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Tips for Chartering

The following information is intended to help persons who are considering a charter vacation in the Pacific NW.  Since this is a relatively complicated legal subject this discussion can only be a summary.  Our links page has a list of web-sites that can provide additional helpful information.

There are two main types of recreational vessel charters.

1) The Voyage Charter. The charterer hires the vessel for a single voyage, usually of defined destination and time. The owner and/or crew and captain hired by the owner operate and manage the vessel;
2) Demise or Bareboat Charters. The charterer takes full control of operation and legal and financial responsibility for the vessel.  In some cases the charterer may choose to hire a captain.  The charter is for a specified time and may include restrictions on destinations and routes.

Here are few tips for finding a boat to charter.

1.    Unless you are an experienced cruiser and you know how to carefully evaluate a vessel before you agree to a charter it will be best to stick with a charter company that has a fleet of boats.  You will have a choice of vessels and better support in the event of problems.

2.    Find a charter company that has a vessel you want to charter at a price you want to pay.  Check on-line or at boat shows to get information.

3.    Contact the charter company to get further information.  If possible, it may be useful to personally visit the company office and look at the boats to see their age, condition, and equipment.  Ask for and receive printed information from the company, including the contract.  Read the contract and be sure you understand it.

Reputable charter companies have printed information they provide to prospective customers.  This information should be informative and specific on a number of subjects.  Here are a few things that must be considered.

1.    Ask for and receive information about the fleet.  How old are the boats?  What are the schedules for maintenance?  Who performs maintenance and repairs?  Who checks out the vessels before any new charter begins?  Who cleans the boats after a completed charter?

2.    Ask about restrictions on the use of the vessel such as destinations and routes.  Are there navigation limits?  Ask about support in the event of problems.  Ask about arrangements in the event of mechanical problems or bad weather that delay or prevent your cruise.  Ask about cancellations and return of any prepaid money.

3.    Ask about qualification requirements. Most companies will require a resume of your experience.  Most companies will require that you and your crew show basic skills during a “check out” prior to disembarking.

4.    Ask about any costs that will be charged or incurred in addition to the charter fee, such as insurance.

5.    Ask about provisioning the boat prior to leaving.  Does the charter company provide a provisioning service?  Are there stores nearby for purchasing provisions?  Does the company provide a list of suggested provisions?

6.    Get a complete list of all the gear and equipment that is on the boat and included in the charter, including charts and cruising guides.

7.    Ask for a list of gear that you need to provide and for a list of clothing and supplies to bring.

8.    Ask for a sample itinerary with destinations and routes.  Ask for a list of resources you can use to prepare for your cruise.

9.    If you will be crossing the border ask about document and identification requirements.  Also ask about customs and immigration requirements and about restrictions on food, alcohol, tobacco, etc.

Before leaving carefully check out the boat.  The charter company should provide a complete check-out service.  This is your chance to make sure everything is in order.

1.    Make sure you have a complete list of all equipment and supplies on board the boat.  Check the list carefully to be sure all the stuff is there.

2.    Make sure everything on the boat works and that you know how to operate everything.  Turn on everything and ask questions.  Be especially curious about all safety related items and make sure every crew member knows how to operate all safety related items (fire extinguishers, life jackets, VHF radio, etc.)

3.    Make sure you understand all the instrumentation.  Power boats in particular may have complicated instrument panels and you need to know what everything controls and the information provided by every instrument.

4.    Ask about the capacities of various systems.  (Water, fuel, holding tank, etc.)

5.    Be sure you know exactly what to do in the event of a breakdown or other difficulty.

6.    Ask about any special handling characteristics of the vessel or about any quirks.

For additional information about chartering check our Links page and visit some of the websites listed there.  Chartering is a great way to cruise Pacific NW waters and there are many respected charter companies in Washington and British Canada.