Lessons from the Frigate birds – Observations on Barbuda

Sailing to Barbuda

This season we’ve made three trips to Barbuda, the lesser-known half of the nation “Antigua & Barbuda” that lies 30 miles north of Antigua. Low-lying Barbuda was absolutely devastated by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and the entire population of 1700 residents was evacuated to Antigua. It was the first time that Barbuda was uninhabited since it was originally colonized by the Codrington family in 1685. The Codrington Lagoon, which shelters the 2nd largest frigate bird sanctuary in the world, was breached in two places on its western boundary, allowing direct ocean access into the lagoon. When that much sand moves out, it must be deposited somewhere. We didn’t know how much the undersea bathymetry had changed, and didn’t want to explore new shoals with our keel.  After arriving in Antigua in November, I spent 2 weeks trying to make contact with Barbudans and relief organizations, and was finally able to do so via Facebook sites. Our friends on catamaran GEMEAUX sailed up, confirmed some navigation areas, and took extensive drone footage that I was able to share with Barbuda relief agencies and the cruising community.

Local news emphasized the political aspects of the evacuation and repatriation, the “land grab” bill allowing Barbudans to individually purchase the land upon which they lived (Barbudans already own the land communally and don’t want the change) and the legality of expanded development for resorts like the K Club, now leased by Robert DeNiro. Reading the news made us really wonder what we’d find out on the island.

Anchored off Barbuda

Our first visit was on Christmas Day – we sailed from Antigua to Cocoa Point, on the protected south coast of Barbuda. We anchored off the Cocoa Beach Club, an exclusive resort that was in full swing when we visited last year. Now it’s a shambles – palm trees uprooted, roofs ripped off, concrete walls tumbled, pantry supplies scattered cross the grounds. Wild donkeys graze through the mess in search of a meal. Eerily, a few wineglasses and ceramics remain untouched, and someone has artfully arranged them into a macabre setting on the beach. Further west on the beach is the K Club, already in a sad state of disrepair before the hurricane, and now a disaster. Yet behind the grounds we found evidence of bull-dozing for an expanded airport. We spent 2 nights anchored at the once popular Cocoa Point, with only 2 other boats in sight.

Cocoa Point Beach Club in ruins

Still Barbudaful


Remants of the K Club – once the playground of the rich and famous

Feral Donkey















Our second visit was to Low Bay, on the west side of the island. On previous visits, we anchored off Louis Beach at the Barbuda Outback – Jala’s 2-story beach shack – on the pristine, pinky-white 17 mile beach east of Tucson Rock. It was a short walk across the sand spit to the lagoon, where Jala docked his boats for the frigate bird tours.   Jala’s beach shack is little more than a hole in the ground now, with evidence of electrical conduit, a propane cylinder and a couple of generators peeking from the sand. His cultivated palm trees are bent over at unnatural angles – yet are still producing coconuts. The 17 mile beach is breached in 2 spots, south and north of Outback, at Donna Mouth and Louis Mouth. These are named for the previous hurricanes (1960 and 1995, respectively) that cut swaths through the beach, creating channels into the lagoon, and were gradually filled by natural processes. Nature repeats itself – we learned that the new cuts are already filling. According to a local captain, what was a 12’ deep cut just after Irma is now a 6’ cut, and filling fast. Lighthouse Bay Resort lies just north of Louis Mouth – abandoned a few years ago, it now looks like a Salvador Dali painting, with buildings bent and melting into the surf.

Lighthouse Resort

Palm trees bend with the wind

Lous Mouth (photo courtesy of GEMEAUX)








We dinghied through the breach and into the lagoon – once to explore the beach that once was the Outback, and the second time to motor across the lagoon into Codrington. We wondered about the two large white buildings we saw from the beach, but upon arriving, learned they were large tents set up by relief agencies Samaritan’s Purse and Food for the World/US AID. Each contains stockpiles of relief materials – food, water, tents, tarps, building supplies. Pallets of lumber and roofing material are stacked near the fish processing plant that now serves as headquarters and shelter.

Relief headquarters

Relief supplies

Restoring comms

Tents for those rebuilding their homes









Residents are gradually making their way back to the island to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. Adjacent to many roofless homes are igloo tents, where the homeowners live while they clear debris and rebuild their homes. Tarps provide shade and shelter – blue tarps carry the Samaritan’s Purse logo, and silver tarps are emblazoned with “US AID”. School has reconvened in the green-stone church with the blue tarp roof.

Nothing left but foundation

School is reopened in the church








Samaritan’s Purse provides two warm meals a day for residents working on their homes. A generator-powered pump extracts fresh water from an adjacent well; water is routed to a distribution site under “the brown tent”, allowing 8 people to fill their water jugs simultaneously. Generators were strategically located, several power lines restrung, and phone service is gradually being restored. We found horses and donkeys roaming freely in school grounds and homesteads.

While the news reports led us to believe we’d find rebellious, hostile islanders, it just wasn’t the case. As we walked through Codrington, the Barbudans were very friendly. They greeted us warmly, and were upbeat and optimistic about their progress in rebuilding.

On our third visit, we were able to tour the frigate bird rookery/sanctuary, based in the lagoon’s mangroves. Frigate birds feed primarily on flying fish, but the birds cannot dive or land on water – they must catch the fish while they are above the surface. Frigates are also known as “Man o’ War” birds, since they often chase down diving seabirds with captured fish in their talons. We frequently have frigate birds flying along as we sail – the boat’s bow wave flushes out the flying fish, and the frigate birds pounce.

John Levy has a taxi service, a boat, and a popular beach restaurant (covered with a Samaritan’s Purse tarp, but operating nonetheless)  John can serve you lobster, or deliver a sack of live lobsters for your crew.  He is also the only operating taxi driver with a VHF radio, which makes him the “go to” guy for cruisers wishing to get to town from Cocoa Point, or tour the frigate bird sanctuary. (Note: Digicel and FLOW worked in Codrington, but there was no FLOW service at Cocoa Point in Dec/Jan)  John met us on the beach at Cocoa Point, and arranged for one of his sons to drive us to the dock at Codrington, where Captain Patrick ran the frigate tour.

Pat is an Antiguan who’s spent most of his life on Barbuda. He maintains Barbuda’s power plant, but is also a waterman. Pat’s sons were born on Barbuda, but they are not considered Barbudan. That’s important from a land perspective, as only Barbudans can own land in Barbuda. Pat clarified the communal ownership status, and indicated that Barbudans were “Tenants of the Crown” (as Mr Codrington was 4 centuries ago), not owners. Apparently, that’s an entirely different legal status from the practice of “land held in common by Barbudans.” He also offered another perspective on the proposed legislation allowing Barbudans to purchase their homestead for 1 ECD (about 38 cents US). While the fee is minimal, the transaction is key – the purchase would allow the Barbudan to acquire freehold title to a property, which would allow them to get a bank loan for improvements. It’s more than a way to motivate Barbudans to rebuild – it’s designed to facilitate rebuilding with funds.

Captain Pat offers some perspective

Hopeful male, female & chick

New chick

Mangrove stumps















Back to the frigate birds….. having seen the sanctuary twice before, I was eager to see what may have changed. Thankfully, the frigate birds are in fine form, and fully engaged in the mating season. Males beat their puffed out red bladders to attract a female mate. Several fuzzy white chicks have already been born, and sit comically in the nest while their parents watch over. There are far fewer frigate birds this year, but those remaining look very healthy. Visually, the most dramatic change was the mangroves in which the birds nest. Normally lush and green, the mangroves suffered greatly from the hurricane, and were little more than brown clumps. Pat showed us “Man ‘o War” island, where the frigate colony used to live before Hurricane Donna struck in 1960. Afterward, the frigate colony moved to it’s current mangrove site, a mile or so north. Will they move again, or will the mangroves regenerate? Nobody was able to tell us how the frigate birds survived the hurricane, which occurred just as the males were returning for the mating season. Presumably they flew away (perhaps staying airborne) and returned to their mangroves after the storm passed.

