Top Menu

In addition to the obvious clues, such as the company name and logo printed which would typically be painted obtrusively on the sailcover or hull, and the red roller furling which I wrote about before, the following is a tongue-in-cheek look at 10 other telltales that the vessel making their way along side you is a charter boat:

  1. They carry no fuel or water jerry cans on deck, which I’ve already written are the mark of a “real” cruiser.
  2. Their engines and/or generator are running almost nonstop while at anchor, like the boat beside us right now. Just how can they afford to pay for all that fuel?
  3. They have a lack of wind generator / solar panels, which obviously explains number 2 above.
  4. They have more lights on than an airport runway, also related to number 2.
  5. There are 5-6 people on the bow when anchoring, all staring in the water.
  6. Their anchoring procedure could best be described as “unpolished.”
  7. There will often be 3-4 couples on board. They no doubt had to split the cost to pay for all that fuel!
  8. The boat’s tender will often be brightly colored, orange, red or yellow. Similar in purpose to the red roller furling perhaps?
  9. The tender will typically have an underpowered outboard engine. Six people being ferried around on a dinghy with a little 4 HP engine looks a little funny to us.
  10. There might be a brightly colored kayak on deck (or 2 or 3).

Obviously no single one of the above items guarantees that a boat is on a week-long charter instead of cruising for months at a time. In fact, we know many people who cruise with small dinghy engines, or who carry a kayak on deck (hell, we’d love to have one ourselves). I’d say that if you see 3-4 of the items on the list though then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re looking at a charter boat. And with that said, perhaps you should then go over and introduce yourselves to them because we all know how much those people on week-long vacations like to party!

English Harbor, Antigua. No doubt there were a couple of charter boats in this crowd!


  1. Stop making fun of us charterers!!!! So right on though!! You forgot….Stoned Drunk!!!

  2. While I realize your list is tongue-in-check, any charter boats are chartered by very experienced and safety conscious sailors who use this service as an opportunity to take advantage of sailing in different parts of the world. I hate to see us all branded in this light.

    • Hi Karin

      Please relax, no part of that list is derogatory. They are simply factual observations. Read it again if you are unclear.

      Second, while I have no doubt that there are a great many sailors who rent charter boats to enjoy the islands who have more experience than we do, to say that ANY charter boat is being operated by “very experienced and safety conscious sailor” is far from fact. That may be true in your case, if you do charter boats, but that is by no means true in every case.

      We enjoy the company of almost all boaters (as long as they don’t anchor directly in front of us with too little scope, and leave all their lights on, and their engine running all night). Like I said at the end, I’d probably want to go over and join them in their fun.

  3. Number 11, they usually have plenty of good chips (corn or potato) aboard to go with all the good booze. Hi I’m over there, lets party, I’ll bring some popcorn and warm beer.

    • Man, you had to go and mention chips? That is my one real vice and unfortunately, they are SUPER expensive here. Popcorn is the snack of choice for cruisers.

  4. Geez, your a bit of a cruising snob. You state that you are just making observations, however this is not your first post that appears to be making fun of charters.

    We just booked our first charter as a way to gain a little more experience before buying our own boat. If we happen to be in the same anchorage as you, please don’t come over and introduce yourself to us. I dont want to end up on your narccisistic blog the next day making fun of us because we are not perfect cruisers, such as yourself.

  5. Mike, what about wasabi peas instead of chips?

  6. Wasabi Almonds and this game, then it’s an evening

    • Haven’t tried Wasabi Almonds but I bet they’re great (and expensive).

      The game looks fun. I have a different sailing trivia game on board that was given to us by our friends Terry and Anneke. I seldom come across someone to play it with me though.

  7. Mike, I think that the real sailors out on a charter will take this as it is intended. The ones getting offended are likely the weekend warriors and not real sailors.

    Me, I don’t have my own boat but plan on chartering one this summer down island somewhere for a week and I am perfectly ok with that and your description.

    People need to relax. Stay well brother and maybe I’ll see you out there. Cheers.

