Finding the Right Catamaran Charter for Your Sailing Vacation

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Finding the Right Catamaran Charter for Your Sailing Vacation

Large luxury catamaran sailing in the harbor of Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Finding the Right Catamaran Charter for Your Sailing Vacation

Finding the Right Catamaran Charter for Your Sailing Vacation

By Donna Wolfson

Once you have made up your mind that a bareboat sailing charter to the Caribbean is the perfect way to experience a paradise vacation, you still have several decisions to make. For instance, where in the Caribbean do you want to go; what cabin layout do you prefer; what size sailing vessel will you need and do you want a monohull charter or a catamaran charter? A good charter yacht broker can assist you in choosing which sailing vessel best suits you based on the number of people in your party, you budget, your sailing skills and your desired level of comfort. Which type of charter is best? The answer is that there simply is no such thing as the best boat. The range of available monohull and catamaran charter boats can be mind-boggling. Selecting the right one for you means finding the sailing vessel that can best serve your needs. Here are some tips to keep in mind and point you in the right direction in order to find the optimal monohull or catamaran charter boat for you.

Location: Unless you have unlimited time, most sailing charters last somewhere between one and two weeks. Therefore, you have to select a destination in the Caribbean. Whether you want an easy island-hopping vacation; long offshore open water passages or something in between, where you intend to cruise may have a strong impact on what sailing vessel you select.

The US and British Virgin Islands are confined in a 60 square mile area at the northeastern corner of the Caribbean. The British Virgin Islands are one of the most compactly perfect cruising areas and thus have become the world capital for bareboat chartering. The weather varies little year round in the Virgin Islands, with brisk trade winds mostly from the east. Much of the sailing area is protected, though the stronger winter breezes can kick up a good sea in the more open stretches of the Sir Frances Drake Channel (the main waterway at the heart of the British Virgin Islands). A good anchorage is never more than an hour away from any spot in the area.

Enjoying the same wind and weather conditions as the Virgins are the rest of the islands of the Caribbean which string down from Anegada Passage at the eastern end of the BVI to Grenada- 90 miles from the coast of South America. These islands are rich in history and local color- each with different cultures and physical features. The sparsely inhabited Grenadines that lie between St. Vincent and Grenada are close enough together for easy daytime sailing.

There are short stretches of open water and some protected sailing in the lee of the islands. North of the Grenadines, the islands of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua are bigger, more mountainous and more populated. The sailing varies from wet, hard fast reaches in the open channels between the islands anywhere from 20-35 miles across, to idle motor sailing in the lee of the high mountains.

Regardless of your destination, you need to consider the conditions and purpose of your charter boat vacation. Do you want a vessel for superior sailing or stability and comfort while making a passage? Will you be in shallow waters? Do you want to minimize any roll while at anchor? How experienced a sailor are you? How experienced is your crew? Do you plan to cover as many islands as possible during your vacation or explore hidden coves at a leisurely pace? Your answer to these questions may mean the difference between selecting a monohull charter or catamaran charter, and might even influence the size boat you select. If you plan to make longer, open water passages, consider the largest boat your budget will allow and that you can comfortably handle. Discuss your cruising plans with your charter broker. They are very familiar with the monohull and catamaran charters in their fleets and are happy to provide specific advice about the type and size of boat you choose based on where you are cruising.

Cabin Layout: Once you have chosen where you want to go, your next choice is selecting the cabin layout. Cabin layout is a balance between the number of people in your sailing party and the comfort level or tolerance you will have spending 7-14 days with those people. Layout will also determine the size of your monohull or catamaran charter. If you have a party of 6, you will need at least three cabins. Many charter boats can accommodate two people sleeping in the main salon on a convertible settee. I really do not recommend this because it may be a bad start to a sailing trip for the person or couple who draws the short straw for sleeping in the salon. They will have no privacy. Furthermore, the quarters can get rather cramped if you are trying to cook in the galley, plot a course at the navigation station or anything else that might occur in the salon that has now been converted to a "pseudo-cabin". If you can afford it, it is always nice to charter a boat that has one more cabin than necessary. It serves as a good storage room for all your extra gear and serves as additional sleeping quarters if someone wants to sleep alone during the cruise. If you have 4 or more people, I would also suggest having at least two heads (bathrooms). Otherwise, it gets really inconvenient and has the potential to become as nasty as an airline lavatory on a cross-Atlantic flight. Keep in mind that your layout choice will affect the privacy level of your entire party. Typically, in a monohull charter, the cabins will be contiguous and are only separated by a plywood wall. Almost every sound and word in one cabin will be heard in the next. If you ever saw the sailing scene from the movie, Four Seasons, where Carol Burnett and Alan Alda are trying to tune out the "lovebirds" in the next cabin, you know what I am talking about. In contrast to a monohull, a catamaran charter will provide you with considerably more room everywhere on the boat. A typical 38-47 foot catamaran will have four large cabins with double or queen-sized beds, each with an in-suite head. Cabins are usually located fore and aft in each hull. This layout configuration gives you full privacy and you do not hear anything from one cabin to the next. The cockpit and salon in a catamaran are on the same level, providing spacious and comfortable gathering areas. The foredeck has a big net between the hulls, which makes a great sunbathing area. As a result of this roominess, it is easy to get some seclusion and quiet time away from other members of your party.

