Autumn is blowing in with alarming haste. Your tan is fading, and jackets are no longer required just for over-air-conditioned restaurants. Fearing how you’ll react to snow on the ground, you call a charter broker to plan a getaway for the middle of winter. Your chances of landing a booking for the specific week, specific yacht and specific destination you had in mind? Pretty close to definite.
That’s the preferred method of booking, but maybe you’re a little more spontaneous. Imagine picking up the phone to reserve a charter for two weeks from now. Your chances of landing a booking for the specific week, specific yacht and specific destination you had in mind? Better than you might think.
It’s hardly a charter broker’s dream to put together a crewed charter on short notice, but it is possible. Many brokers say they are fielding more of these requests than ever before. Some attribute the increase in late booking to the world’s tenuous political environment and widespread reluctance to plan leisure travel in advance. If you find yourself in this camp and want to book a charter on short notice, you should keep a few things in mind before you pick up the phone.
Essentially, booking at the last minute will require you to be flexible regarding ports, payment and the yachts available. Your cooperation with a good broker will help ensure your charter goes off without a hitch.
“Everything has to click. The boat, the client and the monies have to come in immediately,” said Rikki Davis of Rikki Davis Yacht Charters. “The charterer doesn’t always have the range of yachts available to them-that’s a given.”
Most brokers share that sentiment. Last-minute bookings are largely a matter of supply and demand; only so many charter boats are available for certain weeks in certain destinations. The earlier you start planning, the better your chances of securing the yacht you want where you want it. Depending on how soon you wish to depart, you may need to prioritize what is most important to you: the yacht or the destination. If you’re lucky, you’ll get both, but be prepared to compromise.
Securing a destination, however, isn’t just a matter of your yacht being in the right place at the right time.
“There could be an issue with dockage reservations, so the last-minute charterer should be prepared to be on anchor,” said Missy Johnston of Northrop & Johnson Yachts. She explained: “In certain areas of the Med, especially Capri, Portofino and the French Riviera, including St. Tropez and Porto Cervo, dockage needs to be booked well in advance.”
The same holds true for parts of New England such as Nantucket. “The areas you can drive to for boarding tend to be not only the most popular, but the most last-minute as well, Johnston said.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t head to these spots, but you might be relying on the tender to go ashore.
Booking last-minute also affects how you pay for your trip. A person booking a charter within a standard time frame (six months to a year in advance) makes a deposit when the boat is secured. Any remaining fees and expenses are usually due 30 to 45 days in advance of the trip. The bottom line is that the money needs to be received in clear funds-by wire or cash equivalent-prior to your stepping aboard.
For someone booking with two weeks’ notice or less, the rules are a little different.
“They’ve got to wire the funds ASAP, and we need to get them to the captain,” Diana Mares of Camper & Nicholsons International said of handling payments for last-minute bookings.
Clients should also be aware that when funds are transferred at the last minute, complications may arise-especially if you’re transferring funds to a foreign bank or overseas boat. Some banks charge a higher fee for expediting a transfer.
That is one reason some companies, such as the Sacks Group, have begun accepting credit card payments.
“For a small convenience fee, clients can use American Express. You can have the full amount (of the charter’s cost) approved faster than a wire transfer can have the funds available,” said Jennifer Saia of the Sacks Group.
Once you’ve settled on a yacht and destination, and your payment is clear, your charter is pretty much in place. Your broker will then have to make a few quick moves, such as getting provisioning requests to the chef and captain. It’s not the preferred method of booking, but when you know what you want, and you’re working with a quality broker, you can still land the charter of your choice.