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Bareboat Charter

The top ten of self drive motor yacht locations

by Frances and Michael Howorth "British"


There comes a time in every owners life when the actual location of the boat conflicts with a desired cruising area. Such situations occur when every nook and cranny of the home cruising area has been explored, every anchorage visited and every waterside ale-house frequented. It also happens when an owner is abroad gazing at others enjoying their boats and wishing that in a flash he could transport his own to such a location. Chartering may seem a logical solution and can also be enjoyed by those who do not seek to purchase their own motor yacht but where do you start? Pages of advertisements proclaiming bareboat yachts for hire all too frequently reveal only locations offering sailing yachts some claim to have motor boats but often on investigation this seems to have been a plan that never reached fruition. There are power boats available on self drive contract however, sometimes they are harder to find but it is just a question of seeking them out finding those that are suitable.


Bareboat Charter

How to Charter

Whilst conducting the research for this article, the authors were astounded at the apathy shown by charter companies who were asked by e mail to supply details of motor boats for self drive hire. It should be noted that those companies who failed to respond are not shown in the contacts details. Far away the most efficient method of locating the right yacht is to use the services of a broker, who for no additional cost to the customer can work to a very specific brief.


Brokers come in two sizes the efficient and super efficient and in the later category comes the internet based business Virgin Island Sailing . US born Tom DeMartine runs a highly motivated team seeking out and providing the right boat in the correct location.


Before approaching a broker, it is essential that the basis of the enquiry should be well established. Potential charterers should have a clear idea in their mind as to type of cruising, number for whom accommodation is required, style of boat and maximum price one is prepared to pay. Bear in mind that bareboat fees are quoted before fuel, moorings and vitals are accounted for and these can mount up to add a further 25% on top of the fee. If traveling aboard to a charter destination the cost of transportation needs to be added.


Where to Charter

Whilst on the face of it those wishing to charter a sail boat seem to have the pick of the venues there are if you look hard enough, a good supply of powered craft are out there for charter. Clearly some owners and companies are wary of letting out their brand new, larger, high-powered craft without a skipper, and without a doubt there is an infinitely smaller choice of venue.


Boats do however; exist in locations as far afield as the Pacific North West Coast, Thailand, New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef. On the other side of the Atlantic are the Virgin Islands Florida and the Bahamas whilst closer to home; Spain and her off lying islands offer a good choice as does Greece, and the Cote d’Azur.


Bareboat Motor Yacht

We have chosen to list the locations in Top Ten order, using criteria such as location, number of boats, ease of access from the UK and also the responses from the charter companies themselves. Additionally we have taken into account in our grading the features each area has to offer and these include: weather and sea conditions; quality and protection of anchorages and harbours; the beauty of the landscapes and the coastlines; the swimming, underwater sea-life and water sport opportunities; the local, people, infrastructure and facilities. Future articles in this series will report on some of the individual areas in greater depth.


Number One: Spain

Best time of year to visit: May to October
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * * * *


Spain, the Balearic islands and the nearby mainland offers the heat from golden sunshine and smooth azure waters surrounded by a rugged landscape. The coastlines offer an exciting mix of old and new with history prevalent in gothic castles, museums and ancient cobbled streets. Spanish nightlife, lives on in tapas bars, nightclubs and port side cafes. Yet yacht charter holidays here allow yachtsmen to experience more than the average land based holidaymaker, could even imagine.

Sandy beaches, bays, rocky peaks and lively harbours, everything is on offer. The landscapes of the Balearic islands are extreme, dramatic and unmistakably Spanish. Valencia and the Americas Cup will add a new dimension to this location in 2007. Getting quality boats could not be easier. Every mark, make and model tends to be represented in this well established market. Sunseekers and Princess make up the British numbers and Italy is well represented with a good showing of Azimut and Ferreti, Fairline, Cranchi and Sealine. If you want real excitement then why not try the Stealth 420 from Voyage Charters, we certainly want to and hope to feature the boat and location in a forthcoming issue.


