If you’re considering chartering a boat in Sydney Harbour, then you will need to consider the type of boat, the type of charter and the time of year.
This can all be quite overwhelming if you’ve never chartered before. Which is why we’ve put together a small guide to help you base your decision. We explain the things you need to take into account. We offer tips on how to ensure you have a great trip.
Choosing the Type of Boat
The main types of boats available for charter are monohulls and catamarans. Catamarans have two hulls and have become the most popular type of boat that tends to be available for charter these days. Monohulls may still be an option, but many boat owners often prefer catamarans. They are easier to sail, and they travel faster. Catamarans are also more balanced which makes it easier to walk on deck during sailing.
This is especially useful for when you’re hosting an occasion onboard during your charter. Catamarans are often larger, and while this is great for onboard experiences. So it does take more room when docking so they may not be able to drop off or pick up at smaller wharves. In general, monohulls are more maneuverable, and they are perhaps more exciting to sail. If you are looking for a self-drive boat that you can only take a few guests on, monohulls are probably the best type of boat to charter.
If you are looking for boats with more extensive features, more stability and enjoying occasions on, then catamarans are best for charters. In regards to the type of boat, you choose from, as a guest you wouldn’t usually worry about whether the boat is a catamaran or monohull. The kind of boat mainly concerns the boat owner or the skipper. If you are planning a crewed charter, you would instead focus on the size of the yacht. Also, the features included when considering which boat to charter.
It’s important to consider the size of the boat as this will affect your party size. Larger sized boats will be able to accommodate a substantial number of guests compared to smaller vessels. Bear in mind your occasion when looking at the types of boats to charter. You will need to have a rough idea of how many guests will be joining you onboard for the duration of your charter. You may also want to consider if you’re hosting an evening charter event like a party or wedding reception, how many people the boat can accommodate overnight. Even on luxury yachts, the number of cabins is often limited compared to the number of dining or standing guests. It’s not necessarily worrying if there are fewer cabins than desired. What it does mean you’ll have to choose your wharf to drop off point based on nearby hotel facilities.
Discuss your budget with your charter broker. They will be able to work around your budget and your requirements and make viable recommendations. Charter brokers will often be able to find you cheaper rates and better deals. So, communicating with them about your budget and occasions will prove advantageous.
Facilities & Equipment
Most luxury vessels come equipped with a vast range of facilities and equipment. You will find WIFI, music compatibility, BBQ, kitchen and bar facilities, cabins complete with en-suites, TV/DVDs and air conditioning. It’s not uncommon for state of the art luxury yachts to imitate first-class hotel rooms. This is in regards to their facilities, however not all boats have the same features. You can expect these types of elements on luxury yachts but smaller vessels they may not have all those added extras. Consider your occasion carefully and bear in mind what the boat has onboard when choosing the type of boat, you charter. The last thing you want is to plan a party and realise there’s no iPod connectivity. If you discuss your charter with your broker beforehand. They will be able to help you find a boat based on your needs.
Choosing the Charter Type
There are three main types of charters you should know about; bareboat, skippered bareboat and fully crewed charters. Bareboats are self-drive charters in which you hire a boat and drive it from A to B on your own. You can still have guests on the boat with you but as a skipper, you have to drive and navigate the boat. You may or may not require a license depending on the boat and owner.
Some boats have no license requirements where the owner will go through the ropes with you beforehand and teach you how to drive; some boats will simply require experience and others may want a full boating license. You will need to check with the owner or broker when looking at self-drive boats. It is important to note that self-drive boats tend to be smaller and are limited as to the number of guests.
Information is king when making a choice
Skippered bareboats are small self-drive boats, as above, but they give you the option to hire a skipper. The skipper works on a freelance basis and can be there for all or part of the charter. The skipper is handy to have on hand if you want to try driving a boat yourself but don’t feel comfortable holding all of the responsibility. If you’ve never driven a boat before, this may be the best option as the skipper can help you learn the ropes while your charter. Fully crewed charters include the skipper and a crew as you might expect.