Perhaps we can draw some lessons from the frigate birds. They don’t let politics, privilege, land rights or lawsuits get in their way. They survived the storm, returned to their decimated homes, rebuilt their nests, and went about the business of living and repopulating.   It seems that’s what many Barbudans are doing, as well.   Please go visit, lend support, and help Barbudans recover their homes and livelihoods.

Fishing again

Life goes on in Barbuda

John has reopened his Pink Beach Restaurant

Getting the roof on

Making it work

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Holidays – Antigua 2017

We sailed north from Guadeloupe to Antigua for the holidays, combining a unique blend of English and Caribbean traditions we first discovered when cruising here on our former boat ZINGARO in 2008.

Christmas Crew: Andy, Lisa, Michael, Celeste.

Our friends Michael and Celeste joined us on Christmas Eve for a week aboard KINETIC. They hadn’t sailed in a few years, but were looking forward to boat ownership and were eager to embrace the cruising lifestyle. We spent Christmas Eve in Deep Bay, and enjoyed a “boisterous” sail north to Barbuda on Christmas day. Cocoa Point, normally well attended by cruising and charter boats, was like a ghost town – only one other cruising boat, and the devastating wreckage left by Hurricane Irma. It was difficult to resolve the natural beauty of Barbuda with the wreckage of the Cocoa Point Beach Resort, active and thriving just last season, and now an eerie shambles.

Anchored at Cocoa Point, Barbuda

Celestial Christmas


Hurricane Devastation

Christmas Dinner aboard



Back aboard that evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of smoked turkey, sweet potatoes and vegetables, along with Buche de Noel and a marzipan Galette (we provisioned well in French Guadeloupe)!  Christmas lights in the cockpit (solar LED, of course) and carols, sharing holiday memories and dreams.

Boxing Day (Dec 26th) was a lazy day at Cocoa Point – swimming, sunning, and exploring the remnants of the K Club, now owned/leased by Robert DeNiro. Sea turtles made frequent appearances, keeping us entertained. Time for Christmas Pudding!


Ocean Sailors

Our next leg was around the windward side of Antigua, to Green Island and Nonsuch Bay. A long day of strong winds and big seas, lots of practice hand-steering; we were grateful to have a stable ocean-going boat!  Once moored behind the reef at Green Island, we went ashore to watch the kitesurfers launch off “40 Knot Point”.

Kitesurfing at Green Island, Nonsuch Bay


Next stop, Falmouth! An easy downwind sail along the south coast of Antigua, admiring Eric Clapton’s Cliffside estate and the forts guarding English Harbour. Luckily we reserved a mooring, as English/Falmouth is extremely popular with cruising boats and megayachts for the Christmas holidays. Once secured, we headed ashore for a walking tour of Nelson’s Dockyard at English Harbour. Mike and Celeste also taxied up to Shirley Heights, boasting a commanding view of both English and Falmouth Harbours. Dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club was a terrific finale to the day.


Falmouth by Night

Dinner at AYC, Falmouth


On to Dickenson Bay – downwind to Cades Reef, and a reach up the lee side to the NW corner of Antigua. We anchored behind the cliffs, and dinghied ashore for a long walk on the beach and some island souvenirs.

Holiday Spirit

After returning to Jolly Harbour, Mike and Celeste flew home to arctic Virginia, and we celebrated New Years Eve with dinner ashore and a terrific fireworks display seen from the cockpit.   Here’s to fabulous 2018!


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Les Saintes

Iles des Saintes (Islands of the Saints) is a small group of islands about 15 miles south of the Guadeloupe’s SW corner. Still part of French Guadeloupe, Les Saintes is closely linked to Brittany in the north of France, and still retains an active Breton fishing community. I’m writing this blog entry long after leaving Guadeloupe, because it’s hard to know where to begin. Les Saintes is overwhelmingly beautiful; we paid several visits to the island group and it’s multiple harbors, and took taking hundreds of photos. So rather than describe chronologically, I’ll describe by mouillage (anchorage).

Pain de Sucre

Sailing to Les Saintes

We sailed to Les Saintes from Pigeon on Dec 4th (2017), and came directly to the island of Terre-de-Haute. We have a favored anchorage at the western end of the island, called Pain de Sucre (Sugar Bread) for the prominent 200’ mini-piton at its head. On the waterway into Pain de Sucre we encountered a minefield of fishing floats, many comprised of clear 2 liter soda bottles. Fishing has its pros and cons! There is little space to anchor in this deep mouillage, as it has about 20 mooring balls installed now. We took a mooring, which is quite as easy as it sounds…. these mooring balls have no pendants, so one must “joust” to thrust a mooring line through the metal ring atop the float, picking it up on the opposite side before the bow blows down over the mooring ball, scraping off the bottom paint. In many cases, friendly neighbors come to the aid of newcomers, as happened this time.

Fishing net discovered on our prop

Once secured, Andy jumped in for a swim and discovered that we had entangled a large mass of polypropylene fishing net in our prop. Luckily, we could pull it off with a boathook. Les Saintes Multiservices (LSM) maintains the moorings and provides services like laundry, customs and Immigration, wifi, and arranges technical services for yachts. They come out to the anchorage twice daily to collect mooring fees (an easy 13 Euro per night). If only they delivered baguettes!


We dinghied ashore to the dock of Hotel Bois Joli, and saw the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Several workers were restoring roofs, with expectation to be open for the New Year. Our goal in coming ashore was to hike to La Croix – a cross that stands prominently atop, facing out over the anchorage.  A trail through the hotel grounds leads to another trail through a grassy meadow frequented by chickens and goats. Midway up, we found a statue of the Virgin Mary, overlooking the fleet below. We continued onwards to a steep dirt and stone path, discovering that the Stations of the Cross were displayed along the way. Each was a bronze bas-relief plaque on concrete base. Electrical wiring for lighting was in disarray, but the Stations were unmistakable. At the top of the trail was a plateau featuring La Croix – a white and blue shaded cross with a commanding view of Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. Last year we saw a covered area for services, but this was blown off the hillside by the hurricane, and lies near on the southern beach. Tucked away in the trees we found a small chapel to the Sacred Heart, with the 10 Commandments painted outside (in French), and votive candles and murals of the Virgin Mary (Light of the World, Salt of the Earth) inside.

La Croix

Stations of the Cross





View from La Croix








Snorkeling in Les Saintes

Snorkeling at Pain de Sucre is generally good, and this visit was no exception. It’s easy to snorkel right from the boat to the rocky eastern wall; fish and coral are abundant. This year, the fish were joined by sheets of corregated metal – roofs blown from their buildings during the hurricane.

Anse Crawen

During a later visit to Pain de Sucre, we walked up and over to Anse Crawen, a secluded south-facing beach behind Pointe Bois Joli. We were the only beachgoers for hours, except for the goats and chickens. Andy practiced flying his drone up and down the beach (scaring a few goats along the way) and ventured the drone over water.





Anse du Bourg

After the relative seclusion of Pain de Sucre, we motored a mile east to the only town in Les Saintes, appropriately named Bourg des Saintes. This is the primary entry for Les Saintes, by air, ferry, or yacht. We chose the anchorage (moulliage) to the east of the ferry dock, generally more protected from wind waves and boat traffic. One successful joust of the mooring ball, and we were secure in Anse du Bourg, under the shadow of Fort Napoleon.

The town maintains a nice dinghy dock, supplies trash and recycling (wow) receptacles, and is very cruiser-friendly. We took care of business, then browsed some favorite shops – Maogany specializes in blue tie-dyed garments, scarves, hats – the color scheme draws us in every time. The French Isles are famous for traditional madras fabric, and Andy was in search of a replacement madras bucket hat. He also found a matching shirt and shorts!   The town is centered on the Catholic Church, which now featured a fishing-themed nativity crèche – very creative. On the sidewalk next to the church, the chicken man has a wood-fired oven and serves the best chicken in the country. The town has boulangeries, patisseries, gelaterias, paperies, boutiques, groceries, and a great fruit and veg market. After purchasing and writing postcards/holiday cards (posted 18 Dec, arrived 2 Feb), we loaded up and enjoyed a feast of French delicacies onboard.