Number Two: Caribbean Virgin Islands

Best time of year to visit: December to June
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * *


The Virgin Islands are an easy yet beautifully classic Caribbean cruising ground where there is always somewhere protected and gorgeous in which to anchor. There are three main groups: the British Virgins The US Virgins and to the west of them the Spanish Virgins.


Bareboat Charters

Each offer safe and beautiful anchorages, and are frequently located near waterside restaurants. In the daylight enjoy gentle motoring, gorgeous snorkelling and diving, stunning beaches all mixed up in relaxed and gentle serenity. The Virgin Islands with their myriad of volcanic islands, islets and cays provide an extensive cruising areas that is really one of the most noted and long standing charter destinations in the world.


It is generally best to charter from a base in the group you most wish to explore most as going between them has become increasingly time consuming since the falling of the twin towers in New York. Nautic Blue, as part of the Moorings and First Choice group, can offer packages whilst smaller independent companies such as Virgin Traders or VIP Charters offer a good selection of family motor yachts to choose from. Boats in this geographical area tend to be of the slower displacement mode and vary greatly in age and condition. The good news is there are so many to chose from there is one to suit every charterers budget and skill level.


Number Three: Pacific NorthWest Coast

Best time of year to visit: June to September
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * *


The San Juan and Gulf Islands, just south of the US and Canada border, easily earn their nickname "Virgin Islands of the North". They offer natural beauty, protected yet interesting waterways, short port-to-port passages and a great variety of onshore entertainment. This large sheltered body of water is a great protected cruising ground for bareboats in general and powerboats in particular. The area is protected from the rains by the Olympic Mountains, but it can still be showery any time of year so wet weather gear is essential. If you like things warm, book your yacht charter in the summer months. Just North of here, in Canadian waters, is Desolation Sound another stunning location for those who want peace, dramatic scenery and an abundance of wildlife to add to the excitement of boating. The fleet of choice here is both huge and varied, offering mostly trawler style motor yachts and not all of them are slow to drive. Once again age and condition dictate prices charged giving budget seekers ample opportunities too. Cooper Boating offer on board training courses and bareboat a substantial fleet whilst Anacortes Yacht Charters have an even larger choice of yachts available up to 20 metres. Make sure you chose a yacht with a BBQ on the taffrail, alfresco dinning out on deck in this area is almost mandatory because to venture down below would be almost sacrilegious.


Number Four: Greece

Best time of year to visit: April/June and September/October
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * * *


If its beautiful scenery and spectacular history you want, Greece is the place to go. The stunning blue waters and skies, stark white architecture and beautiful little waterfront villages which tumble down the mountainous islands summon yacht charterers back year after year, making it the most popular charter area in the Mediterranean. Everywhere you go there are ancient ruins and ancient history to soak up.


The Cyclades are the classic area offering lonely small islands with idyllic beaches and anchor places or exclusive nightlife of the islands Mykonos and Paros. There are many traces from the ancient times, the most popular is probably the island Santorini. From Athens short cruises will bring you to islands such as Poros with its beautiful architecture and narrow streets or Hydra with shops, galleries and cafes but no cars. It is also close to the Peloponnese Peninsula with the important excavations at Mycenae and Epidavros.


Charter Bareboats

Another option is to cruise from Corfu amongst the beautiful Ionian Islands. The Meltemi, which can produce strong north winds in July and August, makes the area best to visit in spring and autumn. Six charter companies responded to our enquires and between them they offer a wide range of motorboats to suit every taste from various bases in Greece.


Number Five: Croatia - South Adriatic & Dalmatia

Best time of year to visit: May to August
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * *


Over a thousand islands make up the Dalmatian Islands. With such variety, calm winds and turquoise waters, the Croatian coastline makes for an unforgettable bareboat charter holiday. The sea is remarkably clean and, unlike some parts of the Mediterranean, still teeming with sea life and full of fish. The cities and villages are both ancient and intriguing. With so many stunning islands, bays and beaches, the Croatian Islands can virtually guarantee privacy and some truly remarkable anchorages. The area is definitely trendy and there are signs of ever more companies setting up shop to offer boats for charter. Pick an established company from a list of potential suppliers and check their websites and ask for references from those who have returned from chartering recently. Adriatic Holidays Ltd have a good selection of Antares and Princess cruisers to choose from.


