Thursday, May 23, 2024

Last April, Chris Kotchick, a Scranton, Pa., oral surgeon, and his family spent a week on a chartered catamaran in the calm, clear waters off the British Virgin Islands. A crew of two — part of the deal — ran the show.

Until then, Dr. Kotchick said, the sum total of his nautical experience had been riding ferries. But his search for a vacation that would appeal to his wife, Bridget, a high school biology teacher, and their two teenage children led him to a 50-foot-long boat, which they used as a base for swimming, snorkeling, wake-boarding and scuba diving as they sailed from island to island. They slept onboard and mostly skipped onshore restaurants, wowed by the crew-cooked meals that could be shared with their daughter, who has celiac disease.

As to cost, the trip was, for them, an affordable splurge — just over $20,000. “It wasn’t that much more than the blowout Disney World vacation we took when the kids were younger,” said Dr. Kotchick, adding that two others had joined the family on that trip. “And it was a lot more fun.”

Though the image of yachting in the Caribbean skews more oligarch than average Joe, the Kotchicks are far closer to typical crewed yacht clients than the likes of Jeff Bezos aboard his schooner, which is more than 400 feet long and cost a reported $500 million. After a pandemic lull, more people of comfortable, but not necessarily extraordinary, means are booking these trips, and the trend is edging higher. According to an April 2023 report from Fortune Business Insights, the global charter yacht market — including both crewed and sail-it-yourself, or bareboat, charters — is expected to grow 5.5 percent by 2030, with yachts under 40 meters (about 131 feet) accounting for the largest share.

Because the cost includes a crew, passengers don’t need specialized maritime knowledge, which means the trips draw a variety of travelers.“Some of our clients are more into active sports, and others prefer relaxing with a book or checking out onshore restaurants, bars and resorts,” said Carlos Andrade, a captain who, with his wife, first mate and chef, Marib…

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