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F . A . Q's

When booking

What experience do I need?

Skipper experience: We do not require any "license" for you to charter however we must ensure that your skipper has sufficient previous experience on a vessel of at least the same size. The skipper has to have an understanding of practical seamanship, navigation and the maritime regulations (Rules of the road at sea). Our online booking form includes a "skippers experience" section which must be completed before your charter can be confirmed. This includes details of the type and size of vessel, location and duration, plus the skippers age and occupation. We will also take in to account the previous boating experience of your crew. If in doubt call us to discuss which vessel would be best suited to you.

What do I do if I would like to charter bareboat but do not have a lot of practical experience?

By prior arrangement the Compass Charters can provide tuition in all aspects of boat handling, navigation and seamanship. These tuition options can vary in length, group size and can emphasize certain subjects. Such as berthing/picking up moorings tuition to longer sail training or the general working of a boat sessions. Requirements can vary widely so please contact us to discuss your what will suit you best.

What are your charter start times?

Your charter can start anytime between 0900hrs to 1500hrs, dependant on availability. Typically your start time will also be your charter finish time on your last day unless additional hours have been opted for or otherwise arranged.

All briefings must begin no later than 1600hrs, any late arrivals after this will incur a "late arrival" fee of $48.50/hour.

Where do you pick up from and drop off to?

A1 or Picton Shuttles can be contacted and booked for pick ups and drop offs anywhere within Picton and Marlborough. They MUST be pre-booked by you and payment made to them direct on the day. Contact them on : Picton Shuttles : 0800 252520 or 03 573 7122

What if the weather is bad?

Compass Charters cannot give a refund based on adverse weather. In exceptional conditions we reserve the right to delay the start of a charter based on the weather, where at all possible time will be made up at the end of the charter. See full cancellation policy in our "Terms and Conditions".

We highly recommend taking out a travel insurance policy to cover your charter for the unlikely event of any weather or maintenance issues.

What is the climate in/around the Sounds

The prevailing wind in the Sounds is from the Northwest. Spring and early summer can have a few weather fronts passing over. The rest of the summer, autumn & early winter are quite settled & ideal for cruising.

The Sea Area for the Marlborough Sounds is COOK. The closest major town forecasts are for Blenheim.

Summer typical daytime temp 20' - 32' (high) to 10' to 14' (low). The enclosed waters of the Marlborough Sounds mean there is no risk of an ocean swell in the inner Sounds. A wind driven chop may build during the day, affecting the main channel but it will still be possible to find a calm anchorage. 

What are the Survey limits for the vessels?

Yachts: All vessels 38ft or less operate in the Queen Charlotte Sound. On a 39ft or bigger vessel, depending on your experience and length of charter you can cruise the Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, circumnavigate D'Urville Island and cruise part of Tasman Bay. You are not allowed into the Cook Strait turning right at Koamaru or out of East & West Head. 

Launches: Queen Charlotte Sound only.

The larger yachts are surveyed for a minimum of "restricted inshore limits" which includes Queen Charlotte Sound, Pelorus Sound and D'Urville Island (the larger vessels also include Golden Bay) A minimum of 7 days (yachts only) is required for a vessel to exit Queen Charlotte Sound and you must advise us at the time of booking if this is your intention. Facilities (moorings, fuel, water) are more limited outside of Queen Charlotte Sound.

No vessel may cross Cook Strait. No vessel may exit out of Tory Channel.

Runabouts: The runabouts are surveyed for "enclosed water" meaning they cannot exit out of Queen Charlotte Sound or Havelock. Please advise us of your intention to tow the vessel at the time of booking.

If staying at a bach out in the Sounds, please check with us that it is within our survey area, this particularly applies to some Baches in Tory channel.

Is it possible to pick up and/or drop off the boat at Havelock?

It is possible to begin and/or end your charter in Havelock. The relocation fee is based on the skipper/crew plus travel costs for skipper/crew to destination by road and/or water taxi. Fuel for the relocation is an additional cost. Relocations to other places are also available. Please enquire for further details.

Can we start or finish our charter somewhere other then Waikawa Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound?

Yes, there are a few places we will relocate vessels from/to (subject to availability). It is the best if you start in Waikawa but it is possible to start somewhere else if other bookings allow it. Relocation fees vary, starting from $200 + fuel depending on locations. Please enquire for further details.

What time would my charter start?