Number Six: Australia

Best time of year to visit: November to May
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * *


Yacht charter holidays in the Whitsunday Islands are famous throughout Australia for their fantastic waterways, Islands, beautiful scenery and ideal climate all year round. This incredible charter location is now also beginning to be discovered by charterers from outside Australia.


Charter Bareboat

If stunning beaches and great diving get you excited, go down under and experience islands set inside acres of stunning coral reefs that protect the numerous islands and bays from ocean swells. The boats in these locations can be a little pedestrian and as many are catamarans they cannot be said to be as pretty as the waters they cruise in. They are however eminently suitable for the job of providing a cruising holiday home in waters to die for.


Many of these yachts cater for larger numbers and this can make for added fun if two groups of friends or family want to go cruising Down Under. Whitsunday Private Yacht Charters, Queensland Yacht Charters and Cumberland Charter Yachts are amongst the Barrier Reef suppliers whilst Churchpoint Charters have boats out of Sydney, New South Wales.


Number Seven: Florida

Best time of year to visit: December to June
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * *


To many boating in Florida is Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the Keys and certainly chartering a motorboat to visit here is a special way to enjoy the area. The Atlantic Yacht Company with a fleet of Sea Ray yachts is the perfect way to explore the Keys or even visit the Bahamas. For those who want to experience something different visit the other side of the state with its quiet waters, secluded anchorages, islands and miles of sugar-white beaches. Southwest Florida Yacht Charters offer not only bareboat motoboats for charter in the area, but also courses for newcomers and those wanting to refresh their skills. Fort Myers is the heart of the 200 mile cruising stretch that runs from Flamingo in the south to the metropolitan boating area of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Cruise to the resort islands of Sanibel and Captiva with their beautiful, shell-strewn beaches; go south to the silent Everglades or the 10,000 Islands; go north and then east into the heart of Florida along the Okeechobee Waterway, a winding canal lined by sawgrass and citrus groves that ends up in Stuart on the east coast.


Number Eight: The Bahamas

Best time of year to visit: December to June
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * *


Stretching 130 miles form north to south, there are dozens of pristine islands here to be explored, the Sea of Abaco offers one idyllic little island community after the other. Here you will find snug harbours, deserted sandy white beaches, and captivating villages. Drop anchor at Hopetown Harbour, whose candy-striped lighthouse provides a picturesque landmark to steer by. Climb the steps to the top, for a truly breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The flowering gardens, quaint pastel cottages, and white picket fences are reminiscent of the New England "Loyalists" who settled here. Whether you head north to Green Turtle or south to Little Harbour you are in for some of the best cruising the Bahamas has to offer.


Number Nine: New Zealand

Best time of year to visit: November to April
a) Number and quality of motorboats available *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * * * * *
d) Shoreside attractions * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * *


The Marlborough Sound, in the north of South Island, is without doubt one of the most favoured cruising and yacht charter locations within New Zealand. Travellers and locals alike are drawn to the protected bay for it's mild sub-tropical climate, and islands offer serenity, secluded bays, untouched coastline and natural harbours. The main charter season are the summer months from November to April. when the weather is generally settled with warm days and onshore breezes. Yes it’s a long way to go and that is one reason why we have placed it lower on our top ten than it deserves. Worse, our research only pinpoints one company offering any motorboats. Christel Hopkins of Compass Charters hopes we do not all arrive at the same time.


