For many sailors or ‘would be’ sailors, the idea of lazy days island hopping in the Med is a Summer fantasy. The blue sky, the freedom of the seas, the picturesque ports, and a beautiful yacht for a week or two to discover and explore new destinations.
The process of booking a charter is fairly straightforward, although it can be time consuming to find exactly what you are looking for, and as with anything, there are pitfalls along the way which experienced charterers discover by trial and error.
Where to go
The choice of destination will depend on the experience of the skipper as some areas are more suitable for the novice sailor – in particular, the Ionian and Saronic Islands in Greece, Croatia, and the Turkish coast around Mamaris/Gocek.
For skippers with more experience the choices are numerous and a decision will involve a temporary addiction to Google Earth as you study the coastlines of the South of France, Corsica and Sardinia, the Italian Island groups of Elba, Pontine and Aeolian, Sicily, the Cyclades and Dodecanese in Greece and the Turkish Coast from Finike to Bodrum.
With some operators you will need to book in blocks of one week with a fixed start day (usually a Saturday), however increasingly, operators are giving a choice of start dates and length of stay.
Check-in on yachts depends on the operator but is generally late afternoon. If you arrive around lunchtime however, you can often take the yacht earlier. Check-out tends to be 8 or 9 am on the final day although you will be expected to bring the yacht back to the marina by 4 or 5 pm the previous day. This means that a week long charter is 8 days/7 nights.
Choosing a yacht
Yachts, either power or sail, can be chartered bareboat (without a paid skipper) if they are below 50 feet although there are a few larger exceptions, namely, the Bavaria 55 Cruiser, the Jeanneau 57, and the Sun Odyssey 54 DS. Some people have a definite idea of the yacht they want to charter, whilst others are guided by the size of the party and the fleet available in the destination they have selected.
Charter yachts are often categorised by age, with Premium or Prestige being 3 years old and under, Class or Standard being 3 -5 years, and Economy, over 5 years. Charter yachts are used and abused, so if you choose an Economy yacht, although the mechanics should be up to scratch, the yacht is likely to look tired and you may find things like the fridge don’t work as well as they should, the mattresses are less than comfortable and the hatches tend to leak. The advantage of chartering with a larger operator is that they should be able to give you a replacement yacht if needed.
When looking at pictures of your chosen yacht, check that the layout is exactly as per the one you are chartering and not a standard layout taken from the manufacturers catalogue. You don’t want any bad surprises.
For larger parties, be aware of exactly what you are getting. The forepeak berths on catamarans are often only accessed by roof hatches and can feel extremely claustrophobic once inside as there is generally only a narrow single mattress and nowhere to stand or store things. Sometimes there will be an opening panel into the double cabin behind directly over the bed, but access to the heads generally requires climbing onto the deck and entering the catamaran via the saloon. Another word of caution, on yachts with two sets of bunks, the Bavaria 50 Cruiser for example, one set tends to be suitable only for children, they are definitely too narrow to accommodate a normal size adult. Consider also the number of heads (bathrooms) onboard compared to the number of people. On some yachts, such as the Sun Odyssey 49 and Beneteau 50, each cabin has an ensuite shower/WC which can make living in a confined space that much easier.
Wind and weather
You need wind to sail and some areas have a distinct lack of the stuff during the high season months of July and August when you can find yourself motoring for days on end. The opposite can also be true, as the Mistral and Meltemi blow during the summer months and can whip up the seas in less protected areas although the skies usually remain a bewitching blue. As the land heats up, thunderstorms can form over the coast creating local squalls, however there can also be weeks of hot dry weather with ideal sailing conditions. Always know where you can get local weather forecasts and start to monitor the weather at least a week before you leave.
Sailing with a Skipper
If you don’t have a licence, or sufficient experience to charter a yacht on your own, there is always the option to take a skipper along, and most companies that charter bareboat will offer this service for somewhere around € 150 – 220 per day. The larger yachts, 50 feet plus, will have a crew cabin at the front which is accessed by a hatch so you don’t have to feel you are living with an extra person onboard.
The advantage of having a skipper is that he will know all the best places to stop and all the top anchorages, and you can still sail the yacht if you want to, but with the confidence of a more experienced person onboard.
Flotillas no longer equate to the ‘package holidays’ that they used to, and many experienced sailors join a flotilla for the camaraderie and evening social agenda which complements the sailing. Newbies can charter a small yacht and even have a skipper onboard for the first few days, or join a 3-day pre flotilla clinic to brush up on key skills such as berthing and anchoring. Once out at sea they follow the ‘lead yacht’, becoming more confident as the days pass.
