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Continued from the January 2011 ASA E-Newsletter

Bareboat Chartering Essentials
Bareboat Charter Checkout (What to Expect when you Arrive Onboard)

By Captain Lisa Batchelor Frailey , ASA Instructor and ASA School Owner

Your bareboat charter date is finally here!  You and your crew (and hopefully your luggage) have arrived safely at the charter base, and you’re ready to board and get underway. What can you expect now?  The Bareboat Charter Checkout!  Don’t think of this as just a paperwork drill; knowing what to expect and planning accordingly can help make this process smooth, efficient and very rewarding. You’ve planned your charter carefully so far; now follow these tips to make your Charter Checkout a learning experience that pays big dividends.

Read Ahead.  It’s true for any sailor - the more you know about your boat, the better.  You can learn a lot about your charter boat before you ever leave home, so try these resources and do a little homework.

  • Charter Company – see what your charter company has available regarding boat specs, layout, photos, equipage lists, inventories and checkout forms. Some of these may be posted online or available upon request. These materials may be fairly generic, but it’s a good start.
  • Online yacht brokers – if you chartered a reasonably standard production boat (e.g. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, Hunter) you’ll have lots of online options. Manufacturer’s websites proudly display photos, layouts, and specs of their latest models. Sites like Yacht World are excellent places to research new and older boats. Realize that the specs will include add-on equipment (electronics, generators) which may or may not be on your charter boat.
  • Electronics vendors – suppose your charter boat is equipped with Raymarine electronics. Check the Raymarine Owner’s Manuals site and browse or download to your Type-A heart’s content!
  • Bareboat Charter materials – break out your ASA text for a review of systems and checklists, or get a “Bareboat Charter Supplemental Information” packet from an ASA school (e.g. Sail Solomons).

Welcome Aboard. When you arrive at the charter base, you’ll be welcomed by a staff member who can help get you settled onboard and orient you to the charter base facilities. Here you’ll learn the briefing process and schedule, where to select snorkeling gear (if provided), and the location of shore-side heads/showers, nearest groceries, recommended restaurants, etc. If you plan to arrive after-hours, be sure to coordinate with the charter base in advance. 

Documents, Please. Charter companies frequently require photocopies of passports or ID, and signatures on liability waivers or charter company policy statements. You’ll also need to leave a security deposit for the boat – a credit card imprint, cashier’s check, or cash. Check the policy before you leave home to ensure you’ve got the correct currency. If you’d like the charter company to assist with post-charter transportation logistics, bring a copy of your departure information. 

Sleepaboard. Most charter companies offer the option of sleeping aboard the yacht the night prior to your charter. Sleeping aboard gives you to time to stow your gear and provisions, and to get acquainted with the boat before your morning checkout brief. Some companies will give Sleepaboard Skippers a late-afternoon checkout brief upon arrival, as time and staff permit. A Sleepaboard is a great way to acclimate to the weather, and to decompress after a day of travel. Caution – marinas are often sheltered from the prevailing breeze, so you may want air-conditioning or a good fan while dockside in a hot, humid environment. In most cases, a Sleepaboard allows for a quicker get-away on your first charter day.

Inventory. Your charter checkout will involve verification of the yacht’s equipment inventory. If you delegate the inventory to a Mate, emphasize the need for accuracy. Be sure the person taking the inventory actually eyeballs or touches each inventory item – no “pencil-whipping!”  Here are a few very good reasons to complete the inventory accurately:

  • You’ll want all the inventory items onboard; the tool kit does you no good if it’s back at the base!
  • Identifying all the inventory items familiarizes you with their location. You’ll be able to find the items quickly when or if they’re needed – especially key for safety equipment.
  • You are responsible for any loss of inventory items. If you said you had all 8 life jackets on departure but you only had 6, then you’ll be paying for 2 upon return.

Provisions. Pre-ordered provisions may be dockside (or already loaded onboard) when you arrive. Bring along your order form and verify that you received all the provisions you ordered. Meat-lovers, be sure you didn’t accidentally receive the order for the Vegans in the next slip! If you’re self-provisioning, a Sleepaboard night gives you the opportunity to purchase and stow your groceries before the checkout process begins. Streamline your checkout by sending the provisioning team to the grocery store while the Skipper does the inventory and boat brief. Stow provisions so you can easily access and find items. Apply tactical fridge storage techniques to minimize the waste of cold air. Refer to Bareboat Charter Provisioning in ASA’s Sep 2010 E-News for more.

Boat Checkout Brief. This is probably the most critical aspect of your charter checkout, and warrants the full attention of the Skipper (and a Mate, if feasible).  In most cases, boat checkout briefs are personally conducted on your boat by a member of the charter staff. At very large charter bases, you might be briefed on a similar model boat. Plan for a full hour to go through the sail plan and controls, ground tackle, topside gear, power and domestic systems. A few tips:

  • You may have scheduling options – ask early to secure the most suitable time. Some charter operators will brief you on the afternoon of your Sleepaboard.
  • Engaging a large crew in the brief may be counter-productive. Better to have the Skipper and Mate participate, who then brief the rest of the crew afterwards, as appropriate. By “re-briefing” you’ll learn the material even better, and discover any information gaps.
  • Start with a ship-shape boat to allow easy access to systems, thru-hulls, controls. Stow your gear in advance, or wait until after the brief to bring your bags onboard.
  • Don’t try to impress the briefer with your knowledge, or they may gloss over areas that you need to hear. Listen carefully, even if you know the boat well. Every boat has nuances and you’ll always learn something new (which may come in very handy during your charter).
  • Take notes as needed, and ask if there’s an operations manual onboard for future reference.
  • Be absolutely sure you know how to reef the sails; verify that reefing gear is properly rigged.
  • Demonstrate operation of key functions (e.g. engine start, windlass operation), and get as “hands-on” as the briefing permits. The more senses you engage in the learning process, the better.
  • Study the battery bank and selector switches - is the engine start battery isolated from the domestic battery? How much battery capacity do you have? What is the recommended recharge process?
  • Ensure that fuel and water tanks are full, and that holding tanks are empty.
  • If you’ve ordered extra electronics gear (inverters, MP3 players, etc.), check that the gear is onboard and functioning properly.
  • Don’t forget the dinghy! Test the outboard motor and the towing painter.
  • If you have questions – ask. Now. That’s why the briefer is onboard!
  • Verify procedures for departure and return of your boat. Is the staff available to assist with docking? Must you refuel or pump-out before return?
  • Ask whom and how to call if you have questions or problems while on charter. Note the cell phone number and VHF channel. 

Chart Brief. The chart briefing reviews the local cruising grounds, prevailing wind/sea conditions, popular itineraries, recommended anchorages and cruising restrictions. The briefer’s local knowledge is priceless, so listen carefully! Notes to consider:

  • Large charter companies generally have a scheduled group briefing which the Skipper and Mate attend. Small companies may conduct a personalized brief onboard your yacht.
  • Assuming you’ve planned your itinerary (see Planning an Itinerary in ASA’s Dec 2010 E-News), keep your plan in mind as you listen to the brief. Be flexible and prepared to adjust your itinerary based on the briefer’s advice. Ask specific questions without disrupting the group brief.
  • Learn the best source for local weather conditions – can you easily call back to the charter base for updates? Discuss current/near-term weather forecast implications on your planned itinerary.
  • Ask if there are other groups or events (races, festivals?) that may impact your trip; flex accordingly.
  • Be sure you have adequate charts and a cruising guide onboard your boat.

Andiamo! Use the Bareboat Charter Checkout process to your full advantage. Glean as much information as you can from the Boat and Chart Briefers – never underestimate the value of local knowledge. Streamline the process by using your time and crew efficiently, but don’t take shortcuts. Once your Charter Checkout is complete, brief your crew and get underway. Happy Sailing!

About the Author:  Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey is an ASA Instructor and co-owner of Sail Solomons Sailing School & Yacht Charters. She has received and performed myriad charter checkouts! Lisa is also an independent charter broker with extensive chartering and cruising experience in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Chesapeake Bay.

Copyright © 2010, Lisa Batchelor Frailey
All rights reserved. 


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