You can nominate your charter start time between 0900hrs and 1500hrs. (Late arrivals for onboard accommodation must be pre-approved and will incur the "late arrival fee")

The finish time of your charter is the "handover" time which is the same as your start time unless you have opted for extra hours (up to 4hrs). You must allow time to refuel, berth, clean/tidy up and unload before the "handover" time. Charter briefings are usually, if time allows, scheduled to begin approx. 1- 2 hours prior to charter start.

How do I get to the your charter base?

Compass Charters base is located in Waikawa Marina about 5 km from Picton in the Queen Charlotte Sound.  We are accessible by car, train or bus to Picton, Cook Strait ferries, SoundsAir flights to Picton/Koromiko/Blenheim airport or other flights into Blenheim.

Ferries: InterIslander and Bluebridge ferries run between Picton and Wellington a number of times a day. The ferry terminal is in Picton itself, transfer to our BASE in Waikawa should be arranged in advance with one of the shuttle companies. Contact them direct on Picton Shuttles : 0800 252520 or 03 573 7122 to make a booking.

Picton Ferry/Train and Bus: We offer 1 direct transfer each way pre charter (pick-up / drop off) between 0900 and 1600hrs for charters 5 days or longer. Just notify us when you book. 4 day or less charters should book the shuttle in advance or ask for our assistance to make the booking. Payment can be made direct or through us.

SoundsAir: SoundsAir have a shuttle service that can bring you straight to our Base. This option needs to be booked in advance direct with them. They also provide pick ups at the end of your charter from Waikawa Marina, times and pick up location need to be arranged with SoundsAir direct.

Blenheim Airport: We can provide you with the number for a shuttle company who can meet you and bring you straight to our Base. Payment for the transfer is paid direct to them. If you are flying with Sounds Air, they have a shuttle bus that will bring you to our base for a small fee but this needs to be organised with them in advance.

By Car: We are just 5 minutes from Picton Town. You can find us on Google maps, Compass Charters Ltd, Waikawa.

What is onboard accommodation?

For $30 per person or $15 for under 16 year old's, this enables you to stay on board your boat in its berth in the marina for the night before your charter, which starts at 1000hrs the next morning. Arrive here at the base between 1400 - 1600, once the paperwork is complete, we'll take you down to the boat and settle you in for a Loo's, LPG & Lights brief. You should have already read the PDF manual which is sent to you at the time of booking your charter. Then you and your crew can settle into the vessel for the evening and really familiarize yourself with all the vessels buttons, switches and systems as well as all the inventory and safety equipment. Then the next morning you receive a full "Safety & Systems briefing starting no later than 0900hrs (usually 0830hrs) - we need your "1st Mate" present for this full briefing as well. The briefings can take from 1hr to 2.25hrs to complete (depending on skipper's Q's) as we give full safety and systems briefings for each vessel. You are then free to leave that morning. There are 1 restaurant and the Waikawa Boating Club here in the marina only a short walk away. Your charter handover time will be 1000hrs on your final day, or you could opt for an extension of up to 4 hours. (see rates schedule)

I like to do or arrange other things while on charter but do not know what is available or possible?

The Compass Crew can help you with any questions you may have. Just let us know what your interests are and we will assist you plan your holiday to make the best of the time you have here in the Sounds.

Can we take the runabouts to Nelson Lakes?

The runabouts with registered trailers can be towed to the Inner Sounds and Pelorus. Please enquire to make sure your location is in our surveyed area.

How much is the Security Bond?

A Security bond is payable PRIOR to charter commencement, we accept Visa/MasterCard - (NO AMEX sorry). Bond amounts: Self-drive (Bareboat) charters for all vessels: $3000 for all vessels. Skippered Charters have a Fuel/Service bond of $3,000. All vessels are fully insured against fire - marine & collision risks - third party liability.

On Charter

Are we given a Safety and Systems Briefing on the boat and a run down about the area

Yes, when your charter is confirmed you will be emailed a copy of the PDF Vessel Safety and Systems Manual for you to read prior to your arrival here. On arrival you will have a chart/area briefing at the office once the paperwork is complete. Your skipper will then be fully briefed onboard on all the Safety and Systems specific to your boat before signing off the "briefing sheet". You should not leave the marina until you are 100% confident with all of the systems aboard and their operation.

Are there Resorts out in the Sounds to visit?

There are several resorts for you to explore and eat ashore at while out in the Sounds. More details are included in the 'onboard info' pack.

Do you have moorings that we can use?

Compass Charters have a network of moorings available for your use while on charter. A copy of the "Moorings Manual" is onboard each vessel. We do not "book" moorings at any time and we also do not offer recommendations or itineraries as conditions can vary hugely between our location and yours.

