Not too many people own their own yacht. It’s a big purchase to make, not just because of the price and prestige, but mostly because there’s an incredible amount of work that goes into it. From upkeep and maintenance above and below water, inside and out, right through to taking her out on the water. It requires an incredible amount of knowledge of the vessel build, capability and navigation, as well as the ropes and knots, shoreline and reefs, maritime markings, general maritime rules, water currents and weather. Whew.
The other option for someone who is not especially interested in the logistics but likes the idea of owning a yacht because it looks good or it’s good for business, is to pay a boating enthusiast to look after your vessel for you. They can look after all the essential care and keep everything shipshape so it’s ready to go whenever you feel like a cruise.
Of course talking about yacht maintenance is not even slightly romantic, so you won’t get wind of it around town, but owning a yacht, or any pleasure vessel, is in fact a labour of love. You have to be passionate about caring for and understanding your vessel inside and out, at all times. It’s a purchase to be proud of yes, but also to have incredible respect for.
For most people the most cost-effective and fun way to enjoy sailing is to charter a vessel for a few hours, a day or even a week. There are plenty of different options around that can cater to a small family excursion, sport fishing with mates, an intimate get together or an amazing party on the water.
A charter vessel is a yacht that is paid privately for hired activities like fishing, touring or sightseeing. Typically the hire is completed through a commercial business, connected to a specific activity, such as fishing adventures or pleasure cruises.
You can charter a vessel without any boating or sailing experience as the staff come as part of the package, there to look after your needs and provide everything required to get the full luxury experience.
Reasons to charter a yacht or pleasure vessel
- As a wedding or reception venue
- Birthday celebration
- Party with a DJ
- Wedding proposal
- Family reunion
- Work function
- Entertaining business partners
- Fishing adventure
- Scenic excursion
- Family bonding experience
Now that you know that a lot of work and money goes into the maintenance and upkeep of a boat, it might not surprise you to learn that some commercial businesses don’t have a passion for boat maintenance, or don’t want to dig into their profits to look after their investments. The problem here is, unless you know a lot about boats and the vessel you are on, serious dangers and significant problems will probably go unnoticed.
Here’s the thing though, in order not to worry about your experience, you have to put complete faith in the company you purchased from. Is that yacht soundly built? Do the staff have the knowledge to navigate, to communicate and keep you all safe on board? Are they operating at the right capacity for this particular vessel’s size and purpose? There is a way for you to know for sure.
Safety checks, compliance checks and process surveys. These are here to protect you and the people you are sailing with. In most cases a completed survey is the only way to check the legitimacy of a charter purchase.
Boating accidents are deadly ones.
Panic and water are an easy combination, especially if it’s dark and visibility is low. That equation can, very quickly, turn to nightmare conditions.
Make sure that the vessel you charter is safe. There are plenty of ways to do that without having to inspect it yourself or know anything about boating.
Make sure you are hiring a surveyed vessel.
There is a marine board who take boating safety very seriously. They will arrange for a survey of all commercial charter vessels and make sure they are compliant with health and safety regulations in every way possible.
Certificate of survey (COS) and Certificate of operation (COO)
When a vessel has been surveyed it will be given a certificate that proves everything is in order, called the Certificate of Survey (COS). When the operating procedures have been checked the vessel will be given a Certificate of Operation (COO).
By law the COS and COO will be displayed on the vessel so it’s a great opportunity to view the vessel you are going to charter at the same time.
In some cases a COS and COO will be combined and included as one document. This will be evident by the details listed within the checks; that it covers both the vessel and the charter operations.
Under Marine Safety National Law it is an offence to operate a commercial vessel without a valid COS and COO.
Private owners or commercial businesses who operate without this screening have not been given any safety clearance. There is no guarantee that these vessels are safe or that they are operating to the appropriate safety standards.
What does the marine safety survey take into account?
If a certificate is issued it means that the:
- Vessel’s design, construction and equipment have all been inspected by Maritime Safety Victoria.
- Practices onboard have been reviewed by Maritime Safety Victoria
- The person operating the vessel is competent and has the capacity to operate safely.
For more information you can visit the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) website.
Here’s what to ask to see before booking a charter:
- The Certificate of Survey (COS)
- If not included on the COS also ask to see the Certificate of Operation (COO)
- The qualifications of the person operating the vessel on the day of hire (the master)
Here are certificate details to look out for:
- The operating area
- The maximum number of people allowed
- Number of crew required
- Approved safety equipment
- Any additional certification requirements for competency in the region or that apply to a particular vessel type
Before you charter a yacht, make sure that vessel is safe, with qualified crew, and all the operations are above board.
What is the difference between inspected vs uninspected yacht charters?
Don’t be fooled by swift talk. Every country has different terminology and regulations when it comes to vessel inspections. In Australia there is no such thing as a compliant uninspected yacht charter. If you don’t see a survey certificate don’t hire the vessel. It’s simply not worth the risk. Most commercial operations are happy to comply and undergo safety checks.
If anyone tries to pull a fast one on you, saying they answer to a different body that approves uninspected yacht charters, this isn’t Australian Marine ruling. In The U.S.A it is common for different bodies to undertake different licenses and regulations on commercial vessels, and yes, in that case it’s true that not all commercial vessels are required to be inspected. Those that are exempt from inspection can operate under slightly different regulations in terms of their operating ability and staff, however, these are not the operating bodies in Australian waters.
If you are interested in chartering a yacht in US waters then it’s best to check with the nearest Coast Guard Marine Safety Office for their safe practice regulations. If you are interested in a bareboat charter, specifically ask them for the NVIC 7-94 laws to see what you need to be aware of in terms of safety and compliance.
Your safety is worth your time and money so be sure about chartering your yacht with legal, secure pleasure boat companies so that you can enjoy everything the luxury experience has to offer, with peace of mind.