Chartering with a Skipper | 10 Surprising Things You Should Know

Our Guide to Hiring a Skipper for a Yacht Charter

If you want to learn more about chartering with a Skipper…

Chartering with a skipper is not to be undertaken lightly. In many cases, you are handing a large amount of your own liability to someone you have barely met and where the operator strictly limited you from having much contact! We explain the whys and the wherefores in hiring a charter skipper, do not do so without reading this blog first.

Please enjoy our ultimate ten things you need to know about chartering with a skipper on a yacht charter. You can use these links to read how yacht charter works (new window) and what qualifications do I need to charter a yacht (new window). You can also learn about chartering with a hostess (new window). Let’s get started!

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Chartering with a Skipper

Anyone can charter a yacht. No experience is necessary, the cheapest and most affordable way is chartering with a skipper. That’s not to say if you have sailing experience, even the ability to hire a skipper, you might not still choose to do so. Like some that hire chauffeurs, many can in fact drive, yet want to maximise their time away, or even learn from someone more experienced. A skipper is often so many other things, a translator, and local guide, and if your lucky, a great fisherman, storyteller and even a chef.

Chartering with a Skipper is a fairly straightforward transaction, but there are some things you will need to know. We also recommend you read our blog What is a Skippered Charter (new window).

Using our years of experience, we have collected our top 10 things you must know before you go ahead and hire a skipper or captain for a trip.

This detailed guide will take you through everything you need to know about chartering with a skipper on a yacht charter.

Definition of a Skipper

Let’s start with a formal definition:

Skipper. noun. /ˈskɪpə(r)/ /ˈskɪpər/ ​the captain of a small ship or fishing boat.

You will find the word used worldwide but it is chiefly in use in Europe, especially the UK. In the US and in the Far East, you will see the word interchanged with “captain”, reserved for larger ships in British English. Whichever you choose to use, you are highly unlikely to be misunderstood or even corrected.

In essence, it’s the most senior person on board and in command of the vessel and has some pretty serious obligations under the local laws and the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea (COLREGS). He or she can, if in international waters, even officiate legally recognised weddings under some circumstances!

In the end, you have to lawfully accept their decisions whilst underway which makes understanding exactly what their responsibilities are when chartering with a skipper (or captain!).

How Much Does it Cost to Charter with a Skipper?

Chartering with a Skipper. Now that you know you need or want to go chartering with a skipper, how much will it cost to hire one?

Price. In 2021 the most typical price for a chartering with a skipper was €190 or $200 per day. Whilst advertising rates are per day, it can be difficult to charter for anything short of a week as most skippers are seeking full employment at peak times. The exception is Assisted Sailing.

Assisted Sailing. This is where a skipper joins you for a number of days at the commencement of your charter. It’s particularly useful if you are a little out of practice, a new sailor, or sailing a bigger boat than your used to.

How Much Does It Cost to Charter a Yacht. We do recommend you check out our blog How Much Does It Cost to Charter a Yacht (new window) if you would like to piece the whole picture together.

Who Actually Hires the Skipper?

Introduction. This might seem an odd thing to need to know when you’re chartering with a Skipper. But, it can be useful to know as it might not be quite what you were expecting.

Crewed Charter. If you are chartering a boat with a permanent crew, they are almost always salaried or won the boat. If they are employees, they will have contracts with the crewed yacht charter operator. They are very typically a couple who share a cabin which allows cabin space to be maximized for guest use.

Skippered Charter. If you are hiring your skipper separately it’s commonly referred to as a Skippered Charter (New Window), you are, in essence, adding a skipper to a Bareboat Charter (New Window), like you might add a driver to a hire car.

Key Info. Keep in mind that every crew member will need their own cabin to comply with employment law in most countries. That said, there are lots of exceptions, but it pays not to assume.

Employment Status. When chartering with a skipper in this manner, they will typically be self-employed. The operator will have their own reputation to protect and will always try and work with the best they can find, yet they won’t always be directly responsible.