    • Thanks Shawn. if we end up in the same anchorage, you’re more than welcome to anchor in front of us, if you let me dive on your anchor to check that it is set properly. πŸ™‚

  8. Well last time I was on a chartered French catamaran with six other Brits and a Canadian we tied up to a buoy off the Baths at Virgin Gorda and spotted that all the Americans had blow up arm chairs with beer holders tied to their cats! We so wanted some of those (chairs that is though beer would be good too). Must be chartered we said – no-one would be seen dead with one of those tied to their own boat!

  9. Don’t worry Mike, it’s just a “fun” subject, always has been. Did you hear the one about the bare boat charter captain calling on the VHF back to the charter office, “hello, yes we’re wondering what we’re supposed to do tonight to anchor?” The office asks where they are and explains to them that that is a good safe anchorage, you should have no problem. The captain says, “but we haven’t an anchor on board!” The office comes back and says, “Sir there are three anchors on-board every charter boat before it leaves the dock.” And the captain says, ” I know, but this is our fourth night.”

  10. No not pissed off, just giving an opinion. lighten up! Peace.

  11. Hi Mike,

    As always, I enjoy your ramblings πŸ™‚ Having been a charterer myself, I can 2nd & 3rd your observations! (I’m also a live-aboard, so I know a thing or two about making a fool of myself…) I’ve often been entertained watching well-meaning, though perhaps not the most experienced, coming into an anchorage on a charter boat they may not be the most familiar with… After all, charter companies make money by chartering boats out, not by finding reasons to NOT charter to you. One minor observation: I believe Karin made a small typo in her comment. It makes far more sense if you add an “m” to the front of “any”.

    Fair winds,
    S/V Baggywrinkle

  12. It is only natural for charterers, such as myself (although I do own a Catalina 30), to feel slightly β€œslandered” by the post. Most of us, whatever the reason, excuse, life decisions, etc., are not able to cruise full time BUT we try hard to get a bit of the experience in small slices of our vacation time. The observations you make are not only accurate but, in my opinion, expected because charter boats are used in a totally different capacity (as you point out) than boats outfitted for extended cruising. If I could be so brash as to make a request – what I would love to hear about is some of your experiences interacting with charterers (good or bad) and, perhaps, your perspective on whether there is a difference in attitudes and interaction with the culture and environment. I love following your blog and several others. While chartering sometime in the future, I would love to meet some of you β€œcelebrity cruisers” and feel welcomed. Take care. Eric

    • Hi Eric

      I appreciate the non-heated reply voicing your opinion on the post. I have no doubt that those who charter regularly could make a similar, if not more damning post, on how to spot a cruiser / live-aboard. There sure is a lot to critique, I’ll say that.

      As for your request, did you see the following post where I talked about the difference in attitude between vacationers and those of us who cruise long term?

      And if we do ever end up in the same anchorage, do not hesitate for one second to come over and say Hi. The first cold beer is on us! Just check to see that your anchor is set properly first. πŸ™‚ Just kidding!


      PS: LOL @ “celebrity cruisers.”

      • Mike –

        I do remember that post. Thanks for sharing again. As always, I appreciate your humor and witty sense of expressing yourself and your and Rebecca’s travels and experiences. If we do end up in the same anchorage one day, the first round will absolutely be on my wife and I – after you help me set my anchor (or at least inspect). Frankly, even when I am confident that I do have it set correctly I still get nervous when going ashore . . . I don’t sleep well and usually make several trips up top throughout the night to check that everything is copacetic.


        • Hi Eric

          There are times when we are a bit more “on guard” with respect to our anchoring, specifically if the weather is bad (the past week!), if we are too close to other boats or we are anchored on a lee shore. In those cases we too get up to check several times throughout the night. Our experience with having our ground tackle hold us safely in bad conditions has given us the confidence to sleep well most nights though, the main variable then being the other boats around us. I suspect most cruisers feel similarly which is why they are often so upset when someone anchors what they feel is too close to them and especially if the boat in question is Captained by someone with little knowledge on anchoring.

  13. Man people need to lighten up. I’ll be one of those newbie charter boat captains soon enough and I can only hope I run into people as cool as Mike and Rebecca while we’re out there getting a taste of the good life.

  14. Yep, sounds about right…. (in practice, I go on the assumption that if I can see it, it’s helmed by an idiot, until evidence to the contrary is presented).

    A useful addition might be “How to tell the good charterers from the noobs”. Fenders deployed at sea? Anchored at 2:1 scope? Motoring on a broad reach, with sails furled, in 15 knots of wind? Goes straight from all-flying to all-furled instead of reefing? All dead giveaways….

    And I’m not sure where this “true cruisers have jerry cans” thing came from. Jerry cans are a sign that someone’s doing more with the boat than its designer intended. Many cruisers are in that category (and charterers never are), but it’s still a bit of a kludge- the boat’s tanks should have been the right size to begin with.

    • P.S. About the brightly-coloured tenders: It’s my understanding that they do this to make them easier to find when they break loose and end up on shore, which is apparently common in some places. An orange dinghy is a lot easier to spot from a distance than a white one! Charter boat tenders don’t live long enough for UV deterioration to matter; they’re worn out long before that.

      • Where did the jerry can thing come from? Just another of my observations.

        As for including brightly colored tenders just so that they’re more easily retrieved when they “break loose,” that is a whole other item to add to the list right there!

    • > And I’m not sure where this β€œtrue cruisers have jerry cans” thing came from.

      Because virtually all cruisers have them? I can’t remember a single fellow cruiser that didn’t now that I’m noodling on it. Some don’t pull them out except on particularly long passages or passages where fuel costs are going to be extremely high.

      > Jerry cans are a sign that someone’s doing more with the boat than its designer intended.

      Like crossing an ocean? or going to French Polynesia? or visiting places where the fuel docks are seriously nasty places to dock a boat due to surge, lack of fenders, improper piling sizes, shallow depth? or carrying a cat or dog which is not allowed by law to touch shore? or visiting anchorages where there are no fuel docks but only fuel up on shore at the local gas station (e.g. most of Mexico)?

      I can think of many reasons to carry a full set of jerry cans. None of them have to do with the design of the boat.

  15. Hey Mike,
    Dang I sure enjoy reading your blog. AND the comments! Keep up the good work!

    And maybe someday you can dive on my anchor! I’ll bring the chips!

  16. I love this post, especially since so many people are offended by shear observations. You guys are some of the least “snobbish” people I know. Its funny, my wife read the post and is intrigued about chartering a boat now. So I say if good advertising for those guys!

    • πŸ™‚

      Thanks Tony. I honestly don’t think we are snobbish at all, but obviously others think differently. I was actually going to link to some of the popular charter companies. Perhaps I should. OR, perhaps they should sponsor us and advertise on our site???

      • After watching innumerable charters break anchor and drift around in the South Pacific, I willingly step up to the snob plate and own it on your behalf, Mike. Give me all the defensive folks who think you were dissing on charter boat crew. I’m glad they are out there as they support the industry — particularly the production catamaran industry — but we always move when one anchors upwind.

        Thing is… charter boats -are- different in precisely the ways you describe. They are also:
        – Cleaner, smell better, and usually have some awesome toys.

        – The folks on the boat are either white or red having burnt themselves to a crisp. Corollary, you’ll see them actually lying in the sun… sun bathing. Sacre bleu! Cruisers just do not do that. We get too much sun as it is.

        – They have better, fresher food.

        – They often have really cool fishing gear and someone on board whose avocation is catching fish.

        – Perhaps most distinct of all, I’ve seen very few charters that socialize with the boats around them. It makes sense. Cruisers often get in the habit of introducing themselves; It’s our only social life. Charter crews, however, are a universe of their own on a short schedule to spend time with one another not interrupted by the busy routine of land life.

