Most charter yachts range from 30 to 50 feet (9-15 metres), have between 2 and 6 cabins, 1 to 4 toilets and showers (known as heads) and sleep from 4 to 12.
Generally, the large the yacht, the more cabins and heads you get, so to an extent the number of berths (beds) you need will determine how big you need to go. But for a given number of berths, there are a range of sizes available. For example, you could find 34 foot yachts with 7 berths and 44 footers with the same number. The latter has 2 heads, the former only 1, but otherwise the main difference is the amount of space you get.
Cabins are usually doubles with the occasional twin or single usually on larger boats. It is also sometimes possible for one or two people to sleep in the saloon. Bear in mind though that the saloon seats may be curved, are often narrow, and may be rather short for taller people. On some yachts, the saloon table is designed to lower to make a double berth, though sometimes the fittings to do this have been lost or removed.
The result is that you may see the same make and model of yacht advertised by different suppliers as having different capacities. For example a three cabin yacht may be described as sleeping six (3 cabins of 2 people), seven (1 in the saloon) or eight (2 in the saloon). The limit is ultimately determined by the number of people the yacht is insured for, so don’t assume you will be allowed to put 8 people on a yacht described as for 7, just because other suppliers (or the yacht manufacturer) list the same model as sleeping 8.
In any case, I would advise against trying to fill a yacht to capacity if you can afford not to. Modern yachts are bright and roomy down below, which is another way of saying there isn’t much storage space! True, the fine climate will mean you won’t need to take many clothes, but if you can afford to have a berth or cabin spare, you’ll be more comfortable. It will also be less cramped on deck. For the same reason, if you are looking for say a three cabin yacht, I’d try to get a medium or large 3 cabin boat, rather than the smallest possible.
The approximate yacht length is given by the model number, so a Sun Odyssey 32 is about 32 feet long. If there are three digits, use the first two, so a 439 is about 43 feet long. I wouldn’t be too worried about taking a yacht slightly bigger than you’re used to sailing – bigger yachts can sometimes actually be easier to handle, you just need to remember the extra length when manouevring. That said, if you’re used to a 30 footer and book a 50 footer, you’re going to find it’s a heck of a lot bigger. Certainly don’t get hung up over the odd foot. The difference between say a 40 footer and a 41 footer might in reality only be a couple of inches – the numbers aren’t that accurate.
If you’re taking a professional skipper, instructor or hostess, don’t forget they will need their own cabin (a skipper and hostess will share, though they may or may not be a couple).
If you’re looking for a small yacht, be aware there aren’t that many yachts under 35 feet offered by Bareboat suppliers these days. Most yachts this size end up on in a Flotilla fleet but if you want to go Bareboat, don’t despair, they can often be liberated! Drop me an email and I’ll see what I can do.
Likewise, those looking for large yachts may find them in short supply, especially in the high season (when they are usually the first yachts to book up) or if you want to take one on Flotilla. Many Flotilla operators will bring in an extra yacht to meet your needs though this may come from another yacht supplier and may be a little more expensive than the usual advertised Flotilla prices.