Charter Checkout Procedures

Author:
Publish date:
Paying attention during a charter checkout can make a big difference down the road

Paying attention during a charter checkout can make a big difference down the road

One of my favorite parts of a charter is the checkout. I know, weird. But that’s the time I learn the boat that will be my charge, my baby and possibly my headache for the next week or two. I get right down into the bilge, engine room and anchor locker, because I have people depending on me to make their vacation a good one. There’s also no better time to get waist-deep into whatever issues a boat might have than before leaving the dock.

I find most checkout guys to be wizards. They’ve had to McGyver countless crazy problems with limited spares on tight turnaround schedules and know their boats’ gremlins like their own kids’ quirks. I’ve therefore learned to listen more than I speak. I’ve also learned to make myself heard whenever I see something wrong and to not let the checkout manager off the boat until I’m satisfied. This, not surprisingly, has resulted in some funny and even ridiculous sea stories.

During one checkout, for example, I noticed the bilge pump was cycling needlessly and making an incredible racket. When I pointed this out, I was told to just turn it off at night so people could sleep. Nope, bilge pumps are safety items, so that wasn’t going to happen.

As a second try at a brushoff, I received a long mansplanation on how a variable-speed pump works. When I pointed out that this was not how the pump was behaving, the guy finally agreed to put in a new one. The next bit of bad news was that the pump in the other hull (this happened to be a cat) was in the same condition. I was then told they had no more new pumps, after which a stare-down followed, which resulted in his coming back an hour later with a pump he had clearly cut out of another boat. Despite our having wrangled well into the first night of our trip, we ended up sharing some rum later, and the pumps worked flawlessly the entire charter.

Over the years I’ve also learned that “half-listening” is another way you can get yourself in trouble. “If the batteries are dead, just come down here and combine them, turn this and that off, and then start the port engine first,” was one bit of advice I should have paid more attention to. “Why would the batteries be dead when I’m such a good steward of onboard power management?” I thought, not letting what I was being told really sink in. Sure enough, a few hours later, we didn’t have enough voltage left for the windlass or fridge, and every morning I got only a click when I tried to start the engines. On the plus side, I could get through anchoring, cooling and starting the boat every day by remembering all that the checkout manager had told me before setting out. However, what I really should have been paying attention to was what he wasn’t really telling me, which is that the boat had a worn-out energy-storage system.

Another classic occurred with a watermaker. A boatload of newbies almost always equals water issues, so watermaker procedures are at the top of my must-know list. One evening, I ran the generator for three hours to make water and got zip. After much consternation, I figured out that a faulty water-quality sensor was rejecting good water, so I had put gallons of perfectly adequate water into the lagoon instead of into my tanks. In retrospect, I realized my ears should have pricked up back at the base when I was told, “If there’s a problem, do this and that for a bypass.” Again, key information often comes to you in disguise. You have to listen between the lines if you will.

My favorite bar-time story (besides the time a gentleman at the helm had his hearing aid off during a crucial narrow-passage maneuver) is my “Tale of the Alarms.”

It all began when a checkout manager once told me, “If all the alarms go off at the same time, come down here, flip these three switches, start the genset, etc.” Sure enough, on our first Med moor, I dropped the anchor, started backing for the dock and every alarm on the boat immediately went off causing all heads in the harbor to turn. Worse yet, I’m embarrassed to say the exact same thing happened at the next six harbors. Finally, it became clear there was a short in the windlass that was instantly bringing the voltage below 10 volts—at which point we quickly became that day’s source of amusement.

The good news is that today’s charter companies are better than ever when it comes to taking care of their boats. Nonetheless, during the checkout, listen carefully, speak forcefully and take plenty of notes. The dividends this will pay both you and the charter company down the road are worth the extra effort. 

April 2020

Related

210722_PM_Tokyo20_4910_5979-2048x

Olympic Sailing Guide

The Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Games is finally here. From July 24 to August 4, sailors from across the world will be gathering on six courses on Enoshima Bay to race for gold. Ten classes will take part in the event: RS:X (men), RS:X (women), Laser Full Rig, Laser Radial, ...read more

01-LEAD-TobagoCaysHorseshoeColors

Chartering: Voltage is King

For some time now, both in the pages of this magazine and with individual charterers, I’ve talked about how important it is to pay close attention during a charter checkout. The idea is to listen “between the lines,” as it were, to be sure you aren’t missing any hidden red flags ...read more

AC75-No.-1

ETNZ May Abandon New Zealand

Remember when the Kiwis were the young, underfunded upstarts of the America’s Cup world, with right on their side as they took on the Big Bad Americans? Remember the withering criticism leveled at Larry Ellison when, in the wake of “The Comeback” on San Francisco Bay, arguably ...read more

01-LEAD-EX26_1119_dehler_30od_race_2nd_077_web_4zu3_300dpi2048x

Boat Review: Dehler 30 One Design

I’ve long believed that while they may not be as much fun, the best sail trials are the ones that take place in drifters since it’s then that a boat’s performance—or lack thereof—really becomes evident. Pretty much any boat is fun to sail in 15 knots of wind. That said, there’s ...read more

01-LEAD-Opener-DJI_0026-2048x

The Multihull Industry’s Major Builders

It’s a given that boatbuilding these days is a global industry, with sailboats going down the ways everywhere from the icy waters of Scandinavia to the South China sea. This includes the manufacture of multihulls—no surprise given their birthplace in the far-flung islands of the ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_6614

Cruising: BVI Passage

Baking at the helm, watching a newly arrived bird eyeing me suspiciously—as if this was his ship, and I was the one who’d just flown in—I knew I was unraveling. For two days now we’d been becalmed, sails flogging on the open Atlantic, and in a snap moment, I saw—all too ...read more

00-silken_2012-08-19-0145

Cruising: Beetle Cat Sailor Families

When you talk to Beetle Cat sailors, it’s immediately apparent you’re talking about more than just a 12ft 4in catboat. “It began with my great-grandmother, who bought a boat for her four sons in 1928. They named it after her, called it the Queen Mary,” says New England Beetle ...read more

01-LEAD

Cruising: A Lake Superior Circumnavigation

By the time I awoke it was already too late. I knew something was wrong before I’d even fully struggled out of my sleeping bag, before I’d unzipped the tent and was standing out on the wet sand of the beach. In front of me there was only one boat where there should have been ...read more