Bringing home the bread

Waterfront in Les Saintes

Andy in camoflage, Maogany boutique

L’Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assumption

Nativity creche with a fisherman’s theme









The next morning we went ashore to hike to Fort Napoleon – a national museum housed in a fort built in 1867, with a spectacular 360 degree view of Les Saintes. The fort is only open from 9-12, which works fine for us in the tropical heat. It’s a good climb, but absolutely worth it for the view. From the top, we could see our anchorage and surrounding islands, and also look into Baie Marigot and the fantastic beach at Baie Pompierre (we visited last year). The fort’s museum was a delightful surprise blend of history, art, botany and culture.

View from Fort Napoleon

Fort Napoleon









Well into walking mode, we struck out for more walking tour that afternoon. From the anchorage I could see a crucifix above the town, and enquired about it at the tourist office. Directions in hand, we climbed up the crucifix (Calvarie) and min-chapel, then walked west on Rue de Grande Anse to visit the cemetery. Above-ground crypts as we saw in Deshaies, with a monument to those killed in battle.

Terre de Haut, from the Calvarie chapel

Cemetery in Terre de Haut









Finally, onwards to Grand Anse! This is a no-swimming beach on the windward side, clearly signposted with “no swimming, no watersports” because of the dangerous surf. The “pedestrians take caution” signs were because the airstrip ended at the beach! We walked south along Grand Anse where the more skilled kitesurfers were operating (watersport?), then along a road to the sheltered Anse Rodrigue. We walked back along the airfield and “suburban” homes, then through the south part of town to the dinghy dock and back to the boat. We got a 1-day “HotSpot” to do some internet admin onboard (loving Kinetic’s wifi signal booster). Tomorrow we’ll move and will move along to find better shelter, as the winds crept up to 20 knots and brought rolly conditions into the anchorage.

Pedestrians take caution!

Airport to Beach

Kitesurfers on Grand Anse


Isle Cabrit – Anse sous la vent

Wed, Dec 7th. The tradewinds have crept up to 20 knots for a few days, bringing gusts and rolly conditions to the anchorage, so we escaped Anse du Bourg for Ilet a Cabrit, a mile west. Also known as “Anse sous la vent” (bay under the wind), we still had some swirly gusts, but flat water for more comfortable conditions. The only thing missing was internet and baguettes – both easily obtained by a 1 mile dinghy ride across to the Bourg. We snorkeled the east and west sections of the beach, but visibility was limited by the wave action.

Andy took his machete and hiked up to Fort Josephine, widening the trail for others. Back on the beach, he was nearly “attacked” by an island cat – barely more than a kitten in size, but with quite an attitude. Not sure if the cat wanted food, or to warn off intruders – acted like a watch dog. Oddly enough, a band of beach chickens wandered by, and the cat took no notice. Weird. Next day, Andy offered the cat some fresh water, and it seemed that’s all she really wanted.

On Wed evening, we hosted happy hour onboard KINETIC for our friends on OYSTER and ALLADIN – cruisers we’d met in Deshaies and Les Saintes. On Friday, OYSTER hosted a pot-luck pasta dinner, and we were joined by Ward, whom we first met upon arrival in Antigua. Lots of sea stories swapped, and a great exchange of information on cruising ports. We made 100 gallons of water that day – the Rainman works well, once we can get it working. Happily supplied OYSTER with several gallons to supplement their supply.

A half-sunken houseboat/cottage was tied off at the beach – possibly towed there for more sheltered conditions during Hurricane Maria. While we were moored, we watched a team of divers attach inflatables to the structure and slowly bring it to the surface. The houseboat was attached to a towing tug, but we departed before the salvage was complete. It seemed the crew was living aboard the tug, saving the commute.

Houseboat beached

Salvaging the houseboat









We love visiting Les Saintes, and look forward to stopping through again for a bit of French charm as we traverse the island chain.

Les Saintes founders

Fishermen’s tools at Petite Anse

Terre de Haut

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Malendure and le Reservé Cousteau

About 8 miles south of Deshaies is the anchorage known to cruisers as “Pigeon”, or more formally – Islets Pigeon off the beach of Malendure, in the Bouillante region of Guadeloupe. The big draw at Pigeon is the Jacques Cousteau Reserve, a protected natural marine park featuring an exceptional variety of seabed corals and marine life.  You can enjoy the underwater scenes by snorkeling, SCUBA, or taking a ride in the glass-bottomed boat.

Malendure beach

We dropped anchor near our friends Bob & Ann on BALOO, and I (Lisa) went ashore to book a Sunday morning dive with Archipel Plongeé, one of the three dive operators based on Malendure beach.  Winds were SE, and the swells from the south created a rolly anchorage – we had to wedge ourselves into the bunks that night, as if underway!

Malendure dive operators


Saturday’s goal was to do a major provisioning run to the Carrefour and Leader Price stores located just south of Malendure, easily accessed by dinghy through a stone seawall. That is, if the outboard is working properly… Our Yamaha suddenly decided to cut out at idle rpm – definitely a problem when changing gears inside a seawall! So instead of provisioning, we spent the day working on the outboard. Bob of BALOO provided expert technical assistance in helping Andy tear apart, clean and rebuild the carburetor, and we were back in business. Bob and Ann joined us for happy hours onboard – we still had some treats procured in Deshaies.

Andy made the provisioning run on Sunday morning (stores open till noon) while I went on the dive at the Cousteau Reserve. I was the only English speaker in the group (most were French, some Germans), but was able to manage with SCUBA’s universal hand signals and a patient divemaster named Delphine. We had a fantastic 54 minute dive to about 20 meters depth. Jacques Cousteau has been a hero of mine since I was a kid, and to touch his underwater statue and dive in his vivid marine reserve was a dream come true.   Afterwards, Andy and I snorkeled the perimeter of the anchorage, which is abundant with fish, coral and sea turtles.  We’ll be back to “Pigeon” again!

Jacques Coustea statue at the Reserve

Happy Lisa after her dive

Sea turtle in the anchorage

Lion fish along the anchorage wall

Malendure’s dock at sunset

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Delighted in Deshaies, Guadeloupe


Reaching for Guadeloupe

Squalls near landfall

We set sail for Guadeloupe on Wednesday morning, Nov 29 – fabulous winds that were forecast to die out over the next few days. A beautiful beam reach south, a few squally bits as we approached the coast, and into the welcoming harbour of Deshaies (Dey-hey). It’s a deep anchorage, and requires some tricky maneuvering to have sufficient scope for holding, yet enough space around the other boats – especially since the swirling winds funnel into the harbour from the surrounding mountains. We anchored near our friends on BALOO, and were followed in by another Outbound TOODLE-OO, also arriving from Antigua.

Reward at L’Amer Bar

Safely set, we lowered the dinghy and headed into town to clear customs & immigration into Guadeloupe. In contrast to the formal, uniformed agents at the Antigua offices, the French islands typically subcontract this service, and in Deshaies you check into the country at Le Pelican Boutique – after the shopkeeper moves the piles of sundresses and bikinis from the self-serve customs & immigration computer. You simply fill in the information about vessel and crew, she prints the form, stamps it, and collects 4 Euro – easy! Afterwards, we have our “traditional” celebration at L’Amer Bar – Ti (short for “Petite”) punch and the amazing fish sampler at a waterfront table overlooking Kinetic and the setting sun.  

The following morning we set off with Laurie and Bill of TOODLE-OO to explore the Jardin Botanique. The botanical garden is about a mile’s uphill walk from the dinghy dock, and definitely worth the climb. It’s one of the best botanical gardens we’ve ever seen, in a beautifully landscaped cliffside setting overlooking the Caribbean Sea. In addition to the wide variety of Caribbean trees, flowers and herbs, we enjoyed the aviary, flamingos, and goat pen!




After a morning in the Jardin, we spent the afternoon provisioning the boat with French delicacies, snorkeling along the harbour’s cliff walls, and enjoying happy hours with our cruising friends.

