It was not that long ago that I boarded my first ever bareboat charter. The excitement with which we approached the catamaran is something I still feel today. This was to be the greatest vacation of our lives. The top of the bucket list was going to be checked off.
A bareboat charter with my family.
The dream of this sailor.
Yes, it was the greatest trip we had ever taken up to that point. Our subsequent bareboat charters have surpassed our first as our favorite but the very first time on a catamaran in the Caribbean is still a lifelong family memory that will last our lifetime.
However…we made a few mistakes. A blown fuse meant that we had to pull up an anchor by hand. (Not easy) We fouled a prop and had to cut off the line with a serrated bread knife. We ran out of rum, twice.
Here are a few tips on things that you can do before you toss the lines on your first bareboat charter
These tips are from “A Sailor Gets a Refresher Course” by Peter Isler, American Sailing Board Member
Ahead of time:
These are things to ask the charter company when you are planning your trip – before you start to pack or shop for provisions.
- Confirm what kitchen utensils and staples are on board. Make a list like you would for going camping and run through that list with the charter company.
- Confirm how you are going to make coffee or tea underway and at anchor. Our boat had an electric AC drip coffee maker – great at the dock – but pretty useless and cumbersome when underway or even at anchor.
- Confirm what bedding will be on board. An extra blanket can come in handy on a winter night at anchor.
- Is there a barbecue? Are all the necessary supplies also included?
- Towels & soap. Imagine cruising for a week with one tiny cheap motel room towel (our boat had great towels) and a tiny bar of soap. You may have to bring your own rubber ducky!
When you check out the boat:
- Video the briefing on your phone (at least the key parts like the electric panel and major systems engine operation). Because it’s guaranteed you will forget some simple little step in some important system.
- Make sure your full crew attends the briefing – not just the designated skipper and experienced sailors… that way you don’t have to teach everyone again later.
- Safety Equipment – from life jackets to fire extinguishers – make sure you are the world’s expert in your boat’s safety stuff.
- Operation of all the boat’s systems Engine, Water, LPG, Heads, Charging etc. This is one you will probably want to video for review… it took me a few days before I was really facile with switching from “shore/mooring” mode to underway mode.
- Docking – every boat has its own unique low speed motoring characteristics – don’t be too proud to ask for tips from someone who has run the boat before. Docking/mooring/anchoring can be the most stressful time of your whole cruise – so do all you can to set yourself up for success.
- Extra line and tools. Know what your supplies are on board – and ask the charter company for more if you think the supplies are too thin.
- Fuel and Water levels and expected consumption. You don’t want to be stressing about this stuff underway.
- How to moor the boat and how to anchor the boat. Run through all the systems and get the tips from someone who has done it before – they are probably experienced in the mooring situation where you are going cruising so make sure you get all the info. Also ask how/if the anchor chain (or rode) is marked for judging scope.