Sail Guadeloupe Welcome Guide for Preparing to sail Guadeloupe and the French Caribbean

Welcome aboard everyone!

The purpose of this guide is to give everyone an advance glance and overview, based upon the flow of the process, of what a sailing adventure like this looks like and lay out the basics of what we will be doing once aboard as we prepare and head out to sea. For those who may not have that many miles under their keel, this guide is a way for me to help share some tips and tricks so that you can feel like you’ve been on boats your whole life right from the very beginning.

No matter if your goals are to kick back and enjoy the ride or learn as much as you would like, participation is based entirely upon each individual’s desire. You can get as involved as you’d like in managing and sailing the boat or hang out on the trampolines catching some spray and watching the dolphins swim along – or do both if you wish!

At various times we will be doing specific maneuver’s and operations tailored to the personal training of those who are seeking certification. (Throughout this guide I will be including the “specific learning goals” detailed by the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master curriculum for those with the goal of becoming bareboat skippers themselves).

I do want to assure everyone however that these are fun learning experiences that flow naturally with a voyage such as this and will not detract from the enjoyment of those aboard coming along simply for the ride. Any one at any time is welcome to join in as well, it’s up to you!

Aside from certification and detailed levels of learning based upon those goals (be sure to check out the amazing curriculum at NauticEd if you haven’t already), this guide is also meant for everyone to look through and to get a leg up on preparing for the basics of what everyone should know for living and sailing aboard an amazing vessel like our Helia 44

By reviewing the basics of this guide in advance of your arrival at the boat your “fun curve” will be greatly increased and accelerated.

So as you look through this guide simply dig as deep as you would like, or consider it an overview to help you settle in right away and make the most of what is going to be an amazing trip! The initial introduction is for everyone and then what will follow will be the in-depth orientation and instructions for those who are seeking to learn more during the charter.

See you all soon in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, and remember, of all the questions that can arise in sailing the two most important of all are: “was it fun?” and “do you want to go again?”

UPON ARRIVAL (Learn more with NauticEd)

As we settle in aboard this beautiful boat on our first evening the initial learning goal is for everyone to start getting to know their boat (relative to the desired level of involvement) so as to be able to relax into what we call “life aboard” right from the very beginning. (Note: the above link is to a 2013 Helia 44 that is the same year as the Helia we will be sailing out of Guadeloupe.) Here you will find the specs for our boat “Cumbava”

By understanding the process by which we do this we can take what can easily be an overwhelming experience and turn it into a fun opportunity to learn how to “feel right at home”.

The basics covered here are:

  • Settling into your stateroom
  • Simple initial use of the galley
  • Use of the heads
  • Basic electrical system use



As you settle into your stateroom get to know your hatches and lights right away. It is natural, of course, that you will want to familiarize yourself with how the hatches work. We try to always be aware of our hatches, especially as we are underway or if we are leaving the boat. Note that the forward staterooms have one “escape hatch” each which of course, are never meant to be opened unless in an emergency.

Lights – we want to start right from the beginning being aware of minimizing power use while of course being comfortable below decks. Some basics: We never leave any cabin lights on unless we are using them. Always turn each light off at it’s source to ensure it’s not accidentally left on during the day time while no one is in the stateroom.

The galley

on the Helia 44 is amazing. (Learn more here with NauticEd) The basics just to get started are always minimize fridge time (when it’s open). We try to preserve the cold as much as possible of course. The refridgerators will have a latch which we want to always be in the habit of securing so when we are underway.

The system on this boat is an 12v refrigerator and freezer. This system is designed to run 24hrs a day if you wish. To ensure that it does not fail there are two things you should do.

  • Firstly, keep your batteries charged. If the level goes below 12v the system will malfunction.
  • Secondly, do not puncture the cold plate in your fridge! Do not chip at the ice or use any other sharp items in the fridge. If something is frozen to the side of the fridge do not force it away. Pour warm water on it if you need to melt the ice.

There is a thermostat in the fridge. It is a white dial with numbers on it going from 1-7. Putting 7 at the apex of the dial is the coldest setting. Keep it on this setting until it is cold. Then turn the system down or off – if it is not cold enough, augment the system with ice.

As for the galley sink (and the water systems in the heads) the system is pressurized by pumps that are turned off and on at the main breaker panel (more on that in a bit). It is important that we never leave the power on to the fresh water pumps when we are not using water. If we do we may loose water if there is a leak somewhere unseen as pressure will build up unnecessarily and we will drain excessive power from our batteries as well.

Managing fresh water consumption

is a major part of what sailor’s do while underway on trips such as this. We want to be as conservative as possible with our fresh water usage of course. The fresh water in the tanks is reserved for washing up and personal hygiene – we will be stocking bottled water for consumption.

It is also very important to never allow food waste or any solid matter to get into the drainage system as they can get easily plugged up and be very hard to clear.

Note: the proper procedures for stove operations will be covered in the more detailed sections coming up.