More experienced sailors can charter a larger yacht, sail on their own during the day and rejoin the fleet in the evening. Children (and parents) can take advantage of kids clubs, plus there is always a mooring spot reserved in the next port of call during the busy summer months and someone to assist with any berthing problems.
Using a charter agency
Using an independent agency can make the business of finding the right yacht in the right place somewhat easier and the advantage is that the customer gets the service whilst it is the operator who pays the commission. Agencies do not generally price above the public rate offered by the operators, and may even discount further. If they are independent they will work with many operators and will save you the time to make lots of enquiries. A good agency should also be able to advise on the destination itself, weather, transfers and anything else you care to ask, as they should be interested in delivering a tailormade vacation and in creating a long term relationship with the prospective charterer.
Once the destination and the yacht have been decided upon, you can ask to place an ’option’ to reserve the yacht for one week whilst you make a final decision and pay the deposit. If the option expires, you are not committed in any way. The deposit will be required to secure the booking, with the balance due anything from 4 to 10 weeks prior to embarkation. Once the balance is paid, you will receive joining instructions along with a ‘charter voucher’. Alternatively, you may be asked to take the final receipt with you as proof of payment.
The operator will also require a crew list with any expected crew changes (around € 200 per changed crew member), passport details of the whole party, arrival details and to be advised of any extras or transfers required at least a couple of weeks before you actually leave.
To sail bareboat in the Med you increasingly require a licence such as RYA Day Skipper Licence, International Certificate of Competence (ICC) or IYT International Bareboat Skipper. In some places a record of sailing experience may still suffice, and in some areas you will also need a co-skipper with a licence. A copy of the licence(s) will need to be sent to the operator when you book.
The list of things included on, and with, the yacht varies from operator to operator. Onboard you should look out for a GPS chart plotter up or down, a fully battened mainsail or inmast furling (although some people don’t like this for safety reasons), autopilot, a bimini and a sprayhood, a windlass for the anchor, pilot books and charts, safety equipment, CD player and cockpit speakers, dinghy, Mp3 with aux plug, inverter (so you can charge electronics whilst at anchor), wi-fi in the marina. Berth fees for the first and last nights at the marina will also be included.
Marina fees (other than first and last night), diesel & petrol, consumables, provisioning, transfers, flights and holiday insurance will not be included.
Check what kind of service the base offers if there is a mechanical failure or the fridge/windlass stops working for example. Do they have a guarantee ie send a service engineer within 4 hours and if they can’t fix it, replace the yacht within 24 hours.
Mandatory and optional extras
Mandatory extras again vary, most operators make End Cleaning a mandatory extra although some include it in the charter price. The cost of End Cleaning varies between € 60 – 260. Linen and bathroom towels may or may not be included. In Turkey and Croatia a permit/transit log (€ 95 – 150) or Tourist Tax (€ 1 per person/day) is payable.
Some operators have a compulsory Service Pack for between € 85 – 230 which includes end-cleaning, water / 1x cooking gaz bottle at the departure, batteries, linen equipment for each crew member.
Optional extras are likely to include: spinnaker € 100 – 150 per week (sometimes with € 500 deposit), 5 hp outboard engine (usually included with 50ft+ yachts) € 70 – 100 per week, fishing rod € 15 per day, child netting € 30 – 200 per charter, snorkeling equipment € 10 per week, bed linen € 10 per set, towels € 5 per set, skipper € 130 – 220 per day, hostess/cook € 100 – 190 per day, dog onboard € 50, windsurfer € 30 per day.
In some bases you also have the option to pay a little extra and take a one way charter. This can be ideal if there is a lot to see and a time limit on your vacation (€ 200 – 900).
Most operators work on a similar discount scheme, however there is a usually a limit to the total discount that can be accumulated of between 15 – 25%. Besides these standard discounts you will often find operators running special promotions towards the end of season or on particular yachts.
Long term – 5% for 2 weeks, 10% for 3 weeks, 15% for 4 weeks
Early booking – 5%. This is either before end of Dec or Jan for a summer charter or more than 180 days prior to departure date.
Repeat client – 5%
Boat Show – 5%. It is common for operators and agencies to offer a discount during the period they are exhibiting at the major boat shows.
Group discount – 5% for between 3 to 5 yachts booked at one time
You will be required to pay a refundable Security Deposit usually by credit card at the base before embarkation, varying between € 1,000 and € 8,000, however many operators also offer an Insurance Damage Waiver which means you pay between € 15 to € 60 per day non refundable, with or without a small refundable deposit (€ 300 to € 750).
