International charters

Most charter yachts never stray from their home waters.  But there are a couple of places where you might be tempted to go international and take you charter yacht across the border in to the next country.   So is it possible?  The short answer is yes but there are reasons why you may not want to, or may not be able to!

Yacht operators are generally unenthusiastic about you taking their yacht to a foreign country.  This is firstly because it can be difficult to provide support should the yacht need attention, secondly because there may be issues with the yacht’s insurance.  So the first thing you need is clearance from your yacht supplier who will also be able to advise the best way to tackle the formalities.  They may also have to give you paperwork not normally kept on the yacht to enable you to clear customs.

"Now don't forget your flag etiquette darling"

“Now don’t forget your flag etiquette darling”

In the Mediterranean, the main opportunities for international sailing are between Croatia and Montenegro, and between Greece and Turkey.  At present, the first of these seems straightforward, the latter is more variable.

The basic process is the same (at least in theory): You have to leave from a port of entry, getting the crew and the yacht signed out.  You sail to a port of entry in the second country and get the crew and the yacht through the entry formalities.  Since none of the yacht operators  allow one ways between different countries, you then have to repeat the process in the opposite direction to get you and the yacht back to the country you started in.

Quite how difficult and expensive this can be (in time as well as money) depends on:

  • The extent to which you follow the rules (and to my surprise, several yacht suppliers I recently questioned actually suggested processes that aren’t entirely legal)
  • The extent and accuracy with which the rules are applied on the day.  This shouldn’t be a surprise – I’ve frequently found Greek harbour charges can vary from day to day for the same yacht, even when the same official is doing the calculation! Officials also get relocated, so an easy going entry point one day can become a jobsworths paradise the next!

So lets say you want to take the yacht you chartered in Turkey over to Greece. Firstly you obtain permission from the yacht operator and ensure you have the necessary original ships documents aboard, not the photocopies often used.

You then have to check you and the yacht out of Turkey through a port of entry such as Bodrum, Marmaris or Fethiye.  This would be straightforward if it only meant visiting one office, but usually there are several involved, spread across town.

You will then need to check in to Greece at a port of entry such as Kos, Symi or Rhodes which again can involve visits to more than one place. On leaving, you need to then reverse the process in Greece, then again in Turkey.

Fees are payable to the authorities and unless you really fancy fighting your way through the bureaucracy yourself (which will certainly take time), it’s recommended you use local agents who will know the process, but who will also need paying. So by the time you’ve finished, expect to have shelled out between £100 and £400.  It does also take some time as the process only goes on during office hours. Doing it all in the other direction can be a little more expensive as you have to buy a Turkish Transit Log and Visa.

Your yacht supplier may suggest some short cuts – there are places you can visit across the border where a blind eye will be turned for example.  They may also suggest you don’t actually check out of the first country, but just check in or out at your destination.  Which is fine but the authorities do watch traffic going backwards and forwards, and checks are made.

Last but not least, don’t forget to take and use the right flags.  Turkey in particular is very proud of it’s flag so if you roll in to port flying a Greek courtesy flag you’re asking for trouble.  That said, a tatty Turkish one is little better – I once had a whole flotilla impounded as the local official deemed some of  our Turkish flags to be disrespectful, due to the level of fraying and fading. With no flag shop in town, it took several hours of sewing and colouring in with felt tip pens before we were allowed on our way!

There are two alternative ways to see both Greece and Turkey.  There is a Flotilla that takes in both countries and if you’re lucky, your flotilla crew may do the formalities for you (though you still have to pay).  Otherwise if you’re only going over say to see Rhodes, check out the ferries – it can work out cheaper to do it as a day trip.