If you do it right, bareboat yacht charter trips are the most enjoyable vacation you can take.
But, many crews take years to learn simple tricks to make things more fun and less stressful.
We’re now on our 10th year of chartering, so, here are our top 10 bareboat charter hacks that you should know.
Bring your own fishing gear
We didn’t fish on our first couple yacht charter trips, but this is now one of the activities we most look forward to.
Trolling while sailing (or motoring) adds a layer of excitement – you never know when those reel alarms are going sound off, and when they do, what might be on the other end of the line.
Yes, we catch a lot of barracuda, but we now also catch mahi, tuna, and wahoo to cook up right on the catamaran.
I’ve rented gear in the past, but I’d recommend making the investment in some high-quality gear that will last you for years. Read more about why and what those recommendations are in my sailboat fishing guide.
Project a sailing-themed movie
Yes, I know we are trying to unplug and get away from it all…but, tell me it’s not fun to throw a movie like Master and Commander or Pirates of the Caribbean up on the big screen (sheet!).
We pack a projector, some duct tape, and a white sheet – that’s all you need.
We only do it once or twice on a trip. It’s a fun way to mix things up for a chill night on the boat in a secluded anchorage. If you’re travelling with kids, definitely add this one to the list.
Pack your own first aid kit
Don’t expect much out of the boat-supplied first aid kit, and you don’t want to be empty handed. Sunburns, snorkel scrapes, and cuts (watch out for those glass bottles in the trash). It’s a boat trip after all.
In addition to some better antiseptic and water-resistant band aids, we stock a mini pharmacy to provide relief for the usual suspects: tummy trouble, seasickness, nausea, hangovers, etc.
It’s also helpful to be prepared for other types of illnesses such as food poisoning or the every day cold. It might be a day or two before you can reach a store to pick up some meds.
Fly your favorite flags
Don’t be shy – make sure all the other cruisers know where your allegiances lie! Sports teams and colleges are popular, or you could have your own crew’s private signal designed/produced.
One year we even flew the House Stark flag from Game of Thrones since we were chartering during the final season.
Bigger flags are best flown off the topping lift, whereas you can fly burgees from the spreaders. There is plenty of sailboat flag flying etiquette, but we tend to be pretty liberal in our approach.
Go with the flybridge option
If you are chartering a catamaran, I can’t stress enough how much better a model with the flybridge can be.
What’s a flybridge? A lounge or hang out area beneath the boom on (usually) bigger catamaran models – ~45+ feet.
Sometimes it’s also tied in with the helm station. We love those models since it allows everyone to hang out up top together. When we’re sailing, that’s where everyone collects.
If it’s not a flybridge, usually there is a lower helm station with room for 2 people. I think that’s a fine option for a crewed charter, but when we are all doing the sailing, it’s way more fun to be on a flybridge, together.
Learn some basic maintenance
Even the best-maintained boats sometimes have issues. We expect it to happen on any bareboat charter trip, we just hope they are minor.
If we do encounter a problem, we would prefer to not sit around and wait for a chase boat from the charter company.
Some common issues we have troubleshooted in the past:
Dinghy outboard won’t start
Clogged impeller from sargassum
AC or water maker not working
Make sure you check first – some companies want to be notified before you attempt even minor fixes. They can also help you talk through simple solutions, such as switching a breaker.
We also perform some preventative maintenance tasks as recommend by the charter companies, such as daily engine checks – oil, coolant, belts, etc.
Bring some frozen, prepared meals with you
We eat the majority of our meals on the boat, and while I love cooking, I would rather be enjoying the sunset with a cold beer.
To minimize time spent in the galley, we recently started bringing some frozen or prepared meals with us. I’m a big fan.
Not only does it save you some time, but you can usually purchase higher quality food items near your home. Simply cook up the food, food wrap it, and pack it in a carry on or cooler backpack. It will stay mostly frozen even after a full day of travel.
Here’s what we brought with us on a recent trip.
Some high-quality filets – to celebrate the first night of the trip
Grilled chicken thighs – to go with rice/broccoli
Frozen Costco meatballs – for pasta night
Start using the Boating App
Navionics’ Boating App for your phone or tablet is one of the best planning tools for your charter trips. Plan your routes and check out the Active Captain community features to learn more about new anchorages.
We also use it during the trips as a back up to the chart plotter. I’ve had one fail in the past.
Another way it’s great? Layers such as Sonar Chart and Relief Shading help us to stay on bottom structure or one of the drops when we’re trolling.
A subscription is only $30.
Dress up for an evening ashore
What’s more fun than organizing a theme and heading ashore for a night on the town (or beach bar)? We recently did this with an 80s night in the USVIs and it was a highlight of the trip.
I promise you that you’ll make some awesome memories and come away with great photos.
Other theme ideas? Pirate, white-out, gala, or luau are always fun concepts for a yacht charter trip.
Skip the kayak option
We added a kayak option once, and it was a one and done. I enjoy cruising around in a kayak, but they are heavy, awkward, and a pain to stow back on deck.
So much so that we stopped using it.
For water sports, go with the stand up paddle board instead – they are much lighter and easier to handle.
Worried about being able to use one? It is perfectly acceptable (and more stable) to paddle from your knees.