How to Rent Your Own Private Yacht

I blame Gwyneth Paltrow.

Mike and I’d been discussing taking the boys to Greece about the same time that I came across an issue of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle newsletter. She’d just spent a week aboard a private yacht and was raving about how wonderful the experience was. There was a link to book your very own private yacht, which I assumed would be way out of our budget. Turns out, it was surprisingly affordable.


Ben aboard our floating home for the week, rented through Yachts and Friends

Let me put “affordable” into perspective. As a family of four with two teenage boys, we’re typically looking at two hotel rooms per night, particularly in Europe with its single-bed rooms. We were also interested in visiting several of the Dodecanese Islands, which would have meant lots of short charter flights to get from one Greek isle to the next. We wanted to do some diving, which meant hiring boats to get us to dive sites and back. With the two aforementioned teenage boys, we also appreciate the opportunity to cook a few of our meals while we’re traveling and save on restaurant costs.


At anchor in Bozuk Buku, Turkey, a quiet bay beneath the ruined castle of Ancient Loryma. Our boat is the one on the left

Add all that up, and the nearly $4000 USD we paid for a week aboard a private boat through Yachts and Friends was on par with the expenses we were already estimating for this particular trip. Plus, there were several benefits we couldn’t have gotten with traditional travel — namely, that our boys learned to sail.


Zack (left) and Ben (right) learning to sail with captain Max

As Ben and Zack learned to maneuver a ship through the sea, here are a few things that Mike and I learned on our week aboard the yacht:

  • You’re required to hire a captain. We had no problem with this, since neither of us knew how to sail. Our Yachts and Friends captain, Max, handled all of the technicalities of the boat so that we were free to relax. He also gave the boys sailing lessons, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Expect to feed your captain. While we knew that any food we brought on board the boat for the week was also available for Max to eat, we did not expect that he would eat all of our food. We bought six plums; Max ate six plums. We bought two cases of beer; Max drank a case by himself. We were also expected to pay for all of his restaurant meals, and he ate at the same places we did, ordering big entrees rather than affordable options. To put it into perspective, he ate more than both of our teenage boys combined. The cost of groceries and restaurant meals in many Greek island ports can be high since most things are imported, and this was a huge add-on expense that we were not anticipating.
  • Your captain will go everywhere with you. Unless we were paying for some kind of extra excursion, like scuba diving off Pserimos or renting scooters to visit the volcano on Nisyros, Max tagged along wherever we went. The boys enjoyed hanging out with him, but I need some alone time every now and then, particularly after being on a boat for a week. If you don’t want your captain to follow you around, then don’t feel obligated to invite him like we did.
  • Have realistic expectations about the size of the boat. When we tell people that we hired a private yacht, they tend to imagine a grand sailing vessel. Those are certainly available for rent, but we had a more modestly sized boat that was like a floating RV. Below deck, it had three bedrooms (one of which was used by captain Max), two very small bathrooms with showers, a living room, and a little kitchenette. After taking our travel trailer across the United States and back, we’re accustomed to caravan life, so this was probably easier for us than it might be for some, but it’s still tight quarters.
  • If the boat’s a-rockin’ … take some Dramamine. I’m a sailor’s daughter, and I’d never been seasick prior to this trip. However, I was queasy from the moment we set sail, particularly when we hit major winds that blew the boat sideways. Dramamine makes a non-drowsy natural version with ginger, but I prefer the less-drowsy, higher-strength version myself. Especially since Max drank half my alcohol.

The horizon is upright. The boat is not.

All in all, it was definitely an adventure. We saw the Dodecanese Islands in a magical way, and we made some wonderful memories that we hope the boys will never forget during our time in Greece and Turkey. Would we rent another private yacht in the future? Probably not. Are we glad we did it this time? Absolutely.

So, thanks, GP.