Yacht Charter with Skipper | The 15 Essentials

Our Guide to Hiring a Skipper for a Yacht Charter

Embarking on booking a yacht charter adventure brings a world of excitement and questions, especially when it involves a skipper. Navigating the role and significance of a skipper is key to a successful journey. From understanding the definition of a skipper to grasping their responsibilities and qualifications, each element plays a crucial role in shaping your experience.

Cost and logistics are central to planning your charter. Delving into the details like skipper fees, route decisions, and crew hiring provides clarity and helps set realistic expectations. Additionally, practical concerns such as feeding the skipper and tipping etiquette are aspects often overlooked yet vital for a smooth sailing experience.

Finally, the more nuanced aspects of yacht chartering, like discussing plans with your skipper in advance and navigating the complexities of charter agreements, reveal the intricate dynamics of this unique travel experience. Dive into each of these facets to unravel the full picture of what it means to charter a yacht with a skipper.

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Chartering with a Skipper

Introduction to Skippered Yacht Charters

Understanding Skippered Charters. These charters are increasingly popular for their ease and expert guidance. Skippers are not only highly qualified mariners, but also adept at being sociable or discreet according to guest preferences.

You’ll also learn about some facts you might not have known, like it’s your responsibility to feed your skipper and your Operator or agent only act as “recruiters”, whilst they will bear natural responsibility for finding suitable and qualified skippers, it’s a typically a direct relationship.

Here at SailChecker, we work closely with our clients to help them make arrangements with their skipper that works for them.

Pre-Charter Access and Skipper Selection

Choosing Your Skipper. You get surprisingly little choice over or access to your skipper.  Typically detailed planning discussions won’t be possibile until you arrive at the base.

Whilst this sounds restrictive, it’s actually the most effective and efficient. It will mean that your skipper is not dealing with future client’s and be able to focus on you during your charter. It means that you won’t make planning decisions that are undone by local weather conditions.

The popularity and freelance nature of skippers has lead to high demand and high turnover. Operators will not always be in a position to allocate until the week leading up to your charter.

Here at SailChecker we work hard to understand your specific requirements, not all operators work in the same way, help balance all your requirements to ensure the best possible experience.  

Cost and Duration of Skippered Charters

How much does it Cost to Hire a Skipper? We’ll explore the typical costs and duration of skippered yacht charters, this segment provides crucial budgeting insights for those planning a charter.

SailChecker have independent options and their own skippers to give charterers a wider choice of crew.

Route Planning and Flexibility

Adjusting Sailing Routes: Skippers play a crucial role in route planning. However, pre-arrival planning is often subject to change due to local conditions. This flexibility ensures a comfortable and enjoyable journey, catering to real-time factors like weather and local events.

Role and Responsibilities of the Skipper

Expectations from Your Skipper. We’ll provide a detailed overview of the skipper’s responsibilities, emphasising their commitment to safety, navigation, and guest comfort, while clarifying limits in tasks like cooking and domestic duties.

Skippers are highly skilled professionals, it’s really important to understand what a Skipper will and won’t do for you.

Here at SailChecker, we use our independence to advise on different options and levels of service. 

Understanding the Skipper Hiring Process

Selecting the Right Skipper: Insights into the hiring process of skippers, highlighting how charter operators ensure they select skippers who are not only skilled but also have the right interpersonal qualities.

Here at SailChecker, we know which Operators are recruiting and retaining the best Skippers in their freelance pool.

Interpersonal Skills of the Skipper

Skippers’ Social Skills: Concluding with the importance of a skipper’s ability to be genial, teach, entertain, and also maintain discretion, ensuring guests enjoy their time aboard while feeling comfortable with their presence.

Here at SailChecker, we know how important the right personality is, whether it’s someone who’s great with kids, someone who likes to teach the basics or someone who knows the party spots, we’ll help you refine your choice and create a better and more enjoyable sailing experience.

1. Definition of a Skipper

How to Define the Skipper or Captain of a Boat During a Charter

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!).

2. How Much Does it Cost to Charter with a Skipper?

Freelance Skipper Rates for Yacht Charter

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 2024 the most typical price for a chartering with a skipper was between €240 or $240 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 several 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 you are 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 if you would like to piece the whole picture together.

