Yacht charter tips: renting a sailboat

Below are a number of tips for chartering a sailboat for a week. We want to assist you in the tough yet exciting task of skippering a boat for a week through uncharted waters. This is for all those brave captains who don’t have much experience on this type of voyage.

This information is intended for people who are seasoned in planning their own trips and want to take on an adventure of their own. In addition you have information about the destinations in Croatia Sailing Route, Greek Islands Sailing route and Thailand Sailing Route.

As we offer these types of trips, we honestly believe that you can take a sailing vacation like those that we offer on your own, as long as certain conditions are met, without which you shouldn’t attempt such a trip:

  •  A ready and prepared crew:

yacht-charter-tips1By prepared crew, we do not mean a crew with navigation skills (although if they have them, it’s better), rather that the captain must have at least two people on board who can respond in difficult situations, and who can meet the potential demands the ship’s maneuvers.

On the other hand, the whole crew must be mentally prepared for the teamwork that’s required when renting a sailboat, which is essential for getting along. Everyone should do their part, as there are many onboard tasks. Forming teams of two is usually a good way to tackle work such as cooking, cleaning, etc.

  • Planning the route: 

We recommend that the captain plan the trip a while before actually leaving. Having navigation paths, called Pilot Charts, is essential. They are usually in English, though some are translated, and inside there is all kinds of information about the area, the prevailing winds, currents, detail of the depths of the coves, rocks, shore services, details of ports, etc. All are essential for charter sailing, which requires an able navigator. With this information, you can create a track to follow to complete the entire route. Although you don’t have to follow it letter for letter, rather follow it as closely as possible.

yacht-charter-tips (2)Another important point consider is where to spend the night, as well as what parks and cities we want to visit. With that decided, we can then decide on which coves we want to anchor at or visit. It is also important to know the days on which we will not moor at a port so that we can have a good estimate so of how much water we need so we don’t run out. Gasoline is a little less important because sailboats are pretty autonomous.

Once we begin the journey we’ll do our best to follow the route we had planned. We can still vary or change it on the fly due to unforeseen circumstances, if necessary. The captain should analyze the weather for the next day at the end of each day and then look at the planned route and determine its viability and possible alternatives.

  • Required material:

yacht-charter-tips (11)Although some equipment is included when you rent a sailboat, you will need to bring some additional equipment from home. Overall, light luggage is recommend and it should be shaped like backpack not a suitcase because it’s difficult to stow a suitcase on board. The captain should carry a suitable knife, a good mining flashlight, an underwater flashlight if available, gloves for the ropes, waterproof clothing in case it rains and you have to be on deck, and snorkeling equipment (fins included). With respect to electronics, we recommend a device to connect to the Internet, be it a mobile condition, tablet or laptop (more on that later). We also recommend a DC to AC transformer to get 220 V power on board (you can ask the charter company), one with a 100 or 150 W is sufficient. The transformer is essential for a minimum level of comfort so you can charge phones, tablets, computers, cameras, etc.

Another suggestion, whch is based on personal experience of having injured our tailbones after several years chartering sailboats, is to bring pillows to sit on in the outdoor cockpit. Charter boats do not usually have them and I assure you that you will not regret taking some. Still, you should inquire before buying them because perhaps the owner himself can supply them, though most likely he will not.

  • Up-to-date weather information:

As discussed above, for security reasons it is advisable to carry a device onboard that can connect to the Internet, with which to view the weather forecasts for the area with some precision. This information is vital for safe navigation without surprises and not heeding it yacht-charter-tips (3)can cause you to take risks. Getting the maps of wind and wave evolution via a good Website means we will have the forecast for several days and can plot the best route to follow and get the safest anchorage points.

Without an Internet connection, you’ll need to follow the radio weather reports issued by the area in which you are located and you’ll have to know exactly when they will be given (see Pilot Chart) so you get lost as little as possible. Should you navigate in areas outside of Spain, it may seem silly, but we advise you to record the meteorological reports with a recording device, mobile or the like, because foreign reports can be difficult to understand (some radios already perform this function). Additionally, when reaching land, we advise you to ask the captaincy for more information.

