We were so excited to start our honeymoon in the beautiful British Virgin Islands. My wife and I both had some sailing experience, but never sailed together, although we did take a Coast Guard 3-day navigation course together. We booked a 10-day sailing trip on a Beneteau 463 with a local chartering company called Caribbean Sailing BVI, aka Caribbean Yacht Charters BVI. The it went wrong, so we compiled this list for others. For full story, see: http://www.icontact-archive.com/AJ_21ttHYGwiCT6IWeY8w0vge571xfWb?w=4
DOs AND DONíTs WHEN HIRING A CHARTER COMPANY:
1. Make sure you know exactly the year and condition of the boat. Have it in writing and make sure itís clear in your contract. Add a clause that allows you to decline the boat or switch to another comparable boat the meets your approval. In the case of Caribbean Sailing BVI, there were no other boats that were ready or better.
2. Steer clear of small chartering companies with low inventory. Ask how many boats are available before agreeing to charter. As we noticed on the water, over 90% of the other chartered boats we came into contact with were newer, nicer, better equipped boats. Moorings, Sunsail, and Footloose appeared to be the best choices.
3. Get a list of equipment in writing and approve the list prior to chartering. We were promised air conditioning and a dodger that we ended up needing desperately, were promised, but didnít get it.
4. Make sure you get a boat thatís easy to sail. Make sure the boat comes with electric winches, auto-pilot, GPS and Chart Plotter at the helm (not in the cabin). Our auto-pilot did not work! Sails were old and sticky and with no electric winches, difficult to hoist.
5. When you do a check out, make sure you go through each item and test it. If it does not work, make sure they fix it or give you another boat. Again, always make sure there are other boats, unless you completely trust the chartering company to deliver the boat you agreed upon. Be careful and thorough as it often takes a few days to notice the problems. We did not have steaming lights, anchor lights, deck lights, **** lights, stove was not lighting properly, GPS was useless, inverter worked haphazardly, refrigerator not working, get a sailing guide, one water tank cracked, water tank and gas tank gauges not working. The gauges alone could have saved us over $120 in gas and water we did not need.
6. Make sure your chartering contract covers you if the boat needs repairs. The company should either exchange the boat within 24 hours and, at their expense, put you up at an ďequivalent to the boat rateĒ hotel. Most sailing charters can run $280 to $500 a day, so make sure you have a reimbursement agreement.
7. Try to pay by credit card so you have a least some leverage to dispute or partially dispute the charges. If your chartering company does not accept credit cardsóand preferably American Express, as they are the best at disputesóyou should steer clear of them and find another company.
DOs AND DONíTs WHEN HIRING A CAPTAIN:
1. When you hire a captain for a few days or your entire trip, make sure you provide ONLY onboard provisions for him or her or agree on a per diem. You are only required to make sure they have food onboard, otherwise they can go anywhere they wish to eat or drink. You DO NOT have to entertain or have them come with you when you leave the boat. Your captain is a service professional who is there to navigate and drive the boat. You are not responsible to take him or her to dinner if you do not wish to do so.
2. If you want to provide drinks, like beer, onboard for your captain, then be clear as to how much you are comfortable with them drinking.
3. Make sure your charter company provides a free check out with a captain or charter employee. All reputable chartering companies include a basic check out with your chartering package.
4. You should interview your captain by phone and ask him/her pertinent questions to qualify them as someone you want to spend time with. When you are on a boat, itís close quarters and everyone need to get along. Take your time and interview the captain. Make sure the chartering company is finding the right person for you. The owner led us to believe it was a honeymoon gift when actually he wasnít being charged at all by the captain.
5. Get your exact costs for your captain and usual tipping schedule (if any) in writing. Know with whom you are dealing and what it will cost you.
6. Make sure the chartering company provides a proper sailing guide. The captain should take time to go over the hazards as well as popular destinations. Make sure you understand the buoys, signage, mooring colors, dingy mooring, reefs, and so on. You should spend at least an hour with the captain and plot a course that you feel comfortable with. The captain should also review the beach flag colors in the area you will be sailing. For instance, a purple flag in the BVIís means marine sea life ówhich in our case really meant jellyfish. We swam into the beach at The Baths in Virgin Gorda under a red flag not knowing that this is dangerous and swimming is not advised. It was a good hard swim back to the dingy.