Some operators will also ask for a refundable Diesel Deposit to the value of a full tank of fuel. On disembarkation this will be refunded if the yacht is returned with a full tank.
Connections and transfers
Information on flights and transfers should be available through your agent or operator. Check carefully where the base is as you might find out the fantastic price on the yacht is due to the fact that the base is three hours from the nearest airport or far from from the main cruising area.
Handover of the yacht
Once you arrive at the base you will need to check-in and go through the yacht with a representative from the base office.
As well as listening to a full explanation of the systems, someone from your crew should at the same time be checking that there is a complete set of glasses, crockery and cutlery, one or two sharp knives, adequate pans, a bottle opener, a can opener and serving dishes. Turn on the fridge if it is not already on, and make sure it gets cold.
Check also: the dinghy is without holes and outboard starts, there are winch handles, medical kit, the dates on flares/fire extinguishers/life raft are still current, the water tanks and fuel tank is full, that there is gaz and spare gaz.
Ask what the procedure is in case of engine or other mechanical failure. You should find a manual onboard explaining all the systems, along with important phone numbers and details on where to get weather forecasts.
Provisioning in the Med is generally pretty straightforward with supermarkets within walking distance or a short taxi ride of most charter bases. If you prefer not carry the heavy stuff yourself, especially drinking water, wine and juices/soft drinks then most operators offer a provisioning service where you can send an order online a week or so before departure and pay for it on delivery.
Some operators offer a Starter Pack for around € 25 with items such as washing up liquid, sponge, rubbish bags, matches, toilet & kitchen rolls, fruit plate, water, orange juice, wine, packet of biscuits, individual sachets of tea, coffee, sugar, milk.
Plan in advance what you need to buy before visiting the supermarket and allow for a couple of easy to prepare meals in case you are stuck in bad weather. Remember matches, toilet paper, kitchen paper, washing up liquid, garbage bags, cleaning fluid, tea towels, salt & pepper.
Managing your crew
Holidaying in a small space can go brilliantly well, or turn into a problem for everyone. The key to success is for everyone to pitch in and make sure the yacht is kept clean and tidy – that includes the fridge and the bathrooms down below, and the cockpit up top. Allocating areas of responsibility can help take the load off the skipper but in all matters including safety, his/her word is final as the insurance company will hold the skipper ultimately responsible if there is any claim.
Mooring and marinas
Mediterranean mooring is always stern to and you will either be required to drop anchor or pick up a lazy line attached at one end to the marina wall and the other end to a block on the seabed and reverse into position. This is sometimes easier said than done especially with a crosswind, and an audience, so practice manoeuvering your yacht astern in an open space beforehand and get used to the steering/speed and prop walk, check the space situation calmly before making a decision on where to go, and then ensure your crew know exactly what they are doing. A missed approach is not the end of the world, and you’ll look like a pro by the end of the week!
In some small harbours you may find yachts anchored three or four rows deep. You can look at the direction of the other anchor lines before dropping but it is sometimes almost inevitable that there will be a bit of a tangle in the morning.
Always call the marina where you are hoping to overnight well in advance. They may reserve a space, but in the busy summer months they may ask you to call as you arrive and they will allocate a berth if there is one free. In this case make sure you have a Plan B for another marina or an overnight anchorage. Check the VHF frequency for the marina in the pilot book and listen to your VHF to hear what is going on with other yachts calling.
Remember to close the sea cock of the black tank as you enter the marina. There are substantial fines if you leave it open.
Pack your kit in a soft bag not a suitcase for easy stowage onboard
Transfer details and base map
Charter voucher or receipt
Inverter for charging phones etc whilst at anchor
12v charger for mobile phone
Sun cream not oil
Medication for sea sickness, heat rash, diarrhoea, insect stings
Plastic storage boxes for cheese etc in the fridge
And that’s it, you’re ready for a summer adventure. But be warned, if this is your first experience of a sailing charter you are about make a lifestyle choice that for most is addictive, and for some turns into a dream of giving up the corporate world and going blue water cruising on their own yacht. In the meantime, the Med has some amazing destinations from the hidden delights of the smaller Greek Islands, to the sophistication of Panarea in the Aeolian, from the elegance of the Italian Riviera, to the party atmosphere of Ibiza. They are there to delight and enchant, and to bring you back year after year.
Please visit our website www.edenyachting.com to view our selection of yachts available for charter or make a booking.