First, let's talk about regulations and what you need to know before confirming any charter. If you have more than 6 people and the charter company is providing a captain, the vessel must be USCG Inspected/Certificated. This is not the same as a courtesy inspection by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. If the vessel is not USCG Inspected/Certificated and the charter company tells you that it's not needed because the boat can carry up to 12 people, it's important to know that the company is offering you a bareboat (also called demise) charter.
So what is a bareboat charter? A bareboat charter means that you, the charter, are taking responsibility of the vessel for the duration of the charter and you must hire your own crew and pay for the fuel. Should something happen to the vessel or one of the passengers, you are legally and financially responsible. If a charter company offers you a bareboat charter but states that you must use one of their captains, that is not a bareboat charter. Additionally, federal regulations state that you should not be "profiting" from your guests in the form of money or gifts.
What is the difference between a USCG Inspected/Certificated vessel and one that is not?
- USCG Certificated Small Passenger and Commercial Vessels are regularly inspected by the Coast Guard to ensure all safety equipment and training of the Captain and crew are monitored. The design of the boat itself is maximized for safety and stability and must pass several inspections.
- What happens during the inspections? Throughout the year, the crew trains for various situations and must demonstrate their abilities to the Coast Guard during the yearly inspection. At this time, the Coast Guard also inspects the vessel systems (engine, fire suppression, navigation equipment, railings, etc.) and reviews cruise logs and crew documents (captains' licenses, enrollment in a drug/alcohol consortium, and a valid CPR/First Aid card). Every other year, the vessel has an out-of-water inspection to check the condition of the hull and seaworthiness of the vessel itself.
How do I reserve my charter and what's included?
Generally, you may reserve a charter one week to one year in advance. Because weekends are the most popular time, Saturday, Friday, and Sunday are the first to book. If you have a special occasion such as a wedding, birthday, or anniversary, you may want to consider booking three months in advance. Since we only operate by private charter, you may pick the time you'd like to cruise. Occasionally, we'll have back-to-back cruises, so we may ask you to be a little flexible with your times.
In order to guarantee the date, we'll send you a contract for electronic signature (DocuSign) and a deposit invoice for 25% of the charter amount; payments are made through Square using any major credit card. Usually, we can hold the date for two days while you review the documents and take care of the deposit. Once the contract is signed and the deposit is made, the date is yours!
The final payment is due two weeks before the cruise date (unless it's a special event charter) and will include the charter balance, prepaid gratuity, and a security deposit. The security deposit is refunded the day after the charter as long as there has not been any damages. The specifics of this are addressed in the contract, paragraph #4.
Your charter includes a USCG master captain, mate, fuel, bottled water, and ice. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available upon request.
What about food, drinks, and music?
Guests are welcome to bring their own food and drinks or use one of our recommended caterers. For more information, please see our catering options page. Regarding drinks, you may bring anything you'd like! Beer must be in cans but wine and liquor bottles are fine; of course, all guests must be at least 21 years age to consume alcoholic beverages. All beverages will be set up for self-service as we are not licensed to serve. We suggest bringing your beverages chilled so that you can enjoy them right away and offer soft-sided coolers for you to use in addition to the refrigerator aboard the yacht. For music, you may Bluetooth to our system / we have six exterior speakers and one inside.
What happens on the day of my charter and what if it rains?
Boarding takes place 15 minutes prior to your scheduled cruise departure. If you're departing from our home dock in downtown St Pete, we'll ask that you gather your guests by the welcome area. A crew member will meet you 15-20 minutes prior to your departure time to escort you to the dock. Please visit our charter policies page for information on weather delays and cancellations.
One last thing ...
The Smooth C's is USCG Inspected/Certificated for up to 20 passengers plus 2 crew. We count everyone as a passenger, even infants. If you have more than 20 people, we're happy to make recommendations of other charter companies who operated inspected vessels.
The expression, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."