Bareboat Charters in the Caribbean: Freedom to Explore
By Susan Fogwell
Bareboating is chartering without a captain; you’re in command of your own vessel. With a regular charter, a hired captain –- for an additional fee -- comes with the boat. Depending on your qualifications, each has its advantages.
Recently, my husband and I with two other couples bareboated out of Bas-de-Fort, Guadeloupe. The boat was luxurious and brand-spanking-new. From Guadeloupe, we sailed to Antigua for the world renowned Antigua Race Week.
We returned to Antigua for the final races and then headed south to Guadeloupe’s outer islands, Les Saintes. The main town, Terre Haute, is a mini St. Barts. Other than the French families and sailors who visit, it’s unknown to most. Among all of us, this was our favorite spot.
There are several charter companies to choose from. After fully investigating the top three, we decided on Sunsail, based in Annapolis, Maryland. They had the best price for the same size catamaran as the other companies.
Catamarans have become a popular choice in the chartering world due to the spaciousness, stability and privacy that a monohull doesn’t offer. They offer bountiful creature comforts with a deck-level saloon and a roomy cockpit.
We chose a 41-foot Lagoon catamaran for the seven-day excursion. Each of the two hulls has two full staterooms, and private heads (bathrooms). The boat easily sleeps eight people. Bareboating with three or four couples at approximately $6000.00 during Reef Week makes it an affordable trip. Other than owning your own boat, how else can you flit from one island to the next, on your own time?
Depending on your needs, there’s a cat for every wallet. Or, if you prefer a monohull for its natural sailing abilities, this is a good option as well.
In addition, there are other expenditures: customs fees on each island, dockage, water, electricity, fuel and, of course, provisioning the boat. However, anchoring in a snug harbor is free. Most importantly, for a modest fee, optional insurance is offered for each individual; pay it and you’ll have peace of mind.
Sunsail provides snorkeling gear and kayaks at no extra charge. We discovered that the snorkeling gear was well-used; the masks leaked and it was difficult to find a pair of fins that fit well. I would recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear.
The sit-down kayaks provided are basic; unless you’re a die-hard kayaker, they serve their purpose. Windsurfers can be rented by the week through Sunsail’s affiliation with local rental shops; and can be stored on the bow of the boat. Our one-week windsurfer rental in Guadeloupe cost $230 euros ($294US).
Our charter began at 6 p.m. on a Sunday. In order for the trip to get off to a good start, it’s judicious for the entire crew to arrive at their given destination at least a day in advance. Arriving on the first official day of the charter is not realistic; it’s asking for problems that are avoidable.
Also, keep in mind that someone has to provision the boat. Sunsail offers to provision the boat, but it’s much more expensive than if you did it yourself. They will send a checklist of grocery items with marked-up prices. Unless money is of no concern, make the check marks and send it back to them.
Last, but not least, the most important aspect of the trip is choosing people very carefully for the charter. I can’t stress this enough; it is paramount in order to have a fun and relaxing trip. For a solid week, you’ll be in close quarters with no escape. No pun intended, but if you’re not all on the same wavelength, your week in paradise will become stormy rather quickly.
For more information go to Sunsail.com.
Like this on Facebook: