For first timers a choosing a yacht holiday can be a confusing process.  Here's ten tips to help navigate a course through the world of private yacht charter.

Aye Aye Skipper: A skippered charter relieves novice sailors from day-to-day stresses, including navigation and port procedures, whilst allowing full participation in actually sailing the yacht.  Skipper-plus-chef is another a popular charter combination.  Both are excellent ways to test the waters in respect of private yacht holidays.

Crew:  The captain and crew keep everything shipshape so the time is yours to enjoy and take in the sights.  Aboard ship relations can be very relaxed - a necessity on smaller vessels, or more formal on yachts with larger complements of guests and crew.  Participation is welcomed aboard some sailing yachts, though if your planned level of activity goes as far as nursing a cocktail on the sundeck, that's just fine.

Dare to Bare:  Bareboat - it's all in the name, you rent the boat and that's it, so prior sailing knowledge is best if you're not to end up all at sea.  Charter brokers require proof of competency and most will arrange courses to refresh old hands or bring novices up to muster, even providing a skilled skipper for your first few days afloat.  Provisioning, fuelling, all port administration and costs are the hirer's responsibility.

Full Ahead or Hoist the Mainsail?  The terms 'sailing' and 'yacht' are subjective, aspirations depending upon interpretation.  Motor yachts seem an obvious choice for those unable to tell their sheets from their halyards.  However, if you're a skipper, availability of fuel and mechanical failure can be as taxing as the vagaries of the winds.

Mono or Multi?  By far the vast majority of sailing charters are mono-hull yachts.  However, on smaller vessels, the relatively larger multi-hull living area, particularly above deck, is significant - importance of personal space cannot be underestimated.  Stability too is improved aboard a catamaran, an aspect most obvious at anchor.

Signal the Fleet:  Prefer the privacy of a bareboat but still ill at ease with navigation?  A flotilla of like-minded skippers could be the answer.  Organisation can be fairly loose - these aren't Baltic convoys - but common courses are followed, and the spirit of camaraderie skippers look out for each other.  Flotilla charters are a favourite with families keen to hook up with playmates for their kids.

Set a Course:  Charters prove most popular amongst island groups where short hops within the same country are easily achieved e.g. Greece, Croatia and the British Virgin Islands.  For bareboaters in particular a readily accessible anchorage without customs hassles or tedious harbour administration allows more focus on the simple pleasures of holidays afloat.

Shipmates:  If you're chartering a yacht the size of a frigate enforced intimacy is unlikely to be a concern - and anyway, you can always escape via the ship's helicopter.  Aboard vessels of more modest proportions, choice of company, consideration for each other and respect for the crew is important - after all everyone is in the same boat.

Shipping Forecast:  Weather is an inescapable aspect of life at sea.  Most sailing charters don't operate when hurricanes and tropical storms are likely.  However, less dramatic seasonal swells, inclement temperatures and stifling humidity should also be considered, particularly on smaller yachts without air-conditioned cabins.

Superyacht:  You may not know Bill Gates or Roman Abramovich but you've probably attended some of the same dinner parties.  Seamanship is not a prerequisite for this style of charter - that's why you're paying the crew.  Though avoiding running costs that would sink a battleship, you'll still need to pay charter fees upwards of £100,000 per week - and keep smiling.

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