What diver hasn't dreamed of having their personal dive boat, ready to whisk them off to an undiscovered site at a moment's notice?
There are places where this fantasy can become a reality, provided you have the appropriate resources and skills. Bareboat charters are similar to rental cars: you hire the vessel and take control of your own destiny.
This is exactly what we did last winter. We chartered a 46-foot powerboat in the British Virgin Islands, and spent a wonderful week diving, snorkeling and swimming in the region's incredible waters.
Could and should you do the same? Maybe.
If your idea of a vacation is to dive, dive, dive, you'd probably be better off with a dedicated land-based operation or a liveaboard. These operations provide the maximum amount of bottom time, and have professional staffs that will assist you with the details, fill tanks and ferry you to the top sites.
On our boat, we not only had to find the sites ourselves, but we had to make arrangements to have tanks refilled ashore, which typically limited us to one or two dives a day. In addition, we often found ourselves visiting the same sites the commercial operators frequent - after all, these are the best sites for a reason.
The two things that discourage many would-be boat renters are the perceived costs and their own lack of boating experience.
At first glance, a $4,000 boat charter sounds like a big expense as compared to a $150 hotel room. Break this down to a per-person, per-day figure, however, and you may find that the expenditure is in line with a shore side stay.
For example, that $4,000 is for four persons for seven nights, including provisioning for meals. That works out to about $140 a person, per-day. Add up what you spend not only for lodging, but also meals and transportation, and a bare boat charter becomes a more attractive option.
Provided you feel comfortable taking control of a several-hundred-thousand dollar vessel. You don't have to be a retired naval operator to qualify for a bare boat charter, but you should have at lease some degree of familiarity with the basics of boat handling. If you have the desire but are uncertain of your abilities, why not take a few boating classes prior to your vacation.
For those who want to take charge but not control, most charter companies offer the option of a hired captain, who can be contracted for a day to help get you started, or for the duration of the voyage, leaving you free to enjoy the sun and the seas.