's where his boat will be available for a period either side of his dates.

So if you fancy a charter in Fiji, Vietnam or elsewhere that's not on the mainstream destination list, there may be a permanently-crewed charter available. It can be very appealing, the freedom to cherry-pick from the world's most exotic locations, where a charter boat's presence is based on the owner's whim rather than commercial imperatives.

The permanent crews of these boats generally report to the owner and carry out the full operator role. When you engage them they are free to work your program, meet you when you arrive and take you where you want to go (within reason).

2. Local knowledge
The people we appoint to your crewed bareboat are seasonal contractors. They may well be locals, or they may for their own interests and lifestyles work somewhere new each season. We only appoint crews who we know are well briefed by the local operators, and who have taken the time to gather knowledge of the region concerned. They are passionate about sailing, and engage themselves in providing support not only in running the boat but in making suggestions about things to do and places to go.

As charterer of a bareboat, you are in charge of your holiday. But be guided by your crew. If new to the region, say early in the season, they may not know everything about it. But first and foremost they are competent and friendly. Have fun getting to know the place together!

On a permanently crewed luxury charter boat your crew will either include one or more locals, or those on board will have spent sufficient time there to have every aspect well worked out. They will have made contact with all the associated water sports and excursion operators, know the best fresh produce providers, and understand the local customs. In more exotic locations a professional local guide may be added to the crew - a real plus in getting out of your holiday experience all the region has to offer.

3. Crew in residence
During your crewed-bareboat charter, the crew lives aboard with you. Generally their quarters have separate access via the foredeck hatch, and they can live quite unobtrusively as required. It is likely they spent the previous week on another boat, and will be on another one again next week.

Those paid to operate a crewed bareboat are resourceful people who understand boat systems and can deal with all the sundry tasks that go with operating the boat. Their responsibilities lie with giving you a good holiday and taking care of the boat accordingly. They don't concern themselves with other than running maintenance - that's the role of the base team.

By comparison, a permanent crew is fully responsible for looking after their boat at all times. They have access to external service providers such as engineers, but are just as likely to deal with any issues themselves as required. If something's not as it should be they either remedy the situation immediately or phone ahead for repairs at the next port of call. They have a special relationship with their charge, a commitment to keeping her gleaming in the sun and running like a Swiss watch.

4. Crew Training.
The best training is time on the water, where lessons are learned from things that happen and you have to face the challenge that presents itself. On a crewed charter of either type, you don't need the benefit of such experience - there's a crew there to keep everyone safe and the boat sound. Nevertheless, it is not realistic for us as brokers to always find crew members who have personally been through every conceivable scenario. And if we did find them, chances are they would be old and crusty and not pleasant to be around. Instead, we look for crews who are fit, professional sailors and good company.

On your crewed bareboat, the skipper has an Ocean Yachtmaster qualification or equivalent, and your hostess is an expert 'cook and bottle washer' who has at least some seaman/woman skills as well. The skipper understands his or her role - to look after the boat and your safety - and is on call 24/7 to make sure that happens. Crew members will most likely report individually to you as charterer, neither outranking the other.

Work routines are more formal on a permanently-crewed charter. More often than not the skipper has a merchant seaman's ticket, the hostess is a qualified chef, and a third person is aboard to back them up. The bigger the boat the more crew and more specialised are the roles. Crew may be brought on as required to suit the needs of you as client, or of the location. On this ship the skipper is boss, and a structured line of command exists at all times.

All staff on a permanently-crewed boat will have met the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), as required by the boat's insurers. This certification covers everything from firefighting to first aid and environmental protection. Crew members are professionals who have done their time in the classroom. There is something akin to a corporate culture on board, with procedures to maintain that all important state of grace afloat.

5. Teamwork
On a crewed bareboat it is often the case that only a skipper is engaged. All ship's papers require a first mate, so in such a case you as charterer have a responsibility under the direction of the skipper. If your crew comprises a skipper and hostess, the latter can be designated first mate.

When two bareboat crew are requested we prefer to engage a couple, but this is not always possible. Interestingly, even where skipper and hostess are not familiar with each other, it can be quite normal in some destinations to see them share a cabin. If they demand separate sleeping arrangements, the size of boat can become a consideration. When we assemble a crewed bareboat crew it cannot be assumed that they are a well-practiced team. But invariably it all comes together on the day!

On a luxury permanently-crewed charter the crew will have done their drills, had their practice runs and rehearsed their procedures before you meet. Even if yours is the first charter of the season, you won't even notice. The crew will have everything prepared for your arrival.

6. Boat preparation
For your bareboat charter, even with crew included, we provision your boat from a preference list you complete in advance. You need to procure any extras required at markets nearby the base or along your route. Your crew arrives to start work at the date and time the charter is due to start.

In contrast, those responsible for a permanently-crewed charter will have begun work long before you arrive. They will have discussed a meal plan and done all the shopping. Any special requests will have been organised. You will pay an upfront fee, known as an APA (Advanced Provisioning Allowance) to cover provisioning, with receipts kept and what is not spent refunded.

7. Condition of the boat.
When possible we work with operators we know. The good ones keep all their bareboats well-maintained, but these craft get a lot of use. By the time it has been in bareboat charter for three years or so, any boat is expected to be showing signs of wear and tear regardless of all the good intentions of operators and users.

By comparison, expect a permanently-crewed luxury catamaran to still be in immaculate condition after three years or more of regular charter use.

8. Our crews: their passion for what they do and for meeting your expectations
Lastly, we come to something that is not at all a point of difference between paid personnel aboard crewed bareboats and permanently-crewed boats: it's the reason all people work in this business.

We like to think that everyone in our industry shares a common purpose - to share the joy of sailing and make the wonderful marine and coastal environments of the world accessible to more people every day. Certainly expect the unexpected, especially at sea. But also expect the people you meet on charter to make all the difference. To our way of thinking, your crew members are exactly the people you would want to have looking after you on your charter sailing holiday.

Talk to us at Sail Connections about chartering a catamaran or Yacht - luxury or bareboat - with crew. Enjoy the pleasure of sailing with someone else along to do the work.

Your Comments

The Sail Connections Guarantee

One contact - every option - advice you can trust.

  • Matching any competitive offer 
  • Sourcing boats with discounts available
  • Personalising our proposal just for you
  • Qualifying the operator as well as the boat
  • Advising without bias based on 25+ years of experience

We will match any discount website offer on charter boat price, and still provide our customary high level of service. We do more than just book yachts!

Read our free charter guide for all you need to know about planning your sailing holiday.