New 2 sailing

Here are the few advises, we can give to the rookie skipper, booking his first charter cruise. How to book your boat, how to make the first check-in and properly prepare for your cruise. For seasoned charter skippers, it's also good to check their knowledge and procedures to escape mistakes, made out of overconfidence.

It's important to point out from the very start that a charter company bears a great responsibility. The seaworthiness of the boat itself, the operability of its life-saving and navigation equipment is the responsibility of the charter company. That is why, as a rule, any charter company complies with the obligatory minimum requirements concerning the engine, steering, standing rigging, sails, navigation equipment and boat insurance. However, any charter company is run by humans, and they are prone to making mistakes. Here we will review the key matters and issues faced by any skipper.
Choosing destination, charter company and a boat
First of all, you need to decide on the region where you want to sail. Stay away from “difficult” regions (north of Spain, south-east of Italy, north of Africa – Tunisia, Egypt): these are not “charter” regions and although there are lots of sailboats around, they are privately owned and you will have to negotiate directly with the owner or with a private broker. In a difficult situation, the local broker will most likely send you off to deal with the boat owner directly.This can be a problem if any dispute will arise. Efficient defense of your interests can prove difficult if at all possible. 

For your first charter cruise choose the region, where your training took place: this way you will avoid extra stress from the unfamiliar weather conditions, berthing locations, port procedures, etc.

If possible, charter the same boat you had your first training on, or find a similar one. Think of your first driving experience: it will be much easier to steer the familiar boat. 

Choose the optimal route, combining adequate periods of sailing and rest. Do not overreach. Best time to spend at seas is 5-7 hours per day. That way you will have enough time to recuperate on shore. 

Licensing and Suchlike
Along with your booking request, it’s advisable to send a copy of your skipper license. If your license is not made in English, attach a translation.

Any national license is valid for a bareboat charter. European charter companies have more confidence in RYA, IYT or ISSA licenses. In UK you are obliged have a RYA license (tidal), and sometimes even have a second RYA licensed crew member. In other case your charter request will be dealt with according to your "sailing CV" that may not satisfy the charter company. In Croatia you are required to have a VHF-licenced person on board, and some charter companies in Greece require the presence of a second skipper or a confirmation that you have another experienced crew member (co-skipper).

You must understand that a charter company is bound by insurance terms and conditions, as well as its obligations to the next charterer, so they may deny you the charter if they are not quite confident about your qualifications. So, before you are going to charter a boat in Normandy, UK, Norway or on German North Sea shore, check if you are properly licensed to skipper a boat in tidal waters.

