About Sailing & Chartering in Cannes
Anchor in a tranquil cove surrounded by pine forest, stop for a night at glamorous Saint Tropez, or drop anchor under the towering cliffs of Monaco. Explore the cobbled streets of ancient Roman towns and shop in the luxury boutiques of Cannes.
Whether fishing, sailing or just relaxing on a deckchair with an icy glass of rose is your thing, your holiday on in the South of France can only be improved by getting on the water.
But what kind of boat should you hire, do you need a license, and what are the hidden costs? Whether a dayboat or a superyacht, this guide has been put together to answer your practical questions about chartering or renting a boat on the French Riviera. For destinations and planning your sailing itinerary, please see here.
When to come
The water gets very busy (and prices rise) in July and August, but never fear- June and September are gorgeous months to be on the water, crowds are less everywhere you go and the temperature is a lot more pleasant. The boating season officially begins in April, although weather can be variable, and October can see some stunning (and stormy) days. In these months, you can often find yourself out sailing in warm sunshine, looking up at the snows on the Alps that loom above the coast.
One of the greatest drawcards of the French Riviera is the weather- with light breezes, minimal tides, calm seas and sheltered anchorages in the summer you have perfect yachting conditions to enjoy, and it’s not uncommon to see yachts, kayaks and dinghies out on a warm mid-winter’s day. In the summer the water temperatures are about 21-27 degrees (70-80 Farenheit), so it’s ideal for all types of watersports. However, the South of France is sometimes subject to the strong Mistral wind which tends to visit in winter and spring- for more information see our safety section.
Charter costs & taxes
Given the range of boats available for charter, it is impossible to give a definitive price guide, but here’s a rough indication. Please remember that your charter fee only includes the cost of the boat itself (and the crew if you have one); you will have to pay for fuel, food and drink, berthing fees and any tip for the crew on top of that.
Dayboat rental starts at about €200 for a low powered dinghy for up to 6 people (no toilet) and rises into the thousands for the fast powerboat options. You can rent for half a day, but it’s normally about 80% of the cost, so it’s advised to enjoy the whole day on the water if you can afford it.
For yachts with accommodation to sleep families or groups of friends, a yacht charter actually can work out to be relatively economical given hotel costs in summer on the Riviera.
You can expect to find bareboat sailing yachts, with small accommodations, starting at about €1500 a week, rising into the tens of thousands for the more spacious and crewed. Catamarans are generally more expensive due to their larger volume and accommodation spaces. These boats will normally come with one tank of fuel and water and a dinghy (extra for a motor in dinghy). And maps (‘charts’ if we’re going to be all nautical about this.)
The very smallest superyacht will cost you about €30 000 a week, and can rise up to a million euro for one of the megayachts you’ll see in Monaco or Antibes. (And no, that still doesn’t cover your fuel berths fees or food, in case you were wondering.)
Berths: Berths along the Riviera are expensive, so save money if you need to by anchoring for free or tying up to one of the mooring balls for a smaller fee. Spend the night rocking gently at anchor and looking out over the shining water at the lights of the famous towns along the coast.
Food: Yachts with accommodation will come with cooking facilities, so save costs and enjoy the moment by cooking up feasts with fresh-caught fish and ingredients bought from the market, and sit at a table on deck under the stars.
Fuel: The type of yacht and itinerary you decide on will make a huge difference to the cost of your yachting holiday. In short, if you’re worried about money, then either charter a sailboat or plan to cover just a short section of the coast to save on fuel. The average charter burns about 3 hours of fuel per day, and it’s generally about €1.20 per liter (or about $3.00 per gallon) of fuel. If your boat uses 40 gallons of fuel per hour, then you’re looking at around €50 an hour for fuel- so probably about €150 a day for smaller boats- and much (much much) more for go-fast boats and superyachts!