View from the Jardin – Deshaies anchorage

Deshaies town and cemetary

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Errands and Troubleshooting

Haircut in the Tree House

Falmouth is planned as our departure point from Antigua to Guadeloupe – we can clear customs and immigration here, and it gives a nice sailing angle to Guadeloupe. Before jumping south, a few things to take care of – laundry, haircut, and the watermaker. The first two were easy – call Maude’s laundry and arrange a pickup at the dinghy dock! For about $13 US, a full sack of laundry is washed, dried, folded, and returned the next morning. Most of our clothing can be washed in a bucket and dried on the lifelines, but it’s sure nice to have laundered sheets and towels. I had been recommended to a couple of places for a haircut, and checked out the Tree House Spa, about a block from the dinghy dock, and across the street from the megayacht marina. What a place! A Creole cottage tucked into the tropical foliage, with the hairstyling portion conducted in a giant bird cage. Aussie stylist Doug had an opening, so I took the opportunity – got a terrific cut at a very reasonable price, and Doug’s story as well. The spa offered a number of other services, so I’ll be back!

The watermaker testing was a little more tricky. We tested our new Rainman watermaker at our home before departure, but since we couldn’t test it in Chesapeake Bay water, we didn’t try it on the boat.  We had already topped up with freshwater at Jolly Harbour, but wanted to ensure the Rainman worked “in situ” before heading down island. First attempt was Saturday morning at Green Island, while awaiting our kitesurfing lesson. The Rainman requires 110V AC power, so we fired up the generator, energized the outlets, and turned on the switch – only to find that it tripped the outlet or circuit breaker each time. We tried this on 2 different outlets/circuits with the same result. Reread the instructions, checked all the fittings… to no avail.   Emails to the Rainman rep and the Outbound rep for ideas, as we didn’t know if the problem was with the Rainman, the boat, or the generator!   Fast responses from each, so on Monday we packed the Rainman into the dinghy and took it ashore to test on a 110V outlet at the marina office – where it worked like a charm. OK, it’s not a Rainman issue. An electrician at the marina suggested we had the wrong type GCFI outlet, and needed a heavier duty one. He recommended the shop in St Johns, so Andy made plans to take the bus to St Johns. Back at the boat, Andy removed the outlet to match the size, and discovered that we DID already have the heavy duty type. One more thing to try…. the outlets on the port side, which run on a different circuit. Voila! With an extension cord to the galley outlet, the Rainman worked as advertised. We filled the tanks, washed down the boat, and advised Outbound – we still need to resolve the electrical issue, since the Rainman only fits in its starboard side compartment. Getting it reinstalled is another story… but it’s done. Luckily, we have big water tanks and are very conservative with freshwater.

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Once around Antigua – November 2017

Visiting VC Bird in St Johns

After our passage, we spent 4 days in Jolly Harbour Marina, getting KINETIC (and ourselves) cleaned up and converted from passagemaking to cruising mode. Laundry done, the cold weather clothing and gear was packaged up and stowed away until our return passage. Our crew flew home to winter climes, but with the reassuring knowledge that they’d be back in January to sail with the Sail Solomons Antigua flotilla. Before moving out to the anchorage, we enjoyed a few happy hours and dinners with fellow passagemakers from GEMEAUX, PRATIQUE and WYNOT. Naturally, we took the local bus into St Johns to visit VC Bird’s memorial, the produce and fish markets, and Roti King.

While at JH, we spent many hours trying to get information on Barbuda, and how we might participate in relief efforts. While I got a few phone numbers of Barbudans, I was not able to connect with anyone, or find any substantive info on how we (or cruisers in general) could help. We found some very discouraging information that Barbudans were sheltered in the cricket stadium, and had little or no motivation to return and rebuild. We also were unable to determine how the seabed around Barbuda had changed – if Hurricane Irma breached the lagoon, it surely caused shoaling in other areas, and possibly moved some coral heads. We’re not quite ready to risk the keel in uncharted reef areas, so we’ll delay the Barbuda trip for now.

Deep Bay

From Jolly’s anchorage, we had a sweet downwind sail on the genoa to Deep Bay, a few miles north of Jolly on the west coast, at Antigua’s 10 o’clock position of Antigua (given Jolly Harbour at 9 o’clock). Deep Bay is one of our favorites – well sheltered, plenty of good anchorage space, sea turtles, an excellent beach, a fort to hike, and a wreck to snorkel. What more could you ask? We relaxed for 2 days here, enjoying our favorites and watching the Mystic Cruises catamarans take the day-charters to the beach.

Sailing the leeward coast of Antigua

Set for the night, Deep Bay

Anchored in Deep Bay

North Sound

Blowhole on Great Bird Island

From Deep Bay, we sailed up the coast to the North Sound – a beautiful stretch of water between Antigua’s mainland and the outer reef. We sailed past the resort once known as Sunsail’s Club Colonna, where we ran a catamaran in 2008 for the American Sailing Association. The club closed for renovation later in 2008, and never re-opened; it’s now owned by an Italian company. Continuing on around Prickly Pear Island, we had a look at Jumby Bay on Long Island – an exclusive resort area where yachts can anchor, but are only welcome at the restaurant. Deciding this wasn’t for us, we continued onward to Great Bird Island (Antigua’s 3 o’clock position ) and dropped the anchor behind a few moored sailboats. What a find!   A beautiful island with beaches on north and south sides, a ridge to hike (complete with blowholes), and a fantastic reef. We arrived on Sunday afternoon to find 3 small boats with local families on the North Beach – clearly this is a favored spot. Next day, several day-charter companies arrived to bring snorkelers out, and we had more insight on the best snorkeling sites – arrived at by dinghy. Andy brought his new drone ashore, and had a successful practice session launching, landing, and taking photos.

On Great Bird Island

Andy’s drone “CRICKET” on her maiden flight








Green Island, Nonsuch Bay

Visitor at Green Island

On Tuesday we  motorsailed out through the reef at Horse Shoe Channel, and had a superb sail around to Green Island and Nonsuch Bay. Ricketts Harbour (locally known as Turtle Bay) has 2 mooring balls, and we were very happy to take one of them. Over the years, we’ve spent a fair bit of time in this omega-shaped cove, with snorkeling reefs bordering the sides, beach in the middle, and sea turtles in the seagrass below.   Another favorite of day-charters with herds of snorkelers, but except for 1 other moored boat, we had a private cove by evening.   We wanted to do something a little different for Thanksgiving, so we booked day passes at the Nonsuch Bay Resort, about 1.5 miles west on the bay. We spent a lovely day there, sailing the water toys all morning, having an excellent lunch on the Cliffside veranda, swimming in the infinity pools, and relaxing on the beach. The resort had good wifi, so I was able to call home and talk with family members who were all celebrating Thanksgiving in different ways.

The dinghy sets you free!

Friday was a new adventure – Kitesurfing lessons! 40Knot operates a kitesurfing school at Green Island; last year we watched some fantastic foiling demos on the beach, and were inspired to learn. Andy and I booked the Beginner’s Camp half-day lesson. Our instructor Tyvon picked us up at KINETIC and took us to the beach, where we learned to launch, fly, land and maneuver the training kite. Easy, and lots of fun! Next step was to inflate the big kite, and head out to the water. We tied the dinghy onto a mooring ball and practiced while perched on the side of the dinghy, then Tyvon lowered us into the water to try the skills there. Unfortunately, the wind dropped so much that the kite wouldn’t fly, so the rest of our lesson was postponed until next day. Saturday dawned with heavy rains followed by light winds, but the wind filled in and we resumed our lesson. A bigger kite today, inflated at the beach and back again to the mooring ball. Everything was so much easier with sufficient wind – we practiced launching, landing and flying the kite at different positions – again while seated on the dinghy. I was first for the in-water practice, which was a blast. First was keeping the kite at the 12 o’clock neutral position, then moving it between 11 and 1 o’clock, the 12 and 2 o’clock. At some point, Tyvon untethered me from the dinghy, and I was drifting and “body dragging” downwind. As I steered the kite and applied various amounts of power, I was literally pulled out of the water to knee level, and unceremoniously dunked back in. Andy posted a video of this dunking performance, and my nephew commented that I looked like a teabag! Anyway, it was quite an experience… and we haven’t even got onto the board!   That will be next lesson… ??

