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Skipper’s Tips:

Be Nice to Your Boat  –  Living as we do, surrounded by boats of all types from the gorgeous to the grotesque, it's easy to forget how precious each boat is to its owner. Every charter boat, identical though it might seem to its siblings, has a special place in somebody's heart—even if that somebody is a corporation.

I know this because I recently spent a few days helping out on the dock at a charter company. Watching the look on the face of an owner contemplating their boat was an education. “That flag halyard shouldn't be rigged like that,” one owner said. “It needs to be secured to a cleat, not tied to the shrouds.” Jeez mate, thought I, you have to get a life.


The scratches on the dining table. A loose hinge on a bathroom cabinet. Why was the deck showerhead cracked? All these issues made me want to thump somebody on the head with a winch handle. It's a flippin' charter yacht, I wanted to yell. You're lucky it's still floating. Do you know what happens to your pride and joy when strangers take it for a sail? Come to think of it, you're probably better not knowing.

But this experience did renew my respect for even the humblest 32-footer bobbing forlornly amongst the 50-somethings. It's someone's baby, I thought. Which is probably why I ended up on my knees trying to scrub an oil stain (or was that blood) out of the cabin sole. And tucking some torn piece of curtain out of the way. Seeing the boats with fresh eyes gave me a new perspective. Perhaps for the next few weeks I'll be nicer to the little beasts. It's not their fault. Imagine being popped out of a mould at the factory and being told, “You're off down the Caribbean mate,” when you were hoping for a lake in Minnesota with heated indoor storage for the winter and two weekends a month active duty when they finally do drop you in the (fresh) water.

Because when you're out sailing, no matter how humble the yacht, when the wind's piping up and the sails are set just right, there are moments of perfection that you seldom reach elsewhere in life. Moments to be savoured. And you can't reach those moments without the boat. Treat her right. 

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