Do I need sailing experience to bareboat charter?


The best way to see the Whitsundays is by boat and thankfully, it’s not hard to take a bareboat charter out to experience them.

The most common question we get asked is “Do I need sailing experience to go on a bareboat charter?”.

The simple answer is no. When you choose to bareboat and be your own skipper in the Whitsundays, no license and minimal experience are required.

You might be thinking – are you serious? I’m able to hire a yacht valued at over half a million dollars without a license?! We get it, it’s pretty unique!

Many people are hesitant to book a bareboat and take out a spectacular boat due to their lack of sailing knowledge. However, with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht you’re in good hands. We train and support all of our guests to enjoy bareboating, so much so that most people book again as soon as they return.

Here’s what you need to know about sailing experience and a bareboat charter.

The Whitsundays is one of the safest bareboating destinations in the world

The majority of the 74 Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited National Parks surrounded by turquoise water, sandy beaches and fringing coral reefs.

What makes the Whitsundays an ideal sailing location is that the waters are naturally calm and protected. The outer Great Barrier Reef stops large swells and the scattered islands offer many anchorages and coves to suit all wind conditions.

Whitsunday Islands bareboat

Do I need sailing experience to bareboat charter the Whitsundays?

The Whitsundays is one of the only places in the world which does not require yacht charterers to have a licence or experience.

If you were to charter a yacht in places like Greece or the Bahamas, you would need sailing qualifications and a Marine Radio Operations License. But here, in Australia’s tropical paradise, no qualifications are required to charter a bareboat yacht.

We do suggest that one person on your charter has some basic boating knowledge and we are required to have at least two crew members over the age of 18 on each vessel.

How are we prepared for a bareboat charter?

Before you begin your bareboat sailing adventure, you will receive a comprehensive briefing from one of our qualified team members. 

Your briefing will take 3-4 hours. The sessions consist of an in-depth area overview, vessel operation briefing, safety procedures briefing, and an on-the-water “test sail”, where you practice handling the vessel underway with your instructor.

If the briefer feel you may require some additional tuition, they will arrange to accompany you for the remainder of the day or a few hours.

We provide a comprehensive vessel operations manual on board to answer all the questions you may have about the vessel or its equipment. We also provide a copy of “Whitsundays’ bible” 100 Magic Miles and a local area chart to assist with plotting your charter adventure daily.

All vessels have a marine radio to contact base, and we have a twice-daily “radio sched” where we provide weather updates. In your morning radio sched, you can ask us any questions about where to stay. You will need to have found your night’s anchorage by 4 pm each day, so we know you’re in a safe place for the night.

Navigation in the Whitsundays is “line of sight”. Our waters are partially smooth, and there are plenty of calm and protected anchorage options. Only basic navigation skills are required, which is something we cover in your briefing.

And remember, you don’t have to know how to put the sails up. All of our vessels can be operated with just the motor.


bareboat charter whitsundays

Add a sail guide to your charter

If you are new to bareboating or sailing, you may like to consider adding a sail guide to your charter. Sail guides are a great reassurance if you’re crew lacks confidence with navigating, operating the boat, sailing, using the radio, dropping an anchor and picking up moorings.

A sailing guide can attend your charter for an additional 3 hours while you’re out amongst the islands, or you can even opt to have one stay a night or the duration of your trip. It’s up to you.

* Please note that since Covid we are limited with our Sail Guide service. Chat to our reservations team while booking to see if a sail guide service can be offered at the time of your booking.

Prepare yourself for your bareboat charter

If you are a novice or simply want to brush up on your boating knowledge there are a few ways you can prepare for your bareboat charter:

  • Participate in the Whitsundays School of Sailing
  • Purchase a copy of 100 Magic Miles to familiarise yourself with the Whitsundays before your charter (not essential)
  • Check out “how to” Youtube videos on boating skills
  • Learn how to navigate and how to read a tide chart before your trip
  • Do this quiz to test your boating knowledge
  • Look at courses run by local sailing schools in your area

More tips if you haven’t sailed the Whitsundays before

If you’ve never chartered a yacht in the Whitsundays before, head over to our post on sailing the Whitsundays for the first time. This post will share tips for making your booking so we can ensure you feel supported and an interview with a family who chartered without experience.

Sailing whitsundays kids

The Whitsundays are a pristine and world-class sailing location and taking a bareboat charter out is the ultimate way to experience them.

We have a range of yachts, catamarans and motor cruisers to suit all experience levels and abilities.

If you are interested in chartering a bareboat but you don’t have any experience, please get in touch with our reservations team. We’re happy to answer any questions and help tailor your experience to suit your boating knowledge.



Join us to bareboat in the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore

  Contact us 1800 075 000 or

Why provision for your Whitsundays holiday

Why provision for your Whitsundays holiday

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1800 075 000

+61 7 4946 9232


6 Bay Terrace
Shute Harbour QLD 4802

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Whitsunday Rent a Yacht acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and in particular the Traditional Owners of the Whitsunday's Region, the Gia, Juru and Ngaro People; We recognise their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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