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Winter Courses for Sailors & Powerboaters

What skills benefit sailors and powerboaters alike? Weather and Navigation!

These 4-day courses are applicable for both sailors and power-boaters, and there are no pre-requisites. Price per course is $395, and includes books and certification materials. Register now to reserve your spot; you’ll get your course materials early so you can get started! Call 410-326-4917 or email info@sailsibackup

Marine Weather Sailing CourseMarine Weather Sailing Course

Take the mystery out of marine weather forecasts; understand the principles, learn how to apply the information for local and passage-making voyages. From traditional maritime forecasting skills to the latest technological tools, this course will help make your time on the water as safe and efficient as possible. Taught by a marine meteorologist and sailing passagemaker.

Course: Marine Weather (ASA 119)
Date/Time: Feb 11, 12, 18, 19 from 0900-1600
Location: Zahniser’s Yachting Center, Solomons MD
Cost: $395 (includes text, workbook, certification materials)

Coastal Navigation Sailing CourseCoastal Navigation Sailing Course

Plot your course to success! Learn the theory and skills to safely navigate in coastal or inland waters. Sail Solomons’ 4-day Coastal Navigation course is taught by a retired Navy navigator and ocean passagemaker.

Course: Coastal Navigation (ASA 105)
Date/Time: Mar 3, 4, 17, 18 from 0900-1600
Location: Zahniser’s Yachting Center, Solomons MD
Cost: $395 (includes books, charts, certification materials)
Navigation Tools available at Sail Solomons discount
Note: This course is also available by correspondence; cost is $300

Enquire Now

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Sailaway Chefs

Sailaway Chefs

Sailaway Chefs

Eric and Christina Case experienced the dinner cruise of a lifetime on Saturday, August 1st.  It was a picture-perfect evening as the party departed from Solomons onboard S/Y Zingaro for a sunset sail on the Patuxent, then anchored in Solomons harbor for an exquisite and memorable dinner on deck. Eric Case (Valrhona Chocolates, NYC), and his wife Christina MacNamara won the high bid for the “Chesapeake Bay Dinner Cruise for Six”, the top prize in an auction held last September to support the US Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie team. Eric and Christina hosted two other couples for this spectacular dinner event.

The festivities began with a pierside champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception on Chef Mark Ramsdell’s Jeanneau 39i Friandise, followed by a multi-course, multi wine dinner cruise on the Passport 47 Zingaro. The hors d’oeuvres and dinner were prepared by Francois Dionot, founder (in 1976) and director of L’Academie de Cuisine, Gaithersburg. The dessert was prepared and served by Roland Mesnier, former White House Pastry chef to five presidents during a 25 year career.  Chef Mark Ramsdell, former director of the Professional Pastry Arts Program at L’Academie, prepared the after-dinner friandise. S/Y Zingaro was provided by Sail Solomons, and sailed by Captains and American Sailing Association (ASA) Instructors Lisa and Andy Batchelor. Following the dinner cruise, guests repaired to Friandise for a pierside party featuring the yacht’s namesake “friandise”. After sleeping aboard Friandise, and awoke Sunday morning breakfast onboard.

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Flotilla Fantastic!

BVI Flotilla 2012

What is a Flotilla?

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey.

    When social networks go sailing, you get… a flotilla!  Simply stated, a flotilla is a small fleet of similar vessels operating together for a common purpose. While historical purposes have included military operations, law enforcement or commerce, the modern purpose for sailboat flotillas is a bit different. These flotillas offer a balance between independence, support, and social sailing. Essentially, a flotilla allows one to “cruise in company.”  As kids, our annual summer vacation was spent onboard the family boat on the “Commander’s Cruise” – a weeklong flotilla on the Chesapeake, hosted by the US Sail & Power Squadron. We’d cast off each morning to our new destination, meeting up in the afternoon at a marina or anchorage for a social evening together. Kids and adults met new and long-lasting friends. Local sailing clubs frequently sponsor weekend flotillas, allowing new and experienced sailors to sail independently by day, and raft up at night.  Bareboat chartering allows sailors of all levels to experience the world of flotilla sailing, in local waters or across the globe. Read on to see how it works, hear testimonials from flotilla veterans, and learn why flotillas might be right for you!

Flotilla Primer

Bareboat charter flotillas combine the essence of bareboating with the benefits of a flotilla. Boats are chartered from a company, and those onboard are the captain and crew. The cost of the boat and operating expenses are shared amongst those onboard.  You may have pre-selected your shipmates and boat, or perhaps you’ve just signed on and will be matched up with a cabin-mate by captain or the Flotilla Organizer. Sounds like a regular bareboat charter so far, doesn’t it?

The big difference is the Flotilla Leader (FL), who typically sails the lead boat. The FL has local knowledge and experience, and will suggest a flexible itinerary for the group. The FL holds regular captain’s meetings, advising on best routes to the selected destination. The FL provides a safety net, and is the “go-to” person for problems and troubleshooting. Enroute, the FL is accessible to answer questions, or you might simply sail “follow the leader” if you choose. At your destination, the FL can assist in finding a good anchorage, help with the mooring, and coordinate the flotilla’s social activities.  Bottom line – each boat sails independently, but is secure in the knowledge that help from a trusted Flotilla Leader is close by. Social activities extend beyond your own boat to an entire flotilla of like-minded sailors.

Bareboat Chartering

Independence is a key feature of bareboat chartering – you cast off the lines and become self-sufficient afloat. The more sailing experience you gain, the more independent you can become. In a bareboat flotilla, each boat has its own captain and crew, and is able to cruise independently. This allows each crew to discover and explore on its own. Flotilla may have different policies on “tethering”; some like to cruise independently for days before a rendezvous, others meet up each day. Departures from the group are fine, so long as everyone is clear on destinations and timing. Flotilla veteran Kris advises “… let each boat wander and explore as they please and meet up every couple of days.”

Flotillas are an ideal part of the sail training continuum. Mark, an experienced captain and boat owner, notes “The flotilla allows risk taking with support.  As a captain, it’s a safe way to get a check on your own skills, and a tremendous opportunity to test your navigation and sailing skills in unfamiliar waters.” 

For new captains, one school owner adds “Our members love flotillas! We use them as a ‘rite of passage’ around here.”  Crewmembers at all sailing levels have a great opportunity to see the full spectrum of a bareboat charter, while contributing and learning.  Having sailed on a charter, a crewmember’s next sailing course will take on far more relevance. It’s quite likely that their next course will be with new-found flotilla friends!

Sailing Support

Support is one of the primary reasons that new captains choose flotillas for their first charter.  The logistic support comes first. The Flotilla Organizer (FO) charters the boats, helps to organize crews, gathers payments, and advises and assists with travel and individual boat logistics. That advice is invaluable to new charter captains, and saves time and effort for all involved. For those captains who aren’t able to pull together a full crew on their own, or for crew with no captain, the FO Organizer can fill in the right sailors to round out the crew and help share the cost.  Depending on who sponsors the flotilla, the FO may also arrange planning parties and seminars where you’ll meet the flotilla members, talk about itineraries, provisioning, crew coordination and receive great information on your upcoming charter.

As Mark points out:

“You not only have the support of the Flotilla Leader, but also the support of the other captains.  On the BVI flotilla, Kal and I compared notes every day. It’s a chance to try out a new boat, and to test your skills on a bigger boat.  You could do this alone, but I’d rather do it in a flotilla where someone else may be figuring out the same boat.”

This allows captains and crew to push their envelopes and build confidence, with the reassurance of nearby support and local knowledge. “It allows you to experience new places with direct recommendations of people you know.” Some flotillas allow for crewmembers to swap boats for a day; this can enhance training and put additional experience onboard for more challenging passages.

Benefits of Flotillas

Social benefits are paramount in flotillas. Sailors cruise with old and new friends and meet people with similar interests. When you rendezvous at your agreed destination, you can join the group for sundowners, dinner, shore excursions, parties or even regattas. You’ll have the opportunity to re-live that fabulous sail with like-minded sailors who will appreciate your perfect jibe! No matter how much you enjoy your crew, you’ll likely appreciate the opportunity to get off the boat for some private time, or to mingle with other crews during a flotilla.  Kal says:

“The flotilla is a great ice breaker that allows you to go over to other boats and say hi or share a drink. It’s a very fun and social event.”

Flotillas forge new friendships which you can continue to build while sailing at home base. If you are chartering with children, flotillas allow kids to meet other kids and parents to engage in adult conversation.

Finding your perfect flotilla is easy.  ASA offers flotillas year-round and across the globe; simply pick a location you like and a time that works for you. Flotillas are the perfect compliment to good training!

Charter companies also offer flotillas – sometimes by the boat, and sometimes by the cabin or berth. Anyone who’s sailed the BVI has seen the Sunsail “flagship” carrying the Flotilla Lead and Hostess – you can’t miss it.

Check with your sailing club or sailing school; if you’re a member, you’ll probably get advance notification of flotilla opportunities. You may even be able to take a course during the flotilla, getting maximum benefit from your sailing week.  If your club doesn’t offer a flotilla, look for other clubs or schools who do; listen up for referrals, and check references!

Before signing on for any flotilla, ask a few questions. Is there a theme or special demographic? Pirates, families, singles, accountants, politics? What costs are included, and what will you need to pay out-of-pocket?  Will you be sharing a cabin or head?  Will you have an opportunity to meet your crew before the flotilla? When you find a flotilla that fits the bill, jump in – you’ll be glad you did!

Pam, an ASA 103 graduate and sailing club member who participated in her first flotilla with Sail Solomons last winter sums it up beautifully:

“As a relative newcomer to sailing, I thought the flotilla provided an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience under the tutelage of a skilled captain in a beautiful setting.  I enjoyed the daily routine of waking up to the sunrise in the harbor, checking the weather, planning our course, setting sail, executing perfect tacks and jibes to the next destination, attaching to a mooring ball and celebrating the wonderful day with a swim and a sundowner!   You can experience all of these things in a single sailing excursion, however a flotilla allows you to practice several days in a row and learn from the previous day’s experience.  There is a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction gained from the teamwork of a great sail.  As an added bonus, it was a lot of fun during the course of the week to gain new friends with like-minded interests.”

Enquire now about Flotillas
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Bareboat Chartering with the Kids

Bareboat Chartering with Kids

by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Families and boating go together like peanut butter and jelly. My family boating experience started when I was 2 months old; Dad had converted a Navy-surplus 36’ wooden landing craft into our family cruising boat.

As a kid, I spent virtually every summer weekend and vacation boating, and I am ever grateful for the experience. Shared family time, learning new skills, seeing new ports, swimming off the boat, fishing and “sleeping out” can bring a family together like nothing else. As a cruiser and charter operator, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing families literally grow up sailing together – whether on their own boats, or on charter vacations. In this article, I draw from the tips offered by seasoned sailing parents to make chartering with kids a memorable and enjoyable vacation.

Preparing to sail with children

As in all aspects of chartering, preparation is key. Talk with your kids so they’ll know what to expect regarding getting wet, moving around the boat, sharing with siblings, and safety onboard. Since so many chartering activities are based around water, it’s best if kids can swim, and are not afraid of water. If your kids aren’t boaters yet, try to visit a local marina before your charter to get them familiar with boats. Do some research using books, movies or the internet on the local history and sights at your charter destination. The exciting Caribbean pirate culture is bound to be a hit; make a treasure map to go with your itinerary! Many sailing areas in the US are rich in the history of Native Americans, early settlers and watermen. Laminated fish identification cards give a special goal for new snorkelers. Help your kids keep a journal or log, to which they can add photos and postcards; in addition to keeping the memories fresh, they’ll have all kinds of material for school reports or show-and-tell. Make your own, or purchase one of the excellent kids’ nautical logs and journals on the market.

Kids sailing safety

Sailing gear and life jackets. To keep kids safe and to fully integrate them into the crew, they should have the same sailing gear as the adults onboard. This includes non-slip shoes, sailing gloves, hat, sunglasses, sun protective clothing and plenty of sunscreen. Explain why it’s important, and set a good example by wearing this gear yourself! Children’s life jackets are great safety gear and legally required in most charter areas. Shop with your kids to pick out appropriate life jackets that are safe and comfortable (perhaps adorned with a favorite cartoon character). Take a tip from these sailing parents: Sue and Mark set clear guidelines for wearing life jackets (or “boat coats”) – on the dock, onboard on deck, underway, etc. Sara and Chris’ children wear new life jackets at home to “break them in” and make them more comfortable. Parents can identify and fix any hotspots before the vacation. Even the family dog has a (broken in) life jacket!

Food and snacks

Food and drink are important aspects of any yacht charter. Whether you provision in advance or onsite, be sure to include plenty of nutritious foods that you know your kids will enjoy. They WILL be hungry from all the activity and fresh air, so meals and snacks are crucial. Remember to pack saltines for occasional motion sickness or tummy-aches. You’ll likely have many meals onboard; why not take a blanket to the foredeck, and picnic in the sea breeze? Travelling gives you a chance to explore new foods, and you may be surprised at what your kids will eat when introduced on vacation.

Drinks and hydration

Hydration is extremely important while boating. Be sure everyone has a no-spill water bottle with their name on it, and keep track of consumption to be sure they are well-hydrated. A little bit of powdered drink mix can make water more interesting, without adding too much sugar. When the adults sit back to enjoy tropical sundowners, the kids will love virgin daiquiris or coladas as a special treat.

Gettings kids involved with sailing

Involvement onboard is the key to energized sailing families. Kids of all ages can actively participate in the boat handling and sailing; with duties expanding as their skills and interests grow. Be sure to give plenty of opportunity to take the helm, pull a halyard or sheet, place a fender, and call out “Hard A-Lee!” Teach the kids a few basic knots before your charter, and have them tie the knots “for real” while onboard – fenders, cleats, stopper knots. Supervise and assist as needed, and give lots of praise. They’ll love to help, and to be part of the crew. Consider crew tee-shirts!

Kids also love to push buttons, and in this age of technology, they’re very good at it. But the onboard environment is very different from home video games, and pushing the wrong button can cause big problems. You’ll need to lay out the rules before any trouble occurs. Captain Andy (immediately re-named “Cotton Candy” by a set of 4-year old triplets on charter) told his charges that pushing the wrong button could sink the boat, so if they wanted to push anything, they must first come to him to ask permission. Many buttons were pushed, but all under supervision. Happily, the boat did not sink.

Delegate responsibilities

Consider delegating some specific responsibilities to your kids, so they’ll have something of their own to be proud of. I was the “Flag Lieutenant” on our family boat when I was 8, responsible for hoisting and lowering the flags; it probably influenced my joining the Navy! Dinghy Captain, Forward Lookout, Keeper of the Ship’s Log are all duties that kids might handle. Jim & Hedy have been chartering as a family for several years; they designate a “Captain of the Day” who calls out orders and delegates duties. The kids are now so proficient that they can take their parents for a sail!

Most charter boats have dinghies; many have kayaks, as well. Alex and Avi love seeing the absolute delight in their eldest son’s eyes when he’s in charge of driving the dinghy, and the autonomy and independence their boys feel when paddling the kayaks around the anchorage.

Kids sailing entertainment

There will be times onboard when you’re not underway, or when kids are not actively participating in the sailing. Be sure to have activities to keep them engaged – books, games, portable electronics, waterproof playing cards, logbooks. If feasible, designate an area of the cabin for each child to keep their things, where they can retreat when they need some private time. I can’t think of any kid on our boats who hasn’t created a blanket fort in a cabin. Take advantage of quiet family time to read or play games together. Avi notes that his favorite times onboard are early morning chess games with his sons; Alex loves reading stories with the boys on the catamaran trampoline at sunset.

Itineraries and Activities Ashore

Most kids will enjoy time ashore more than time underway. Many consider the voyage as a necessary means to an end (getting to the beach), so try to keep passages short. All charter itineraries should be flexible enough to accommodate inclement weather (or maintenance issues), or to linger in a favorite spot – this is especially true when chartering with kids. For a week-long charter, Hedy & Jim recommend building in a land day where the boat stays put, so you can dedicate time to shore excursions. Your kids will have ample opportunity to swim, snorkel, build sand castles, go fishing, clamber over rocks and explore pirate caves, hike to lookouts, chase chickens and goats, and search for seashells. What’s not to love?

When anchored or moored, expect your boat to become a diving and jumping platform. I once watched two young live-aboard kids entertain themselves for three hours by jumping off the bow and climbing back up the anchor line. I wish I had that energy! A moored charter boat is perfect for staging dinghies and kayaks, as well as noodle-raft flotillas. It’s also an excellent base for a natural science class – watch the fish swim around your swim platform, and use the onboard binoculars to study the wildlife along the shoreline.

Chartering with Kids – Overview

Chartering with kids can be a rewarding and magical experience for all, and a way to create family memories to last a lifetime. It’s a completely different experience than an adults-only charter; you will rediscover the joys of boating through a child’s eyes. Don’t try to pack every activity and destination into the first charter. Families are over-scheduled as it is; give yours a chance to relax and play together. Involve your kids completely, and plan for activities afloat and ashore. It’s vacation – have fun!

Find out more about Sail Solomons Sailing Courses

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to those whose ideas, suggestions and photos are pivotal to this article – Hedy & Jim, Alex & Avi, Sue & Mark, Sara & Chris, Captain Andy, and my parents, who instilled in me the love of boating!

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Money Matters – The Bareboat Charter Kitty

(by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey)

Why are all-inclusive vacations so popular? Because the majority of the expenses are paid up front, so you can fully relax on vacation and not worry about constantly shelling out money for daily expenses. If you’ve already paid for it, then it feels free!

How to budget on a bareboat charter

This is especially true when you’re sharing expenses on a vacation, whether ashore or afloat. Even the best of friends have different spending styles and priorities, and nothing dampens the vacation atmosphere more quickly than constant questions of “Who’s paying for what?” On a bareboat charter, the cost of the boat itself comprises the largest shared expense, and is paid well in advance. Nonetheless, how you handle the collective daily running expenses onboard can make a big difference in your crew morale. Whether you’re a group of friends sharing expenses, or a couple wanting to maintain financial harmony onboard, a Charter Kitty makes sense. This is not a euphemism for Poker Night or a feline mascot, but a method of pre-paying shared expenses during your charter. Successful bareboat charter crews keep spending issues to a minimum and achieve that “all-inclusive” feeling by establishing a well-organized Charter Kitty.

As in most aspects of a smooth bareboat charter, a little advance planning goes a long way. Be sure to include the Kitty as a topic in your crew’s charter planning discussions; buy-in (pun intended) is important. The actual mechanics of running a Charter Kitty are pretty simple. If you can balance a checkbook, you can manage the Kitty!  Every crew will find their own way to “skin the cat”, but here are some tips we’ve found useful on our charters.

How much is enough?

Estimate the cost of your charter’s running expenses. Consider provisions, beverages, fuel, ice, water, moorings, dockage, customs fees. Discuss what additional expenses you’d like to share; your crew might choose to use the Kitty for cocktails or a meal ashore. Try to decide this in advance, so you’ll have enough cash to cover. It’s better to overestimate and splurge a bit at the end, rather than ask for top-ups midway through the charter. Crewmembers should still carry cash or cards for personal expenses, with cash in reserve to contribute in the event a Kitty top-up is necessary.

Nominate a Purser

Remember “Gopher” from The Love Boat? He was the ship’s Purser – the one responsible for handling the money onboard. Your charter Purser will handle the day-to-day management of the Kitty. The Purser should be organized, and good at making change. The only tools needed are a separate wallet or envelope (to keep Kitty cash separate), perhaps a small calculator, and a tally sheet or ledger. We use a sheet that resembles a check register; hand-entries are simple to make, and it’s easy to decipher where the cash is going and how much remains.

Feed the Kitty!

Once you’ve estimated your cost, split that cost amongst the crew, and have each crewmember contribute their share. If you’re chartering in a country that uses US dollars, it’s often best if crew members bring cash, and pay the Purser once onboard. If a different currency is used at your charter destination, it may be best to pay the Purser in advance, have the Purser deposit the cash/checks to a debit account, and use the debit card to withdraw local currency at an ATM. You’ll get a better exchange rate than using most currency exchange offices. Just be sure the debit card is programmed to work at your destination! Alternatively, each crew member could independently withdraw at your destination, and feed the Kitty with local currency.  A cash Kitty is generally easiest to work with onboard, however you choose to feed it.

Onboard Mechanics

The daily mechanics are quite simple. The Purser starts with a full Kitty kept in a separate envelope or wallet, and records the balance on the ledger. Whoever is charged with buying a service or product gets cash from the Purser, pays the bill, obtains the receipt, and gives the change and receipt to the Purser. If the buyer uses his own money (perhaps the Purser is off snorkeling!), he later presents the Purser with the receipt, and is reimbursed from the Kitty. The Purser records the item purchased and its cost, and calculates the balance remaining in the Kitty. It’s a good idea to keep the receipts for reference.

Top-Ups and Rollovers

The Purser should keep the Captain and crew apprised of the “State of the Kitty,” so you’ll know if you’re making ends meet – or if you need to modify the Kitty’s spending patterns. The ledger will point out where the money is going, so you’ll know what to target. In the event that expenses exceed your estimates, you’ll need to top up the Kitty enroute. This is the time to call upon the crewmembers’ cash reserves (see above “How Much is Enough”). If you’ve got Kitty cash left over at the end of your charter – great! There are lots of fun options for the extra cash. Splurge on your last evening, divvy up the money, buy a lottery ticket, or donate to a charity of the crew’s choice!  Remember, since you’ve pre-paid, it feels free!

Family Plan

For families or couples not sharing expenses, running a charter kitty may still be a great idea – even if the cash is from your joint account. The pre-pay aspect helps you achieve that all-inclusive atmosphere, so you don’t feel like you’re being “nickel-and-dimed” each time an expense arises. For many charter expenses, using a cash Kitty is often the easiest option. Credit card companies often charge fees if the purchase involves a foreign currency. Some vendors charge additional fees to cover credit card processing, and others simply won’t accept credit cards, so be sure to have plenty of cash.

Bonus Points

The greatest advantage to a Charter Kitty is minimizing onboard spending issues for a more enjoyable vacation and preserved crew friendships. But the advantage continues well after your charter. Keeping a good record allows you to review your expenses, targeting specific categories to help you streamline future costs. Apply your “lessons learned” to make the next charter even better. If you’re lucky, that winning lottery ticket purchased with leftover Kitty cash will pay for your next trip!

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Welcome, Groupies!


If you’ve always wanted to try sailing, here’s your chance! Sail Solomons’ GROUPON deal (Washington DC) runs April 24th and 25th, or until limited quantities expire. We’re offering 53% off our 2-hr “Introduction to Sailing” course, normally offered at $95, now just $45!  Learn the lingo, hoist the sails, and take the tiller. FEEL what sailing is all about! This is a terrific opportunity for those who’d like to try sailing, but aren’t yet ready to commit a lot of time or money. You may also apply the GROUPON value to one of our 2-day weekend courses, if you’re ready to take the plunge. Please note, this is an adult sailing course; you must be 18 or older to participate.

If you don’t know about GROUPON, click the logo to learn more, and subscribe!

If you’ve just bought our GROUPON deal, here’s how to redeem it, or get more information:

Groupon Recipients:

1. Click to download Information Packet for GROUPON Sailors

2. View Availability and Register Online for “Intro to Sailing” course

3. Or, call 410-326-4917 or email info@sailsibackup with selected dates to book with a human!

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Cultivating a Happy Bareboat Charter Crew

The Diamond Breeze Crew

by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Is this article for real?  Isn’t “Happiness” synonymous with “Bareboat Charter”? History tells us that crew morale is a topic that has occupied many a captain, and has inspired some notable solutions. Pirates have long advocated distribution of booty amongst the crew. The Royal Navy used a ration of grog. Jimmy Buffet suggested cheeseburgers and margaritas. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a charter operator and charter captain is working with people on vacation, when they are relaxed and happy. Cultivating and maintaining a happy bareboat charter crew is an important skill which requires preparation, a healthy dose of reality, careful attention and active leadership. It also requires a good sense of humor and enthusiasm! Read on for tips to keep your bareboat charter crew happy; send in your favorite tips!

The most crucial steps to cultivating a happy crew are done well in advance of your charter:

Compatible Crew Selection

Living together in a confined space – even for a week – can challenge the most flexible of personalities. When choosing your bareboat charter crew, pay attention to personal compatibility. Your crew need not be best friends to start with, but they should be accommodating, flexible, and enthusiastic about sailing and about being together onboard. Charters are great ways to bring adult families together, but recognize that familiar roles may be reversed in this new environment. Be realistic; if your family does not enjoy spending a 2-day holiday together, a week of togetherness afloat isn’t likely to improve the situation.

Choose the Right Boat for the Crew

Refer to “Book it Right” (July 2010 E-News) to ensure you’ve selected a boat with the right performance features and amenities to keep your crew happy, and within budget. A catamaran may be the perfect solution if members of the crew don’t like heeling, or require more privacy than a monohull affords. Space onboard matters, especially when weather might not cooperate with your plans. Consider if you need a head for every cabin, generator & air-conditioning, or a dodger/bimini combination. A late-model, well-maintained boat can be well worth the extra cost, and can save you and your crew aggravation. For larger crews (or crews with diverse interests), consider adding a second dinghy or a kayak. You’ll appreciate the extra flexibility it affords.

Set Realistic Expectations

When gathering your bareboat crew, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. While some charter boats have more amenities than others, remember that you are basically camping on the water. Be sure you and your crew have realistic expectations regarding the boat that fits your budget, features onboard, meals, predominant weather and destination activities. I well remember the charterer who returned shocked and angry, having discovered that Chesapeake Bay winds were hot and light in August. Be sure your crew understands that you won’t have a service staff onboard, and that all crewmembers need to pitch in to help with domestic duties. If your proposed crewmembers state that their idea of camping is the Hilton and room service, perhaps a bareboat charter isn’t the best idea. Bareboat means…just that! Set realistic expectations, and be ready to flex with the inevitable surprises.

Now, having procured the boat and selecting a compatible crew with realistic expectations, the next steps follow naturally!

Provision for Success

Whether your crew wants to dine ashore or afloat, be sure you accommodate food and beverage preferences in your provisioning plan. Bareboat charter companies offer many options, and prior planning is key. Keep in mind the galley facilities, ambient temperatures and food availability at your charter location. Will you want Beef Wellington in the tropics, or Caribbean chicken salad in Croatia? Why not immerse in local specialties? Most people are likely to eat and drink more on vacation than while at home, and happy hour can easily stretch to two hours… so count on extra quantities in your provisioning. Good food and beverages are important facets of a bareboat charter. Go as elegant or basic as your crew desires!

How to, When to…

Your crew now understands that everyone participates in onboard duties. Everyone will want to help, but new crewmembers may not know how or when. Make a list of duties that need to be taken care of, and let crewmembers choose – either for the entire charter, or for rotating chores. Keep it “fair and balanced” so everyone is involved and engaged in both domestic and seamanship/sailing activities. Demonstrate proven techniques, and be open to learning new ones!

Charter Etiquette

Domestic practices onboard may be very different from those at home, so coach your crew on charter etiquette (details in upcoming article). Focus on topics including use of the marine head, water conservation, refrigeration and cleanliness onboard – it will pay big dividends for the greater enjoyment of all crewmembers.  Lead by example.

Itinerary Plan

Learn what your crew wants to see and do before your charter begins – must-see attractions, snorkel, hike, lie on the beach, explore. Design the itinerary to balance sailing and shore time. Consider spending an extra day at favorite destinations, so the crew can relax and explore. For more detail, see “Planning an Itinerary in December 2010 E-News.

Kids Onboard

Chartering with kids can be a fabulous vacation, especially if you include excursions ashore where they can swim, climb and explore. (Assuming that they like to swim, climb and explore!) Bring along favorite books and games, and have the kids keep a journal of their adventures.  They’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

When in Rome

If you are in foreign waters, coach your crew to be good guests and ambassadors. Read ahead so you can understand and respect local traditions and cultures – your crew will have a more rewarding experience. Plan accordingly if shore facilities close down for afternoon riposa or siesta, or dinners ashore are offered much later than you’re used to. Many first-time Caribbean charterers are surprised by the early sunsets in the Caribbean winter. While it feels like summer, you may only have 10 hours of daylight to pack in your charter activities – or eliminate a few. Getting to your favorite snorkeling location with optimal light may mean an early rise and departure. Or, adapt to island time and spend an extra day!

Be Inclusive, but Respect Private Time

There’s a fine balance between crew togetherness and respecting privacy. Be inclusive – be sure everyone on the crew feels welcome to participate in activities onboard and ashore. But respect individual’s desires for privacy; sometimes people need some time alone, without the pressure for group activity. Along those lines, captains may need to set appropriate “quiet hours” so that crewmembers (and harbor neighbors) can sleep. Charter boat bulkheads are thin, hatches are open, and sound travels easily!

Pay Attention

Watch your crewmembers – body language can tell you as much as verbal communication. People express anxieties in many ways – some get edgy or giddy, some get drunk, and others withdraw.  Have a private conversation, and find out the issue – it may be a simple need for more privacy or a phone call home, or a bigger issue of illness, anxiety or a personal conflict onboard. Address the issue before it gets out of hand. Don’t try to be a psychologist – just a captain.

Gripe Session

If you have a morning pre-departure brief, allow for a short gripe session where crewmembers can air issues in a constructive manner. If public airing is not appropriate, invite crewmembers to speak with you privately. A small problem, rapidly aired and corrected, can prevent greater problems and resentment.

Praise in Public

A leadership axiom in any environment, this is equally important on a bareboat charter. It’s easy and natural to praise the cook for a fantastic meal. But every crewmember is pitching in, often at unfamiliar, menial or “thankless” tasks. Having all contributions acknowledged can go a long way to bolstering crew morale.

Music, Maestro!

Your crew will have varied tastes in music, and you’ll likely come upon some new local music during your charter. Invite your crew to bring along their favorites, and rotate the selection so everyone can enjoy the music. There’s something about rum and reggae that gets people dancing on deck!

Theme Party

A locally-flavored theme party near the end of your charter can really add to the happiness quotient, and provide great photos too! No need to pack extra gear; crewmembers dress in locally-procured garb, and feast on local favorites or provisioning leftovers!  Invite your harbor neighbors to join the fun.

Cultivating and maintaining a happy bareboat charter crew depends a great deal on the personalities of the individual crewmembers – so choose your crew and boat wisely, and set realistic expectations. After that, train and coach on location or charter-specific topics. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal signals so you can nip issues in the bud. Above all, encourage participation, praise liberally, and set the example with humor!

Copyright © 2010, Lisa Batchelor Frailey
All rights reserved.

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Caribbean Flotilla & Catamaran Week

Sail Solomons club members had a fantastic time in January in the BVI! Sailors met at the Tortola BVI Sunsail base on January 14th for the monohull flotilla. Four boats and 17 sailors enjoyed fantastic tradewind sailing and all the benefits that a flotilla can offer. Two new “Bareboat Charter Captains” were certified, as well!  On January 22nd, the catamaran crew came aboard our Footloose 4300 for another terrific week. Four sailors completed the Cruising Catamaran course, and two are also new “Bareboat Charter Captains”. All  eight had a great week of sailing, snorkeling, dining on Anegada lobster, and exploring the BVI.  Planning is in the works for next year’s flotilla – let us known if you’d like to join us!  Photo links will be available shortly!

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Bareboat Chartering Crew Management

Maestro's Crew

by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Experience” is often defined as “learning from your mistakes”. If that’s the case, then I gained lots of experience during my first bareboat charter!  Eager to skipper my first BVI charter in 1995, I gathered a crew comprised of my college roommate and best ski-buddies – ladies whom I knew could remain friends after spending a week onboard together. None of us had chartered before, but my willing and capable crew onboard “The Blonde Lady” made a well-coordinated sailing team. Sailing, however, is just one aspect of chartering. While I focused on the sailing and seamanship aspects that first charter, I neglected to delegate tasks for domestic chores. Instead, I simply asked each day “would somebody like to…? “. Given the option of taking the trash ashore or basking in the sun, these requests were not always met with enthusiasm. Consequently, I often felt like a mother hen instead of a Captain. The next year (yes, they all returned!) I changed tacks. Covering the spectrum of seamanship and domestic tasks, each crewmember chose one preferred duty and drew straws for the remaining less-desirable jobs. Everyone knew what was expected, pulled their weight, and I didn’t have to ask for chores to be done! We were a stronger team all around, and had a lot more fun in the process. Since then I’ve experimented with a number of ways to delegate onboard tasks for training, social and family cruises. Read on, experiment, and discover what methods work to build your team!

Why Delegate?

Delegation isn’t easy. Let’s face it – it’s often easier to “do it yourself” than to delegate a job to someone else. You may have far more experience than your crew, and be perfectly content to handle all the jobs onboard by yourself, or with your sailing partner. Besides, the adage “You can delegate authority but not responsibility” applies even more when at sea.  So… why bother?  Because successful delegation:

  • Provides the Captain breathing room to perform at a higher level and see the big picture
  • Allows the entire crew to accomplish more in less time – leaving more time for sailing and fun
  • Allows each crewmember to develop or refine skills
  • Promotes a sense of worth and accomplishment in crewmembers
  • Fosters teamwork and team thinking
  • Builds a “deep bench” of experienced crew – critical in a crisis

How to Delegate

On your bareboat charter, it’s pretty safe to assume that “Everybody wants to help.” Otherwise, your team would be on a professionally-crewed charter sipping pina coladas! But while everybody wants to help, not everybody knows what to do, or how you’d like it done. Follow these tips for successful delegating:

  • Identify the tasks – lay out the range of seamanship, domestic and social duties for your charter, and explain what is involved in each.
  • Match crewmembers to the duties – identify your crew’s interests, strengths and capabilities, and delegate duties with these features in mind.
  • Coach and train where needed. Partner novices with more experienced crew to get them comfortable with new duties.
  • Establish expectations and timelines. In delegating, you are giving crewmembers authority, but you may need to define the degree of authority. (e.g. “check the engine oil daily” – if it’s low, should the Engineer tell the Captain first, or go ahead and top up?)
  • Remember that your way is not the only way – there may be several ways to achieve the desired end result. So long as safety is not compromised, be open to creative new methods.
  • Write it down. Put the duties in writing; make a watchbill or list to avoid confusion and maintain accountability.
  • Follow up. Encourage feedback and provide a positive environment for communication.

What to Delegate

Because the Captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat and crew, the role of Captain cannot be delegated. The Captain delegates tasks and the authority to conduct them, but cannot delegate overall responsibility. The Captain’s task is to monitor all the duties onboard (delegated or not) and to ensure they are being carried out properly. The Captain provides training and infuses the crew with enthusiasm.  A bareboat charter involves a wide range of seamanship, domestic and even social duties – most of which can be delegated. The titles are not important, but the tasks are. Let’s look at some examples:

Underway/Seamanship Duties

  • First Mate – Second in command, the Captain’s primary assistant. Often a “Captain in Training.”
  • Engineer – Checks and maintains the boat’s systems. Daily checks of fuel, engine oil, coolant, belts, battery state, freshwater levels, holding tanks. Ensure below-deck areas are secure for sea. (See checklist in ASA’s Cruising Fundamentals text)
  • Bosun – Topside focus; sails, rigging, deck hardware, ground tackle, hatches, safety gear, flags. Takes lead in anchoring, mooring pickups, docklines & fenders.
  • Dinghy Captain – Ensures dinghy/outboard are secure for voyage (towed or lifted) or mooring/anchoring detail, fueled, bailed, safety gear stowed, dinghy secured when ashore.
  • Weather – Checks forecast against actual conditions, advises on implications for sailing plans.
  • Navigator – Focused on boat’s position; plans journey, maintains charts, advises Captain, avoids hazards, maintains position and provides time estimates. Often dual-hatted with Weather.
  • Helmsman – Drives the boat along the point of sail or course ordered. Generally the most fun job, and the most often rotated.
  • Trimmer – Responsible for trimming sails (main, genoa, spinnaker) for optimal performance.
  • Lookout – Focused on spotting traffic and hazards, and advising Captain and helmsman. A lookout is always required.

Domestic Duties

  • Purser – Responsible for the “cruising kitty” – credit/cash used for provisions, daily expenses including mooring or marina fees, ice, trash disposal, pump-outs, fuel, gas and water top-up, etc.
  • Steward – Head provisioner; stows provisions onboard for best access and security, monitors provisions, helps cook find required ingredients for planned meals. May also plan the menu.
  • Cook – Prepares and serves onboard meals. Requires close coordination with steward and galley cleanup. May be one person/team or a rotated duty. Don’t forget a “Snacktician”.
  • Galley cleanup – Responsible for cleanup of galley after meals and throughout day. May be an individual or team, rotated by day or meal.
  • Ice Supply – Monitors ice supply, restocks as needed. Not as easy as it appears!
  • Trash Disposal – Responsible for taking trash ashore for appropriate disposal.
  • Swabby – Keeps topsides and common areas ship-shape. Crew maintain their own cabins.

Social Duties

  • Maestro – Maintains appropriate music onboard, respects “quiet time” at anchorages.
  • Cruise Director – Researches and advises on highlights and events in port, promotes onboard entertainment (games, jokes, story-telling, etc).
  • Mix-Master – Takes the lead for “sundowners” acknowledging crew preferences and local specialties.

Timing & Options

  • Start the delegation process early. Once your crew “signs” on, learn their capabilities and interests. These factors may have already played a role in your crew selection.
  • Rotation of duties is necessary in a student/training environment. You may wish to have crewmembers retain certain duties throughout the charter, and rotate others for variety.
  • On small crews, each crewmember (including the Captain) will be responsible for many duties. Titles are not important, but it’s key to ensure that all required duties are covered.
  • Even with a larger crew, it makes sense to streamline functions and share the load. Ice Supply and Trash Disposal both require a dinghy-ride ashore. Navigation/Weather are complementary. One Cook/Galley team per day or meal spreads the load, while alternating teams act as Swabby.
  • Don’t forget to delegate to young children and teens; ensure the tasks are appropriate for their age and skill levels. It’s never too soon to contribute and feel like a valued member of the crew!

Delegation is a great way to build your team.  Your crewmembers will develop and refine skills, and come away from the charter with a sense of accomplishment. With the Captain focusing on the big picture, the crew can pull together to think and perform as a team. Take time to define the wide variety of tasks and duties on a bareboat charter (or your own boat) – there’s quite a lot! Explore ways to delegate these tasks to build your team for success!

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