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Guidance for good boat-keeping during charter

Skipper’s Tips: Guidance for good boat-keeping during charter

Calling all captains, sailors and crew – we’ve arrived.

Peak season is upon us and if we haven’t prepared well before the ‘guests of Christmas present’ arrive, it will feel like a zero to sixty acceleration from the sleepy summer pace to the high season hype.

Fortunately for residents of the British Virgin Islands, the Moorings operate the Interline Regatta in October – in following the fleet and chasing each legendary party night of costumes and revelry, your sense of how to provide for the guests’ pleasure is jolted back into action a couple of months earlier.

Once that haze has cleared, we return to the pre-season job list, for we the team are back in play. Winterisation in colder climes will see the boat hauled out, tented up from the elements, sails taken off, halyards moused, safety equipment sent for annual service, diesel tanks pressed to the brim, sat-phone contract cancelled whilst it’s not used, and medical supplies updated.

In our region, preparation for winter is more about stocking the booze lockers, buffing the topsides, servicing everything in the engine room, replacing chafed running rigging, training the crew, and polishing the bright work. There will soon be no spare time to do this when the back-to-back charters get underway.

The maintenance schedule is an on-going concern: the generator needs to be serviced, the water maker filters switched out, the head hoses cleaned. But if your vessel is a busy charter boat, there is no time to pull the boat apart while guests are on board, as dream vacations are never to be fettered by delays and repairs.

It would be unacceptable if the generator wasn’t available to provide air conditioning and to charge guest’s iPads, for this is a well-oiled machine which you, the Captain, cannot allow to slip away from you.

Part of the on-going conservation of services is to use the equipment. Use the stereo, use the toys, use the ice or water maker. These pieces of kit need to be operated to discern their functionality and moreover, spark awareness if they don’t work. You have to know your gear because the buck stops with the captain when you’re out at a lonely anchorage. The bottom line is, you must be on top of your preventive measures and prepared to repair immediately.


One of the most useful pieces of gear you have on board is your dinghy. On a busy charter, the dinghy is in use 90 percent of the time taking guests on excursions to the beach, helicopter rides, or water skiing with the GoPro. Every time you start up, be in the habit of checking the battery health, guard against water getting in the fuel, always ensure the impeller and water pump are spitting water at the outlet, regularly change those filters, check the spark plugs, and clean that carburetor.

If you are compelled to dismantle the boat during a charter, the dinghy is the only way to transfer the guests away on a shore excursion, buying you a few hours and allowing you to maintain composure in your service. At such a time, a pleasant diversion could be organising a taxi from Leverick Bay and treating guests to an island tour down to the Baths, permitting you to schedule your general maintenance. While you’ve got this time, tackle those small rust spots and hose down the topsides with vinegar and water so that the gel coat won’t perish under the sun and salt crystals.

Guests want to remain oblivious to yacht maintenance, since their awareness of it introduces fallibility in the boat’s performance. When the cruise ship Costa Concordia went down, it was noticeable that guests were querying more about safety to ensure their peace of mind. This is why a comprehensive safety brief in addition to boat maintenance is essential at the initiation of a charter. Involving guests in the smooth operation of the boat by demonstrating aspects like the proper use of the notoriously sensitive marine head and/or disguising boat maintenance as a common act will save you work later.

Louise Reardon, Captain and RYA Yachtmaster Instructor

Louise Reardon, Captain and RYA Yachtmaster Instructor

Louise Reardon has been sailing around the globe on private yachts since 1992 and taught sailing with Offshore Sailing School on Tortola since 2006. She holds an MCA 3000 ton Masters, is a RYA Yachtmaster Instructor, US Sailing Instructor, and has a BA hons in Asian & African Geography.
Louise Reardon, Captain and RYA Yachtmaster Instructor

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