Things You Should Know While Cruising on Charter
So, you just cast off, you're out of the marina, and now it's just your crew, you, the boat (your home for a week or two), the ocean and the magnificent surroundings. Right? Well, yes, but not exactly. While cruising you have to deal with domestic issues that relate to the management of your boat, of your crew, and of the environment (nature and other people). We have made a list of the things you should look after to make the most out of your charter. Some of them, if not handled properly, can -and will- be a major source of frustration.
The boat chores
This is one of the most important issues in this section.
Unless you are on a crewed yacht, a charter cruise implies that some tasks have to be accomplished: provisioning, cooking, doing the dishes, raising/handling the sails, clean up and generally keeping the boat tidy. The latter is very important: never forget that a sailboat is a small space compared to your house and being in a messy boat can be a nightmare. So make sure that items like: beach towels, sandals, books, cameras are stowed all the time. Especially before sailing off for the day.
Now here is the key word to make this fun: SHARE! Not sharing the chores between crew members will quickly turn a great vacation into a pissing contest like, for example: "Why in hell am I doing the dishes all the time while Lori, Ms. Perfect Tan over there, does nothing all day? Hmm?"
Therefore, we suggest you set up an informal schedule of chores (you don't need to go overboard with this, keep it fun, remember?). For example, if someone cannot cook at all, then he/she should "volunteer" to be on dishes duty. Get the idea?
We will assume you don't have a water maker on board (we are starting to see them on some bareboats but they are still the exception). So water management becomes very important because refilling the water tanks is mostly a waste of precious sailing time. The reason is that, at least in the Caribbean, water is often out of the way, so you would have to change your itinerary just to refill.
If you are a charter with 8 people, you will have to refill no matter what. So you have to organize your itinerary around this. Find out where there are water stations on your itinerary and plan to make a stop over around the middle of your cruise. Manage your water consumption anyway to avoid refilling TWICE. If you have less people, you want to manage your water consumption to avoid refilling at all.
Here are a few tips about saving water during your charter. And by the way, if your crewmembers are first time charterers, you should brief them properly and make sure they GET IT.
Showers: Do not run the water during the entire shower time. Wet yourself first. Turn the water off. Soap and shampoo. Turn the water back on for a quick rinse. Caution: Watch out for that beautiful girl with loooooong hair who wants to shampoo e-ve-ry night!
Teeth brushing: Do not run the water during all the brushing procedure, like at home. Just run it briefly to rinse off.
Dishes: You can rinse off the dishes in a bucket in the ocean over the boat transom, then use dish soap and quickly rinse with fresh water. Alternatively, if the boat is equipped with a salt-water pump in the galley, use it whenever fresh water is not necessary.
Same idea as water management. As you know, most charter companies require you run the engine twice a day for an hour or so to charge he batteries and run the refrigeration system. Besides that, you can save power by turning off the lights in the rooms when no one is in there, turning off the fans when not necessary. I often see boats at anchor at night with their anchor light on, (that's OK) but with also the foredeck floodlight on all night. Not a good idea.
Also, as for your fridge, it is not a good idea to open it every 5 minutes or worse- leave it open for a long time. Instead, store your beverages for the day in a cooler with ice.
Handling the garbage
If you are chartering in the Caribbean, you have to ask the charter company or find out in your cruising guide which anchorages have garbage dumping facilities. However, I have not seen any recycling bins yet. Obviously, needless to say, do not dump anything in the ocean. Make sure, before you cast off, that the charter company has provided you with enough garbage bags. When you have filled one up, tie it up tight to avoid the smell in the boat. When the sea is smooth, we put the garbage bag in the dinghy, when we know we will drop it that same night.
Using the heads (a.k.a. toilets!)
That is the one issue you really need to brief your crew about. Trust us, you do not want to have a fouled head during your cruise, especially if you have only one onboard. Here is what to know.
A boat head is not built like the one at home: the hoses are much narrower. So anything other than what comes out your body and a little bit of toilet paper (no abuse here!) cannot be thrown out in the boat head. Nothing else.
Also, some charter companies are now putting emphasis on the use of the holding tanks instead of simply let everything go out in the water at your anchorage. Personally I do not swim in the morning in an anchorage with many boats around. So if you can, and if you want to help preserve the marine life in those beautiful cruising grounds, use the holding tanks. The charter company briefer will show how to use them.
Sharing an anchorage with other boats
The idea here is to try not to be too noisy after 10PM, especially if you are in a quiet anchorage. Just a matter of simple respect of your neighbours. Same as at home! Oh, and by the way, that includes the halyards slapping against your masts! Make sure that your main halyard is tight and does not move.
Last tip for a noise that can drive yourself crazy: the boom rocking and squeaking gently at anchor, in sync with the boat slight rolling motion. Here is what to do: after anchoring / mooring the boat, give some slack to main sheet. Take a long line and tie it to one of the loops underneath the boom. Then tie the other end of the line to one of the hand rails on either side of the rooftop. Take the slack of the line, and finish by taking all the slack off the main sheet. Your boom is now tied up to one side of the boat: it does not move any more and is also out of the way of the companionway. Cool, right?