 Very often the charter company won’t ask you for your license, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to have them with you. 
When the choice of destination and boat is made, we proceed to book the boat. There is a difference between a reservation/option and booking as such. Before you pay for the boat charter, you have 3 to 7 days to sort out all the formalities and clarify the details. Different charter companies use different approaches. As a rule, the price is made up of the following elements: the charter cost for the period, cleaning, optional extras. Some companies offer the so-called “charter pack” that includes bedlinen, cleaning, dinghy outboard motor, and sometimes Internet access. Many companies play little tricks by indicating only the cost of the charter itself in answer to your request and “forgetting” about cleaning, which is mandatory. You can opt against the outboard motor, and many Europeans don’t take bedlinen preferring to bring their own sleeping bags, but there is no way you can bypass cleaning, even if you return the boat in an immaculate state. The charter price never includes the cost of spinnakers and gennakers, and a separate deposit may be charged for these sails, sometimes reaching up to 3,000 euros. That is why an offer with a higher initial price turns out to your advantage as it already includes all the extras.
Once you’ve sorted out all the details, you need to make an advance payment of 30 to 50%, and pay the remaining balance within the term stated in the charter agreement. Please remember that in 100% of cases the advance payment is non-refundable, and if you decide to cancel the charter, then, depending on the remaining time before the start date, you may lose either the advance payment or 100% of the charter price. On rare occasions it’s possible to move the charter to a later date. Whatever your booking arrangements are, it’s a good idea to ask for the charter agreement beforehand and read it through at home. If you intend to divert from the usual routes, i.e. if you plan to cross state boarders, you must enquire about the region where you are authorized to sail.
The boat check-in includes several steps: the execution of documents, payment of deposit or deposit insurance, and the check-in itself (technical acceptance of the boat).
When you book the boat and pay for it in advance, you will usually have to pay optional extras upon arrival, so it’s a good idea to have at hand a copy of your correspondence detailing the prices. You should also plan ahead how you wish to go about the deposit. We do not recommend leaving a cash deposit. A credit card is the best solution: currently all banks issue cards with a limit of 3-5 thousand euros. When the deposit is blocked on your card, you don’t give away your money and always have a chance to contest the transaction. If you don’t often use charter boats, it makes sense to insure the deposit on the spot, especially if it’s your first sailing journey. Don’t forget to take all the boat documents at the company’s office, attach the confirmation of payment for the charter and for optional extras, the charter agreement and crew list certified with the charter company’s stamp. If you intend to cross state borders, you’d better have several copies for the boarder control. Make sure that all your crew members are on the list. It is very difficult to explain to the coastguards or boarder control officers that you are not dealing in illegal charter or transporting illegal immigrants.
During your first check-in, you should ask all the questions to technical specialists. Never fail to check the sails: there are often tears along the edges that can be easily seen against the light. Verify the operation of all electronic equipment, ask where the engine spares, liferaft and rescue gear are stored, count the lifejackets. If you discover any defects, enter them on the check list. We recommend that you take photos of the hull at check-in. It is also advisable to dive and examine the underwater part of the hull, or use an underwater video camera – this way you can make sure that you don’t inherit any scratches from the previous charter.
For a novice, it’s always hard to remember at once the location everything on board, so we suggest you write it down in a notebook, take photos with your phone or camera – this will make your life much easier later on. To make the check-in more efficient, it’s a good idea to prepare your own check list with maximum details and have all the items translated in Russian.
Usually with chartered boats the company tries to complete all the formalities as quickly as possible: Saturday is a very busy day with all the check-ins and returns, and there is always a lot of work on the peer. But you should keep in mind that while the company staff are in a hurry, it’s not an excuse to be careless about the check-in.
A rare skipper will check the boat insurance, whether it’s expired or not, and for sure no one will read the insurance terms. VERY often the boat won’t even have original documents: instead the folder will contain pale black-and-white copies. You must understand that you bear full responsibility for the life and health of your crew, for the safety of the boat and third parties. The boat will often be covered with the minimum insurance, excluding sails and additional equipment. The boat must be covered with third-party liability insurance, but the insured amount will often be just within the minimum requirements. In Europe, skipper liability insurance is a common practice. You can insure your deposit, the life and health of the crew, your liability as a skipper to the crew and third parties. If you wish, the insurance may also cover evacuation by helicopter.
The insurance does not mean that you don’t have to take care of the boat. A skipper who had many insured events will most probably fail to take out insurance the next year – the application will be rejected.
If an insured event occurs, you must immediately notify the charter company and follow their instructions. As a rule, the boat is already booked for the next client, and the company will have to make all preparations for repairs to provide the boat on time.
All conflicts that may arise when you return the boat usually deal with breakdowns and the evaluation of the repair cost. It’s not a good idea to conceal the breakdowns: they will be revealed in 90% of cases. But your reputation will be undermined. On the contrary, the charter company is likely to forgive small scratches and minor tears on the sails, or charge you the minimum price if you show everything yourself upon return. Keep in mind that they may charge you the cost of the whole unit replacement instead of repair – this is always a matter for discussion. No one can stop you buying and replacing the broken item yourself. Especially if you did not take out insurance and left a deposit.
Remember that the base employees are humans, too, and they may forget about the scratches and minor defects present at check-in, that is why we recommend that you indicate these on the check list or make photos. You’d better replace lost fenders and torn lines by yourself. Boats are often returned in such a state as if they survived a nuclear explosion: dirty dishes, rubbish, wet bedlinen and towels – this kind of client will be scrutinized with extra care.
The charter company has no right to withhold the deposit or any part of it without your consent, they should at the very least provide you with a repair invoice containing a list of works and spare parts. Skippers are often outraged by the price stated in such documents, but you should keep in mind that the boat that you returned on Friday must be ready to sail the next day, and the charter company cannot wait for cheap spares.
Small children on board are a special case. Many people travel with kids from the age of six months. As long as kids can’t walk, they are safe. The most difficult age is from 1.5 to 3-4 years, when they don’t feel the danger and need constant attention. Children will feel uncomfortable in clumsy lifejackets, so it’s best to buy them thinner and lighter automatic models that allow more freedom of movement. It’s desirable for a lifejacket to have an integrated harness. Children on board must be attached at all times. Don’t forget the sunscreen, preferably not lower than SPF 50.
Provision list
So, the long-awaited holiday is finally here. At the airport, we get a warm welcome from palm trees and a friendly taxi driver who will take us to the boat that we booked. There is nothing anymore that separates us from the sea… well, almost nothing… We only need to shop for food supplies. For ten people. For seven days. So what do we buy if we don’t want to be left with nothing but peanuts and vinegar on the third day?!!
As you may guess, this is when you proudly produce this page that you took care to print out in advance. A sample shopping list for a crew of four for three days. You can scale it up as you need, add your favourite foods and easily overcome the last obstacle that stands between you and a week’s sailing pleasure.
Washing-up liquid
Sponges, cloths for cleaning
Clothes pegs
Salt, spices
Olive oil
Rubbish bags
Toilet paper (if there’s none on board)
Paper towels (small roll)
Tea bags (2-3 packs), coffee
Water (2 litres per person per day; you may get ¼ of that amount in 5-litre bottles and ¾ in 1.5-litre bottles)
Sweets for tea (lots)
Ham, cheese for sandwiches (as a snack when cooking is not feasible)