Larger and more luxurious yachts tend to have skippers onboard to help you and your guests enjoy the charter. Crewed charters are ideal for sightseeing or fishing, as the crew’s knowledge of the local area and hotspots is invaluable to boost your experience. Likewise, with party occasions, crews are helpful in taking the stress away and ensuring everything runs smoothly. Crewed charters normally include a chef and catering staff, so you and your guests can be wined and dined. Some crewed charters do also, however, have brought your own food and drink options. This will be dependent on the boat type.
Best Seasons & Times for Boat Charters
Australia tends to be warm all year round and it’s very rare to find any weather restrictions. So that will prevent or hinder our boat charters. There really isn’t the best season in terms of whether to charter a boat but some seasons have more events than others and you may want to bear this in mind. For example, during the Christmas and New Year period, Sydney Harbour is very popular.
Boat charters get booked up to a year in advance because of events like the annual fireworks display and the Sydney To Hobart boat race. If you were hoping to charter a boat for a party, this time of year might be preferable as the area is livelier. However, you will have to bear in mind availability might be scarce, unless you book quite far ahead. In regards to the best times for boat charters, it depends on the occasion.
Sightseeing tours of the Harbour can be done at any time of day, any day of the week, there really isn’t much advantage to specific periods. Fishing charters, however, have more luck earlier on in the day so these charters. They tend to start early morning and finish after lunch. Consult with your broker about your occasion and they will offer specific advice about the best periods.
If you’re planning a boat charter for the first time, there are a few things you need to know about how yacht charter costs work. So, we’ve put together an explanation of the yacht fees and what they cover so you can be informed when choosing your charter.
What counts as high season? You need to know this as it will have an impact on your yacht charter costs. High season refers to the most popular times of the year, & this differs on a place by place basis. Some places may be classed as high season due to their weather conditions – for example, the Caribbean is less humid, slightly cooler & drier from December to April. This is their peak season as the weather is the most preferable.
In Sydney, the weather is good all year round, but while their hottest days are between December & February, these wouldn’t necessarily be their recommended months. Slightly cooler warm weather in March/April & October/November would be classed as peak season on a weather basis. It’s more bearable so people can enjoy a variety of activities.
High season is not just about the weather, however. For places that experience a lot of tourist activity, the high season can be about when places are at their busiest. Sydney is most busy throughout the Christmas holiday period. The weather is not only warmer, but the Harbour also hosts key events & festivities such as the fireworks, Australia Day & the boat races. You’ve also got your key holidays as well where families come together. During high season charter costs increase because there is greater demand. This also means charters are hard to come by.
A lot of people book New Year’s Eve charters months in advance, some people come off the boat from the firework celebrations in the New Year & immediately start planning again for the year after. It’s something to bear in mind when booking your charter, but it also gives you an idea why the costs can be considerably higher. How much the cost increases for charters during peak time will depend on the demand & popularity.
Low season is not as commonly used a term as this refers to simply the rest of the year (any time outside of high season). This time of year tends to be less busy, however, and the weather may be slightly poorer (for charters in Sydney, however, this is not necessarily a problem as the weather is great all year around and there’s normally you don’t have to worry about Maritime warnings.)
Low season yacht charter costs are often reduced, and in some places, they can be up to 20% less compared to other periods. Bear in mind that since Sydney’s weather isn’t dramatically different at any point of the year, tourism tends to be good and charter costs may not differ as much as other places. There may only seem to be an obvious difference in costs during high season periods. High and low seasons are not necessarily just about the weather, however. The day of the week can also play a factor in costs and weekdays tend to be cheaper than weekends.
Type of Yacht
Luxurious yachts will also be priced differently to smaller boats. Vessels with advanced features, additional facilities, larger decks which can accommodate more people – these boats come with increased costs and that’s to be expected. You get what you pay more and the higher the quality, the more expensive it will be. It is also worth noting that larger, more luxurious yachts also require a higher deposit to reserve.
Luxury yachts are higher in demand so to give you exclusivity and guarantee their availability, you will find you need to pay more of a deposit. The length of hire won’t affect your yacht charter costs but the type of boat you opt for will. When considering the type of yacht, you want to charter, make sure you discuss your budget with your broker.
