Bareboating typically refers to the activity of chartering a boat without a captain, crew, or provisions. In order to charter a boat like this, a person will typically need extensive sailing experience and the means to prove it. If a chartering company or boat owner is not convinced that an individual has the requisite experience, the application may be denied or the charterer can be required to hire a captain and crew. For the duration of the bareboat charter, the vessel's owner typically relinquishes legal possession to the charterer. A wide variety of vessels are often available for bareboating, usually within the general range of 30 to 60 feet (nine to 18 meters) in length, though large commercial vessels can also be chartered in this manner.
There are some legal differences between bareboating and other forms of chartering. In voyage or time chartering, the individual or company that owns the vessel retains legal possession of it for the duration of the charter. The charterer will typically have the right to direct the course of the vessel, but will have no other legal rights or responsibilities. In bareboating, the charterer typically takes legal possession for the vessel, and either operates it himself or hires his own captain and crew.
A bareboat charter can be obtained for either commercial or recreational purposes. In shipping, the charterer typically takes legal possession of the vessel and becomes responsible for all costs associated with its operation including crew salaries, insurance, and port fees. One type of bareboating that is often associated with commercial operations is demise chartering. This form of charter typically lasts for a number of years and ends with the charterer purchasing the vessel.
Recreational bareboating typically involves much shorter time periods. This is often used as an alternative to yacht ownership, as short term bareboat charters can offer many of the benefits of owning a boat without tying up a large monetary investment in a vessel. Another benefit is that bareboat charters can typically be obtained in a wide variety of different locations without the need to physically transport a vessel between them.
When a group of people put together the money to bareboat charter a yacht, they may choose to hire a captain and crew or to name one of their own party as a master. This typically must be a highly qualified individual in order to satisfy the requirements of the charter company or boat owner. Even though the whole group charters the yacht together, the single individual named as master of the vessel will typically assume the same legal responsibilities of a charter captain for hire.