Taking charge of your charter boat

It’s always worth checking that everything operates as it should before you leave the marina.

It’s always worth checking that everything operates as it should before you leave the marina.

Charter handover

Chartering can make a huge amount of sense. It allows you the freedom to cruise when and where you want and whilst the initial charges may seem high, they are nothing compared to owning and running a boat.

I use charter boats a lot, either when teaching in a different country or running a course in the UK but time and experience has told me to look the boat over very carefully during the handover.

Whilst the boat is often sparkly and clean, it is always worth a quick look to check that everything operates as it should before you leave the marina.

Charter operators operating under the UK flag, by law have to give you a charter handover which should include familiarisation and documentation:

1. Familiarisation
The method of use of all lifesaving and fire fighting appliances, location and operation of sea cocks and bilge pumps, how mechanical and electrical/electronic equipment works, any routine maintenance that is required, what engine checks should be carried out and the method of setting and reefing of sails.

2. Documentation
There should be a file onboard with the boats registration papers, insurance policy, necessary certificates, details of permitted operating area, instruction manuals, inventory of the vessel’s equipment, stowage plan and list of emergency contacts should a problem occur.

Be nosey

Whilst a charter company has a duty to pass on basic safety critical information, the boat may have just returned from another charter and often issues with the boat are not reported back to the charter company.

Charter companies will do their own basic checks to ensure the boat is up to spec, but this realistically can only go so far, therefore it is worth you having a good look around before you leave with the boat.

Ondeck checks

Laying out the boats inventory and stowage plan will help save valuable time searching through lockers.

My routine is to start on deck at the bow, then work back checking the anchor shackles, rigging pins, seizing’s on the jackstays, guardrail fastenings and tightness of shackles. I’ll also check out the reefing system and look up the mast groove for major mast misalignment.

Then I move on to the deck electrics, by switching on the lower navigation lights and electronic instrumentation to check that they work.

The lifesaving appliances should have already been pointed out but this is my chance to check whether the MOB lights work and how quickly the equipment can be deployed.

The deck check often throws up a variety of small issues such as loose shackles, MOB or navigation lights not working, empty gas bottles and faulty instrumentation.

‘Down below’ checks

Moving down below, as well as the usual familiarisation of instruments, look at the charts and publications to check when they were last updated.

I open up the lifejackets to see how the lights operate and how the jacket inflates so that I know the ‘auto’ lifejackets are auto and not ‘manual’.

The engine requires a visual check. Items such as oil and water should have been checked by the company. However it doesn’t take long to check the engine mountings, bolts on the shaft couplings and to check that piping and ancillary items within the compartment are secure. I have found problems with loose bolts on a shaft coupling at least once in a year together with piping vibrating and abrading to a point where they either were, or would have, started to leak during the charter.

These are just some the items that can be checked and I’m sure you will have or come up with your own checklist. It takes less than 30 minutes or so to complete a good check of your charter boat and I have found that they have saved me a lot of problems.

Simon Jinks, RYA Instructor and Examiner