Q: I have a fair amount of experience sailing my own 32' Catalina, but I've never chartered a boat. My family and I would like to charter a boat in the Virgin Islands this winter. Should we go for a captained or bareboat charter this first time?

Steve G.
Virginia Beach, VA

A: From our charter expert, Ken Hecht of Port Yacht Charters:

Taking a captain along on a bareboat charter can be well worth the extra
expense involved. Depending on the number of guests on the yacht the cost can
really be quite low if it is divided among six or eight guests. Even with
just two to four guests the expense can be well worth it.

Typical fees for a captain vary depending on where you charter. Plan on $100
per day in the Caribbean although the French islands might be $125 per day.
In the Bahamas and Florida it is more in the range of $150 per day.
Florida can be as high as $200 per day. In the Eastern Mediterranean the fee is $80 to $100 per day. In the Western Mediterranean the fee is $150
per day.

Keep in mind that the daily fee expense is not only the cost of hiring the captain. Since
the captain gets a cabin you will probably need a slightly larger yacht.
Guests are expected to provision for the captain and it is customary to
tip the captain.

What do you get for your money?

1. The knowledge of a local who can insure that you see and visit the best stops
in the area.

2. Someone who can fix things on the boat that might need repair. From sails
to heads the captain will be able to do more than you as he will know the

3. Better service at the base. Your checkout time will be a lot shorter because the captain is will probably be known there. He'll have the credentials and licenses to insure an easy checkout.

4. A lower security deposit in most instances. The captain has a track record at the charter base. You don't.

5. Someone standing watch when you and your guests are ashore. This will ensure not only that strangers will not board the vessel, but that the anchor is holding. The boat will still be there when you return.

6. The best yacht in the fleet (in the size you've chartered). The captain will know the fleet and will insure that he is on the best.

7. Less time with the charts and planning the navigation. The captain is there to guide you; he knows the waters and related hazards.

A yachting holiday is a vacation and the services of a hired captain can
insure that all the members of your party have the vacation of a lifetime.

For even more luxury in your yachting holiday, consider a yacht with a
captain and a chef.