There to Here – The Pros & Cons of Chartering

This is a continuing series of Marcie & David's Journey From There to Here, from sailing neophytes through the experiences of 17 years living aboard their cutter Nine of Cups and completing their circumnavigation of the world. We sincerely hope you enjoy it.


After selling Sea Fever, we booked several more charters with SunSail, Moorings and other charter companies in the Caribbean and southern Florida. We usually only had 7-10 days and that time needed to coincide with kids' vacations, sailing seasons and our own work schedule.

                                                           Bareboat chartering was perfect for this time in our lives. No worries at all.

                                                          Bareboat chartering was perfect for this time in our lives. No worries at all.

Chartering was perfect for this period of our lives. There was no cleaning, maintenance or repairs to worry about. Something wrong? Just call the charter company to fix it … immediately … and it went on the owner's tab, not ours. We had the best of both worlds. Though we only chartered in the Carib and Florida because of our time constraints, there are bareboat chartering opportunities available worldwide … Asia, the Med, the South Pacific … you name it, if there's water and fine sailing, there's probably a way to charter a boat.

We were able to learn more about sailing and gain more experience. Granted, most charter companies only charter out production boats like Beneteaus and Jeanneaus, but being in a marina or anchored around other boats with “real cruisers” aboard was an eye opener. We could look at other boats, talk with more experienced sailors and get opinions and relevant information that significantly trumped advertising hype and fluff magazine articles. Though the cost of charters can be high, we knew first-hand how that cost compared to the costs associated with owning and maintaining our own boat. Our bank account was still stinging from our Sea Fever escapade.

The cons? Well, the biggest con was probably that the chartering companies by design, make it too easy to charter. Though we continued to increase our sailing experience, we learned nothing about how to maintain and repair a boat or live aboard full time. We would arrive at the boat and it would be all fueled-up and provisioned and ready to go. There were no system checks required. Everything was expected to work every time … someone had already checked everything out. We were even provided with suggested menus of what to eat and when. So, how would I provision for a week without a grocery store just a block away? Who knows? I never gave it much thought, the fridge was stocked. We had never picked up a mooring ball, nor fueled up at a third world fuel dock, nor toted fresh water to fill our tanks. There was so much to learn, but we probably wouldn't learn it on a charter boat.

In our daily lives, it was the proverbial grind. We were working long, hard hours keeping our little company afloat and raising a family of teens, but a seed, just a tiny, tiny seed was planted and it slowly grew into something more. We talked about getting away more often, maybe once a quarter if we could manage it. David began reading more about boats and their systems and what was available. Marcie began dreaming about faraway places and how to get there … by boat.

When we couldn't sail, we turned out thoughts to water skills that might be useful and entertaining on a boat. We learned about snorkeling.We bought SCUBA gear and took lessons in Colorado and became PADI certified.

                              Learning to snokel and becoming PADI open water SCUBA diving certified increased our enjoyment of the water.

                             Learning to snokel and becoming PADI open water SCUBA diving certified increased our enjoyment of the water.

We read about boat layouts. We went to boat shows in Annapolis and Miami and Chicago and toured all the new boats. We ooohed and ahhhed. We made lists of what we liked and what we disliked and what gear we thought was cool. Sometimes we sat through free, very informative seminars and gleaned just a bit more knowledge about the sailing life. Our business travel took us to coastal cities and we visited marinas when possible. We strolled through West Marine stores to see what was new and desirable.

 Boat shows like   this one in Annapolis   are great ways to learn more about what boats are available and their features. Many times they offer informative seminars for new and old sailors alike.

Boat shows like this one in Annapolis are great ways to learn more about what boats are available and their features. Many times they offer informative seminars for new and old sailors alike.

This was the beginning of the dream. This was the first time we actually talked about something beyond chartering or buying a boat that we could visit infrequently. What if we really sailed off into the sunset? What if we sold the company, retired early and just left the working world behind? What would it take? What if?

Stay tuned … we'll be making some plans and major life decisions soon. We're not saying this is the only way to do it, but we know that our plans worked and our dream became a reality. It is possible … it just takes planning, conviction and a little foolhardiness … I mean, courage.