Picture this: you’re standing at the helm of your 45-foot catamaran, Aperol spritz in hand, wind blowing in your hair as the sun gently sinks behind the horizon, setting the sky ablaze. There is no one around but you and your friends sailing across the mosaic patchwork of a Mediterranean sunset. For many, that seems like a pipe dream, but believe it or not, at often less than $100 a night per person, it’s surprisingly attainable. Between the flexibility, privacy, and ability to see some of the most exquisite sites in your own time, renting a boat — or bareboating — truly has a lot to offer, if you’re willing to take the plunge.
- What does the term bareboat mean?
- How does a bareboat charter work?
- What are the main features of a bareboat charter?
- What are the advantages of a bareboat charter?
- How do you book a bareboat charter?
- What is the cost of bareboating?
- What is the tipping rate for a bareboating charter?
- Where can you go bareboating in the Mediterranean?
What does the term bareboat mean?
Despite the name, bareboating is not for nudists, although it can be, that’s kind of the point. If you’ve ever heard of chartering a yacht, you’ll likely also have heard that it is very expensive. However, bareboating gets you the boat, less all the really expensive stuff like crew, chefs, food, and fuel that you’d typically find on a yacht charter…simply put: a bare boat. You can expect to charter boats, typically catamarans, between 30 feet up to 60 feet, and all you need is to be your own crew.
How does a bareboat charter work?
Bareboating started in the 1960s in the Caribbean. This type of vacation gained traction in the 1990s and now dozens of businesses manufacture and rent out boats specifically built for the bareboating and chartering business, meaning there are typically less frills than what you’ll find on the full-fledged custom yachting boats.
We reached out to one of the largest bareboat yacht companies, Dream Yacht Charter, to understand exactly what we needed in terms of qualifications to get you on that dream vacation. Dream Yacht Charter told us, “potential charterers are required to complete a Sailing Resume form outlining their sailing experience and qualifications.” As with most countries, requirements do vary to a certain extent, but the bare minimum is a certification or license. To learn more about requirements, check out this helpful website.
If the idea of getting a license is too daunting, another option is to hire a skipper to sail for you, freeing up time to relax with friends and family. Dream Yacht Charter also offers a new cruising option, which includes a skipper, cook, breakfasts, lunches, and water toys for a week-long charter in Croatia or Greece. It’s a great value and an easy way to get acquainted with sailing in the Mediterranean.
What are the main features of a bareboat charter?
Bareboat charters come in all shapes and sizes and therefore vary in price substantially. However, you can expect similar features — they may just vary in quality. Bareboat charters are typically catamarans that feature full kitchens, outdoor dining spaces (as well as an indoor dining space), multiple bedrooms (three to four being typical), and ample outdoor lounge spaces. Bareboat charters will also have a dinghy and all the safety equipment required to ensure safe travels.
Most charter companies offer additional services, such as paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, and motorized vehicles for a charge. Typically, one full tank of gas and a tank of water are included in the charter price.
What are the advantages of a bareboat charter?
Chartering a bareboat has a lot of advantages. Not only are you saving a significant amount of money compared to chartering a yacht with a full crew, but you also have incredible freedom to go where you want, when you want, and do exactly what you want on your vacation.
You set the itinerary, plan your days, pick your moorings, and eat what and when you want. Most charter companies will provide suggestions and support for you to plan your ideal dream vacation, but at the end of the day, it’s all up to you and that’s the beauty of it.
While chartering a crewed yacht is incredible, you also realize, real quick, that you don’t exactly have a lot of privacy, particularly on smaller vessels like a 45-foot catamaran. Some travelers don’t mind sharing their time and energy with a crew, but for others, privacy is the ultimate luxury. With bareboating, you have the ultimate freedom to act exactly how you want at all times.
How do you book a bareboat charter?
There are dozens of yacht chartering companies, or brokers, that sell bareboat charters around the world, including the Mediterranean. Two of the most popular global companies are:
At the bottom of our guide, we’ve also included a few local companies in some of the most popular destinations.
Dream Yacht Charters is one of the largest and well respected companies you’ll find online. When you decide that you want to book a bareboat charter, you’ll essentially pick your boat the same way you pick an Airbnb. How many bedrooms would you like? What features would you like? Do you want to add-on any toys? The list goes on.
What is the cost of bareboating?
The price ranges dramatically from a few thousand dollars per week up to $10,000 — $15,000 per week depending on high season versus low season, availability, features of the boat, and finishings.
Different boats may have slightly different configurations. While you can book a monohull boat, you’ll more commonly find catamarans. My recommendation is to book a catamaran for two reasons: size matters and so does stability.
Catamarans naturally have much more space because you have two hulls with a platform in the middle. This allows for ample outdoor space, and many catamarans come with the hammock nets you often see at the front of the boat. It’s not uncommon on a catamaran to have at least three outdoor lounge spaces, a sizable kitchen with great views, and an indoor and outdoor dining space. Whereas, a monohull will typically have a below-deck kitchen, a covered outdoor dining space, and a lounge area.