  17. I almost spit my coffee out onto my computer screen I was laughing so hard. I think I would be classified in the middle here. My husband has chartered, but after we got married, I convinced him to buy a boat with a partner so we could decide if cruising was for us. Surely you have a list for us too! We don’t have any jerry cans though as we only get 1 – 2 weeks off of work at a time. My husband is an energy nerd (thankfully) so don’t run the engine very much and not a lot of lights. Lost our awesome “big” outboard when the partner was showing off for his son not realizing he didn’t tighten it down enough and watched it skip across the water then sink. We have a much smaller one now as you described :(. I’m dying for a kayak too, but don’t have one yet. Wish our tender was brightly colored. That might have helped that one time my brother-in-law didn’t secure it properly and it floated away down the Sasafrass river.
    Thanks for the laugh!!!!!

  18. Hey I resemble that remark, or at least that list, times 4 charters πŸ™‚

    #2 on the list and the furled sails in 15 knots of wind don’t apply to us however. Last charter when we can back to the dock we used 8 gallons of diesel the whole 10 days which was really just to run the fridge. Last trip was on a 47 ft catamaran with 4 couples. Had 30 to 40 knot winds the whole trip with some days of 10 – 12 foot seas. Still sailed everyday. One day we were the only boat in the Sir Francis Drake channel, had just a little bit of jib out and nothing more and we were doing 12.5 knots of speed. That was fun πŸ™‚

    Since we just purchased the cruising boat (Island Packet 380) we will have the appropriate amount of jerry cans on deck, the boat came with more than it’s requiste amount.

    Perhaps I will sail with them lashed to the deck even in Minnesota before we set off cruising so people won’t mistake us as charterers….hahahaha

    What good is life if you can’t have a little fun?

  19. Here’s one to add to your list:
    The sails are almost never hoisted, and when they are it’s very likely their sailing under headsail only so they don’t have to mess with the main.

  20. Wow. 53 comments (a this writing)!

    And I would have been even more savage; my blog, my rant. I would have hoped everyone could see the fun. And really, what’s wrong with you guys taking pride in what you’ve accomplished? You should!

    My thoughts, based only upon the Chesapeake:

    a. Second the anchoring drill. Some popular charter destinations must look like freshly plowed corn fields.

    b. In the catagory of “stuff on the rail”: no laundry, no rod holders, no bikes. Jerry cans aren’t needed here; fuel and water are common.

    c. Never in the backwaters, particularly if shallow. Only 4-star spots in the Chesapeake Bay Magazine guide.

    d. No awnings, not counting cats with hard-tops. No cockpit cloths or afternoon sun shades.

    e. No repair project in progress. Real cruisers are always fixing something. Or it must seem that way.

    f. Something broken, not being fixed, and being complained about. Cruisers are either fixing it or laughing it off… or it was fixed with a lashing.

    • The thing is, I wasn’t trying to be mean at all. I could have, given that we have had an improperly-anchored charter boat drag into us and then run away without even an apology. We’ve had many others anchor so close as to cause us a poor night’s sleep. I didn’t want to write about that though. The content of this post simply comes from a “game” that Rebecca and I play where we try to see how quickly we can guess whether a boat is a charter vessel or not. I just listed our “clues.” πŸ™‚

  21. Hey Mike and Rebecca,

    Got an address where we can send some chips?

    Call it our contribution to the ’cause’ cause you need ’em.


  22. Hi Mike,

    Interesting how some blog postings can draw so much more feedback and input than others. You must have struck a chord I would say. It is said that to become truly proficient at a career or vocation, it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated time to that interest. What truly separates the bare boat charterer from the cruising sailor is “time on the water”. Nothing can replace the wealth of experience that comes from repetition.

    For many bare boat charterers, our optics of them fumbling their way through a week to ten days while on the water and in quaint anchorages, is really their once in a lifetime opportunity of experiencing sheer bliss (and they make full use of it). Attention to detail may be lacking at times as often their innocence and naivety of inexperience in many cases follows them through their week. Fortunately, we sailors tend to watch out for one another. I would be glad to help out most charterers anytime so long as they show the same civility and respect to the waters, shorelines and local cultures of the many exotic places we cruisers and them charterers call “paradise”.