3. Who decides the Route?

Route Planning for a Yacht Charter

Many charterers are naturally anxious about knowing where they are going and who decides. For some, booking restaurants and other popular attractions along the way is essential.

The route selection is something that cannot ever be guaranteed. There is always a risk the weather plays a small or large part in your decision. Whilst the Skipper has the final say on safety, the primary guest will have a great deal of input into the route. Where there are restaurants that need booking, more than 1 week in advance, your operator will typically reach out to you, in the main, restaurants can be secured during your charter.

SailChecker has a great deal of experience in each location and, as importantly, how each base operates and treats guests. We aim to find what’s a priority for you and match you to the right operator and boat accordingly. 

4. Can We Have the Skipper's CV and Sailing Resume

How Much you get to Learn About Your Skipper in Advance and Can Vary and Can Change at Short Notice

On high-end charters, known as Crewed Charters (opens in a new tab), the crew on the boat full-time have resumes and CVs that will be sent to you before booking. On skippered charters, where the boat and skipper are hired separately, skippers more typically come from a pool and for operational reasons, might only be allocated at short notice. This might not always be the case, smaller companies may allocate well in advance and changes are rare.

5. Can I Discuss our Plans with the Skipper in Advance?

Planning With Your Crew in Advance is Often Restricted.

Being denied access to your Crew in advance is a common policy from Operators. This ensures that the crew focus entirely on you when you are on charter, and not dealing with communications from charters in the weeks ahead.

In some cases, your  Operator may not know who your skipper is, or leave themselves the ability to move people around at the last minute. This is ‘priced-in’ when compared to Crewed Charters.

SailChecker will always honestly manage expectations about crew access. We are also a team of ex-crew members who can often answer many of the questions without needing to revert to the crew.

6. Is the Route Always Certain on a Skippered Charter?

Your Planned Route Can Change at Very Short Notice

On many yacht charter with a skipper, the route will go exactly as planned and bear a remarkable similarity to the published itinerary by the operator and agent. In other cases, it may differ significantly once the skipper can talk to you and explain the different options available to you.

On top of that, factors like the weather, sail weeks (groups of yacht sailing together to party) that might turn idyllic spots into loud music all evening, might mean a tweak to the route without missing out on the a highlight.

The weather is a strong contender to play it’s part too; heading in the direction wind has been coming from for a few days can make the sea uncomfortable to give one example (there are many), but settled later in the week – your skipper will be an expert on keeping you as comfortable as possible. In other words, they won’t know in detail where you will go, only in outline which is always provided in sailing itineraries for the area.

7. Who Actually Hires the Skipper?

Freelance Skippers are Typically are Hired Directly by the Primary Guest

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.

8. What Will Your Skipper NOT DO on a yacht charter?

Freelance Skippers are Skilled Mariners and Won't Deal wIth Every Aspect of you 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.

9. What will your Skipper ACTUALLY do on a yacht charter?

A Look at all the Things you Can Expect from your Skipper

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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10. Who feeds the Skipper on a Skippered Charter?

You Are responsible for Feeding Your Skipper Throughout the 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.

11. How Much Does a Skipper Earn on a Yacht Charter?

You Are responsible for Feeding Your Skipper Throughout the 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.)

12. How Much do you Tip your Stewardess on a Yacht Charter

Tips are Always Welcome and Always at your Discretion: They do Vary from Region to Region

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.

13. Are Skippers Qualified?

A Brief Insight into the Qualification Your Skipper is Likely to Hold

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.

14. How Do You Become a Skipper?

Thinking About Being Your Own or Professional 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.

15. When Booking a Yacht Charter with a Skipper why can’t we have Open Access to them in Advance?

More on the Rationale Behind Withholding Skipper's Details

Having paid not an inconsiderable amount of money for the services of a person so central to your sailing holiday, it is inevitable you are going to want to know as much as possible about them. The reason why that might not happen is mostly answered above: In the end, a series of email exchanges will not get you much further forward, you are unlikely to detect the character flaws that the operator has not already been aware of. If you have a request like a yacht charter with a skipper who is:

  • Good with children
  • Enjoys teaching
  • Can fish
  • Is good company
  • Is unobtrusive when not needed

Are all matters your operator will take into consideration when

Any Last Questions on Chartering with a Skipper

Are you considering chartering with a Skipper?

Give us a Call or Send us an Email.

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