For salads:
Mozzarella, 12 pcs
Tomatoes, 6 kg (cherry tomatoes are very handy)
Cucumbers, 12 pcs
Sweet peppers, 6 pcs
Packed herbs, 12 bags
Balsamic vinegar

Spaghetti, 2.5 kg
Rigatoni, 0.5 kg
Ground cheese, 6 packs
Sausages or ham, 2 kg
Chicken fillets, 8 pcs
Balsamic sauce or another sauce to go with meat, 0.5 kg
Wine, beer or rum
Fruits, berries, for two days
You can buy more of the products with a long shelf life
Remember the 7P rule: Proper planning and preparation prevents pretty poor performance.

Check in the boat calmly, settle in, give your crew a chance to get to know the boat, and set sail duly prepared.

Besides, you will be able to explain all about the boat to first-timers on your crew. Do not be afraid to appear inexperienced when asking the base manager all your questions: he realizes perfectly well that most of his clients are going out to sea on their own for the first time. So, how do you check in the chartered boat?

Meticulously check every item, listed in the check-list, memorize the places, where safety and all other equipment is stored, look for missing items and ask the base manager for them.

Check that all the lights, radio and navigational instruments and transducers work properly. Check that the battery is fully charged.

Check potable water fittings, level and water-tanks integrity. Sudden leak or a bout of diarrhea can definitely ruin your cruise.

Check your engine. Make sure gears are working properly. Check if you have spare impeller - floating rubbish may ruin the one installed, and you will have to make an instant repair at sea. Check for a spare fuel filter - bad or contaminated fuel is not a rare thing in the southern waters.

Check sails, ropes and winches. Everything must be in place, winches in working condition, furlers too. No holes in the sails, no improperly installed battens, no lost fittings, no cracks or defects, no deformed parts of the rigging. Broken sail, shackle or a halyard can make you a serious trouble, even if the charter company will quickly replace it, which is not a usual practice. Request a repair or replacement from the base manager, if something is broken or looks suspicious to you.

Check the shrouds tension, inspect the joints, in particular where the wire is attached to the turnbuckle. Standing rigging made too tight or too loose may result in losing your mast and damaging the boat beyond repair. Check mast and keel fittings. Lost keel is not a rare occurrence at all.

Check anchor windlass and it's remote control. Its proper functioning will save you a lot of trouble. Make sure the emergency windlass handle is present.

Collapsed masts and lost keels are not so rare, as you may presume.

Check the integrity of the hull. Some skippers even dive to inspect the underwater part of the boat. Scratches and markings on the boat can bite a serious part of your deposit, if you will not be able to prove to a not very honest base manager that they were not the result of your reckless sailing. The most vulnerable parts are always the transom and the bow. You can pass your hand along the transom edge to check for chips covered up with soap or other makeshift means. Soap will dissolve and when you get back, the base manager can claim your responsibility for damaging the hull. Yes, they do that sometimes.

It is also recommended to check the propeller screw. Screws lost at the entrance to the marina are not a rare event at sea. Request to fix it properly, if you are not sure of its reliability.

Check the steering - it must work smoothly and be properly responsive to your handling.

Check all the deck fittings it’s worth checking the screws on the handrail and stanchions – these often get lost. Pull the mooring cleats - better not to lose them when a sudden gale will sweep your mooring place at night.

The end result of the check-in procedure is the check-list that you have signed. Once this inspection is complete and all mechanisms are checked, quickly look through the checklist to make sure nothing was left out. The best way to conduct the inspection is to start on the deck, moving from the bow to the steering wheel, and then proceed below decks.

All crew members have to take part in the check-in procedure: it will help them to memorize where all important equipment is located and feel at home from day one. You will find it much easier to give orders later on.

Touch, feel and inspect everything, you have on the boat. Make sure, you notified the base manager of every irregularity, you found and it was properly repaired, checked and noted.