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Five Essential Bareboat Charter Skills

Category : Charter

hemingwayModernist author and noted sea enthusiast Ernest Hemingway once said, “The sea is the same as it has been before men ever went on it in boats.” While that may be true, a great deal has changed about the boats, the lifestyle of seagoing, and perhaps the men and women themselves. For many, bareboat chartering–renting a boat and skippering it yourself–is now the ultimate goal of learning to sail, and with good reason. The charter options, variety of destinations, and accessibility we enjoy today might make even the notoriously adventurous Hemingway jealous.

The question, then, is how to get the most out of the bareboat charter experience. Likely you already have an idea of where you see yourself spending a dream vacation, whether it’s the Virgin Islands, down-island in the Grenadines, exploring the nooks and inlets of Chesapeake Bay, or navigating the cliffside fishing villages of the Mediterranean. But what do you need to know before you embark? Here are 5 essential skills to master before you leave the dock.
raising sail
1. Basic Sailing Proficiency

If you’re going to be the skipper, it’s crucial that your sailing competency is up to the job. Each sailing ground is different, and some are far more challenging than others. Being honest with yourself about your experience and skill level is the best way to have a fun, stress-free adventure. Necessary seamanship skills include: Competency in steering under power and sail, trimming, reefing, and handling the sails, anchoring and mooring, and navigating using charts and line-of-sight. All of these skills and more are taught in ASA 101 (Basic Keelboat), 103 (Basic Coastal Cruising), and 104 (Bareboat Cruising). Sailors who have completed these courses have proven their ability to safely skipper a bareboat charter and are welcomed by charter companies virtually everywhere.

2. Any Special Skills Needed Where You’re Going

Again, with apologies to Ernest, the sea may not have changed, but neither is it any single, comprehensible entity. Everywhere you go, there are differences, both subtle and drastic, in the sailing conditions. If you’re chartering in the San Juan Islands, for example, you need to make sure you have a grip on tides and currents, while these are a complete non-factor in many other places. In the Mediterranean, you need to know how to pull off the famous “med-moor,” which involves tying up with your stern to the dock. The Caribbean is popular with beginning charterers for its steady tradewinds, light seas, and easy navigation, but even so, there are always things to watch out for. Make sure you consult with your charter company about what you need to know for the area you’re visiting. Pick up a copy of the local Cruising Guide and seek out those who have been there before. (The ASA community on Facebook and Twitter is a great place to bring your questions.)

boat instruments3. How to Inspect Your Charter Boat

Like Odysseus escaping the island of Calypso, or Jimmy Buffett getting ejected from a Miami Heat game, the Charter Check-Out is one of those rites of passage every sailor must undergo. No, it’s not the most fun part of your trip, but don’t underestimate its importance. This is your chance to go over the boat and make sure everything is in working order, that you know how to use everything on board, and that you’re getting exactly what you paid for. A representative from the charter company should be on hand to show you around, answer any questions, and repair anything that isn’t working. It’s mandatory for the skipper, but we recommend having some or all of your crew participate. The more people on board who understand the vessel’s systems, the greater the likelihood that you can solve any problems that may arise.

4. Provisioning

A sailing voyage without good food and drink is unthinkable. You have two main choices when bareboat chartering: The charter company can provision the boat for you, or you can provision it yourself. Many charter companies will provide you with a comprehensive order form, allowing you to have the boat stocked with exactly what you want. Others have more generic provisioning “packages.” Depending on where you’re chartering, the most delicious and cost-effective method might be to buy your own provisions from local vendors or markets. Nothing can compare with local fruits and fresh-caught seafood. Many charterers opt for a combination of the two strategies: Buy your “staple” provisions from the charter company, and garnish it with those specialty items you can only get from the locals.
charter crew
5. Choosing and Managing Your Crew

You don’t always get to choose the people who surround you in your daily life, but you can choose whether or not to bring them sailing. Do it wisely. Many bareboat charters are family trips, in which case you can skip this step. But if you’re planning a vacation with friends, spend some time thinking over the arrangements carefully. Remember, a sailboat is a smaller living space than you’re used to. People will be in tight quarters, and it’s important that they get along. It’s also key to consider whether they share the same interests. Will they want to stay up late or turn in early? Are they party animals or soul-searchers looking for serenity and relaxation? Some people prefer to spend more time ashore, and others will be looking for any excuse to dive, snorkel, and kayak. To keep everyone happy, make sure they understand the itinerary beforehand.

Ready to cast off? Visit Find My Charter to book your very own bareboat charter anywhere in the world.

 

Take a Coastal Navigation Sailing Course and Build Confidence

Category : Standards

sailing croatiaLong gone are the days when a sailor cruising alongside an unfamiliar coast had nothing but their compass and the principles of dead reckoning to go by. The age of GPS and electronic chartplotters is here, and with NOAA’s recent announcement that it would be discontinuing paper charts, it is clear that navigation has undergone a titanic shift.

Far from making the fundamental principles of navigation obsolete, however, these changes reinforce just how important they are. GPS and other revolutionary electronic aids have greatly enhanced the sailor’s ability to get their position and travel safely, but they are of no use unless that sailor understands how to navigate. Here’s an example: On a recent ASA flotilla in Croatia, stormy weather had caused the marinas to fill up with boats looking to escape the rain, meaning that the ASA boats had to find somewhere else to anchor. By consulting the charts and cruising guide, they identified a protected bay a few miles off.

plottingUsing a combination of GPS data and pencil-on-paper chartplotting, they figured out the best route and the obstacles they would need to avoid. They also considered the direction and force of the wind in order to avoid a lee shore. Armed with this information, and keeping a sharp lookout, they navigated safely into the idyllic bay, where they found mooring balls and spent a peaceful night far from the overcrowded marina.

The lesson? Understanding coastal navigation counts. So where can you learn these skills? So glad you asked! The answer is at your local ASA affiliated sailing school. ASA 105 is the Coastal Navigation standard. In this course you learn the theory of navigation, including:

  • Reading charts
  • Using the instruments on board
  • Understanding tide and current tables
  • Converting courses and bearings for true, magnetic, and compass directions
  • Dead reckoning
  • Plotting a course

Not only are these essential skills for any serious mariner, they also come with a genuine sense of achievement. For hundreds of years the world’s great explorers, admirals, pirates, and singlehanders have practiced them. So can you. The feeling of fulfillment that comes from plotting a course and sailing it is second-to-none.

ASA 105 is taught at sailing schools around the country, and is often paired with ASA 106 (Advanced Coastal Cruising), which allows you to put the theory into practice. For more details on what you will learn, click here.

To sign up, find your local ASA school and ask when their next Coastal Navigation course is. Click here to find sailing schools in your area.