What Will Your Skipper NOT DO on a yacht charter?

Knowing exactly what to expect of your skipper when chartering is key to a stress-free charter from the outset avoiding any misunderstandings. It’s also the most challenging question to answer, as no two operate in exactly the same way, and it can even vary from skipper to skipper even when working for the same operator! All in all, this makes it even more important to know where the lines are and to get your agent’s support. Here at SailChecker, we take this part of organising your charter seriously.

Here is a list of SEVEN things you will typically find your Skipper is unlikely to do as part of your agreement:

  • Pay your deposit. Most boats have a non-refundable element to the deposit. As a charterer, it may come as a surprise to know that in many cases, you are still responsible to the operator and the skipper is responsible to you. If some damage is caused through some extraordinary event, say a surge in water, that the skipper could not have ordinarily made provision for, then the liability falls to the charterer, not the skipper. If the skipper damages the boat, say during docking, he will almost certainly cover that cost and many are insured, yet do not take that for granted.
  • Cook. Ok. So there are many great skipper cooks out there, yet it cannot be an expectation. It’s not even possible to demand one, it’s something you might be able to influence through your agent, so if it’s important to you, make it known at the start.
  • Serve Drinks or Meals. On the contrary, it’s actually your duty to ensure he is “fed and watered”. This need not be in the style you are feeding yourselves, although it is quite rare to discriminate, yet so long as you discharge your responsibility, the skipper will be more than happy.
  • Sail If Unsafe. No matter your crews’ experience, the decision to sail will always lie with the skipper. This can even be at a difficult time in the charter, yet the skipper will always put the safety of the crew and boat before any practical considerations.
  • Wash Up! Skippers will always tidy up after themselves if they are preparing their own food for instance, but they will not discharge any domestic duties whilst on board. They take more practical measures, such as stowing garbage, but it will be your responsibility to dispose of it ashore.
  • Late Runs Ashore. The way you will get ashore for land-based activities is via the tender. During the day this will often by the Skipper or other crew. Yet in the evening, they will not stay awake to run guests back the yacht after a certain time.
  • Provisioning. Your skipper will not do any provisioning. YOu will need to hire a chef or a hostess if you need this doing for you. Many good agents will help you do your initial provisioning remotely so that it is delivered to you on your first day without the requirement to go to the local supermarket.
  • Work All Hours. Your skipper will work hard during your charter and will always be on duty if you are underway. Not always on watch in some exceptional circumstances such as a night sail. Whilst when chartering with a skipper, they will always be available for advice and so on at the dock or at a mooring, their duties are considerably curtailed. Typically a skipper should not be working more than 8 hours a day.
  • Pre-Charter Support. Charters are pretty intensive for crew ensuring you have the very best time. The last thing you want on your charter is the crew being inattentive because they are dealing with questions from guests of upcoming charters. For that reason, most operators protect their crew by dealing with your questions and pre-charter support up until much closer to the day, if not the day of your charter.
  • Teach you to Sail. This is a strange one. This appears in what skippers won’t do and will do. I am yet to meet a skipper who doesn’t love teaching, yet willing students are difficult to find. I once encountered excitable students, only to find their interest wained when I asked them to learn the basic knots! For that reason, some Skipper’s will shy away from any formal teaching that’s not formalised in a syllabus.

What will your Skipper ACTUALLY do on a yacht charter?

So now we have learnt a few things your host won’t do when chartering with a skipper, let’s focus on what you can expect from them.