    Great job on drawing so much input and feedback to a single blog topic. For the record of those following your blog, I have been fortunate to have shared the same anchorage on a few occasions with Mike, Rebecca and ZTC on a previous trip to the Bahamas, and they are most certainly not cruising snobs. Far from it!!


  23. +1 on the “not snobs” ; two of the nicest and most down to earth people you’ll ever meet.

  24. Oh my gosh…just shut up or do it!

  25. The message was not intended for you Mike and Rebecca! Love and miss you guys!!! Be safe and well!

  26. Some explanations ….
    1.They carry no fuel or water jerry cans on deck, which I’ve already written are the mark of a β€œreal” cruiser. [They don’t need them.]
    2. Their engines and/or generator are running almost nonstop while at anchor, like the boat beside us right now. Just how can they afford to pay for all that fuel? [Why not if you’re on vacation. They have jobs so they can afford it.]
    3.They have a lack of wind generator / solar panels, which obviously explains number 2 above. [ You’ve already answered.]
    4.They have more lights on than an airport runway, also related to number 2. [same as above]
    5.There are 5-6 people on the bow when anchoring, all staring in the water. [Everyone needs a job,]
    6.Their anchoring procedure could best be described as β€œunpolished.” [Really, how was you’re when you started?]
    7.There will often be 3-4 couples on board. They no doubt had to split the cost to pay for all that fuel! [The more the merrier, plus the don’t have to ask for donations to fund their sailing.]
    8. The boat’s tender will often be brightly colored, orange, red or yellow. Similar in purpose to the red roller furling perhaps? [Came with the boat.]
    9.The tender will typically have an underpowered outboard engine. Six people being ferried around on a dinghy with a little 4 HP engine looks a little funny to us. [Again, came with the boat.]
    10.There might be a brightly colored kayak on deck (or 2 or 3). [What do you have against kayaks and colors?]

  27. 11. The main anchor is one that a French accountant considered “sufficient” and is about the size of a cruiser’s dingy anchor.

    (Where do you think the dingy or Stern anchor on a ex-charter boat comes from? :B ) Needless to say the French accountant found something other than a Rocna or Manson sufficient. If I ever find a charter company that advertises having Rocna anchors… πŸ˜‰

    12. The rode is less than 62′ of chain before the splice. πŸ˜‰ ;B

    So if I don’t want to look like a newbie charter captain, I’ll see if I can get a 60lb Rocna past the airlines and the TSA. But how much does 200′ of chain weigh and if it will fit the gypsy, will the windless that French accountant spec’ed handle that much weight? How much are those moorings a night? You did teach us to use two lines. πŸ˜‰

    Mike you put it at the top and it seems many forgot it by the bottom, so I’ll put “tongue firmly implanted in cheek while writing this” at the bottom.

    Fair winds, following seas and “sufficient” ice cubes to you,

    PS: If you are an accountant who doesn’t realise the mistakes of other bean counter accountant’s, then yes I meant to offend you. So just use the same logic when selecting your weapon when you challenge me to a duel. You take the letter opener, I’ll take the cutlass, any knife is “sufficient” like any anchor is. πŸ˜‰

  28. The only reason for #1 is because I’ve scaled back enough like most live aboards and cruisers that all of my jugs fit in the lockers.

    Does oar power count towards #9?

    Yes 2 to #10. No excuse. Sorry we like kayaking, and I think yellow is damn nice kayak color!

  29. Really! Why’s that? What giant piles of gear am I going to need to add, that’s going to fill up my lockers? More importantly, why don’t I get email updates when I comment here.

  30. How to make tortilla chips:


    I saw your comments about not being able to get good chips. Can you buy soft round corn tortillas locally? The kind that you would use to wrap a burrito or fajita? I bet you can in most places down there. If so, you can make your own tortilla chips:

    Enjoy! – We’d love to meet you someday when we realize our dream, which you are currently living!

    Doug & Janet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.