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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

Read about the pros and cons and cast your vote !

by Steve
March 2008

(Our last poll on 'BVI beachbars' was the most popular yet - see the results and read some of the comments from readers. Polls are always kept open so feel free to vote on any past articles.)

I can imagine some readers wondering, 'what possible cons could there be?' There are actually some definite downsides, and widely varying opinions on how important air conditioning is on a bareboat.

Generators and air conditioning for yachts has been around for quite some time, but apart from a few pioneers, bareboat companies didn't start adding A/C equipped boats in any numbers until about 5 years ago. Many would be surprised to learn that probably less than 2% of Caribbean bareboats actually have gensets and A/C.

Today, they're gradually becoming more prevalent as companies compete and customers expect more luxurious bareboats. Expectations seem to be reset every decade or so. Ten years ago it was a great selling point to have an autopilot, an inverter, or a RIB dinghy, but today these are required items. It therefore seems somewhat inevitable that a few years from now, air conditioning will be the standard.

The positives to having an airco-equipped boat are pretty obvious. It can certainly assist sleeping on those nights when the wind dies, or rain squalls blow through and you get sick of closing and opening hatches all night long.

The negatives are bit harder to pin down, but mostly revolve around cost - not just monetary, but the cost of frustration at un-met expectations. The direct cost is obvious. Various bareboat companies choose different methods to pass the cost on to the customer. Most simply charge a higher overall charter fee, some charge a flat rate for usage, some simply charge extra fuel, (although you can bet the latter considered the short supply of A/C equipped boats when they set the charter fee). Either way, you pay more for an air conditioned boat.

The indirect cost is the impact on your vacation when the cool air suddenly stops flowing. You've paid more to have the luxury, promised it to your friends, and you rightly expect it to work. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is one of the most likely thing to go wrong on the boat. So when it stops working, you look at the control units, perhaps open a compartment or two, turn it off, turn it back on, all to no avail. You then of course call the company to come out and fix it, which for the most part they do quite quickly, but this is still cutting in to your vacation time. It's hard to place a value on the disruption. Would you really have missed it if it had never been there? Those Caribbean breezes blowing down the hatch feel pretty good!

Generally, it's not actually the airco unit itself that goes haywire, but the generator. They're incredibly fickle devices and require far more maintenance than any other piece of equipment on the boat. Most manufacturers want the oil changed every 100 hours. If you've ever chartered a boat with a genset, think about how much time you ran it that week. Of course in the bareboat environment, the oil simply can't be changed every 100 hours. Even with the most diligent bareboat companies, the odds are quite high that your air conditioning will give you trouble or fail completely sometime during the week.

The real question is how necessary is it? This of course is different for everyone, and certainly depends on the time of year. In the Caribbean, I personally don't see the need for it anytime the breeze is blowing over 8 knots, which from November through April, is a pretty reasonable bet.

I've only chartered one boat that had airco, and I confess that I did use it every day, but sparingly in what I dubbed as 'equalizing' the cabins. The daily sequence was to sail until about 3 or 4, then anchor or moor. I found that if I shut up the boat, turned on the airco until just around sunset, the boat had been cooled down enough. With no more direct sunlight we could open up the hatches and the boat stayed cool enough to be comfortable sleeping all night without re-firing the genset.

For me, it's much nicer to have fresh air and listen to the uniquely calming sounds of being at anchor, than to breathe freeze-dried air and listening to the drone of a generator all night long. Even with a good installation, on any bareboat you will hear and feel the generator. Was it nice to have? Yes. Would I have missed it if it weren't there? No. The latter philosophy, (and little use), being probably the only reason it never failed on me!

But we'd really like to know what you think. How important is it to have air conditioning on your next bareboat charter?

Past charterers - let's hear from you!
We should stress this survey is for BAREBOAT charters. All but the smaller private crewed boats have A/C and the reliability issues are taken care of by a permanent skipper. Some people might consider this a good reason to choose a private crewed yacht over a high end bareboat - the price isn't always so different.

CLICK HERE TO CAST YOUR VOTE - and add comments if you wish!

View the results for this and past Newsletter Polls

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  Ed Hamilton & Company
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