Sailing yachts are obviously the best option if you want to avoid high fuel costs, although with the gentle winds of summer, you won’t get there as fast! Also, if there is no wind and you have to rely on the motors in sailboats, you will not set any records. As a general rule, a sailing itinerary will take twice as long as the same route by motoryacht.
Fast motoryachts like Sunseekers absolutely guzzle fuel, so be wary- ask your yacht rental company for advice on how much your itinerary will cost you in fuel.
Superyachts : For a 50 metre superyacht, expect to pay about €5000 a day in fuel, and that’s just at cruising speed of 10 knots. If you have to worry about that fuel bill, you’re not ready to charter a superyacht; it’s an eye-wateringly expensive exercise. However, if you aren’t planning to travel far along the coast and you anchor off rather than paying berthing fees, a small superyacht still works out quite economically when compared to a 4 star hotel if there’s a few couples on board.
If you want to hire a fast superyacht, budget for even higher.
Tipping: If you have a crew, it is customary although not compulsory to tip. On crewed motoryachts and superyachts, it’s ‘very customary’, and the crew will definitely think they’ve done something wrong if you don’t tip. The standard rate for tipping is 5-15% of the charter fee. Give it to the captain on the last morning before disembarking; be sure to ask if it is shared evenly between the crew.
Tax: A new EU ruling has given France a smack on the hand and insisted it brings in VAT tax on yachts in line with European regulations. Dayboat rentals will generally have it included, but expect to pay VAT of 19.6% on top of your charter. However, the French govt is covering 50% of that for now, so in reality it is 9.8%.
Security Deposit: For bareboat charters you will generally have to leave a security deposit (normally just a credit card impression) to cover any potential damage or breakages- so make sure you have a good look around the yacht when you take charge of it, and document any existing damage-with photos if possible- just like you would a rental car. You can insure against this amount as well.
Insurance: All rental providers must carry insurance, you can ask to see these documents prior to signing the charter agreement if you wish. You can take out insurance against losing your security deposit, normally for around €100.
Extra costs for bareboat charters: You will have to pay a cleaning fee of between €50 and 150€. Linen rental is also extra.
Remember: food and drink is never included in the cost of a boat charter, so provision well! Always buy filtered water ashore.
More hints on saving money: Go straight to a broker that has no middle-men, particularly when you’re hiring dayboats- there are often up to 4 different people putting their mark-ups on these transactions! This doesn’t happen in the more expensive ranges of yachts as there are contracts to prevent it, but find out if your yacht charter rental goes straight to the source (yacht owner or manager) or goes through a third party. Boat Bookings is one company with a good reputation for going straight to the source where possible, although there are many others. Many yachts will be listed with numerous companies, and some companies will even offer price matching guarantees.
When to book: It gets mighty busy in these parts in July and August, so book well ahead!
These range from low-powered dinghies to high-speed powerboats. Dayboats require that you have the boat back by 6pm. Perfect for a fun day trip to the Cannes islands, exploring the pretty coves of Cap d’Antibes, or fishing.
If you are after a powerboat without a skipper, it will require a large deposit and certification, and the boats available are rarely over 40 feet.
(The following types of yacht are normally chartered by the week, although there are exceptions. Contact a yacht charter company for more details. )
Super Yacht: Motor /Sail
Large crewed yachts over 24m, sleeps 10-12 guests in absolute luxury. Spacious cabins and onboard entertainment systems, Jacuzzis and water toys.
Motor Boats: Bareboat /Crewed
From dayboats to motorboats up to 24 m, some with accommodations, ranging from low powered to high powered fast boats. Please note: If you don’t have a crew onboard, then it is unlikely you will be able to rent a powerboat for more than a day.
Bareboat/ Crewed : A wonderful sailing and adventuring experience for exploring the coast and its pretty coves and towns, although not as spacious as other options. This is perfect for those who love sailing, and those who want to learn! (This is the cheapest option, both on charter fee and fuel.)