  • Thorough check of the sailboat equipment

For a successful yacht journey you have to conduct a thorough check of all the sailing equipment. Once at the boat, it is the owner’s responsibility to show you how all of the sailing equipment works and where all the material can be found. There are many things that will be explained, thus I advise everyone, especially the captain who is the head of the boat and crew, to absorb all that information so you can carry out all the necessary functions later. It is highly recommended that someone else be present who can assist you later and help remember everything. Do not hesitate to consult the owner regarding any questions you may have or to request any equipment or material you deem missing. After checking, spend another half hour by yourselves ensuring that all the computers are working and in good condition:

yacht-charter-tips (12)– Sheets and ropes

– Electronics

– Radio (radio test port) and portable VHF radio

– Anchor windlass

– Sails (if they’re not shown to you)

– Winches and two handles

– Dinghy doesn’t have a leak

– Dinghy air pump and patches for dinghy

– Auxiliary motor starts well

– Auxiliary gasoline tank

– Electric bilge pump and manual bilge pump

– Life jackets and lifelines

– Flares and radio beacon

– Binoculars

– Navigation lights and parts

– Replacement fuses for electrical panel

– There is oil in the engine and you have spare oil

– There is cooling water and there is spare cooling water

– Sufficient cookware

– Full gas bottle and location of shutoff valve

– Shutoff for clean and dirty water tanks

– Where the fuel tank and batteries are located inside the boat

It is important to take this time to familiarize yourself with the equipment and its location before you leave, it’s okay you leave an hour later… you have a whole week. Once you’re on the water and halfway through your journey, it will be difficult to return to claim something that isn’t working or broken.

  • A good shopping trip

Food onboard is an important factor of the trip that affects the state of mind of the crew. Having our own food will allow us to be more self-sufficient, thus avoiding having to deviate from the route or waste time on unnecessary port stops to buy food. Remember that, depending on the area you’re sailing in, it may be virtually impossible to find a supermarket.

yacht-charter-tips (4)We recommend creating menus for each day with a complete list of food, if not you will forget things. Make a generous and abundant purchase; it is better to pay $10 more per person than to be hungry. Buy for the whole week, and then midweek you can buy anything that’s missing. Get much more water than you think you need and as much bread as you can, plus a plentiful amount of beer. Buy meat for the first two or three days, but not more, as the boat refrigerators do not have the cooling capacity of those in the home. Pasta salads, beans and lentils are also nice served chilled at noon. A nice assortment of sausages is also always good.

With respect to the stowage of food, keep in mind that the space on board is small for so much food, so it is vital to stow it properly so you’re frustrated looking for it later. Put the food and beverages consumed more often in an accessible trunk and other food in another that is less accessible, and group similar food items. Make sure that glass bottles are stowed well so they don’t move and break. Stowage in the fridge is important. It should be done thoroughly with great organization so that it doesn’t get all mixed up. It’s a good idea to ask the owner to turn on the fridge so that it’s cold when you get there. Each person who stores food should remember where he put it so that it doesn’t get lost – he is, after all, the only one who knows where it is.

  • Sailing

One of the greatest pleasures of chartering a yacht is to be able to sail through calm water on a beautiful sunny day. Nevertheless, unfortunately everyone on board does not always share the pleasure of sailing. It will depend on the crew whether or not you can do this and it’s important to be able to do it well to avoid complaints.

First, examine all ropes, sheets and halyards, the return afts, we must be clear where they go in order to avoid doubt in a time of need. Before lifting sail, ensure that all maneuvers are clear, especially the lifting and lowering maneuvers. Be sure you also know where the halyards are for emergency lowering of the genoa and the mainsail. Be sure to stow and tie down everything inside, because the smallest tilt will cause things to fall and possibly break.

yacht-charter-tips (5)If the crew doesn’t have much experience in sailing, we recommend giving a short explanation to your helpers before hoisting the sail as you need at least one crew member help you with the maneuvers.

Learn to make good use of the autopilot. This will to enable you to make adjustments in the sails when tacking, but only if the wind is not too fierce. If that’s the case then the autopilot is no longer recommended.

It is important to anticipate a possible increase in wind so we are not caught by surprise, thus we should check the weather ahead of time to find out about any wind developments. We will always try to make the appropriate adjustments before the wind rages so we are prepared. Bear in mind that that from force 3 on the Beaufort scale maneuvers become more complex and a small slip on the helm or in a maneuver can create a dangerous situation. If we have to leave port when the wind is strong, it is better to go with flapping sails from port before heading out to sea to avoid having to do so with the sea surge.

  • Anchoring safely:

For many captains, this maneuver, along with mooring at the port, is the most problematic when starting out on a rented a sailboat, but it eventually ceases to be.

In this maneuver we need a forward crew working with the windlass to be our eyes there, we are at the helm aft. We prepare the anchor on the hanging (a little disengaged), so the anchor quickly sinks to the bottom when we want it to. Then the crew gives as much chain as we tell them to.

yacht-charter-tips (6)Before searching for a cove where we can stay the night, we must review the weather forecast for the next few hours to see if the wind will blow and from where it will blow. (If we only plan to stop for a short while in the cove, this is not necessary.) Once reviewing the weather, we choose the cove where we will seek anchor on the Pilot Chart, this cove has to protect us from the wind that could possibly blow overnight and we should always stay on the leeward side of the island or coast. Once we have located them, we should read all the information on the sounders, the best entry, possible rocks, wind protection and better place to anchor. We can also compare this with the GPS chart.

We arrive at the cove and have a look at the other vessels anchored there, if any, because if there aren’t any, it’s possible that this may not be a very good place to anchor in the current weather conditions or in the coming hours. It’s unlikely that we have reached the cove first and that we are alone, therefore as mentioned, if no one else is around this may mean something, although not necessarily so. If there are boats around, look at how they are moored – which direction they’re facing and how they are aligned.

We go into the cove, visualizing where we want to stay, and if it’s windy or is going to be, we should look for the most protected spot. If the bay is crowded with boats, we should first go in slowly to survey the area and decide where to stay. We should then exit and then re-enter headed toward where we want to stop. Keep in mind that the position of the anchored boats and ours can change overnight if the wind blows, so we must also predict where the boat will end up if this happens. If we must stay very close to other boats, we should avoid anchoring over the neighbors’ anchors to avoid tangling them. Once we find a suitable place, we should always try to anchor on sand, and after looking at the sounder, we give out as much chain as the neighboring boats and rocks will allow – always stopping at a certain limit so we don’t have a swinging anchor ratio that is too large.

Once the anchor is holding the boat, meaning that the chain is tensed and slackened on the forward and backward motion of the boat, this means that the anchor is working. At this time we take appropriate measures to ensure that we are stopped, we take visual references, then give a slack so that the anchor is not dragging, etc.

At this point, depending on whether we have dropped anchor for a couple of hours or overnight, before stopping the engine, the captain must first consider whether with the meters of chain we have given the anchor we will be safe not drag during night if the wind blows. Then, he must determine if the distance to the neighboring boats and the shore or rocks is sufficient to be safe and not bother anyone. If there are many boats in the area, we must accept that the distance between boats will be reduced, and since space is limited we must all do what’s necessary to enjoy the cove.

yacht-charter-tips (10)Before stopping the motors, we should continue to observe the situation. A variety of things could occur: we may have stopped too close to the other boats, we could then take up a bit of the chain, but that could mean that the amount of chain in the water is not sufficient to be safe. If this happens, we have to raise anchor and find a different spot to drop anchor or do a better job of dropping anchor where we are located. It could also be that although there’s sufficient space between the neighboring boats and the coast, we don’t have sufficient chain in the water to be safe. If this happens, we have to raise anchor and drop anchor again. If it’s windy, we may end up dragging anchor and therefore we need to let down more chain. It may be that the spot where we’ve stopped is too shallow. If this happens we have to look for a more adequate spot.

Don’t worry if you have to repeat the maneuver a few times before finally anchor well and safely. It’s better to spend time getting this maneuver right so that you are relaxed during the night than to anchor quickly and then not be able to sleep. Try to arrive at the anchor location before sunset for that very reason. Also bear in mind that if you can’t anchor in the first line of boats it’s not a problem; it’s better to be farther out in the cove with the adequate amount of chain than in the front with very little chain.

Finally, with motors stopped, if the captain wants to be even more sure that everything is working properly, someone can pull on the chain to see that the anchor is working right and can also see how many meters of chain are resting on the bottom. This is the only way to be 100% sure that we are not going to go anywhere.

  • Mooring at port:

If we charter a boat for a weeklong trip and our route includes unknown areas, it’s likely that we’re going to make landfall at ports that we don’t know.

