For first time bare boaters, as well as experienced sailors, stepping on board a new-to-you boat that will be your floating home for the next week or so, can be a little daunting. Although certainly not all-inclusive (you’d never leave the dock!) knowing the answers and locations to the items listed below will help make your check-out smoother and give you the confidence that you have done all you can to have a great, safe adventure.

Before You Charter

  • Important: Make sure you know the charter company emergency number, VHF frequency.
  • Will the charter company provide a cell phone to contact them directly?
  • Practice hoisting and reefing main. Review the mainsail “Stak-Pak”.
  • Practice backing up a sailboat. Warping techniques are good to know.
  • Google “Breeze Booster” prior to trip. It is the hatch vent system some charter companies use.

During Check Out

Make sure that you physically touch and operate the following components to verify that they are in working order.

  • Water Tank Valves. Verify that tank(s) are full. Know how to switch tanks. Is heat exchanger providing hot water?
  • Holding tank discharge valve. Dump holding tank ONLY in open water – NEVER IN HARBOR OR ANCHORAGE.
  • Check fuel level • Locate onboard tool kit • Ask about hanging 12v cockpit light. * Traveling dock lines on board.
  • Radio check for VHF – send and receive. Bring personal hand-held VHF.
  • Locate life jackets, flares, sound-emitting devices, spotlight, fire extinguisher (check date), and first aid kit.
  • Propane cut-off procedure. Make sure all burners work, including oven. Do you have a teapot? French press?
  • Locate boat documentation – Put charter documents in dry, safe place.
  • Test anchor windlass at dock. Review reset fuse/switch with staff. Check the anchor locker before departure. The engine must be running to use windlass.
  • Make sure head(s) function properly. Crew fully understands head operation, and its delicate nature. Minimal amounts of toilet paper ONLY!
  • Verify that refrigeration works well. Check temp prior to departure. Is it staying cold under engine power? Bring fridge temp gauge.
  • Check and understand all running rigging. Show crew how winches and clutch stoppers work. Wind and time permitting, practice reefing your main before departing dock. Identify #1 and #2 reefing lines. Don’t forget to release reefing lines prior to first main hoist. Unfurl jib.
  • Run engine without shore power for at least an hour before departure. Are all batteries individually charging above 12v under engine only? If wet batteries, is there water in each cell?  Are Frig/Freezer as cold as they should be without shore power? After departure, use as little DC as possible. Turn off any electric you don’t need. Check charging indicators. If you have no access to shore power, run your engine in the morning and evening, for about an hour, at least 1500rpm. Check all fluid levels.
  • Locate all intake filters and valves. Verify that they are clean. Check external speedo impeller.
  • Check battery isolator(s). Starting battery should be isolated from house system. Have staff show you how to switch to different batteries.
  • Turn on the Nav system, making sure all instruments are working. Find boat speed impeller. Clean if necessary, and spin to make sure it registers on instruments. The spinning of the impeller through water has an impact on true/apparent wind speed, as well as boat speed indicator.
  • Run outboard motor on dinghy. Put in forward and reverse. Check fuel. Make sure dingy is holding air. Mark dinghy so that yours can be recognized at night, at the end of an evening, from all the others tied up together.
  • For mooring balls, use 2 lines, one from each bow  cleat, loop each thru mooring pendant, and cleat off back at original cleat. Helps prevent chafing. Better than one line looped thru pendant, with pendant sliding along line, secured to each bow cleat.  Always approach ball from downwind.
  • Generally, when hoisting main or reefing, come head to wind, release mainsheet, ease boom vang/lift, and lazy jacks.
  • When dropping main for the day, run halyard down from head shackle, around lower mast cleat, and then tension main halyard. This prevents mainsail from sliding back up mast, and prevents batt cars from clanging against each other.
  • Blue and white mooring balls for overnight use. Make sure you ask about free ice and water with mooring use. Small solid blue buoys for dinghy tie-up.
  • When departing the country, remember to save some cash for each person for possible departure tax. There may be more fees for airlines.

Have Fun on the Water

Well, it looks like a lot to undertake but it is better to be safe than sorry. Expect your pre-departure check out to take a couple of hours. However, it’s worth taking the time at the dock than to find out two days into your vacation that you don’t know how to open the holding tank discharge.