What’s Included in your Yacht Charter Cost?
When booking your boat, your broker will go through all the costs with you and make sure you’re fully aware of everything. Costs do differ on a per boat basis. Your charter cost should cover as a minimum the boat hire itself and fuel costs. The rest of the inclusions will be dependent on your package.
You will discuss this with your broker but your the fee may also include waiting for staff. Also yours and your guests catering costs, and some drink packages while onboard the yacht. You will normally need to pay surcharges for waiting for staff, pick-ups, drop off, and food and drink. Specific inclusions will depend on the arrangement you’ve made with the broker, but it will clearly outline the package in your contract.
You will pay the cost of your charter in advance; this will include any additional charges such as dining and decorations. Before you board however you will normally need to authorise your credit card for a bond payment. The bond covers the owner in case of any damage, and providing the boat is left as it was found. You will have this money returned to you after departure.
The time period for monetary returns will be specified in your contract’s terms and conditions. The credit card you authorise for the bond payment can also be used for any additional charges you accrue onboard. For example, if you decide to expand your charter or purchase additional food and drink packages for your party.
How Much More Does it Cost to Charter Through a Boat Hire Company?
Nothing to you. Boat hire agencies and yacht brokers don’t charge you a thing for finding you a charter. They actually end up saving you money. Yacht brokers build relationships with boat owners to bring you exclusive charter deals. They negotiate with them to try and reduce your yacht charter costs so will often be able to find you better rates than if you were to approach the boat owners directly themselves.
Boat charter agencies do receive funds for helping you find a boat to hire. They receive them directly from the boat owner. They receive a proportion of the fee from the charter. You just pay your charter fee as normal, and the agency will distribute the fee to the owner per their arrangement.
Are Boat Charter Companies Worth It?
Boat charter companies can save you time and money, and if you’re new or unfamiliar with the area. Their knowledge goes a long way. So, using a charter company also provides peace of mind.
If you’re planning an occasion or taking multiple guests onboard with you. They will make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible to make sure your charter is a success.
If you’re looking to charter a boat, we’ve put together an information guide about how it works. From what you need to do when choosing a boat, to how to pay and what to expect on the day.
Here you’ll find all the useful information you need about how a boat charter works. You’ll also find our mini charter checklist to give you an idea of what to bring with you.
Choosing A Boat
We have a comprehensive guide on how to choose a boat for charter. This discusses the different types of charter and boats and offers advice about what you need to consider when choosing a boat.
When it comes to choosing a boat, you will often get in touch with a yacht charter broker. You may visit their office, if you’re situated in the area you plan to charter, or you may find their website. Like us, a lot of boat hire agencies will have the boats you can choose from listed on their sites. You can then navigate through their options to see pictures of the vessels, rough prices, their facilities and features. You should also find some detailed information discussing what each vessel is like and what types of occasion it may be recommended for. The website tells you everything you need to know, and you can see for yourselves the options you have. You don’t need to look through the website at the boats, but you have the option.
When you’ve found a boat hire company you want to book with, you will then need to get in touch. They will often ask you about your occasion – the purpose for your charter, your party size and your budget. This information is crucial to finding a boat that suits all your needs. Yacht brokers have the ability to arrange deals with boat owners so once they know your budget they can see what they can arrange. They need to know about your party size as boats have different people limits. They need to know about your purpose, so they can recommend boats that are great for those occasions – e.g. fishing boats have different requirements on a party boat.
Have a plan for what your charter is about
They will also need to know about your purpose due to the boat size. For example, boats have different people limits for standing, seating, dining and sleeping. If they know your occasion, they can use that information to perhaps find a suitable boat at a lower cost. For example, if you are having a party for 50 guests, but it’s a lunchtime charter and you want to bring your own food and do a BBQ, you may be able to cut costs because you’re bringing your own food.
When choosing a boat, the broker will do all the work on your behalf. You can have a look at options on a website but get in touch. This will tell them your requirements and they’ll find a boat fitting for your event.
