Chartering with Non-sailors

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Three tips on managing the madness

First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, everything is new. That includes living aboard a small moving platform, conserving water and understanding what a captain can and can’t actually do in terms of making them comfortable. The second group will likely present more challenges for whoever is in charge. However, there are a number of things you can do to help.

Get information

As captain of a non-sailing crew, you’ll need information, so ask lots of questions long before the charter begins. Does everyone swim and, more importantly, have they ever done so in open water? Swimming in a pool isn’t the same as snorkeling in a choppy seaway. Does anyone have medical issues? Privately ask each person for a list of medications, so you know where to start in case someone becomes ill. Is anyone prone to seasickness? Bring extra medication anyway. No one ever thinks they’ll be the one, and they won’t be prepared. Can everyone afford the trip? There are expenses on charter well beyond the initial fee for the boat and provisioning, including fuel, water and mooring/docking fees. People on tight budgets tend to get tense as costs escalate. How often will the group want to eat out versus cooking aboard? The idea of preparing meals and doing dishes can leave some folks feeling like they’re working on their vacation. Others won’t want to spend a lot of extra money ashore, which can cause chafe.

Provide information

Assume nothing and explain everything. You may be ready to talk a group through how to anchor, hoist the main or tie a cleat hitch, but be aware that’s already the advanced stuff. Start out by telling them to bring soft-sided luggage and to pack less (much less!) than they might otherwise. Share the provisioning list, at the same time making sure they understand all final provisioning decision are up to you. They need to understand that provisioning in other countries has limits, and that they likely won’t be able to indulge in their preferred brand of wine or favorite treats. Explain why you’ve chosen a particular itinerary. If things change, be prepared to explain why—for example, if its due to a change in the weather or safety concerns. Explain that running out of daylight isn’t an option, so you might need to pull into a different cove than the one you’d originally planned on. Stress safety at every turn—how to hold on, where not to put items like glasses, computers and phones, and how to enter and exit a dinghy.

Expect to provide more comfort

People who are used to vacationing at resorts may experience a bit of culture shock when they realize chartering is a working vacation and that room service isn’t available. Try to charter a boat with a watermaker. If that’s not possible, scope out places to purchase water along the way to avoid shortages. Expect to run the generator more than you might be used to in order to have the necessary power for AC or running curling irons. More and more charter boats run gensets all night long these days for these very reasons. Remain ever vigilant in general. It doesn’t matter how many times you may have explained how to grab a mooring or board a dinghy. Be prepared to lend a hand. Best case scenario, expect to still be tired by the end of your trip.

The good news is that when a group decides to charter, it’s usually a mix of boaters and non-boaters. The key to is manage your expectations and think ahead. Only you know how much planning goes into pulling off a successful cruise. You’ll have to be prepared to move the boat every day; you’ll need to be ready to mix up activities like snorkeling, hiking, shopping and dining to keep everyone both busy and entertained; and you’ll have to find ways to get more freshwater aboard—again! It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, and if you do your job right, you’ll not only find yourself having a good time, but you may even get a chance put your feet up every now and then. 

March 2022

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