A step-by-step guide to renting your first boat

How to book your first yacht with a charter company and what the process involves: from necessary documents, choosing a boat, to making a reservation 

Are you looking to charter your first boat and embark on a sailing adventure? Make sure your first sailing experience is unforgettable for all the right reasons. Over many years, we have accumulated a wealth of in-depth know-how. We’ll not only tell you what the whole process looks like and what documents you’ll need, but also how to choose the right boat, plan your dream voyage and how not to flush your deposit down the toilet (literally). So get on board! 

You can’t do it without a skipper

Only a person with a captain’s licence can charter a boat. The skipper will then be responsible for the boat and crew for the entire time, whether on the open sea or in the marina. The good news is that you don’t have to be a captain to enjoy a yachting holiday. There are three ways to do it:  

1. If you have a captain’s licence   

Having your own captain’s licence allows you to charter most recreational sailboats and motorboats anywhere in the world. Sailors usually get one of these skipper's licences: 


  • RYA Day Skipper, which is valid for a small yacht in familiar waters by day. 
  • RYA Coastal Skipper, which is valid for sailing on coastal passages by day and night
  • Croatian captain's licence, which is normally valid for sailing up to 12 NM offshore only in Croatia, but if you come from an inland country such as Austria, Czech Republic ... this licence is also valid in other countries such as Greece, Italy, Turkey ...
A captaion planning sailing route with sailing equipment.

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Arrange a time with your friends and book the practical skipper's course. The boat will be yours for the whole week. Have fun and complete your practical training at the same time. Even if only one of you gets the captain’s licence, at least they’ll have a dedicated crew.    

2. If you’re going as a crew member 

If you’re friends with a yachtsman, you’ve hit the jackpot. It’s often a win-win situation. You can enjoy a carefree sailing holiday and he can put together a crew of people he gets along with. This kind of holiday may test your friendship, as it’s necessary to do as the captain says at all times. In the cramped confines of the cabins, it’s easy to develop cabin fever. That said, sailing is much more likely to strengthen your friendships as you’ll learn to pull together.     

 

Each skipper places emphasis on different things, but they’ll certainly bring up most of these points – 7 things to always tell the crew.

3. If you hire a skipper 

Take your first sail under the guidance of a professional skipper. We can either arrange one through the charter company, or match you with one of our trusted captains. We much prefer the second option for the simple reason that we are not as familiar with skippers abroad. In contrast, we’ve known our homegrown captains for years and so we know they have extensive sailing experience. We’ve sailed with them ourselves even in harsh conditions and they are highly-praised by participants on sport sailing trips and skipper course practicals.   


Experienced sailing skipper.

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There is one way to enjoy a boating holiday without hiring a captain or even having a licence: renting a houseboat. Countries like France, the Netherlands and Ireland do not require a certificate of competency. You can set sail as soon as you’ve been trained by the rental company staff. In other European countries, you can get by with a SCM (Small Craft Master) certificate .     

Do you havy any questions about our captains? Or are you interested in houseboats?

Where to go on your first sail? 

Different waters hide different pitfalls for the inexperienced sailor, nevertheless all seas are a thing of beauty. Price is usually the deciding factor when choosing a location. You can hire a boat in Croatia or the Seychelles. It doesn’t hurt to do a little research to see what each destination has to offer outside of sailing. After a few days, it’s nice to stretch your legs on dry land. For the most popular destinations, we’ve done the research for you. Just select a specific country in the tab above. You’ll also find tried and tested tips on our blog and the Yachting.com Facebook page, or in sailing forums.   

 

There are innumerable reasons why CroatiaGreece and Italy are the favoured destinations of European (and Czech) sailors. Firstly, they can be easily reached by car or plane and lovers of historical sites, food, beaches, cycling, hiking and all the usual holiday activities are in for a treat. Even so, there are differences between these destinations. Croatia, for example, has an extensive network of moorings and ports and a sophisticated yachting infrastructure. Conversely, in Greece you’ll often have to search for a mooring yourself in the bays. So don’t just choose a destination and sailing route according to price or interests, but also with your skippering experience and crew setup in mind.  


In over 25 years of sailing we’ve tried out most of the top destinations, so we can recommend itineraries for family summer sailing with children, as well as autumn sport sailing with friends. And we’ll even lend you maps for free as well as navigation guides for the area. Just ask. 


Sailing around Paklin Islands in Hvar, Croatia.


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While we’re on the subject of planning: did you know you can hire a boat for 14 days or more? Not only will you enjoy double the R&R, but you’ll get an extra discount from the charter company. It doesn’t even matter if your crew doesn’t have enough vacation time, you can just take two crews. Simply supply two crew lists and you can swap crews after a week.   

