Chartering your own sailboat and meandering through the islands of the Caribbean, Mediterranean or the South Pacific makes for a truly once in a lifetime vacation. This type of vacation can be as fast or slow as you desire – filled with plenty of go-go-go excitement or hours of quiet tranquility. We find it to be a great way to visit places that are really off the tourist track. There is something very exciting about pulling into a new anchorage and, once the anchor is set, jumping off the back of the boat for a refreshing swim or snorkel. Sound interesting? It’s not as difficult to arrange as you may think.
We were introduced to Bareboat chartering by my father. I never asked him why he initially chose to charter with the Moorings but we enjoyed this company’s service so much, we have never looked back. Moorings are a full service yacht charter company with 17 bases located all over the world. As you can see below, they have options to suit every taste.
Moorings Base Locations:
- British Virgin Islands
- St. Lucia
- St. Martin
- St. Thomas
- USA (Miami)
- Tahiti and French Polynesia
A Full Service Charter Company
The first thing that impressed me about The Moorings was the comprehensive service that they provide. Sorry if this sounds like a sales pitch but their service is really one of the best parts dealing with them. They can arrange your entire vacation from booking your airfare, airport transfer and hotels to providing a licensed captain, first mate/chef, full or partial provisioning and anything else you may need. All of these details can be arranged with one simple telephone call to one of The Moorings helpful travel agents.
On top of the great service and all of their exotic locations, they also offer packages to satisfy most everyone’s charter requirements. They offer a varied selection of chartering options. You can choose between:
- Bareboat Charter – you skipper your own boat (if you have enough experience)
- Bareboat with a Skipper – have a Moorings Captain worry about the sailing
- Fully Crewed – The ultimate luxury. Be pampered by a Moorings Captain and a personal chef/first mate
- Group or Corporate Charters – if you need five or more boats, this special package is for you
- Off-Shore Sailing School – take a “learn to sail” vacation with The Mooring’s official sailing school.
- Boat Ownership – Want to own your own boat? The Moorings will maintain it for you and charter it out to people like me
The Moorings even rent you extra toys like fishing rods, kayaks, diving gear and video game consoles to keep everyone happy.
One word of warning, our experience is that they are very experienced with booking travel for US guests but they struggled a little when booking our travel from Canada. Instead of flying us directly to the Caribbean from Canada, they got us into the US hub system and then bounced us around the US unnecessarily. It was not a fun route. After that first charter with them booking the travel, we decided to book our own airfare in the future. Enough about that, if you are an American, everything will be fine.
You See All Expenses Upfront – With No Surprises
I have heard and read that some people think that The Moorings is very expensive. Okay, they are not the cheapest charter company but you really do get what you pay for – and with no surprises at the end of your vacation. The upfront price includes many things like insurance, local permits, a dingy with an outboard motor, charts, bedding, ice, water, snorkelling gear and even fuel (yes, you read correctly, fuel is included for sailboats!),
These are items that most other charter companies bill for separately so ultimately, you are paying very similar prices.
I cannot tell you how helpful it is that Moorings does not charge sailboats for fuel. My brother has chartered from another company and was hit with a big fuel bill at the end of his trip. (Welcome home – you owe us $$$) On our last charter, the house batteries were dying and needed a lot of extra charging. This meant that we had to run to engines for several extra hours each day. If we were paying for the fuel,, this would have been a bigger problem than just having to listen to the engines.
Why Hire a Captain?
This is a very personal choice. We have discussed it and even if my sailing skills were up to the task, we would still hire a local Skipper as an extra layer of insurance. I understand how some people would recoil at the idea of having someone else captain their boat. Everyone is different. We see it as having several positive factors:
- If anything does go wrong, a full-time professional captain is far better prepared to deal with unexpected surprises than I am.
- Local captains know the area and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to where to go and what to do. They know the calmest anchorages to ensure a good night’s sleep, the best restaurants or where to buy fishing tackle on out of the way little islands.
- Moorings captains have authority (and the insurance) to sail your boat into places that you cannot. For example: if I sail a Moorings boat into the anchorage at Anegada Island, BVI, I would not be insured if I hit the reef. (And I have witnessed a Bareboat charter boat hitting the reef there) A Moorings captain has no such restrictions. Anegada is gorgeous by the way – I highly recommend going there.
