Skip to main content

Charter Checkout Procedures

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

maintenance-02

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the ...read more

00LEAD

A Force for Change: Captain Liz Gillooly

I first heard about Capt. Liz Gillooly in 2016 from my cousin while working three jobs in our shared hometown on the North Fork of Long Island and living with my parents to save money for a boat. But despite being the same age and growing up only 13 miles apart, Liz and I never ...read more

291726157_3222349914654950_8713674249134934221_n-2-1024x684

Sailing in the Growth Zone

The Goal This year, I’ve had a specific goal to be a better sailor. Some people have laughed and said, “Why do you need to be a better sailor? This was my 22nd year racing on the same boat, with the same crew. I like to win and want to make sure we stay at the top of the fleet. ...read more