You will also need to consider a pick-up point and drop off wharf for your charter. We have a guide to the wharves whereby we tell you all about their facilities and nearby amenities, but if you’re new to the area ask for advice when booking. Multiple pick-ups from different locations cost extra but they can be accommodated for.
Booking A Boat
When you know what boat you’re opting for, you will need to contact the agency and put down a deposit. Deposits differ on a per boat basis. Popular days of the year and more luxurious yachts will require a larger deposit. You put down the deposit when booking and you will usually pay the rest of the charter costs a week or two before.
What To Take With You
Different charter types have different needs. If you’re staying over, you will need to pack additional clothes plus any cosmetics you want to use. Towels and bedding should be included in your cabin already.
If you are having a party onboard or an event, you will need the resources for your occasion. You may be able to arrange for decorations to be set up by the crew beforehand so check this when booking.
If the boat has BYO facilities, you will need to take your supplies. Alcohol, food, BBQ, whatever you plan on eating, you will need to stop off and get this beforehand.
You won’t need ID for accessing the boat, but you should take it in case as the legal age limit applies onboard and if the crew don’t think you to be of the right age, they can refuse not to serve you.
If you’re skippering the boat yourself, you should also take with you navigation tools and maps. Some boats will provide these but best to bring your own in case.
What To Expect Onboard
If you’ve opted for a crewed charter, you will often meet them at the pick-up wharf you decided upon when booking your boat. It is recommended you and you your guests arrive at least 15 minutes early. The crew will meet you and they will give you a rundown of the safety procedures and then you will board and start your charter.
What happens onboard will depend on the type of charter. You may want to talk to the captain about itinerary or specific places you want to visit. So, this may be prearranged if you’ve opted for something like a fishing charter. You may want to talk to the crew about dining arrangements – if you’ve prepaid for a meal and made menu choices, check with them when food will be served. Visit the bar, start the party, get changed in the cabin, the rest is up to you. We have a guide to onboard etiquette but what you do on the boat will depend on your occasion and your guests. Once you’re onboard, however, it’s time to enjoy your charter and relax with your friends.
If you’ve opted for a bareboat charter, how it works on the day will depend on the boat you charter. So, whether a license is required and how much experience you have driving a boat. Often you are met for a safety briefing before your charter and a skipper will teach you the ropes. This is how to drive the boat and dock, etc. As this will differ on a per boat basis – some boat owners require different things – it is better to check with the agency when looking at the self-drive boat options.
If you’ve never chartered a boat before, you probably have a lot of questions about how charters work. One of the most popular concerns people have is boat etiquette.
How do crewed charters work, what restrictions do you have, what are the general rules for being onboard a luxury yacht? We’ve put together a guide on everything you know about the etiquette for boat charters, so you can get in the know, stop worrying and look forward to your occasion.
Ask permission to board
You may have paid for a charter but when you meet and greet the crew it’s polite to ask for permission before jumping on deck. They will likely want to go over a few ground rules and safety procedures first. It’s easier for them to do this while they have your attention and all your guests are together. Have a little patience when you get there, while they dock up and get sorted.
Be on time
Boat owners only get a certain amount of time to do their drop off or pick up so make sure you and your party are on time. If you are late, the captain may have to drive off and arrange another pickup time later on. This will eat into your charter time and could affect your planned occasion, so always be on time.
Don’t ask for spontaneous drop offs or pickups
The captain has to book drop-offs and pick-ups with the wharf, and they’ll normally do this ahead of your charter to ensure there are no issues. During busy times, wharves can be booked up quickly -there is only a certain amount of time slots per day. Don’t ask for lots of drop-offs or pick-ups once you’re onboard. Try and organise this beforehand. Note that additional pick-ups and drop-offs will come at an additional cost.
Clothing & Footwear
There are not any clothing rules as such when it comes to boat charters, however, footwear is a topic which requires your attention. Heels and dark soled shoes are not appropriate for luxury yachts as they can damage the decks and leave them marked. You may be allowed to wear boat shoes or canvas pumps onboard, but most decks have a barefoot policy. Decks on luxury yachts are quite expensive so it’s important you listen to the crew if they tell you to remove your shoes. You can usually check this beforehand with your charter broker.