Regardless of whether you choose a monohull or catamaran charter, when you visit the charter broker's web site, you will see all the layouts of the boats in their fleet. Everyone has their own tolerance levels for comfort/discomfort, privacy or lack thereof. A group of twenty year olds or a group of buddies on a "boys' trip" will not have the same expectations as a multigenerational family trip or a group of middle-aged couples. Take your time to determine which layout will be the most comfortable for you and the rest of your party.

Size: The size of your charter boat is determined not only by the level of comfort you want, but also by your budget and sailing experience. As mentioned above, the cabin layout frequently dictates the size of your charter. Boats from 32-36 feet usually contain a 2 cabin/1 head layout. Vessels ranging in size from 36-50 feet often have a 3 or 4 cabin/2 head layout. A 4 cabin/3 head layout usually requires at least 46 feet, unless you charter a catamaran. A 5 cabin/4 head layout will be around 50 feet or more. Obviously, the bigger the charter, the more money you must spend. Your charter broker will help you find a vessel to fit your budget. Some charter bases maintain an older but well-maintained fleet which may be a lower cost option. Another factor that influences the size of your charter is your sailing experience. Although not technically difficult, sailing a 47 foot boat is entirely different than sailing a 36 foot boat because everything is much bigger and therefore more difficult to control. The bigger the boat, the more you have to anticipate and the sooner you and your crew have to prepare for upcoming squalls, wind direction changes or anything else that might test your sailing skills. Be honest with yourself or you may have to deal with the consequences of too much boat.

Monohull vs. Catamaran Charters: There is no absolute right answer in choosing a monohull over a catamaran charter. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.I have already addressed the advantages of a catamaran charter in terms of its layout configuration for the ultimate in privacy and spaciousness. Another major advantage of a catamaran charter is that it is very stable. Catamarans do not heel and do not roll at anchor. For those prone to seasickness, this can be a big factor in opting for a catamaran charter. Because of their greater stability, it makes it somewhat safer for kids running around or less sure-footed older cruisers. A catamaran usually sails faster than a monohull on some points of sail, such as a beam reach and downwind. Finally, catamarans have a shallower draft, allowing you more options for cruising or anchoring in shallow water. The major disadvantage of a catamaran is that it typically does not sail as well upwind and it may be somewhat more difficult to raise and lower the sails. Also, if you are a hard core, "rail in the water" pure sailing buff, you will not get the same sailing feeling as you do with a monohull since catamarans do not heel. In contrast, a monohull will tack easily, it will sail well upwind, and it appeals to sailing traditionalists. A monohull, however, does heel and will have a tendency to roll at anchor. This may be an issue for those concerned about stability or seasickness. Again, there is no right answer in selecting a monohull over a catamaran charter. I have chartered both throughout the Caribbean in a variety of seas and have enjoyed all of my sailing experiences. Ultimately, the type of vessel you select will largely depend on your cabin layout preference and who you are sailing with. If you are bringing a party of first time sailors, very young or older people, or people who may feel somewhat apprehensive while at sea, you might be better off chartering a catamaran.

Anticipating your Caribbean sailing vacation is great fun, yet choosing the right charter might almost be as difficult as selecting that ideal Caribbean sailing area. To select that perfect boat, talk to your charter broker about where you want to go, the cabin layout, the size boat that will accommodate your needs, your experience level and who is sailing with you. Today there are several options of sailing vessels to match all budgets. Contact Virgin Island Sailing to book your monohull or catamaran charter. Whether you are an experienced "sea dog" or a complete novice, you can enjoy all the pleasures of a sailing vacation in the Caribbean.

Donna Wolfson also know as "Sailgirl" at Virgin Island Sailing, has been sailing in the Caribbean and writing about it for years. Learn more about a Catamaran Charter

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Donna_Wolfson/817171


Donna Wolfson

Donna Sails the Caribbean regularly, exploring the islands, enjoying the people and different cultures. She prides herself in finding interesting things to write our clients about.

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