Five Tips for a Safer Charter

There’s nothing quite so liberating as being on charter. Not only are you on vacation, you’re on a sailing vacation, with the express mission to explore, enjoy and relax. Except, of course, when things get serious.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

There’s nothing quite so liberating as being on charter. Not only are you on vacation, you’re on a sailing vacation, with the express mission to explore, enjoy and relax. Except, of course, when things get serious. As skipper of a bareboat charter, you assume several responsibilities, the primary of which is the safety of your crew, yourself and your boat. If you want to avoid coming across like Capt. Bligh while on charter, take some time before you cast off to conduct a safety briefing. Make sure everyone attends, including children, and keep your presentation simple and direct. Cover these five topics, and you’ll be one step closer to being able to kick back with confidence.


Safety Equipment

Lifejackets: know where they are stored and how to properly put­ them on. Be sure you have enough for all aboard (including the kids) and check their condition and sizes.

Fire extinguishers: Know where they are, then make sure your crew knows how to operate them using the “PASS” method: Pull (the pin), Aim (at the base of the fire), Squeeze (the handle), Sweep (from side to side).

VHF: everyone, including kids, should know how to use the VHF radio to call for help. Demonstrate how to make a hailing or distress call, how to change channels, how to transmit and receive messages and when to press the DSC emergency button. With kids, emphasize that the VHF is not a toy.

Medical Issues

Locate the onboard medical kit and inspect its contents. Sometimes, charter med kits are under-stocked or contain some expired medications. Address these issues before you leave the base.

Note any significant health issues your crew might have, and be sure they’ve all brought and stowed their necessary meds. For emergency prescriptions like heart or allergy medications, ensure that multiple crewmembers know where they are kept and how to use them. 

Be sure there is plenty of seasickness medicine, bug spray, after-sun aloe and sunscreen on board. As captain, I always pack extra, because I know that a healthy crew is a happy crew.

Communications

For MOB situations, discuss the value of keeping calm. Review how to retrieve the MOB: designating a watch person who never takes his or her eyes off the MOB, stopping the boat and returning to the MOB and getting the MOB back aboard. Find out who can’t swim and keep an extra eye on them.

Determine who will be working with the windlass and demonstrate how to use it properly, keeping hands and clothing clear. Discuss what to do in case you drag anchor or need to sit anchor watches. Identify the windlass reset button in case you pop a breaker at the wrong time.

If there are electric winches aboard, discuss how they work and how powerful they are. Stress the importance of keeping fingers, clothes and hair away from them, and demonstrate how to safely load and ease them. 

Agree on visual hand signals and verbal commands for anchoring and docking. This should minimize shouting from multiple “helpful” parties.

Finally, set a reefing policy. Show everyone how to reef and decide as a group when to reef. Do not let the daredevils drive this decision, as the boat should be comfortable and safe for all aboard. 


Dinghy Operations

Getting in and out of a dinghy may seem simple, but for those who haven’t done it much, it can be daunting, especially in rough water. Show everyone how to board from the boat/dock/water and how to operate the outboard. Decide who keeps the outboard key and run through raising and lowering a dink on davits. Emphasize the importance of driving slowly through anchorages and around swimmers. Keep the Capt. Morgan poses to a minimum and make sure everyone is seated while under way.

Security

Agree as a group how the boat will be secured when everyone is ashore. Some charter groups like to lock the boat down like Fort Knox, while others leave it all hanging out. The key is to make sure everyone is on the same page. Decide where valuables like cash, jewelry and passports will be kept. Consider whether to raise the dinghy at night or just tie it to the side. Much of this will be decided based on where you’re chartering, so heed the advice of the charter company.

This may seem like a lot to cover before untying the dock lines, especially as everyone will be anxious to get going. In your briefing, stress the importance of preparedness. You can’t anticipate everything, but a predetermined emergency protocol could mean the difference between a small problem and total calamity.

Related

Ari-video

Ari Huusela Finishes the Vendée Globe

After 116 days at sea, Ari Huusela (Stark) has crossed the line and brought a close to the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe. He is the first Finnish skipper to complete the race. In a race this difficult, making it to the finish is a victory in its own right. Though the last ...read more

NewportBoatShow

Newport International Boat Show Announces Dates

This year marks half a century for New England’s largest boat show, and the celebration will be in person. In a statement released yesterday, Nancy Piffard, Show Director of Newport Exhibition Group said, “We are excited to kick off the boat show season in-person this year… We ...read more

Screen-Shot-2021-03-03-at-9.48.03-AM

World Sailing Trust Launches Global Participation Study

Two years after its global survey on women in sailing, the World Sailing Trust is surveying the entire sport in order to assess equity, diversity and inclusion. The survey will be conducted bi-annually to monitor trends and progress. "By researching the sport, the aim is to ...read more

01A-LEAD-Finished-table

DIY: A Better Saloon Table

The original saloon table in my Down East 45 schooner was a single heavy sheet of 3/4in laminated plywood, 27in wide by 57in long. It was supported on two substantial aluminum pedestals locking into a set of large round collars screwed to the sole. There were two annoying ...read more

02b-screen-shot

Salty Dawgs Recognized by CCA

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) has long been the go-to organization for high value, affordable rallies, but when Covid forced the sudden closure of borders in the Caribbean, it pivoted to organizing the Homeward Bound Flotilla. Its experience organizing rallies came ...read more

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more