Sailboat, catamaran or motorboat 

Choosing a suitable boat should be guided by your skippering experience (motorboats are easier to handle), price (sailboats are usually cheaper) and comfort requirements (catamarans are spacious). Among our skippers, sailboats are the clear winners. They are affordable, there are hundreds of models to choose from, each offering different handling features, and they lend themselves to sportier sailing and sail trimming. Still, it doesn't hurt to take a look at the range of catamarans and motorboats available as well. Each type of boat has something to offer and you should try everything once.

Sailboats are iconic in the yachting world. They are ideal for dynamic sport sailing and most sailors start (and stay) with them. They generally eclipse the types of boat with their undeniable advantages:     


Charter companies have more of them than any other boat and there is plenty of choice  

Cheaper to rent than a catamaran  

+ Cheaper running costs and mooring fees   

More likely to find a free space in an overcrowded marina  

Allows for agile sport sailing and optimal heel angle   

+ Better pitch when sailing on a broad reach or close-hauled   

+ More nimble than a catamaran and easier to manoeuvre  


Doesn’t offer the crew much space or privacy    


View of the sailboat from the main stern.

Catamaran     

Catamarans are gaining popularity, especially among families with children. Thanks to their two hulls, they are more spacious and stable. They also tend to be equipped with extra equipment, such as a barbecue.  


+ Easier to operate than a sailboat   

Sailing is less tiring thanks to a lower heel angle  

+ Lower risk of seasickness 

+ Faster than a sailboat except when on an upwind course  

Has a shallower draft so can access places a sailboat can’t  


Usually more expensive than a sailboat   

Running costs and fees are also higher  

There may be a problem with available space in some marinas   

Not as nimble as a sailboat    


Catamaran in the coastal waters of Mauritius.

Motorboats can whizz across the water at a breakneck speed that a sailboat or catamaran just cannot compete with and you don't need to know how to handle sails to enjoy a cruise.     


+ Can be steered by less experienced sailors   

Tend to be more comfortable than sailboats  

+ You can enjoy a really fast cruise  


– Significantly increases your fuel costs  

Noisier when underway    

Not ecological to run  

You won’t get to enjoy any sailing   


Motor boat at speed at sea.


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Maybe you’ve come across power catamarans when browsing boats. They’re an interesting combination of a motorboat and classic catamaran, so you get space and comfort combined with more speed. And most importantly, no need to trim the sails if you don't feel like it.      

How much is a sailing holiday? 

Even for an experienced sailor, it’s hard to say how much a week on a yacht will cost. The final price depends
on many variables, such as the age and type of boat, or how much you will eat both on and off the boat. With a boat rental, it’s easy to check how much the deposit and mandatory fees are as you can see them on the website when you choose your boat. Then you need to add mooring, fuel and water fees. Next, travel (airfare, fuel, motorway vignettes...), food and tickets to tourist sights or national parks.  

 

We've already put together a detailed breakdown of the cost of a week-long cruise in Croatia. This is based on the rental of a classic sailboat for around €1,700 for a crew of six travelling there in their own cars and mostly eating on board. Though they will also indulge in a plate of pljeskavica at a restaurant and a trip to a national park. A holiday such as this will cost around €560 per person. However, the cost can be reduced further by making the trip during low season or taking advantage of early bird and last-minute offers. The price will also go up if you want a motorboat or catamaran, as their rental and operating costs are often double those of a sailboat. The amount is therefore just an estimate and it is best to use the detailed cost breakdown as a guide when calculating costs. Just factor in the numbers that apply to your crew and sailing trip, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect financially.  

 

If you rent boat with a skipper, their fee will increase the cost. It is also customary for the crew to provide the captain with meals in return for them taking care of the crew and the boat. However, this all depends on the agreement you have with the captain.  


Group of friends, summer day on a yacht, jumping into the water, inflatable flamingo.

How to book a boat  

Booking begins with choosing a boat. More experienced sailors usually have the type of boat and location in mind. From the thousands of boats we offer, they filter out a few candidates and request a specific boat and date. Others let us know the sort of holiday, location and date they’re interested in and have us recommend a suitable boat. Either way, the whole process is basically the same. 

1. You enquire about a boat with us 

Either directly via the "Book" button on a selected boat or with the help of customer support. You can reach us by phone at +44 208 08 98 515, by email at info@yachting.com or by clicking the chat icon in the bottom corner. 