Catamarans: Bareboat/ Crewed
More spacious, very stable, great for families with bigger cabins and deck space. Not as good under sail as monohulls and can get pushed sideways a bit in the wind, but better in shallow anchorages as the draft is less than on a monohull. Generally a better choice for inexperienced sailors. The kids (and adults) will love stretching out above the water on the netting at the front of the boat.
The French Riviera is one of the world’s greatest yachting playgrounds, so it’s no surprise that the region caters to every wish when it comes to chartering a boat- from a little day boat to a superyacht. For a list of the many yacht and boat rental charter companies, visit our listing pages here.
What is Chartering/How to Charter?
Quite simply, chartering a boat is renting it for a specified time, and there are a plethora of companies on the French Riviera that will help you do just that. However, there are lots of different types to charter so it helps to know what you’re looking for, and also what is included in a charter.
Types of Boat for Charter & Licenses Needed
As mentioned, you can hire any kind of boat imaginable on the Riviera, but here is a breakdown of the types of yachts for charter, whether you want one for an afternoon, a week or a month.
Bareboat vs Crewed :The biggest choice to start out is whether you want a bareboat (uncrewed) charter or a crewed charter. Bear in mind that superyachts are always crewed, and it’s only the smaller and less expensive yachts that have a bareboat option, particularly sailboats. A bareboat charter is a wonderful experience where everyone on board pitches in with navigating, sailing, cooking and cleaning. Drop anchor when you want and enjoy the freedom!
Licenses for bareboats: If you do decide on a bareboat charter, one person on board must be an experienced sailor or captain with a license. In France, a license is almost always required for a motorboat rental (see exception below), while it’s a bit more grey for sailboats- often you can charter a sailboat if you can show you have the experience. If you’ve chartered before that also counts in your favour, so take the proof!
The accepted license is the International Certificate of Competence (ICC). If you already hold a license from your home country, normally you can fill out an ICC application and send it to your licensing body (for instance the RYA). Your local yacht club will be able to help you with licensing and courses.
You can also hire a skipper on a bareboat charter, generally for around€ 250-300 per day. This is a great option for those who want to avoid the stress (and liability) of navigating in the busy waters of the Riviera- and a local skipper will know all the best spots!
Without a permit: While most boat rental companies will require you to have a license or proven experience, there are small boat companies in ports along the Riviera where you will see ‘bateaux sans permis’ on the signage: this means you don’t need a permit. These low-powered boats have less than 9 horsepower and there are strict regulations as to how far you can go from shore.
Moorings & marinas
Whilst out chartering your boat in Cannes you will undoubtedly need to stop and make use of the local moorings and marinas in Cannes, which have berths available for small fishing boats, right up to the growing sector of the superyacht category and of course your yacht.
While the winds tend to be quite gentle in the summer months, the Mistral, a howling cold northwesterly wind that can reach up to 100 kms an hour. You don’t want to be out on a boat in that. The mistral tends to visit in the winter and spring, and is particularly violent in the transition between those seasons.
The cruising along the French Riviera is very close to the coastline, so unless you’re planning to spring off to Corsica in your charter yacht then just keep a good eye on the weather and ask at your boat rental company for advice. Also always bring a waterproof jacket in case the weather turns or a wind comes up- it can get cool on the water at night.
As mentioned above, the water gets very busy along the Cote d’Azur in summertime- be alert at all times- swimmers, divers, high speed tenders and jetskis can all come out of nowhere.
If you have any doubts about your sailing capabilities whatsoever and no-one on your boat is a skilled sailor, then just fork out the money and hire a skipper. You’ll enjoy yourself more without the stress of wondering who has right of way when a big yacht comes bearing down on you!
Sailing with Children
Make sure your children wear a lifejacket AT ALL TIMES, never let them run around the boat or be unattended on deck, and make sure they don’t swim alone. Don’t take really long trips between ports, rather stop off along the way for treasure hunts and beach picnics to keep them occupied. Get them involved in the navigation and sailing to give them new skills and a sense of accomplishment.
Location: Riviera / Cote d'Azur