For an adventurous and hands-on water activity, a sailboat charter can hardly be beat. Whether you are taking a vacation to Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay or the Sea of Cortez, there are many places in the world where chartering a sailboat is an option. With some charter companies, you have the choice of chartering a crewed boat or a bare boat. A crewed boat will cost more, but a bare boat charter offers you and your vacation party a chance to operate the vessel yourself. To be eligible for this, one person in your party needs to possess a minimum level of certification from the ASA or American Sailing Association.
Before Sailing: A Checklist
Certification and Information: Before you attempt to charter a sailboat, make sure somebody is ASA certified. Otherwise the transaction may not go through. This person should inform the others in the group of the experience they should expect including the work required the safety measures and what to do in an emergency. No one should go out, especially on a multi-day excursion without basic information of what to expect.
Required Safety Equipment: It is the responsibility of the charter company to equip the boat with the required safety equipment, but do not rely on this. Always check the boat thoroughly for the necessary items. These include flares, fire extinguishers, PFDs (both for wearing and throwing), working running lights and a noisemaker.
Recommended Safety Equipment: Check for anchors complete with anchor chain and 200ft of rode or rope attached to the chain. Inspect the GPS system. Make sure there is a first aid kit. Other possible safety items onboard are inflatable rafts, a tool kit, a flashlight and a bilge pump. These items are not required by law, but a responsible charter company will provide them.
Rigging: Thoroughly check the boat’s standing and running rigging before embarking. This includes examining the quality of the sails, the state of the forestay, backstay and shrouds and the mast. Look at the lines and make sure they are not worn or frayed. Do an overall check of the vessel to make sure it is in good shape. You should be able to get an idea of its condition based on what is visible.
Motor: Check the gasoline motor. Insure that there is plenty of fuel and that the ventilation systems designed to expel fuel vapor work properly.
Cleanliness of Vessel: A clean vessel is a comfortable one. Do a scan of the level of cleanliness. Especially if you and your party are staying aboard the boat for several nights, the berths should be clean with fresh linens and the heads should be clean. The sailboat should be well maintained. If it is not, reconsider the charter company.
Before embarking on a chartered sailboat, check the safety equipment, the quality and condition of the rigging and the cleanliness and soundness of the vessel. Never charter a sailboat from a company that skimps on any of these items. It is the responsibility of the company to provide a quality sailboat, but it is your responsibility to double check.