2. One of us will get back to you 

Together we will refine your request. This is the perfect time to ask about additional services such as cancellation and deposit insurance, early check-in, paddleboard hire, an additional dinghy motor, or life jackets and lifeline netting for children. Of course, everything can be arranged after the fact, but while we have your ear…  

3. We’ll send you a quote  

And not just one. We'll send you a quote for 2 to 5 of the most suitable boats for you. There you will find the total price of the charter, including mandatory fees and any additional services (insurance, paddleboard, additional sails...) and a draft contract with all the terms and conditions, so you can go through it all at your own pace.  


WHY SAIL WITH US? 

Charter companies, their boats, service and approach to customers differ in quality. That's why we may recommend boats of the same type based on your enquiry, but from charter companies that
we know take care of their vessels and are friendly and fair to their skippers. After all these years, we know which ones they are. 
 

4. You sign the contract and put down a deposit 

When you book a boat, you pay a deposit for the charter. This is usually 20, 25 or 50 % of the total priceThe rest of the amount generally needs to be paid no later than 30 days prior to sailing. These conditions vary from charter to charter, but you always know them in advance as they are in the draft contract we send.  

5. We will handle the paperwork and formalities  

In between booking and sailing, you still need to provide the charter company with a skipper's licence, a radio operator licence (which they require in Croatia) and a crew list. We will of course help you with this. At this stage, we would also arrange a skipper or advise you on a sailing itinerary if that was of interest.   

6. It's done 

All that's left to do is check in. This is done directly with the charter staff at the marina. Until then, you can discuss tips on itineraries, marinas, sights, local attractions and specialties. Our blog or yachting groups on social media offer plenty of inspiration.  


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It's no fun to have your crew come down with the flu a few days before you set sail. While Covid has changed the rules of the game and forced charters to be more tolerant, it's always easier and more profitable for them to let a date expire than to postpone. Consider whether you'll feel safe with cancellation insurance. It will only cost you 5% of the total charter price (charter price + mandatory fees) and in practice it means you will be refunded if you are unable to travel due to sudden illness, quarantine or public health regulations. 

FAQ Frequently asked questions about renting a boat

Aerial view of luxury yachts in the marina.

How to check-in on a charter 

We'll let you know when, where and who to check in with before you leave home. Yachts are generally chartered from Saturday to Saturday, which means there are usually queues at marinas and filling stations on those days. More and more skippers are therefore willing to pay extra for an earlier check-in to avoid them. The refundable deposit is paid at check-in. You can find the amount on the boat's website and in your rental agreement, of course.  

 

Boat handover with a charter company is almost a discipline in itself. Staff members are expected to check in ten or more boats in a day and so will try to speed up the handover. Don't give in and ask the technician to let you on the boat ahead of time and to come back later. The inspection could take an hour or two. It should be all the more thorough towards the end of the season when the boats have a busy period behind them. You don't want to pay for any damage caused by previous crews. We already have a detailed procedure for handover and return of the boat in order to protect your deposit. Follow it step-by-step and we guarantee that you won't miss any potential defects.  


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Sailors are divided into two groups: those who hope that nothing will happen so they will not lose their deposit and those who get deposit insurance. More and more sailors are getting insured because they know that even a clogged toilet can lose them their deposit. Insurance covers partial or total loss of deposit in the event of an accident, theft, vandalism and force majeure, as well as negligence. There are plenty of reasons why you could lose your deposit. These are the most common ones

Thorough inspection of the boat at check-in is priceless.

What sailing equipment should I get?  

Unless you plan to sail regularly, it's probably not worth investing in special sailing clothing and equipment. On the other hand, if you sail regularly you’ll appreciate sailing apparel. We have a whole article with specific advice on what to pack for a summer in Croatia and what to bring for more challenging conditions. And we'll also throw in tips on other gadgets to pack in your bag. However, we'll highlight one thing right now and that's shoes with soles that don't leave scuff marks on the boat. You definitely don't want to be walking around the boat trying to remove them all before check-out.  


What to take away from the article 

  • You can holiday on a boat even without a skipper's licence. Rent a houseboat, a sailboat with a skipper or become a member of the crew. 
  • Plan your itinerary and sailing dates according to your skippering skills and crew. We can plan it for you and we'll even lend you maps.      
  • If you can't make up your mind, sailboats are the cheapest, catamarans are the most comfortable and motorboats are exciting but expensive.  
  • Sightseeing holidays on a yacht can be cheaper than a hotel. This is because they combine accommodation and travel in one.  
  • The cost of fuel, water, moorings, transport and food must be added to the cost of the charter.   
  • Your deposit is best protected by insurance and a thorough inspection of the boat at check-in.  

Still cannot wrap your head around it? I am happy to help you.