Briefing your charter yacht crew


You've just arrived at your base and boarded your boat for this much anticipated cruise with 2 other couples, your close friends. You are the unquestioned skipper! If you have been sailing with them before, and if they are sailors, they probably know the drill and a quick reminder of the stuff below might not even be necessary. But if it is the first time they are going on charter with you, and especially if they first-time sailors, you need to do a full briefing about what this is about. This is a checklist suggestion for an organized briefing to your crew.

TIP: A good idea is to print this and give it to your charter companions a few days before leaving so they can already understand what to expect. And remember: as a skipper, your job is to make sure everyone is having a phenomenal time, learns a lot, and comes back thrilled and safe, ready to go again!

Boat Tour

You can either give to your friends a tour of the boat yourself, showing the main parts of the boat and the cabins, or have them participate in the tour the charter company briefer will give you after you board. In either case, it is a good idea to start with it to give a general understanding. Point out the parts that can hurt, like in this boom can destroy your skull if you don't duck when you say!

Life Aboard

  • Necessity of a tidy boat
    Being on a 30 or 40 somewhat foot boat for a week or 10 days with 6 people implies close quarters and an understanding that this is not like at home. Beyond the simple comfort, it is a matter of basic safety for everyone on board, before casting off in the morning for that next heavenly anchorage, to see that everything be properly stowed and secured. In the staterooms and in the common areas. Everyone must understand this and participate. You don't want this expensive camera to fly across the salon and get smashed during a tack, right? In the galley, everything must be put away and dishes preferably washed: pots and pans, food containers, etc. The idea is that everything that can fly, will! Especially, heavy stuff must be well secured. In the cockpit, anything that can hamper a maneuver must be put away. Beware of the sunbathing cushions on the cockpit floor when you need to rush to the main sheet! Lines and sheets must be properly coiled, ready to be used instantly. In short, there is nothing more hellish looking than a messy, disorganized boat!

  • Bathrooms and heads
    Again, very different and slightly more complicated than at home. Everyone must understand how they work before using them. And don't forget: abusing the toilet paper quantity is not a good idea!  Show the shower drain. Show the seacocks (see safety below.)
  • Sharing the work
    The main idea of a successful charter cruise with good friends is that you will still be friends after the cruise! Nothing will spoil a cruise more than 1 or 2 couples feeling that they are doing most of the work: cooking, dishwashing, tidying the common areas, etc. Therefore, you should organize at the start a fair and simple rotating system for the daily chores. Then make sure it is respected!

Protection And What to Bring

  • Against the cold: Yes, I am not kidding. Even in the Caribbean or in the Mediterranean, you might need a jogging suit at night -like in the Bahamas in winter for example. Even more appropriate if you are chartering in New England or Pacific North West.

  • Against the sun: Very important. The sun can be brutal in some areas and in the Caribbean in particular, where, because of the constant Trade Winds, you do not always feel it. Every guest must have an efficient sun lotion, good sunglasses, a hat and some aloe gel or something similar to soothe those sunburns.

  • As far as what to bring, go to our detailed section: what to pack.

Behaviour On Board

Participation is the key word. When a bunch of friends go sailing together, they become a crew. A crew has rules and roles. The skipper must brief first-time sailors thoroughly and define everyone's role according to desires (some charterers just want to read and sunbathe - nothing wrong with that! ) and physical capabilities. First-timers: everything is doable, even steering, if you get the proper explanation. Also, a first timer must avoid taking initiatives without asking the skipper his/her opinion. A good charter skipper must encourage questions. A great skipper teaches his seamanship to those who want to learn. I personally enjoy doing this a lot, especially with kids. Besides, it keeps them busy!

Autonomy And Systems

  • Water:
    Again, this is not like home: water supply is limited. To avoid filling the tanks in the middle of the charter week, try to save water. Do not let the water run while brushing your teeth. This gorgeous blonde with long thick hair cannot wash her hair every day using 10 gallons of water each time. Keep your showers short. You get the idea.

  • Power/Electricity:
    Same concept. Crew must avoid leaving lights on without reason. Beware of the little fans in the cabins: turn them off when not used. If you have an inverter on board, watch out with this 1500W hair dryer with the same blonde.

Safety Issues

While a charter is a week of fun, everybody on board must understand basic safety issues. Here is what to show.

  • How to close the hatches in the cabins and shut the seacocks in the bathrooms before casting off. I always double-check this myself. You will never forget it again after you have this forward stateroom bed full of sea water during this choppy upwind tack!

  • How to use the radio. Basics: Channel 16, transmit, respond.

  • Location and use of the fire extinguisher.

  • Man over board. Unfortunately, it can happen. Explain what you will do, that panic will be very counterproductive and assign one adult to keep his/her eyes on the MOB at all times. Explain what to do if you fall overboard (I recommend the heave-to maneuver)

  • Seasickness: show the tricks to avoid it (don't stay down below unless necessary, look at the horizon if you feel queasy, etc.) Make sure guests who are prone to it take the proper medications well before casting off.

A last word: you do not need to make all this sound like boot camp, dreadful or like a drag. The whole idea is still to have a blast sailing in a great area with good friends.