Where can I get detailed information on whether I'm ready to do a bareboat charter? I've been sailing for one season and have made approximately 30 to 40 day trips. Most of the trips were on board racing boats or daysailers 23 to 30 feet in Long Island Sound or the Hudson River. I'm interested in doing a bareboat charter next season in the Carribean, but concerned whether I'll be qualified. I have a basic sailing certification and I can a chart and use a GPS, so what's your advice?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. What you ask really has several different answers because it depends entirely upon what the requirements are as stipulated by the individual charter companies and their insurors. Most charter companies essentially have similar requirements, and almost all of them will require that you furnish a sailing resume so that they can judge your skill levels for themselves.
The good news is that these people essentially want your business and they'll work with you to make that happen. To that extent, most companies have the ability to send a skipper with you for the first day or the first several days of your charter if they feel that your skills aren't up to par. I used to work as a charter skipper and occasionally had the opportunity to perform those short stints, and I can assure you, it really can help you build your confidence pretty quickly. Don't worry about having that additional person on board for a limited time, it really isn't that much of an imposition.
To find out what the specific requirements are, start by contacting one or two companies like The Moorings, Sunsail, or Footloose Charters, all of which have bases in the Caribbean. Tell them your situation, and tell them you'd like to fill out one of their questionnaires or resume applications. Once you've gone through that process and have seen the kind of questions that they ask, you'll have a better idea whether or not you're ready to take a 40 to 50-foot boat out on charter.
When it comes down to it, most of the dicey stuff with boats that size involves maneuvering in close quarters, whether anchoring or docking. The charter companies want to be sure that you can judge how much momentum such a boat carries and steer accordingly. They also want to see that you're comfortable steering a boat like their's near obstacles like other boats. They'll also want to know that you can securely reef the sails and handle the basic maintenance duties like checking the engine oil, etc. You'll find it welcome news to know that on most charters, you only need to worry about negotiating docks twice—once when you depart the charter base, and once when you return. But anchoring in tight quarters can take place almost every night because chartering is quite popular and you're likely to be out there with a lot of other people who have the same vacation ideas as you.
Here's hoping that you get a chance to charter soon because it really is a wonderful way to spend time on the water and see a new part of the world from a perspective that only sailors can enjoy.