Monohulls are narrower, and therefore have less space for lounging, dining, and living.
Stability is another key factor when choosing the right boat. Catamarans are significantly more stable on the water, thanks to the dual hull. That means on longer crossings, rougher days or simply hanging out in a bay, you’ll be more comfortable.
Other costs beyond the boat to remember are:
- Gas and water supplies: Most charter companies will include a full tank of gas and water, but depending on the length of your trip and consumption, you’ll need to fill up.
- Food and drink: Bareboating means you’ll need to supply your vessel with food and drinks before setting off, so be sure to include a budget for provisions.
- Moorings and docking: Depending on where you go and where you want to park, you’ll need to pay mooring fees or dock fees. These can range dramatically, but you’ll typically find moorings for $30 to $100 and docking for $50 or more.
- Damage waivers and insurance: Depending on the company, your level of expertise, and your risk aversion, consider the cost of additional insurance that may be required of your destination, company, or yourself.
What is the tipping rate for a bareboating charter?
Unlike chartering a crewed yacht, there is no expectation of tipping on a bareboat charter. Since you are the captain, cook, and cleaning crew during your trip, it’s not customary to tip the company itself. Many travelers over-provision on their bare boats to ensure there are always extra snacks, drinks, and food on board and typically they will gift the leftovers to the office crew on departure as a thank you.
Where can you go bareboating in the Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean is one of the most popular bareboating destinations and for good reason. With over 3,300 islands and spectacular clear, blue waters, the Mediterranean is ripe for exploration and discovery, even for the most novice of boaters.
We asked Dream Yacht Charters about where to go in the Mediterranean and what’s possible for more novice sailors. It should come as no surprise that some of the most picturesque countries are the most popular.
Greece tops the list thanks to its calm waters and short distances between islands. The Saronic Islands in the Ionian Sea are much less challenging than other areas in Greece and make for a great charter destination for beginners. The team at Dream Yacht Charter told us, “You can depart from our base on Corfu, with its beautiful olive groves and clear blue waters. Discover marvelous beaches and local island cultures while sailing to Paxos, Antipaxos and along the mainland coast of Greece.”
Corfu is a quick ferry ride from Athens, making this an incredibly easy base to explore from. There are constant flight deals to Athens, even in the middle of summer, or high season.
Being able to explore Greece by sea opens up a world of opportunities to experience the very best of the country at your own pace and on your own budget.
If you plan to bareboat Greece, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Qualifications: Sailing in Greece requires the skipper (whoever is driving the boat), to carry certification or license. These qualifications can be from any country, but the skipper will be required to carry those qualifications with them at all times during a charter.
- When to go: The best time for a Corfu yacht charter is between April and October, with warmer weather and waters. The busiest months are July and August.
- Where to go: Review existing itineraries that yacht companies and blogs have put together, such as the Sail Checker Northern Ionian itinerary or the Moorings Corfu itinerary.
- Pro tip: Carry cash. Mooring payments are typically made in cash via drop boxes at the mooring site.
Sites to review yachts in Greece:
Croatia is another fan favorite for bareboat charters thanks to the gorgeous calm seas and short distances between islands. A bonus is that the winds are calmer compared to other destinations, making this a great beginner spot.
Croatia is packed with stunning islands, delicious local cuisine, and endless places to explore. Travelers looking to travel around Croatia on a bareboat have multiple entry points, such as Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, and Sibenik, making this accessible from anywhere in the world.
If you plan to bareboat Croatia, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Qualifications: Like the rest of the Mediterranean, skippers must be licensed.
- When to go: The best month of the year to charter in Croatia in September, thanks to lower numbers of tourists and savings of 15 to 20 percent on yachts in the shoulder season.
- Where to go: Check out some of the pre-made sailing itineraries from companies like Sail Checker for inspiration for your trip planning.
Avoid Dubrovnik on cruise-in-port days. Cruises bring thousands of tourists funneling into the small streets. Check the cruise calendars before you go.
Sites to review yachts in Croatia:
Turkey is a fast-growing yacht charter destination thanks to steady winds and short passages along with an abundance of natural beauty, quiet bays, and friendly welcomes along the way.
Hot, dry summers and consistent winds are the perfect recipe for a great vacation in Turkey. The charter season lasts from April through October, making this ideal for travelers looking for something outside of the summer months. The Turkish riviera offers cultural experiences, world-class diving, and amazing cuisine at local mom-and-pop restaurants at every port.
If you plan to bareboat Turkey, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Qualifications: Again, like all Mediterranean destinations, skippers must be licensed.
- When to go: The best months to charter in Turkey are May, June and September thanks to fewer crowds and fantastic weather.
- Where to go: Bodrum is a fantastic starting place for your charter. It is a stunning, historic city with incredible cuisine, architecture, and beaches.
Check out pre-made itineraries from yacht companies and helpful blogs.
Sites to review yachts in Turkey: