The most important pre-departure step for your bareboat charter trip is the boat briefing with your charter company. It serves two purposes:
- Familiarize you and the crew with the charter boat operations and safety gear
- Introduce you to the sailing grounds and convey important local knowledge
We take these briefings seriously even if we are familiar with the boat type and islands. We usually have months, if not years in between trips – such as our recent Exumas trip. It had been 3 years since we last visited.
That’s enough time to forget and it’s hard to recall all the important details.
All boats are different too – even the same model will have it’s own peculiarities or equipment.
In addition to the captain, try and have at least one or two other crew members participate as well.
The briefings are usually quite thorough, but we still bring our own checklist to make sure we don’t forget to cover important items. We’ve learned some of these the hard way over the years!
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Boat briefing checklist - boat systems and safety
Safety briefing and equipment
- Life jackets (or Personal Flotation Devices – PFDs): know their location and make sure there are enough for all the crew
- VHF radio procedures: know how to place a distress or mayday call
- Emergency tiller and manual bilge pumps
- Location of hull through fittings/seacocks: if you start to take on water, this might be the first place to look
- Plugs: in the event of a hull breach
- First-aid kit
- Location of fire extinguishers
- Man overboard procedures
- Floatation devices
- Distress signals
- Sound producing devices
- Life raft location and procedures
- Chart plotter and autopilot
- Anchor system
- Make sure windlass works
- Snubber line functional?
- Check weather vane functionality
- Electrical system and battery charging
- Switches if we let battery fall too low and we can’t start engines
- Switching to generator and shore power
- Generator reset switch
- Cooling intake location
- Inverter location
- Air conditioning system
- Bilge pumps – location and manual/auto switches
- Depth Guage – where does it measure from?
- How to raise and lower
- Dinghy pump in case it goes flat
- Drop it in the water and start the outboard engine
- Lock to tie off to the dock
- Engine start procedures and operation
- Music system – make sure you can connect with bluetooth
- Fresh water tanks
- Top off before you leave
- If two tanks, how to switch them once one is empty
- Check fuel level and request to be topped off, if necessary
- Water maker operation
- Key for locking the salon
- Boat inventory checklist
- Stove, oven, and bbq
- Spare propane tank
- Toilets – Know how to dump the tanks
- Inspect the sailing equipment – ask any questions if you are unsure
- I always make sure I understand the reefing lines since these always tend to be different
- Handheld – for when you use the dinghy
- Rod holders and gaff
- Snorkeling gear
- Ask if there’s anything inoperable or not functioning as it should
- What to do if there is a mechanical issue? Who do you call and how (radio or phone)?
- Check out procedures – ask if you want help getting off the dock
- Check in procedures on your last day
- Return the boat the day before or the morning of?
- What time is the fuel dock open?
- Who to call for docking assistance
- What to clean and what to do with linens/towels
Chart briefing and the sailing grounds
In addition to going through the boat operations and equipment, the charter company will also brief you on the charter area. Take good notes, especially if it is your first time in the area.
Here are some other good questions to ask or confirm:
- Any areas that are off limits
- Recommended anchorages
- Mooring ball availability?
- Up to date local knowledge
- Missing channel markers, etc
- Weather concerns (such as northerly swells or frontal passages, tropical systems)
- Where to go fishing
- Any local events taking place during the week
- Such as the presence of a regatta that could make certain areas busier than normal