Here’s our list of what you can expect when chartering with a skipper:

  • Meet and Greet. Expect your Skipper there when you arrive. If you are early, he might have some other duties to perform for the previous client before attending to you. As you can see, not much time off in this game.
  • Handover/TakeOver. Your skipper will do this on your behalf. It needs to be emphasised, this is typically on your behalf. As the charterer, the liability for the skipper and his actions ultimately rests with you. You can choose to be present or trust your skipper.
  • Planning. Whether you’re the type of person to have your trip planned with military precision, or the type to trust in your skipper, the wind, sea and weather might have their own ideas. This is very much part of sailing and the vast majority of trips exceed the client’s expectations because the Skipper, having learnt your preferences and experience levels, is so expertly able to direct you on what will suit your crew.
  • Host. Whilst it’s only your duty to ensure your skipper is fed, the skipper can often make a great dinner guest on abord and ashore. Much depends on your preferences and how the relationship develops, yet you will find most Skippers are the “hosts with the most”. Sit back and enjoy their stories.
  • Teach Sailing. If you are reading sequentially, this completely contradicts something I wrote in the last segment. It is possible to get teaching skippers outside of a syllabus so that you have some control over the route and what you do (unlike t a formal course). It will rarely lead to a formal qualification, but it will help immeasurably if you’re looking to do won in the future. Here at SailChecker we often go the extra yard to match the right skipper with the right crew to ensure you get the best possible experience.
  • Cook. Another contradiction! You certainly can’t expect them to cook for you, yet so many have great skills you might want to take advantage of if offered.
  • Tour Guide. Your skipper is likely to be very familiar with the area, and language, you should expect them to be willing and able to help with that.
  • Purser. Sometimes the skipper will ask you for a sum of money to cover incidental expenditure. It really helps the crew look after you paying for mooring, fuel, etc. without having to come to you each time. You will always receive a full break down and any unspent APA is returned. What is an APA? Read our comprehensive APA guide.

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Who feeds the Skipper on a Skippered Charter?

Responsibility. It’s a clear obligation for the charterer to ensure the skipper is properly provisioned for.

Provisioning on Board. How to provision for your Skipper is a matter of discretion and a decision you can amend as you see fit without upsetting your skipper. They will be more than happy preparing meals from food you have bought for them or to eat your meals whilst about (this is the most common).

Provisioning Ashore. In this case, it might be the Skipper who would prefer to eat alone on the boat to do some work or attend to other matters. If this is the case, you can simply leave some provisions to use, or provide an allowance.

Summary. In the end, chartering with a skipper and feeding them is not an exact science. You should not be afraid of making your own plan so long as they are catered for.

How Much Does a Skipper make on a Yacht Charter?

Skippers on Skippered Charters will typically keep all of the fee you pay them. This is a little higher than the salaried guys who are get paid whether they are on charter or not and who typically get bigger tips.

Some skippers that are retained by the operators lose a percentage, typically 15-20% for their compensation.

A skipper on a superyacht would get around $5,000 upwards per month dependant on the size of the boat and their experience (plus tips that tend to be bigger than on mid-range charters.)

How Much do you Tip your Stewardess on a Yacht Charter

How much you tip when chartering with a skipper can depend on a few factors; the price of the charter, location, number of crew, etc. Tips are generally higher in the Caribbean and North America due to the tipping culture.

The Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (MYBA) has suggested tipping guidelines, the general rule is to tip between 10% and 15% of your weekly charter fee, excluding running expenses and taxes.

That seems about right to us although we do see more.

Are Skippers Qualified?

You’d hope that your skipper was qualified, but that largely depends on where you are sailing, possibly not. In the vast majority of cases, outside of the Caribbean, it will be a yes. In Europe, it will vary from a good qualification to a commercial endorsement.

Here at SailChecker, we have our own commercial endorsed skippers that travel out with our clients who want that reassurance. We do not knowingly charter with any operators not using qualified skippers.

How Do You Become a Skipper?

This is a complex question, there are many recognised schemes around the world and 100’s of training providers. It largely depends on what you want to use your qualification for and what do you want to leave open in the future.

If you care only about chartering and will only sail in these cruising areas then you should read our blog on the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) (New Window).

If you have further ambitions as a professional charter, flotilla, or delivery skipper, then you will find some m, more information here.

Any Last Questions on Chartering with a Skipper?

Have you ever thought about chartering with a skipper or captian? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

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