Andy practices with the training kite

Lisa practices the “body drag”

Maybe next lesson?!












Falmouth & English Harbour

Falmouth by night

We arrived in Falmouth Harbour on Sunday afternoon, anchored off Pigeon Beach just in time to attend the Suzie Too beach BBQ, attended primarily by Salty Dawgs and OCC members. Great to meet hosts Suzie and David, whose boat was hauled out at Zahniser’s (our homeport marina in Solomons) for 6 months last summer.   We caught up with a few cruising friends, and met several new ones. It was good to share cruising plans and local information, and we’ll no doubt meet up again with many of them down-island. Pigeon Beach is a local favorite – lots of families having BBQs, birthday parties, impromptu soccer matches, and swimming. We spent last Easter Sunday with the grandkids here, playing beach cricket after the onboard Easter hunt.

No visit is complete without a stroll through English Harbour, and the famous Nelson’s Dockyard. Classic yachts and Admiral Nelson’s history rule the day.

Classic yacht ELEANOR at the Dockyard, Clarence House on the hill

Georgian Pillars at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour


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Passage: Solomons to Antigua


Passage crew on a cold October start: Andy, Pitt, Lisa, David

Exiting the Chesapeake Bay at midnight

While our passage to Antigua was planned for a November 1st departure, we found a much more favorable weather window behind a cold front combined with the remnants of Hurricane Philippe, and thus KINETIC departed on Oct 30th – 2 days early. Four of us comprised the crew – Captains Andy and Lisa, and crew members David and Pitt.

This timing gave us great winds all the way from Solomons down the Chesapeake to Norfolk, where we exited the Bay at midnight on Halloween…   Fair to light winds down the VA/NC coast to Cape Hatteras, where we turned east to motor across the Gulf Stream. A benign Gulf Stream crossing is a good thing!  Working southeast, we caught a favorable current from a cold-core eddy that gave us a boost, and made for some very confused seas with wind against current.

Company. A few days into the Atlantic, we heard a couple of other boats on VHF, and then picked them up on AIS and eventually, visually. From then on we sailed in loose company with Baloo and Gemeaux, and more distantly with Katlo.   We were close enough to Gemeaux to take photos, and they reciprocated by flying their drone over KINETIC for some great aerial pix. We were all corresponding by SSB radio or sat phone with our weather router Chris Parker, who was also advising the Salty Dawg Rally, a fleet of about 55 boats that departed Hampton VA on Nov 2nd for Antigua (several via Bermuda for fuel). Lots of radio traffic and position reports swapped, and weather observations shared. And a few jokes and fish tales, as well.

Kinetic, now in site of Gemeaux

Kinetic, as seen by Gemeaux’s drone










Fish Tales.  Andy, who claims to be the world’s worst fisherman, proved to be a good “catcherman” this trip. He landed two gorgeous mahi-mahi, which were greatly enjoyed by the crew for dinner!  Otherwise, we were entertained by flying fish that landed on deck.

Andy’s mahi-mahi – #1 of 2!

Lisa is skeptical about having flying fish for lunch









Course. Rather than sail a rhumb line directly to Antigua, we set a course to N25 W62, to get our “easting” before the anticipated NE tradewinds set in. Naturally, the tradewinds did not oblige, but turned SE and E – so we were very happy to have made it to our desired longitude of W62, and we had a fairly easy glide down “I-62” to Antigua. (We were even happier that we weren’t a few days behind, when the winds came from the south). Before reaching our target longitude, we went through two troughs of low pressure, resulting in squally conditions, where our radar got a workout for storm cell avoidance! Amazingly, we never had wind abaft the beam, and sailed to windward the entire trip. KINETIC loves 15+ knots of wind, but she sails well to windward in light winds, too. We averaged 5.8 kt over the 1695 nm passage.

This sunrise won the “most spectacular” award!

Using radar to dodge squalls. The cells are seem to be shaped like Guadeloupe!









Fuel and Water. Before departing, we conducted some boat speed vs rpm vs fuel burn tests, and opted to maintain KINETIC’s 80 hp Yanmar at an efficient 1600 rpm on the occasions that we needed to motor. This saved us lots of diesel and peace of mind – even though we carry over 180 gallons of diesel. Over the 12 day, 1695 nautical mile trip, we motored for 91 hours, ran the diesel generator for 11 hours, burned just 44 gallons of diesel, and used less than half of our 200 gallon onboard fresh water supply. As you might imagine, arrival showers were much appreciated!

Night watch

Watchkeeping. We’ve been asked “what do you do at night…anchor?”  There is no possibility of that in the ocean, so we have a 24/7 watchbill, with all crew standing 6 hours on / 6 hours off. Andy and Lisa rotated at 6 & 12 (am and pm), and David and Pitt rotated at 3 & 6. That puts two people on watch at any time, with a fresh person coming on every 3 hours. Most of the crew are up for lunch and dinner, and whenever a fish is on the hook! When off watch, getting some sleep was a priority. David and Pitt are pursuing their Ocean Passagemaking certifications, so both were diligently working on new skills, including celestial navigation.

David stands watch at the helm.

Pitt takes celestial shots for determining KINETIC’s position










Land ho! On the morning of 11 November, we sighted Barbuda, the low-lying island 26 miles north of Antigua. Actually, we were overflown by three frigate birds the day prior while 150 miles north of Barbuda, so we knew we were close! (Barbuda hosts the 2nd largest colony of frigate birds in the world) Once abeam Barbuda, we caught site of the mountains of Antigua, and before you know it, we were sailing along the Antigua coast, and into the port of Jolly Harbour. After clearing Customs & Immigration, Pitt and David hoisted the Antigua courtesy flag as we headed out to the anchorage to enjoy a swim and a “Hollywood” shower. The crew celebrated our safe passage with dinner ashore, and a full night’s sleep. At last!

Passage crew in Antigua – tired but happy!

Hoisting the Antigua courtesy flag









Next day, we met the crews of both Gemeaux and Baloo at Jolly Harbour, and shared stories and photos while we began the process of converting from passagemaking to cruising.  A big thanks to Jeff from Sail Solomons, who held our float plan and kept people updated with our progress, and to all those who followed us and send good wishes!

S/V KINETIC’s track from Solomons MD to Antigua, via Iridium Sat Phone and OCENS Snap.


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Where to this Season?

Our cruising plan for 2017-2018 had been to set sail for St Martin, and cruise the Caribbean island chain from there. St Martin is known for fabulous marine services, duty free parts, easy logistics, and fine French provisioning; it’s worked very well for us on previous passages.

In the wake of disasters left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that ravaged the Leewards, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in September 2017, we had real concerns about setting sail for a season in the Caribbean. What would be left of the islands? Was it safe – from navigation, health or security standpoints? Could we render assistance, or would we be in the way of relief efforts? Would we be using up the islands’ limited resources? As a charter broker, I was very aware of the damage to yachts and marine facilities in many of the islands (not to mention public services, utilities, and homes), and was busy helping my clients to cancel, postpone or move their Caribbean charters to less-affected locations.

Andy and I followed a number of news and disaster relief sites, cruisers and charter forums, and decided that making landfall in the Virgin Islands or St Martin was just not feasible. However, we could reasonably head for Antigua, and cruise most of the island chain from Antigua to Grenada. Except for Dominica, most of these islands fared well through the disastrous hurricane season. We had already planned to install a generator, and decided to add a watermaker to our cruising inventory, to be more self-sufficient. Perhaps we could lend assistance, and the sooner we could pump money into the local economies, the better.

We adjusted our passage plans, and our crewmembers were onboard with the change in destination. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit St Martin and the Virgin Islands later in the season on our way back to the Chesapeake. But meanwhile – we’ll set sail for Antigua.


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Video Tours of S/V Kinetic

Many of you may have seen S/V Kinetic as the Outbound Yachts “show boat” for the 2016 Spring and Fall Annapolis Sailboat Shows.   We were proud to have our beautiful new boat in the show, and let thousands of visitors see the boat we chose for our cruising and offshore passage-making instruction.

During last Fall’s show, Outbound Yachts’ owner Phil Lambert narrated interior and exterior video tours of Kinetic. These professional videos have recently been released to YouTube to reach an even wider audience. We’re delighted with the results – if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million!

Take the video tours at:

Exterior Tour:

Interior Tour:

Then, give us a call to see how you can sail on S/V Kinetic – for a day sail, a week of cruising, or an ocean passage!



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Preparing for Downwind Passages

Most of our passages this season have been to windward, despite our best planning. Any downwind legs have been with strong winds; plenty to keep the main and headsails full. Winter tradewinds have generally run from the East Northeast to East, but as Easter approaches we’re seeing more Southeasterly trades. As we look ahead to our return passages – from the Leeward Islands to USVI, and then USVI to the Chesapeake – we anticipate quite a bit of a downwind sailing, and want to be well prepared.

Our Outbound 46 Kinetic features jibe preventer lines running from the back of the boom (port and starboard) to a blocks on the bow, and then back to the stern cleats – so that jibes can be fully controlled from the cockpit. We also invested in a Forespar cruising whisker pole to “pole out” the jib or genoa on downwind runs. This arrangement allows us to sail wing on wing securely for long distances without fear of accidentally gybing. The pole is stored on the forward face of the mast, one end is fixed and travels vertically on a mast-mounted track. The pole position is adjusted and stabilized by triangulating it with a topping lift, afterguy, and foreguy. The foredeck crew adjusts the car height, topping lift and pole extension, while the cockpit crew controls the foreguy, afterguy, and sheet. When set, the pole is parallel to the deck, about 7’ high, and is angled to form a straight line with the mainsail’s boom. This position maximizes the surface area of the sails presented to the wind, for best downwind performance.

With the exception of a few practice runs and some downwind time off the Delmarva coast last summer, we’ve barely had a chance to use the whisker pole. Today we took advantage of a layday anchored in Deep Bay, Antigua, to practice pole sets, jibes and securing. To avoid excess “spaghetti” on deck, our “lazy” boom preventer line becomes the active foreguy, so jibing both main and pole involves some careful orchestration. Five hours well-spent, as we worked through the process, marked halyards and car positions, and documented the procedures in photos and written steps. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and then again, swapping crew positions. Our anchorage neighbors probably thought we were nuts, but practice makes perfect! Or at least, safe and efficient.  Now to try it on a rolling deck, with the headsail, and a dinghy stored on the foredeck.

When we return to the Chesapeake Bay in mid-May, we look forward to receiving our new cruising spinnaker, and a whole new level of downwind sailing… and training!

Training on Whisker Pole sets and jibes while anchored in Antigua

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Wind Power

There’s something very satisfying about waking to the sound of the wind. Wind whistling through the rigging portends a good sailing day, or cool breezes at anchor.   Wind also makes our wind generator spin, and that whirring turbine means electrical power, produced without burning fossil fuels. Wind generators harness the free (and generally abundant) wind to top up our battery banks, which run virtually all our onboard systems – electronics, lights, refrigeration, water pumps. Without that power, we’d have to run the diesel engine a couple of times a day just to maintain the batteries. Independence from shore or diesel power is a very gratifying to a cruising sailor, especially as we’re trying to keep Kinetic as “green” as possible.

Our Silentwind 400 wind generator was out of commission for two weeks while we awaited a new controller unit to be shipped to our cruising location from the Silentwind headquarters in Portugal (note: exceptional customer service). The silence was disconcerting, and the necessity to run the diesel engine was irritating, noisy and expensive. We still had a good solar panel, but it just wasn’t enough – we realized how much we relied on the wind/solar combination to meet our energy requirements. Now the new controller has been installed, and our wind generator is back in business – converting the tradewinds to amps, and feeding those amps to our grateful battery bank. We’re so glad to hear that whirring wind generator again!

Kinetic’s Silentwind Generator and Solbian Flex solar panel (plus Luci light)

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Blessings from the Sky


Kinetic being blessed

Kinetic being “blessed”

In many of the Caribbean nations we’ve visited, we hear the islanders refer to “blessings”. In some cases they are talking about good health or children, but much of the time they mean rainfall!   For the local populace, “blessings from the sky” mean healthy crops, cooler air and clean drinking water. One local radio program advised schoolchildren to remember their raincoats and boots, so they wouldn’t catch the flu in the (82° F) rain.

Onboard Kinetic, we see those blessings in several forms. Sometimes they arrive with 35 knot squalls while underway; generally with sufficient notice to put an extra reef in the sails, and remind us of who’s really in charge. Other times we are blessed with (indeed, we pray for) a quick freshwater shower to rinse the salt off the boat after a sporty passage. Blessings often include a rainbow, to put a wonderfully positive note on the whole event. Occasionally, blessings arrive when we’re unprepared (ie away from the boat with the hatches open), and that requires some airing of bedding and cushions afterward. It’s rare to have a full night without blessings, and we’ve become proficient at jumping up to close the cabin hatch, open to the ocean breeze. We have had limited success with our rain catcher, designed to supplement our freshwater tanks; perhaps we’ll have better luck if we call it a “blessing catcher”? No matter how or when our blessings arrive, we have no control over them, so we may as well adjust our attitude. Isn’t it refreshing to think of rainfall as a blessing, and make the most of it?

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Making Landfall – Guadeloupe

Making Landfall, Guadeloupe

Making Landfall, Guadeloupe

Approaching Guadeloupe today, we were struck by how much we enjoyed making landfall – especially a new one! At first, you might identify an island’s location by the cumulus clouds forming above, due to the rising warm, tropical air over the terrain. Since Guadeloupe is a volcanic island, we were able to see BasseTerre (perhaps mis-named, since it’s quite high) as we departed Antigua some 40 miles north; Guadeloupe appeared as a grey silhouette on the horizon, merged with clouds. As we approached, naturally the island grew, but we’ve determined that we can start seeing an island’s colors at about 12 miles distance. We practiced last week on other islands – St Eustatia, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. As you approach, that small gray silhouette takes shape, and you can see contours, headlands, colors, and eventually fields, forests, towns, buildings and roads. We were amazed and delighted as we came around the headland that protects Baie de Deshaies. The dramatic coastline suddenly opened to reveal a beautiful bay enclosed within, protected like a pearl in an oyster. As we approached the anchorage, the church bells ashore beckoned us in, while the sun set on our stern. Welcome to Guadeloupe!

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Kinetic Sailing writes Catamaran Cruising Made Easy for ASA


Lisa & Andy with Cruising Catamarans Made Easy

Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey, Solomons residents and owners of Kinetic Sailing, have written the brand new textbook, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy, just released by the American Sailing Association to national acclaim. The book is the new official manual for its Catamaran Cruising Course (ASA 114). Focused exclusively on how to operate a cruising catamaran, the newest book in ASA’s instructive and engaging Sailing Made Easy series highlights the unique skills involved to operate a cruising catamaran with its distinctive characteristics and operating systems. ASA selected the Batchelors to write the book because of their extensive catamaran cruising and chartering expertise, sailing instructor credentials and writing style. The couple wrote ASA’s Bareboat Cruising Made Easy, released in September 2014, which dovetails nicely into the cruising catamaran follow-on. “We worked with an excellent team of editors, photographers and illustrators on both books,” Andy said. “We’re really pleased with the result, and we’re eager for our Cruising Catamaran students to use this book.”

“Like our previous textbooks, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy is illustrated with rich, detailed photos and easy-to-understand text to help students learn quickly,” said Lenny Shabes, ASA’s Chairman of the Board. “It offers invaluable information on how to operate a cruising catamaran, adding tremendous value to many facets of the burgeoning catamaran industry.”

Published in full color and containing best-in-class illustrations along with world-class photography from renowned sailing photographers, Billy Black, Nicholas Claris, Sharon Greene and others, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy was written by expert sailing instructors Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey. The 90-page book was also co-edited by Peter Isler, two time America’s Cup winner and Chairman of ASA’s Educational Committee, and Jeremy McGeary, a 30-year veteran sailing writer and editor. The book also features a foreword by world-renowned pioneer catamaran racer, Cam Lewis.

Cruising Catamarans Made Easy is the first book to serve as a complete guide for the cruising catamaran sailor. It features a water-resistant cover, an easy-to-follow layout of two-page spreads throughout and an extensive glossary of terms. The book retails for $23.95, and is currently available for purchase on the ASA website (

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Kinetic launched for the season!

Splash!  After a winter on the hard, Kinetic was launched on April 6th to begin the 2016 sailing season. We’re busy with spring commissioning, shakedown, new bimini, and installation of a wind generator.  Kinetic will be displayed at the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show Apr 22-24 for Outbound Yachts – come see us there!P1050870



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Hurricane Tips for the Weather-Wise Mariner

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Hurricane season is upon us, and it portends to be an active one.  With so many sources of information available, it’s easy to get overloaded by the variety of data and media hype. Here are some definitions and tips to weed out the key information and keep you prepared.

Definitions – adapted from National Hurricane Center’s Glossary:

Tropical cyclone – a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. TC’s rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. They are further classified as:

  • Tropical Depression:  maximum sustained surface wind speed of 33 knots or less.
  • Tropical Storm:  max sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots. Tropical Storms are assigned names.
  • Hurricane: max sustained winds 64 knots or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
  • Major Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 96 knots or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Storm Surge – An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. (Storm surge is generally the most dangerous aspect of a storm for mariners in port, causing the greatest damage to life and property)

National Hurricane Center (NHC) is the primary source of hurricane forecasts for the US.  The information is distributed in various formats – text, graphic, voice – to reach all users.  Commercial organizations use the same base layer of information, but use value-added graphics and discussions. The combination can be confusing, so look carefully!

Weather Underground Graphic of Hurricane Irene, Aug 2011

Weather Underground Graphic of Hurricane Irene, Aug 2011

Size Matters – a hurricane’s size is important because of the area it impacts, but its strength (intensity of wind speed) and track are even more important.  Things to look for in the graphics:

  • Forecast track – most probable track of the storm’s center, based on models and meteorologists assessment.  
  • Radius of possible storm center locations (measure of track uncertainty)
  • Radius of damaging winds, where the strongest winds are nearest the storm center, and on the right leading quadrant (as the storm travels). 
  • Wind Speed Probabilities – given for TS strength, 50 kt, and Hurricane strength, by geographic area.
  • Storm Surge – depicted in feet above predicted astronomical tides along coastal regions.
  • Mariner’s 1-2-3 Rule – refers to the rounded long-term NHC forecast errors of 100-200-300 nautical miles at 24-48-72 hours, respectively. It’s a graphical depiction the forecast uncertainty

Understanding these factors of a hurricane forecast will help you keep a sharp weather eye, so you can prepare appropriately. 

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“Outstanding School & Instructors” for 2012

Sail Solomons has been named “Outstanding School for 2012” by the American Sailing Association (ASA). The award recognizes the top 20 of over 300 ASA sailing schools worldwide, and is based upon responses from 2012 student surveys regarding the quality of service, boats and instruction.

Sail Solomons co-owners and instructors Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey were each named “Outstanding Instructor for 2012”, an award that recognizes the top 1% of over 2000 ASA sailing instructors.

Sail Solomons Sailing School opened in 2007, and has received the Outstanding School award every year from 2008 through 2012. Their instructors have been awarded each year since 2007, making Sail Solomons the most recognized sailing school on the Chesapeake Bay.  Lisa notes “We’re more than just a sailing school. We believe sailing is a lifestyle, and we offer a continuum of sailing activities for all levels – from summer on the Chesapeake to winter flotillas and courses in the Caribbean.”

Andy indicates that the success of Sail Solomons is largely due to the small class size and personal attention each student receives. “We strive to give our students an exceptional sailing experience. Our boats are well maintained, and our instructors are all USCG licensed Captains and ASA-certified instructors. We want our students to love sailing as much as we do.” Lisa notes “We thank all our students for taking time to complete the surveys. We try hard to accommodate each student’s learning preferences, and we’re pleased that our efforts have been recognized. Seeing our students enjoy sailing is our greatest reward.”

The school is located at Zahniser’s Yachting Center in Solomons Maryland. Sail Solomons offers courses on their fleet of five daysailers and three cruising yachts for all sailing levels, from novice to advanced. Private instruction is also available. On Your Own Boat courses are very popular for sailors wishing to develop more expertise in specific areas on their own sailboats.

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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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Bareboat Charter Checkout – What to expect when you arrive onboard

Checklist for Bareboat Charter Checkout

by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Your bareboat charter date is finally here! You and your crew (and hopefully your luggage) have arrived safely at the charter base, and you’re ready to board and get underway. What can you expect now?

The Bareboat Charter Checkout! Don’t think of this as just a paperwork drill; knowing what to expect and planning accordingly can help make this process smooth, efficient and very rewarding. You’ve planned your charter carefully so far; now follow these tips to make your Charter Checkout a learning experience that pays big dividends.

Read Ahead

It’s true for any sailor – the more you know about your boat, the better. You can learn a lot about your charter boat before you ever leave home, so try these resources and do a little homework.

  • Charter Company – see what your charter company has available regarding boat specs, layout, photos, equipage lists, inventories and checkout forms. Some of these may be posted online or available upon request. These materials may be fairly generic, but it’s a good start.
  • Online yacht brokers – if you chartered a reasonably standard production boat (e.g. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, Hunter) you’ll have lots of online options. Manufacturer’s websites proudly display photos, layouts, and specs of their latest models. Sites like Yacht World are excellent places to research new and older boats. Realize that the specs will include add-on equipment (electronics, generators) which may or may not be on your charter boat.
  • Electronics vendors – suppose your charter boat is equipped with Raymarine electronics. Check the Raymarine Owner’s Manuals site and browse or download to your Type-A heart’s content!
  • Bareboat Charter materials – break out your ASA text for a review of systems and checklists, or get a “Bareboat Charter Supplemental Information” packet from an ASA school (e.g. Sail Solomons).

Welcome Aboard

When you arrive at the charter base, you’ll be welcomed by a staff member who can help get you settled onboard and orient you to the charter base facilities. Here you’ll learn the briefing process and schedule, where to select snorkeling gear (if provided), and the location of shore-side heads/showers, nearest groceries, recommended restaurants, etc. If you plan to arrive after-hours, be sure to coordinate with the charter base in advance.

Documents, Please

Charter companies frequently require photocopies of passports or ID, and signatures on liability waivers or charter company policy statements. You’ll also need to leave a security deposit for the boat – a credit card imprint, cashier’s check, or cash. Check the policy before you leave home to ensure you’ve got the correct currency. If you’d like the charter company to assist with post-charter transportation logistics, bring a copy of your departure information.


Most charter companies offer the option of sleeping aboard the yacht the night prior to your charter. Sleeping aboard gives you to time to stow your gear and provisions, and to get acquainted with the boat before your morning checkout brief. Some companies will give Sleepaboard Skippers a late-afternoon checkout brief upon arrival, as time and staff permit. A Sleepaboard is a great way to acclimate to the weather, and to decompress after a day of travel. Caution – marinas are often sheltered from the prevailing breeze, so you may want air-conditioning or a good fan while dockside in a hot, humid environment. In most cases, a Sleepaboard allows for a quicker get-away on your first charter day.


Your charter checkout will involve verification of the yacht’s equipment inventory. If you delegate the inventory to a Mate, emphasize the need for accuracy. Be sure the person taking the inventory actually eyeballs or touches each inventory item – no “pencil-whipping!” Here are a few very good reasons to complete the inventory accurately:

  • You’ll want all the inventory items onboard; the tool kit does you no good if it’s back at the base!
  • Identifying all the inventory items familiarizes you with their location. You’ll be able to find the items quickly when or if they’re needed – especially key for safety equipment.
  • You are responsible for any loss of inventory items. If you said you had all 8 life jackets on departure but you only had 6, then you’ll be paying for 2 upon return.