- I am on vacation and there are some things I don’t want to do. For example, I don’t want to stay up all night on anchor watch. Part of a Moorings captain’s job is to make sure the anchor holds all night – while we sleep. I have seen nights where our captain got very little sleep out of concern for us and the boat.
Lot of Different Boats
The Moorings has many different boats built by the top names in the industry. These boats are built for both fun and comfort. Moorings charters both sail and power catamarans built by Robertson & Cain. Their mono-hull fleet is made up of boats by Beneteau and Jeanneau.
The Moorings has three classes of yachts. The Club Line is made up of the oldest boats – around three to five years old. These boats are the least expensive to charter and are very well maintained. The Exclusive Line features boats up to three years old. They are a little more expensive but are always in top condition (we prefer this class). Mooring has recently added a third boat category: The Exclusive Plus Line. These boats are the newest of the new boats. They are all very impressive with a price tag to match.
The monohull fleet ranges from 37 feet on up to 54 feet in length and the catamaran fleet ranges from 37 to 57 feet. These boats are gorgeous!
Plenty of Inventory
The Moorings has one of the largest inventories of charter boats in the world. The number of boats that a company has in inventory may not seem important at first glance. But, if a company has only one or two boats in its inventory and something goes wrong and a boat is out for service, then vacations can be ruined.
We have firsthand experience with things going wrong with a boat. After all, boats are finicky and in need of constant maintenance. When we had our problem, a quick call on the radio to the Moorings base and within a few hours we were rafted up against a new boat transferring our provisions and luggage. Right then and there I knew that this was a company that deserved my business.
On another vacation, we discovered three weeks before the start date that our airline had moved our flights back by one day so our entire charter had to be moved by one day. All it took was one phone call to The Moorings. They said they would call me right back. Within thirty minutes, they called back to inform me that everything (our boat, captain, provisions…) were all re-booked one day later. It was only because they had the inventory of boats to accommodate our last minute date change that our vacation was not impacted at all. Once again, this is the kind of company that I want to do business with.
The Mooring offers several types of provisioning packages. We have tried a number of combinations: fully preprovisioned, partial preprovision and no provisions at all. Their premade meals have been fantastic and the portion sizes are very large – at times, a little too large. We like to cook on-board so we are not big on eating in restaurants so having plenty of supplies is important to us. Oh, these boats all have a BBQ on the stern – nothing like grilling on the back of a boat.
Again, whether or not to preprovision or self-provision is a personal choice. What works best for us is to:
- Preprovision all of our water, wine, beer, soft drinks and alcohol through The Moorings. These are heavy and cumbersome to move from a grocery store to the boat. We allow 1 litre of water per person, per day. This formula has always proved to be spot-on.
- Preprovision 3 days of split provisioning (three days of breakfast, lunch and snack for each person) to get you going.
- Take a taxi from the base to the local grocery store and have fun shopping for the basics like meat, fruits and vegetables – you can usually find more food as you need it. There is not a lot of space in the small refrigerator so don’t overdo it.
- Purchase a “Starter Kit” from The Mooring. This kit includes all the little things that you may forget at the store like cleaning supplies, paper towels, garbage bags, napkins, matches, charcoal, tinfoil, cling wrap, dish soap, bug spray and much more. It is not too expensive (around $100) and it is so worth the price!
The Leopard 4600
This is our favourite boat so far. It is a 46 foot long sail catamaran. It is big, roomy and very comfortable. There are plenty of places for people to stretch-out and sunbath while under sail. (Cristina prefers to tie a hammock from the foresail to the mast when we are at anchor) There are four cabins that each comes complete with an en-suite bathroom that includes an electric toilet and hot water shower. Do not underestimate the importance of the electric head! Two more can sleep in the saloon (the table drops-down to convert into a double bed). There are also two crew births located in the forward pontoons. So, in a pinch, you can sleep up to twelve people on the 4600!
This boat is a little excessive but we love it. There is a quiet generator for those who want air-conditioning or to use the flat screen television but we use it mostly to run the blender and microwave – okay, we use it only for the blender. J
The boat is rigged for single handed sailing and it comes with an electric windlass so anchoring is very easy, even for a novice sailor.
We know our way around this boat pretty well now and I can’t wait for our next chartering opportunity. And, of course we will be chartering through The Moorings.
For more information, take a look at the The Moorings website.