Using the head(s)

is simple and involves some basic understanding of the system. (Learn more with NauticEd)

  • Whenever we are at the dock we try to minimize or not use our heads if there is a public bathroom reasonably accessible. Once we’ve settled in aboard one of the first things we will do is go over the basic usage the core elements of which are:

  • Nothing other than what we have digested and the very minimal amount of toilet paper can ever go into the bowl. (Please use the smallest amount of paper possible).

  • Basic valve settings (one way brings seawater into the bowl, the other way clears out the bowl).

  • Use of macerators (pumps that also grind) if equipped is simple – usually a spring loaded switch that is next to the bowl.

  • Everyone aboard will be coached as to the usage of the system and at anytime if there are any questions it is important you ask! It is much more fun making sure we all learn how to use the given systems properly than it is to have to clear out a system while underway…

  • Showers should definitely be reserved for underway – whenever we are at a marina we definitely use the marina showers and not the ones on the boat. When we do shower aboard it is imperative that we conserve water. There are “sump pumps” that will pump out our “grey water” (waste from washing dishes, personal hygiene, etc – not “black water”) that will be either activated by a switch there in or near the shower or by a circuit panel switch located on the main panel (to be determined at the boat).

  • We must be mindful of transitioning from “land life” to “life aboard”. For example here are some numbers for perspective:

Fresh water capacity on board:                                                     198 Gallons
Average American shower:                                                            17.2 Gallons
Number of “average” showers available if not conserving:            11…
The math speaks for itself…

  • Our boat does have a water maker however we still must conserve as we must run the engine to use it and thus will only be able to replace a nominal amount per day.
  • Obviously sailor’s are very aware of wasting water and there are easy tricks to minimize the amount necessary while still being very comfortable. You will learn many of these tricks below and once we are underway!

Basic electrical system use

is actually very simple. Later, and for those who are focused on learning a great deal more about boats like these, we will go into much greater detail. A standard electrical panel (from a Helia 44) looks like this. (Learn more with NauticEd)

Though there are variations in makes and design, the basics are always the same. Most importantly if at anytime anyone has a question about the system or something not working please do not ever hesitate to ask.

Basic use for life aboard as mentioned above involves knowing which circuits are which and turning them on an off as needed. Note the circuits in bold that we all will use through out the trip.

The basic circuits found on the panel are as follows:

  1. Navigation lights
  2. Steaming lights
  3. Masthead light
  4. Deck floodlight
  5. Navigation instruments
  6. Hull light (salon and cabin lights etc)
  7. Fridge (generally always on)
  8. Fresh water pump (always off when not in use!)
  9. Sea water pump (always off when not in use!)
  10. Port bilge pump – leave in the Auto postion
  11. Stbd bilge pump – leave in the Auto postion
  12. Port Eng bilge pump – leave in the Auto postion
  13. Stbd Eng bilge pump – leave in the Auto postion
  14. Not in use
  15. Courtesy lights
  16. Freezer (generally always on)
  17. Underwater lights
  18. Not in use

Charging our devices involves using the 12Volt system – Be sure to bring your 12Volt charging cables! The boat does have an inverter but bear in mind that the boat is wired for 220V (European) and that the inverter can only be used when the engine’s are running. (Which we seek to minimize). Basics of power management involve:

  • Never leave any lights on when not needed – always turn off lights at their source.
  • Only have circuits powered up when needed or in use as noted above.
  • Never leave devices plugged into the 12volt system after they have reached their desired charge level.
  • Monitoring battery levels is critical – if you wish to learn more see below for more information.

The specific learning goals for a skipper in regard to the Electrical panel are to: identify all the switches including navigation lights, navigation instruments, cabin lights as well as to understand the difference between the AC and DC systems. Knowing where the battery cutoff switches is very important and knowing where the windlass reset switch is is tremendously helpful if needed during anchoring. These specifics will be covered in more detail further on in this guide.


The goal of this section is to help everyone get a good sense of the process we will follow to help everyone aboard get the most out of their experience and feel comfortable with day to day life underway.

            In sailing, one of the most magical and inspiring moments of all can be when we toss that last line and are “no longer tethered to shore”…

By preparing ourselves at a minimum, regardless of what ever level of involvement in the day to day running of the boat we choose, we are ensuring that we are able to relax into the experience of life under sail.

Destinations and Navigation Briefings.

It is always way more fun to know where we are and where we are going! There are so many factors we work with to determine various choices of where we will (and or can) go. By sharing the process at the very least and involving everyone as much as possible we can all work together to create a great voyage. This is what that process looks like:

  • We will have the charts available for everyone at all times as well as being more than happy to share the navigation process through out the trip.

  • Anyone can participate as much as they wish at anytime in the navigation of the boat – the more eyes we have the better it is for everyone!

  • We must and will incorporate any and all local knowledge we can of course (it is the most valuable knowledge of all).