After calling the port to find out our moorage number, we move in very slowly toward the east and ask the mariner to wait for us at the moor so we can throw him the moorings. If we are unsure of how this will work, we can pass by the location in order to analyze the situation and then come by a second time with a better understanding of what we have to do. We have the moorings prepared. The fenders, also known as bumpers, are in place at the right height. Be careful when mooring at the gas station as the ideal height of the fenders can vary.

yacht-charter-tips-7The crew should be ready – everyone has to work and each person has an assigned task: One person at the boat hook, a couple with mobile fenders on each side, a couple more at the moorings, one ready to act, and if there’s no mariner waiting for us someone has to get off on the pier. Everyone should be alert.

When entering the berth, if the maneuver becomes complicated, it’s always better to go back out for a bit and then try again knowing the mistake we made on the previous attempt. If there’s a crosswind and we don’t have a bow thruster propeller it might be better to moor bow to the pier and not risk mooring stern to the pier and risk hitting another boat.

Once moored, we secure bow and stern and then wait a few minutes before turning off the engine. If we plan to leave early in the morning, it’s better to take the papers to captaincy on the day of arrival and pay the mooring. Then it is essential to fill the water tanks, fully charge the batteries (charge by connecting the 220 V to the ground) and possibly fill the fuel tank, unless it is very clear that we have more than enough fuel. It also won’t hurt to give the deck a wash-down using a pressure hose. If you have any problem in the mooring, either in the electrical socket or with the water, don’t hesitate to call the sailor on duty on VHF channel 9 to try to solve our problems.

  • Sailing at night:

First, it should be said that when chartering a boat, sailing at night in coastal areas that you don’t know or where there may be rocky floors or shallow areas and the like is not recommended.

The crew should be organized into watch shifts, which consist of at least two people. The shifts can be organized into 2-3 hour periods, depending on how long the first group lasts. It’s recommended that each shift include one person who is a bit more confident on the boat; he can then be the leader of the group. If the coast is rough or if there’s a lot of boat traffic, don’t think about sleeping on your feet, as we have to be alert for setback that could occur.

yacht-charter-tips (8)Before it gets dark, be sure to stow and collect everything on the deck well, especially the part from the cockpit to the bow. The auxiliary should be well latched, nothing unsecured, etc. We can also prepare food for the night, as this becomes more complicated when it’s dark. We should also prepare lifelines in the aft trunks and life jackets for the crew who will be in the cockpit at night. Always wear your night lifejacket and use the lifelines in case it’s necessary to go from the cockpit to the stern. We also prepare clothes for the night, either jackets or warm sweaters. A flashlight for each crewmember on watch is also essential. It’s best to use the type recommended for mining, which allow you to work with your hands.

Regarding electronic equipment, we should keep the GPS turned on along with the radar, if we have one. If we don’t have a radar, we will need to be more alert to any lights we spot. Generally, at night one uses the autopilot, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t check the GPS on occasion to ensure we’re on the right route.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the role is of each person on watch, as well as what they should and shouldn’t do, must be very clear. They should continually check the route on the GSP and look at the radar occasionally, looking out for horizontal lights, stay seated in the cockpit, and of course enjoy the magnificent starry sky. They should never walk on the cockpit or the bow, take off the lifejacket, sleep, go to the bathroom, etc. If the latter is required, the person on watch should alert the captain.

  • Sailing in bad weather:

When renting a boat, you usually book well in advance and thus cannot avoid unexpected bad weather. You should always avoid sailing in bad weather if you don’t have experience in this type of situation, and even if you do. Sometimes, although everything is well planned and you’re prepared, bad weather cannot be avoided and if the boat maisy not in the best condition, there’s a risk that a piece could get broken and it’s a hassle to try to explain to the owner.

You also have to bear in mind that the crew has probably never been through a storm and is thus not prepared, which can lead to a panic situation and then danger. It’s different if the crew encounters bad weather while sailing versus leaving port in bad weather. People in the former situation accept the reality better than in the latter.

yacht-charter-tips (9)If we simply cannot avoid sailing in bad weather, the best thing to do is to anticipate the storm with our weather systems and begin preparing well ahead of when the storm is supposed to arrive. Everything on deck should be tied down well, everything inside should be tied down and stored well, the anchor well tied down, everyone in the cockpit must be wearing a lifejacket, lifelines ready for use, water suits prepared, food ready in the cockpit, take Dramamine if you have it, sails should be flapping before the wind hits, turn off autopilot so that it doesn’t take us over huge sea waves, we may take the sea by bow or fin depending on the arrival point.

In this kind of situation, it’s vital to stay calm although it is difficult to do so. Always be sure to show a calm face to the crew, which will make them calmer and encourage them, which they will appreciate.