Vessel Orientation

Once aboard it is important to have a focused review of the various aspects of safety and of life aboard to help everyone feel right at home and empowered with the necessary information for having an excellent safe sailing trip.

Those seeking to learn more will take the various aspects to deeper levels as noted in the orientation by following the charter boat check out list included below.

Getting aboard:

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

Stow your gear in your staterooms – always consider others in regard to the main salon and living areas. It’s better to keep your stuff in your rooms so no one has to move someone else’s stuff when relaxing or reclining in the shared areas.

Make a cocktail or grab a beer and make yourself at home!

Daily beverages are generally kept in stock on ice when possible in the cooler on the aft deck.

Don’t keep your beverages in the fridges to reduce the number of times we are opening and closing them – minimize the time that you leave the fridges open.

Be super conservative with water in the galley (and the heads). Use very minimal soap for washing up, etc. There is no need to drink the “tank” water as ample supplies of bottled water have been provisioned aboard for you.

Using the heads:

  • 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).

Always turn off lights and do so at their source. The basic electrical panel use involves turning off and on the pressure for the fresh water when desired and understanding which circuits control what parts of the boat. (If a cabin light or fan won’t turn on it’s likely the circuit is off for example).

Safety gear orientation:

Basic safety gear to locate and know the location of:

  • 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.

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.

Once underway:

We will perform a series of crew overboard recoveries as well as going over the running rigging and routines of running and sailing the boat.

Charter boat check out list:

Batteries and Electricity

  • Battery cutoff switches located
  • Location/condition of batteries, terminals, electrolyte levels, state of charge
  • Location/operation of main battery switch and circuit breakers
  • Inverter


  • Check belts, oil, coolant, and filters and water separators
  • Fuel tank full
  • Locate fuel shutoff
  • Locate raw water in valve operation
  • Controls and gauges operating
  • Check for cooling water from the exhaust
  • Engine and/or generator charging schedule
  • Spares aboard


  • VHF radio check
  • Check navigation lights
  • Chart plotter and instruments working
  • Auto pilot

Steering system

  • Check for smooth steering, any slack or friction in cables, quadrant, hydraulics
  • Rudder OK from stop to stop
  • Rudder bearings and stuffing box OK
  • Location of rudder head and emergency tiller

Rigging and Sails

  • General standard rigging check
  • Running rigging and gear checked
  • Winch handles
  • Reefing system checked

Ground tackle and deck general

  • Main and auxiliary anchors all rigged
  • Anchor well secured for travel
  • Chain ready to pay out
  • Windlass working
  • Bridal set / retrieval line
  • Anchor rode able to be deployed and hauled manually
  • Number of fenders
  • Mooring lines sufficient
  • Boat hook

Dinghy and Dinghy Gear

  • Dinghy inflated properly
  • Dingy plug
  • Pump or bailer
  • Oars and oarlocks
  • Outboard fuel full 
  • 2 stroke or 4: extra oil if
  • Painter not too frayed or too short
  • Bow eye secure
  • Lock and key needed?

Safety Gear and Tools

  • Location/condition of PFDs, Type IV throwables, fire extinguishers, sound producing device , visual distress signals, first-aid kit
  • Manual bilge pumps?
  • Location/condition of flashlights, spare batteries, & other helpful gear
  • Location/contents of tool kit: screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, electrical tape, duct tape, rigging kit

Electrical panel and nav station

  • Plotter and instruments
  • Battery level, fuel, and water gauges
  • Bilge switches and alarms
  • Piloting tools
  • Charts and guides
  • Binoculars
  • Boat binder and manual
  • Quarantene or courtesy flags aboard?

Galley and Freshwater system

  • Propane tank shut off valves
  • Pressure-water system operation
  • Water maker operations
  • Fresh water gauge
  • Water tanks full
  • Tank switch over valve
  • Refrigeration check; icebox cold
  • Adequate cooking gear, utensils, coffee maker, food storage containers/bags 
  • BBQ parts in place

Heads and showers

  • Raw water in through hulls
  • Locate Y valves & ensure settings
  • Toilet operation
  • Shower sump operation
  • Pump works easily and effectively
  • State of holding tank
  • Toilet paper stock
  • Holding tank

Below decks plumbing

  • Locate all through hulls
  • Check seacocks for operation, double clamps, supple hose
  • Stuffing box or sail drive condition
  • Sail drive raw water intake valves
  • Check bilge for water, oil, general condition
  • Manually check bilge pump floats
  • Fresh water tank check
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