Can we move around in Daylight hours only?

Yes. All vessels must

be secure on a mooring or at anchor for the night at least 2 hours before sunset and until 1 hour after sunrise (as per the NZ Almanac).

Are we in VHF Radio contact with the Base while onboard?

Yes. All vessels have a marine VHF onboard. You are required to call in once a day, when you are secure on your mooring for the day. We listen out on the VHF (Channel 1) daily and are contactable on it until 1900hrs. Marlborough Marine Radio Association also monitor the VHF from 0700 to 2200 daily.

The geography of the Marlborough Sounds will limit some cellphone reception but reception is pretty good most of the time ( and you can charge it aboard if you bring a 12V car charger). It is an ideal emergency contact and we would appreciate you leaving on at least one contact mobile phone number.

Where can we get Provisions from?

Our base is in the Waikawa marina, approximately 5 minutes drive from Picton. There are "Fresh Choice" and "Four Square" supermarkets in Picton.

Provisioning: We can arrange to have your provisions delivered prior to your arrival, just let us know and we'll send you a provisions list as a guide for ordering or send us a list. There is a 10% surcharge and a minimum $25 order.

Online shopping: Fresh Choice now offers online shopping. If you do opt for this service please note there is a $30 loading fee for any deliveries to Compass Charters organised by yourselves (online shopping etc). Also please let us know that a delivery is coming so that we are expecting it as we are not always in the office.

If you would like to provision yourself, the Fresh Choice is the bigger of the 2 shops and has a good selection available (including Gluten Free foods). They can often provide a van to bring you to the Marina once you have completed your shopping or they can call a shuttle for you if the van is not available, please discuss this with them on your arrival at the shop.

If you're overnighting in the marina the "Jolly Roger Bar" in the Waikawa Marina provides a good "pub" meal. The is NO shop in Waikawa.

Is there much tidal range?

In Picton there is not much of a tidal range, 1.5m at springs but there can be a notable current in places in Queen Charlotte Sound. However, Pelorus and Nelson both have much greater tidal ranges and very strong currents in places. Onboard all our vessels are Almanac's and charts for reference to tides and current.

Can we fish while onboard?

Absolutely. Fishing is a very popular pastime here in the Sounds. No license is required for Saltwater fishing here however you must at all times adhere to the Ministry of Primary Industries Fishing regulations. Please make sure that you have a copy of these before doing any fishing in the Marlborough Sounds or download the MPI app (NZ Fishing Rules). The most commonly caught fish are, Blue Cod (in season), Gurnard, Kingfish, Snapper, Red Perch, Kahawai and Terakihi, all great eating fish! Fishing rods can be hired from the base for $10 per rod per day and we have bait and tackle for sale in our shop. To avoid disappointment please book your rods in advance.

Scallops cannot be taken for the foreseeable future. This fishery is currently closed to protect scallop numbers in the region.


Click below to see all our Boat Rates, Additional Services info and Rates, Season dates and Discount structure. As well as additional info about Bonds, Onboard accommodation etc. If you need a quote, further help or information please contact us.


Quick Quote

Simply give us a few details about your proposed charter and we will send you an obligation free quote back for consideration. It's QUICK and EASY,  just click below to take the first step towards your floating holiday.


Compass Fleet

Compass Charters' diverse fleet consists of fully equipped and well-maintained yachts, launches and runabouts. If you need help choosing which vessel to charter, just contact our crew and we will be happy to help you. 


Compass Fleet



Here's what our clients have been saying about us.

"Thanks to you and the Compass Charter team for the great day we had in the amazing beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Would love to come back within 12 months although not sure if I will be able to manage that. For sure I will connect again when ever I will be in New Zealand." - Chartered Orion

"Thank you very much, we really enjoyed our trip and are telling our friends and family that Compass Charters are a good company to deal with and offer great holiday opportunities." - Chartered Okoromai

Contact us now - spaces are filling up fast for the 2019/20 season!

Special Offers

The longer you charter the more you save! Our MULTIDAY DISCOUNT has proved very popular so we are continuing the offer for the 2021/22 season.

Now is a great time to get your crew organised, book 6 months or more in advance and get an additional 5% off your daily rate with our "EARLY BOOKERS" discount - make the most of this offer before the opportunity passes.

To view our latest Special Offers click here.

"Multiday" AND "Early bookers" discounts can be used together during eligible periods.


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