Number Ten: French Riviera

Best time of year to visit: May to September
a) Number and quality of motorboats available * *
b) Kind to inexperienced sailors * *
c) Peaceful and beautiful location * *
d) Shoreside attractions * * * *
e) Ease of access from the UK * * * *


On the French Riviera you will find energy and excitement oozing from the ports and harbours. However, if you prefer lovely tranquil anchorages and unassuming waterside seafood restaurants on your yacht charter vacation, you can actually find this too! The yacht charter Mecca of the Cote d'Azur runs from St Tropez, to the Italian border. It is composed of 100 miles of the most extravagant and exclusive waterfront in the world. There are 30 harbours and more than 3000 restaurants. This is the playground of the rich and famous and as a result difficult to omit from any listing. It has to be said however that the market for the boats available tends to be French and outsiders may find it difficult to arrange. If you speak fluent French the chances of success are improved but life will certainly be made easier by using a broker.


The Also Rans

It is not the geographical locations that condemn these locations to the “Also Rans”, nor is it the lack of excitement of the cruising available in the areas but simply the lack of boats. Who can resist the tropical lure of Thailand or the Seychelles? Sadly we can find only one boat in those areas. Turkey fares little better and it must be the stringent insurance conditions that ensures that the UK including Scotland and the Solent is almost bare of motorboats. First Class Nautical, based in Dartmouth is a club that will allow only its members to use its fleet of motor yachts when it opens later this year in what is going to become a much copied format. One the other side of the Atlantic; the Chesapeake Bay offers just one boat and you can re discover the lost colony by chartering the only self drive motor yacht in North Carolina; much further north, Canada offers a fresh water bare boating experience on the Great Lakes.



There may be not as much choice of either location or type of boat when it comes to comparing bare boat motor yachts with their sailboat cousins but it is a fact that the numbers are growing as demand increases. Insurance and driver qualifications seem to be the main reasons there are not more. All companies, some more strict than others, will require evidence of an appropriate level of experience and expertise, but formal qualifications are rarely required. Larger boat contracts may carry additional insurance clauses, higher deposits and even only be available to those with commercial qualifications. All companies offer a skipper for an extra charge and some insist upon it, at least to start with, where the hirer cannot satisfy the pre contractual clauses, but this is not always a minus point. Local skippers can be a mine of information, take away the burden of navigating strange waters, introduce hidden anchorage or book tables at that impossibly full restaurant, what is more they can be left on board to keep the anchor watch whilst you go ashore to enjoy it.


Bareboat Motor Yachts

As the market place becomes more educated and customers more adventurous we see the trend of bareboat chartering in Motor Yachts as very much on the increase. Future editions of this publication will carry detailed reports on each of these locations where boat choices, cruising opportunities and itineraries will be discussed in more detail.



Charter Agents
Yachts With Crew
Mega Yachts


Fairline Menorca:
Mallorca Cruising
Maritimo Yachts
Ocean Drive Charter
Spain Motor Yachts
Vitesse Yachts
Voyage Charters


Caribbean Virgin Islands
Catamaran Company
CYOA Yacht Charters
Moorings Power
TMM Yacht Charters
VIP Yachts
Virgin Traders Motor Yachts


Pacific North West Coast
Anacortes Yacht Charters
Bellhaven Charters:
Blue Pacific Charters
Charters North West
Cooper Boating
Desolation Sound Yacht Charters
Island Cruising Ltd.
Par Yacht Charters
Ship Harbor Yachts


Alpha Yachting
Corfu Yachting Ltd
Odyssey Sailing
Vernicos Yachts


Adriatic Holidays Ltd
Kaiser Yachting
Yacht Charter Croatia


Charter Yachts Australia
Cumberland Charter Yachts
Queensland Yacht Charters
Whitsunday Private Yacht Charters
Churchpoint Charters, Sydney


Fun In The Sun
South West Florida Yachts


The Bahamas
The Moorings
The Moorings Power
Dream Yacht Charters
Fun In The Sun

New Zealand
Compass Charters


French Riviera
Cannes Nautic
Top Charter


“Also Rans”
Canada, Great Lakes: Canadian Yacht Charters
Seychelles: Dream Yacht Charter
Thailand: Thai Marine Leisure
Turkey: Travel to Turkey
UK: Adrenaline Sailing
UK: First Class Nautical
USA, Chesapeake Bay: Tred Avon Yacht Sales, Inc
USA, North Carolina: Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor





Written by: Michael and Frances Howorth.

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