Bareboat vs. Crewed Yacht Charter Ownership

A bareboat is a unit that is chartered with no crew at all. The charterers are entirely in charge of the yacht, including provisioning, for the duration of the cruise. A crewed yacht operates only with a professional live-aboard crew, a skipper and a cook or chef, usually a couple, and, typically, has many more creature comfort than an equivalent bareboat. This section will help you define the main pros and cons of each option, both being in the configuration of a managed charter fleet, and within a range of 45 to 70 ft. boats. This section does not debate ownership of a privately managed crewed vessel.

In the Caribbean, 2 charter companies are offering that kind of management: Dream Yacht Charter and The Moorings. We will first highlight how the management contracts differ between those charter companies. We will then outline the differences, bareboat vs. crewed, between two vessels that are either identical, or within the same base price range.

Different Crewed Yachts Charter Management Contracts

Basically, one company - Dream Yacht Charter - manages the boat's marketing, bookings and administration on the owner's behalf, but the owner pays all expenses presented to him by the company. The company is compensated by a commission ratio on the charter bookings. Dream Yacht Charter offers their crewed yachts in their Active Yacht Ownership Program with potential tax benefits for US residents.

The second program offered by The Moorings and Dream Yacht Charters operate on a more "turnkey" basis with very little involvement from the owner and offer it in their guaranteed payment program. Both options are very beneficial for the owner as these yachts are extremely popular with charterers, particularly in the BVI and Bahamas.

Differences: Bareboat vs. Crewed Yacht

    • A crewed boat is more expensive to purchase: Once we have determined that the base prices are in the same neighborhood for a bare boat and a crewed yacht, in reality, an identical crewed yacht will be more expensive to purchase. In effect, in order to do the charter work within the parameters of the industry, the yacht needs to be fitted with a lot of additional equipment, most of it being items of comfort.

A few examples: Mandatory air conditioning system (a major marketing element in the Caribbean charter industry); a generator and sometimes a water maker; DVD system; "toys" like a windsurf, kayak, snorkeling or even a scuba diving equipment; larger dinghy with sometimes a bigger engine for water skiing; upgraded navigation electronics and sound system; several sets of bedding equipment, linen, towels; full sets of silver/glassware; complete cooking equipment, toaster, coffee machine; etc. The list can be very long, but will vary significantly depending on the level of luxury the boat will be chartered at. Note: If you choose a Charter Company offering a turnkey solution, your yacht will be delivered with all the necessary extra-equipment already on board and installed. However, there will be no customization possible.

    • Crewed yacht management is more complex (whether owner is involved in the management or not): It is a fact that in the crewed charter business, the crew (more so than the yacht) makes or breaks the cruise. Problem is, the turnover among crews is usually high, at least in that range of yachts. And that may create some occasional instability in the management of the yacht.
    • The Owner may not be his/her own master: Unlike on a bareboat, the owner might sometimes find it odd to be on his/her own yacht with another skipper who has his/her own idiosyncrasies and certain ways of doing things. That might create light conflicts or frustrations, expressed or not. That is why some owners, every so often, choose not to take their crews with them when cruising.
    • Necessary financial arrangements: For the times the owner decides to cruise with the crew on board, there has to be a very clear, mutually understood, financial agreement.
      • If the owner pays the crew's salary directly, there can be an agreed upon bonus to reward excellent boat maintenance; or for each charter that gets good reviews from the charterers. There also can be a percentage of the bottom line profits of the boat. Also, if the owner uses the boat a lot, a flat "gratuity" can be added for each cruise taken by the owner with the crew.
      • However, if the owner does not pay the crew's salary directly, like in The Moorings type of contract, only a per-cruise-gratuity has to be considered.
    • Crewed yachts can bring in more income: Crewed yachts earn more money per week than identical or equivalent sized yachts, which one can easily understand. But they also can bring more income altogether than a bareboat because they will not necessarily work a lesser number of weeks. For example, a Caribbean based catamaran in the 48ft.-55ft./$12,000-15,000 per week range, can easily work 20 to 25 weeks a year. The financial impact is significant.
    • Crewed yachts will usually grow old in better shape: One can easily understand that a live-aboard professional crew will attend the day-to-day maintenance with a much better efficiency than a land-based staff would episodically do on a bareboat. In effect, the crew lives on board, and therefore the boat becomes their home. As a result, a good crew will maintain the boat as impeccably as they would maintain their own house. For technical upkeep, a good skipper will attend the repairs as they are needed, every day, or at least as soon as he gets off a charter week. Therefore, with the exception of parts on order, all maintenance items should always be under control. Similarly, all the yacht logbooks will be updated on an ongoing basis.
    • A crewed boat can be a learning experience: An owner can sometimes learn a lot while cruising with a professional skipper. If you are lucky enough to have on your boat a very experienced captain (some of them have crossed oceans or even circumnavigated) you can benefit a lot from his/her knowledge of seamanship. At the very least, you and your kids will hear great passage and cruising stories! I (Michel) belong to that category of sailors with a very humble approach of the elements, and I believe there is always something new to learn about sailing, and/or about the sea and its environment. I was fortunate enough to have an exceptional captain on our family boat for almost 3 years, and although a licensed captain myself, the amount of knowledge I acquired from him was tremendous.
    • Exploring further afield: Unless you are a very experienced sailor yourself, you will have a tendency to cruise in the geographic area where your yacht is based. A professional skipper will allow you to travel further and take your yacht places you might not have been able to go to alone, and in probably safer and more comfortable conditions. This is another opportunity to learn and experience even more.

See our section on Bareboat and Crewed Yacht Tips and FAQ's

-by Michel Benarrosh

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