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Getting qualified to charter, what does it take?

4660 Views 20 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  garymcg
I am looking to do some chartering in the future. I want to know what does it take to be able to rent a boat for a bareboat charter. To start off i would like to charter in the Puget Sound area and maybe the Channel Islands which I know well. But look for future opportunities as well.

20 years ago with very little boating experience I took a 2-3 day course with a club I belonged to and was able to charter with them and a number of related clubs up and down the west coast. Sadly though the club was not ASA associtated so I never received any type of rating. Since then I have owned my own 22 footer and raced 100s of days and have been on some long races also. While I think my sailing skills are many times greater now than then, I could use some refreshing on motoring, docking, anchoring and other cruising skills.

Would an ASA rating give me the option to rent bareboat boats? Can I take some tests to opt out of the basic courses and just take the more advanced ones, that I would need? Can anyone recommend a school that is reasonable and will get me certified quickly? I would prefer to do it in the PNW but could travel anywhere in the US for the right school.
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Basreboat Quals

Hi Jordan
Most charter outfits are going to want to see certification to 104, either ASA or US Sailing. That is the bareboat certification. It will get you by at most international chartering locales as well. It does however make sense to get some navigational training. At ASA that is 105. it sounds like you could "challenge" 101/103 with a practical check out by an instructor and take the written after looking at the book. We do that with experienced sailors all the time at our base here. If you know the basics you can spend the time with your instructor working on the things you want to get more comfortable with.

SailTime Channel Islands
Get certified.
We found that our sailboat certification opened up the door so that we could charter a trawler (A Grand Banks 36) in Anacortes, WA. Being able to handle single engine trawlers has actually proved to be the most valuable benefit to being certified. We've done it in Florida and Washington, and sometimes we much prefer trawlers over sailboats for when it's cold, etc.

We only chartered a sailboat once, then we bought our own.
Certification's a good idea, but appears some of the biggest operators, like The Moorings, will still take you without a cert card, if you have some experience (and a good credit card):

Private Yacht Charters-Vacation Chartering-Sailing Charters

Experience is the main thing. Cert. courses are indeed good, but most already-experienced sailors don't take them. Several decades ago these cards, and the organizations who give them, didn't exist, and the charter companies managed somehow. I chartered in the Virgin Islands without one.
I have the certifications but they seemed more interested in actual experience and also as nolatom says, that my check cleared. One thing you could do is charter for a week and rent a captain from them for a day. He or she can run you through anchoring, docking, colregs, how to use the stove, etc. and then you will be off on your own. If you have raced a lot it will be obvious you know how to sail - and believe me it is not a high bar considering the performance of some of the charterers I have seen out there.
Yep looking into the schools

It does seem like a I see one school that does a 4 day course that takes you up through bareboat charter certification. If I were the owner of the boat, i would feel very uncomfortable about letting someone fresh out of class sail my boat out of eyesight. To think about it 20 years ago I took a 3 day course and was given the equivalent of coastal cruising certification from the club I belonged to. I probably had 10 days of keelboat experience at that time.

The reason I am interested in a course is two fold.
My wife needs to learn to sail, and our Potter 14 is not the same experience as a cruising keel boat. Plus she just might learn the basics better from some one other than me.

As experienced as I am, my captain recent captain time has been a 22' trailerable or smaller. I am not sure how this would stand up to the experience standards. If I could just get a lesson on where all the trough hulls are, how to start the engine, how to dock the boat under power, and how to operate the marine head, I think I could challenge and pass all the other tests up through some of the higer ratings. Hoping the certification may help open the door to some charters.
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Hey Jordan,

I did the ASA courses with Barefoot Yatches out of St. Vincet and love it. 7 days and it was really a hoot with lots of practical stuff as well. As a couple it could be fun.
I took the Offshore Sailing USSailing bareboat certification class at their Tortola location. The idea was that since this was taught on a Moorings boat, it might hold more weight for the Moorings than other classes. It did seem to help, although our credit card may have helped just as much. After one successful charter with them, they've cleared us to sail just about anything anywhere. Meaning they trust me (and my credit card) more than _I_ trust myself. It probably didn't hurt that our instructor was also a Moorings skipper, and we had his signature in our logbooks. Not that anyone actually looked at them.

But if you know what you are doing, I think you can get by. Most places in the western hemisphere will take your word for it--or at worst ask for a "check sail" to prove you aren't completely incompetent. There really aren't any formal certification requirements. We could have probably gotten by without the class, but I think it was worth it from an actual learning perspective.
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You do not need certification to Charter. They usually want a "resume" of experience. I would be comfortable anchoring, picking up a mooring and depending where you go you may not need to even dock the boat. I would also have some engine backround, how to change an impeller, seacock locations, check oil, bleed fuel line, etc. This would probably be helpful. You know how to sail but just need some big boat experience. I would try and hook up with someone for a day and go sail and have them take you through the systems and you should be good to go. Probably start with something in the 30ish range to start for a charter.
I'll be chartering a cat out of Florida this winter. The charter co. wants a sailing resume plus they want to put a captain with me on the first day, just to make sure. I have my ASA 101, 103,104, 105, and 114. Unfortunately those classes can be passed with very little real world experience, and the charter co. knows this. I am a good example of this. I passed 101, 103, 104 and 114 with very little sailing experience. I have since gained a lot of experience on my own boat, but have not sailed a cat since. I've also passed 105, but there is no chart for Perry Lake so I have no practical experience doing coastal nav.
Thanks for the advice this is what I have found

First off, I should have pointed out is I am both poverty stricken and cheap.

With these constraints this is what I have found. Some of these schools are shockingly expensive, $2-4K for a rating. Likewise their charter prices are beyond my scope. Airfare to the Caribbean and a weeks charter is just not in the cards for me. For that much money I would buy the 25 foot boats I have been looking at, even though I still may.

Some schools are quite reasonable. I figure these are similar to renting a boat for a few days and having someone sail with me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, then giving me a rating at the end.

Two schools that have peaked my interest are
"Anacortes Yacht Charter" that will get me up through Bareboating for under $1000. For a little more I can sail in Mexico with "Sail San Carlos" and spend a week onboard in Baja.

For anyone else interested, there is a similar thread going in the "learning to sail" forum, where I got some more info as well.
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My wife and I took a couple of the ASA courses but I'm not sure of the value of them, other than you can get some docking practice. We chartered a boat in the BVIs, and they didn't even ask about certifications, they just asked for a resume and a check out sail. If you don't do well on the check out sail (and as a previous poster stated, the bar is low) you have to hire a captain. We own a 35 footer and still had to have the check out sail; after about 5 minutes and a couple of tacks they let us on our way.

I think the charter companies look at certifications this way: The only people that would spend thousands of dollars to learn how to handle a boat are people that don't know how to handle a boat. You have to prove you can handle a boat, not just show them a paid-for piece of paper that says you can.
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I think the charter companies look at certifications this way: The only people that would spend thousands of dollars to learn how to handle a boat are people that don't know how to handle a boat. You have to prove you can handle a boat, not just show them a paid-for piece of paper that says you can.
That depends at least somewhat on the company. The Moorings did not require a check sail from us, after we got the USSailing cert from Offshore. I don't know if they would have treated us the same if we had gone to a different class. The Offshore course was taught in the BVIs on a Moorings boat, so it was sort of like we were repeat customers.
I took ASA through 104 here in Texas many years ago. Years later I bought a Catalina 27 and sailed it on our local lake for about 12 months. I then filled out a sailing resume with the charter companies. They all were happy to let me charter. When I got down there they pretty much just tossed me the keys. No checkout sail or skills check. From watching the other people leaving the dock at the same time, it was clear I was one of the most experienced people leaving that day. Some of these people looked like they have never maneuvered a boat under power before, but the charter company was completely unfazed. I also heard quite a few people on Channel 16 with comments like "how do we raise the main?" Basically, the bar seems pretty low. I think your standards for yourself are probably higher than theirs.
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Basically, the bar seems pretty low. I think your standards for yourself are probably higher than theirs.
Yep I try to set my standards higher than average, but there has got to be somewhat out there thinking the same thing that is below average. I challenged the basic keel boat rating 20 years ago and passed it. Funny considering I had only sailed hobie cats till then.

I must be getting more conservative in my old age that I would not just pencil whip my resume and bluff my way onto a boat. I read the fist 100 pages of Annapolis book of seamanship and did not learn much This summer was the first day I sailed in 4 years, so I am a bit rusty and with snow in the mountains nearby my season is soon over. Subjects I need to brush up on before I can even attempt to bluff my way onto a boat.

Rules of the road.
Docking and Anchoring
Man overboard Skills

One of the charter companies I have talked to near Seattle wanted experience in similar sized boats and experience with tidal affected waters. My last charter was a Catalina 30 in 1990 in SOCAL, is that recent enough for you. Maybe I can hire a captain to spend a day teaching me how to dock.

PS: I wish I could live in Austin for the winter.
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If you plan on chartering in Croatia, aside from a resume of experience that passes the carter companies muster, two people on board have to have a Restricted Operators Certificate (Marine) which is a VHF license in any other language. Not sure about Turkey or Greece which will be our next destination.

Thanks Lee,
I'll keep that in mind. Right now I only get 10 days vacation a year so foreign sailing trips are out of the question.

Its funny you mentioned the Restricted Radio license. It so happens I do have one of those. My company made me get one and even made me pay for it myself. I resisted till I got threatening letters from the main office. In 3+ years with the company I have never been asked to go overseas, and never expect to. The biggest joke about it was I just needed to fill out a form online and give them my credit card and I have the license. Unfortunately it is for aviation, not sure if there is a different license needed for marine.
I did ASA thru 104, plus had some day chartering experience locally, in Texas, before I tried chartering elsewhere. I have never had anyone turn me down yet for chartering. I think they look for experience, but consider ASA certification as some good experience.
I was never certified to bareboat charter, but had experience on several different types of boats as crew. I had been co-captain on a catamaran charter, then did my first charter as captain on a catamaran in the Florida Keys. By the time I started chartering in the BVI I had been a boat owner on Lake Superior for two years and had no questions asked at the charter base. I agree with the prior posts that charter companies are more interested in the sailing resume than the certifications. Not all charter companies require a checkout sail (Moorings and Sunsail come to mind.)

Now I'm a certified ASA instructor and USCG licensed captain. By the way, you don't have to take ASA 105 to learn navigation. You will learn basic coastal navigation in the ASA bareboat charter (104) class. And yes, if you already know how to sail you don't have to take Basic Keelboat. You can "challenge" any ASA level if you have the experience. I was surprised how becoming an instructor filled in the gaps of my knowledge.

Most charter companies will do a boat briefing with you to familiarize you with the boat's systems. You will do an inventory of the boat before taking her out. That's when you should look for the through hulls and ask our boat briefer to fill in the details.
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Thanks Gail

Thanks Gail,
My new plan is to study my extensive library and challenge as many ratings as I can. Then hire a captain to spend a day with me docking, anchoring, reefing and anything else he can think of I should practice, then hopefully take out a boat for a week.

My sailing skills exceed what my resume shows. I have a lot of time on big boats 30-38 feet but not as captain. The rating would be just to have something to show to the charter companies to make it easier on both them and me. Plus being land locked it would be a way to expand my sailing resume.

The navigation should not be a problem, as I am a commercial pilot (no not airline pilot, anyone who flies for a living is a commercial pilot). I manage to find my way each day without a GPS. I know how to use one, if I can remember how that is, but most of our planes are not so equipped. Navigating at 7 knots should be a little easier than 260.
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