  • There is also the charter base briefing which takes place Sunday morning before departure (attendance is only required for skippers). Information gained there will of course be shared with everyone as we incorporate that into our planning.

  • Weather, currents, and other natural considerations must also be continually factored in. The trade winds can run from well northeast, straight out of the east, or from well southeast and those variations can effect our planning dramatically.

  • Though we of course will strive to sail to the places we all wish to sail to – final determinations ultimately have to rest with the skipper and be founded solidly in good seamanship with everyone’s best interests at heart.


            The purpose of this section is to further help everyone feel comfortable, empowered aboard, and like they’ve been on boats their whole lives by outlining the basics of what “good seamanship” really means.  

To truly be able to relax aboard underway there is a minimum of awareness one wants to have regarding the practice of good seamanship. Seamanship is much more than merely making a list of safety gear or how to tie knots. It is instead an attitude with which we approach being on boats and being on the water. For example, here are some of the many things I’ve been taught by excellent skippers through the years you can incorporate into your experience aboard:

Practicing good seamanship is an attitude:

  • Your instincts are your number one asset in seamanship: listen to your gut.
  • Practicing good seamanship is the opposite of being a white knuckled driver.
  • Good seamanship involves preparing for the worst and hoping for the best: prepare yourself and your boat as best as possible.
  • Completely understand that when you are the skipper you are one hundred percent responsible for everyone on that boat and for that boat – this is never up for discussion.
  • Know your boat and your gear as best as possible.
  • Educate and inform yourself as much as you can, and always recognize your limitations.
  • Seek information when ever possible and strive to incorporate it into every decision.
  • Seek first to stabilize “the situation” and stem the “cascade of events”. Always “stay close to the problem”.
  • Understand the decision making process if under stress: “If you can safely put off a decision do so, only if safe. You may get more information and thus be able to make a better decision. However, it is critical that a good skipper recognize when a decision has to be made and does not hesitate to do so.”
  • Always seek local knowledge – it is the best knowledge one can gain. Watch the locals closely, they know more than you do.
  • Always keep a sharp “weather eye” out.
  • If at all unsure, stand off – never disregard the value of simply slowing the boat or the situation down.
  • Always know your lee shore, even if it’s a thousand miles away.
  • Keep your head out of the boat.
  • Play out “what ifs”… i.e. – “what if” that ship makes a turn and starts coming right toward us? “What if” my depth reading suddenly doesn’t correspond with my charts or where I think I am? Etc.
  • Never pretend you know something you don’t, and never get cocky.
  • One should always feel free to bring up any concerns with a skipper – any skipper worth a grain of salt should always encourage and welcome this.

I believe that only through a thorough practice of good seamanship and a spirit that abides can we truly relax into the full and amazing experience that is life under sail. 

Next we will lay out the basic safety gear everyone aboard should always know about.


            The purpose of this section is to give you a look ahead to the process we will follow once aboard so as to help you be comfortable and self empowered while underway on the boat.

Any time you get on a boat whether for an afternoon, a week, or for years of cruising, you should know about this basic gear. At minimal, we want to know that it is indeed aboard and where it is located on the boat. If a skipper or an owner doesn’t tell everyone about the gear take it upon yourself to ask, or simply look around the boat and find it yourself and then share the info with your friends.

It is also important that everyone know they are welcomed and encouraged to bring up any concerns they may have at anytime. This relates to listening to our gut, our instincts, and if at anytime some one is uncomfortable or unsure of what we are doing they should honor that feeling and feel free to talk about it. At the very least one may gain perspective on the relative risks we are managing and quite possibly this could even bring something to everyone’s attention that no one else had noticed yet and thus save valuable time in dealing with a situation.

We will locate the following gear once aboard and everyone aboard should at the least know the location of the following items. I encourage any questions during the process. The initial orientation will be essentially to know the location of the items. For those of you interested in learning more we will cover the use of the gear in greater detail throughout the week as desired. (Note that there is a division between “safety gear” and “desired gear” that helps to increase safety or the ability to deal with potential situations while underway).

The basic list:

  • Personal flotation (types I II III or V).
  • Throwable flotation (type IV).
  • Fire extinguishers and if equipped – fire suppression systems.
  • Visual distress signals.
  • Sound producing device(s).
  • VHF radio (and handhelds if applicable).
  • First aid kit(s).

Desired gear to have or locate:

  • Binoculars (generally aboard but I bring my own to be sure).
  • Extra lines (or use the mooring lines) for towing or crew overboard recovery.
  • Boat hook (be sure to locate one aboard before cutting loose).
  • Tool kit / leatherman type tool / deck knife.
  • Manuals for the boat.
  • Hand held VHF(s) as noted above.
  • Navigation lights and knowledge of use.

This completes the initial welcome orientation to help everyone get ahead for when they step aboard the boat. In the following sections we will be going into greater detail for these and additional areas of learning.

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