Manners go a long way and that’s true both onboard and off. Thankyous will go a long way and if something’ not right, talk to the crew politely and they will help you to sort it out. The crew are paid for their service, so they will carry out their duties regardless, but if you display manners and be polite, they will often go above and beyond to make your occasion extra special.
One of the main things you should know about Australia, as it will affect your boat charter, is that they don’t tend to tip. People tend to receive higher salaries, so tipping is not the norm as it is in other countries. Chances are if you left some money behind after your meal, the restaurateur would tell you as they’d think you’d done this by accident. In some more formal establishments, tipping might be welcomed but for boat charters, you wouldn’t be expected to tip the crew or bar staff. If you did want to leave a tip, do so at the end of the charter and a good tip would be around 5-15% of your charter cost.
You can have as much fun as you like but bear in mind you’re on a yacht, surrounded by a body of water. Don’t jump from the boat while it’s moving, don’t lean too far over the edge and overall, be careful. Listen to the safety briefings also. The crew should go over the regulations at the beginning so make sure you listen to what they say and respect the rules. The rules are there to protect you and your guests.
Plan in advance
If you are booking a boat charter for a party, make sure you plan in advance. Sort out menus and dietary requirements, discover whether you need to bring anything, ask your broker to help with decorations, etc. This will ensure your charter runs smoothly and the crew can prepare for any specific requirements.
Respect the laws
Don’t do anything illegal while onboard. The crew will have to report it and the yacht will probably get seized by the authorities. Just because you are off-land, the laws still apply. Likewise, ensure all guests adhere to the alcohol age limit and smoke only where permitted. Ask the crew about smoking as there will often be specific areas where this is allowed.
Take care with the toilet systems
Toilet systems onboard boats are more delicate and need to be treated with caution. There should be signs or instructions but generally, make sure you don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet. You don’t want the toilet situation to ruin your charter or the accommodation. Plus, it’s a very expensive problem to fix and you will more than likely receive the bill.
Clean up after yourself
You will need to check with your broker or crew about where you stand in relation to cleaning up the boat. It is sensible to assume however you should put your own rubbish in the bins provided. Also, take any food or alcohol, that you brought on board, with you when you leave. Clarify this however before your charter and inform all your guests so they know whether or not they need to clean up after themselves.
Be flexible with your itinerary
On occasion, things won’t go to plan. Whether that’s because the weather takes a turn for the worse or whether one of your guests turns up late. If the itinerary has to change then it does. There’s nothing you can do about it. Your captain will do everything they can to make things go ahead as planned but they will always put safety first. If things have to change, they will suggest alternatives and do their best to accommodate your needs.
Don’t waste water
If you’re staying on the boat overnight or have a large party accompanying you, don’t waste the water. Don’t have extra-long showers or leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Yachts are self-sufficient and while larger boats will be able to carry a great amount of water, it doesn’t mean it all has to be used. Respect general water usage policies.
So, there you go. Most of the boat charter etiquette is common sense. For example, being polite and cleaning up after yourself. Make sure you do take note however of the footwear policy and plan as much as you can in advance. If you or your guests haven’t chartered a boat before, have a quick read of our guidelines. Also, check the rest of your party knows what to expect.
How to treat the crew
Respect the crew and treat them as you would a colleague. The crew are extremely busy ensuring your charter goes as planned so don’t be overdemanding. So you don’t waste their time and don’t ask them to babysit your pets or children.
Feel free to talk to them about the itinerary. So, to get their recommendations of hotspots to see while you’re on the boat. Use the crew’s knowledge, by all means, to improve your trip but make sure you listen to their advice. If you want to go somewhere you’ve read about online or want to swim. The crew will advise on whether that’s a possibility. If they say it’s a no-go, listen to them and move on. They have to adhere to safety regulations and a timeframe.
Good communication however between yourself and the crew will ensure you have a fantastic time onboard. If you are respectful and something isn’t possible, they will suggest alternatives.