Pre-ordered provisions may be dockside (or already loaded onboard) when you arrive. Bring along your order form and verify that you received all the provisions you ordered. Meat-lovers, be sure you didn’t accidentally receive the order for the vegans in the next slip! If you’re self-provisioning, a Sleepaboard night gives you the opportunity to purchase and stow your groceries before the checkout process begins. Streamline your checkout by sending the provisioning team to the grocery store while the Skipper does the inventory and boat brief. Stow provisions so you can easily access and find items. Apply tactical fridge storage techniques to minimize the waste of cold air. Refer to Bareboat Charter Provisioning in ASA’s Sep 2010 E-News for more.

Boat Checkout Brief

This is probably the most critical aspect of your charter checkout, and warrants the full attention of the Skipper (and a Mate, if feasible). In most cases, boat checkout briefs are personally conducted on your boat by a member of the charter staff. At very large charter bases, you might be briefed on a similar model boat. Plan for a full hour to go through the sail plan and controls, ground tackle, topside gear, power and domestic systems. A few tips:

  • You may have scheduling options – ask early to secure the most suitable time. Some charter operators will brief you on the afternoon of your Sleepaboard.
  • Engaging a large crew in the brief may be counter-productive. Better to have the Skipper and Mate participate, who then brief the rest of the crew afterwards, as appropriate. By “re-briefing” you’ll learn the material even better, and discover any information gaps.
  • Start with a ship-shape boat to allow easy access to systems, thru-hulls, controls. Stow your gear in advance, or wait until after the brief to bring your bags onboard.
  • Don’t try to impress the briefer with your knowledge, or they may gloss over areas that you need to hear. Listen carefully, even if you know the boat well. Every boat has nuances and you’ll always learn something new (which may come in very handy during your charter).
  • Take notes as needed, and ask if there’s an operations manual onboard for future reference.
  • Be absolutely sure you know how to reef the sails; verify that reefing gear is properly rigged.
  • Demonstrate operation of key functions (e.g. engine start, windlass operation), and get as “hands-on” as the briefing permits. The more senses you engage in the learning process, the better.
  • Study the battery bank and selector switches – is the engine start battery isolated from the domestic battery? How much battery capacity do you have? What is the recommended recharge process?
  • Ensure that fuel and water tanks are full, and that holding tanks are empty.
  • If you’ve ordered extra electronics gear (inverters, MP3 players, etc.), check that the gear is onboard and functioning properly.
  • Don’t forget the dinghy! Test the outboard motor and the towing painter.
  • If you have questions – ask. Now. That’s why the briefer is onboard!
  • Verify procedures for departure and return of your boat. Is the staff available to assist with docking? Must you refuel or pump-out before return?
  • Ask whom and how to call if you have questions or problems while on charter. Note the cell phone number and VHF channel.

Chart Brief

The chart briefing reviews the local cruising grounds, prevailing wind/sea conditions, popular itineraries, recommended anchorages and cruising restrictions. The briefer’s local knowledge is priceless, so listen carefully! Notes to consider:

  • Large charter companies generally have a scheduled group briefing which the Skipper and Mate attend. Small companies may conduct a personalized brief onboard your yacht.
  • Assuming you’ve planned your itinerary (see Planning an Itinerary in ASA’s Dec 2010 E-News), keep your plan in mind as you listen to the brief. Be flexible and prepared to adjust your itinerary based on the briefer’s advice. Ask specific questions without disrupting the group brief.
  • Learn the best source for local weather conditions – can you easily call back to the charter base for updates? Discuss current/near-term weather forecast implications on your planned itinerary.
  • Ask if there are other groups or events (races, festivals?) that may impact your trip; flex accordingly.
  • Be sure you have adequate charts and a cruising guide onboard your boat.


Use the Bareboat Charter Checkout process to your full advantage. Glean as much information as you can from the Boat and Chart Briefers – never underestimate the value of local knowledge. Streamline the process by using your time and crew efficiently, but don’t take shortcuts. Once your Charter Checkout is complete, brief your crew and get underway. Happy Sailing!

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Bareboat Chartering: What to Pack – Beyond clothing

Christmas Lights onboard Zingaro

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey     

All ready for your bareboat charter? Trip booked, provisions ordered, clothes packed …is there more? In the preceding articles, you learned all about the nitty gritty topics; now for the fun stuff!

In this article you’ll find a selection of great gadgets and entertaining items to help you get the most from your charter experience. Verify what equipment is already onboard your charter boat, and augment accordingly. Minimalists go camping – everyone else, read on!

Entertainment / Communications:


With so many memories to capture, you’ll want a camera that’s easy to pack and use. Be sure to bring appropriate batteries or recharging unit, and additional memory cards. So sea spray won’t be an issue, bring a camera-sized waterproof bag (carried at dive or kayak shops) or Ziploc. Consider a disposable underwater camera for snorkeling trips.


What’s a charter without music? Most charter boats will have a radio/CD player, so bring your favorite CDs. For iPod/MP3 users, check if the system is compatible and bring appropriate attachments or speakers.

Cell Phone

If you need to have cell phone connectivity, you’ve got several options. Check with your cell phone provider to see if you’ll have coverage in your charter area, and verify the roaming rates (they may be significant). You can rent “global” phones from any number of providers before your charter. Many charter companies will provide you with a local cell phone with a minimal amount of airtime credit; you’ll have the option to purchase additional airtime.


If you use a cell phone/laptop with an internet access plan, verify the data rate before going abroad; you may want to disable the data feature. You’ll find many wi-fi hotspots in the islands (some free) where you can connect your phone, blackberry or tablet or iPad.  Many great sailing and navigation apps are available, and are fun to try on vacation.  Whether or not to answer emails from work – your choice!


Be sure you have a way to power or recharge your electronics. Most boats will have 12V chargers, similar to your car’s cigarette lighter/charger. Bring a small USB adaptor plug for the 12V outlet – you can then charge multiple USB-powered devices directly. Boats MAY have an inverter to energize the 110V/220V outlets onboard when away from shore power – check with your charter company. A good alternative is an inexpensive inverter (e.g. Black & Decker 100W) which plugs into the boat’s 12V outlet and allows you to power/recharge low-wattage 110V or USB items – generally sufficient for recharging phones, cameras, etc. All of this puts a demand on the boat’s domestic battery supply, so watch your power consumption carefully. Bring batteries where you can.

Down Time Entertainment

You’ll have some “down time” in anchorages, on longer passages, or on quiet evenings (depending on your charter companions), so bring paperbacks, playing cards, or travel-sized board games. Cards from Trivia games (especially the nautical variety) pack well, and provide lots of entertainment. If you’re sailing with kids, be sure to bring their favorites. Consider a kid’s logbook (Weems & Plath) or journal.

Reading onboard

Phrase Book

If you don’t speak the native language in your charter area, bring along a phrase book to help you communicate. Locals will appreciate the effort made to speak their language, and you’ll have a lot of fun learning! Practice a few greetings before you go; someone on your flight is bound to help you with pronunciation.

Christmas Lights

Colored LED Christmas lights add a festive atmosphere to your cockpit – but not while underway, please! They also make it easy to identify your boat when dinghying around a crowded anchorage at night. Solar-powered lights are perfect for the sunny tropics; buy them when Christmas lights appear in the stores.

Snorkeling Gear

Your tropical charter will likely involve a good bit of snorkeling. Most charter companies provide or rent snorkeling gear, and have a variety of sizes available. Many people prefer to bring their own mask and snorkel (fits easily in a duffle). If you wear glasses, consider ordering a prescription mask before your charter.


For excursions ashore, you’ll want a water-resistant daypack or beach bag to carry your gear. Attach an ID tag with your name, boat’s name and charter company.


Cruising Guide

Most charter boats will have a local cruising guide onboard. The guides contain a lot of information useful to your charter planning, so you may like to purchase your own copy well before your trip. Record notes to keep the memories fresh for future trips.


If you’re a chart junkie as I am, you’ll want to bring your own charts, either paper or electronic. Check what’s onboard your charter boat, and augment as you see fit. If you’re particular about your nav tools, bring your own.

Handheld GPS

A bit of redundancy to your boat’s chartplotter (if it has one) and your paper charts. Be sure your chart chip is reliable for the charter area. Many smart-phones have GPS capability; be sure to download charts while you have good data access. No matter how many gadgets you have onboard – don’t neglect your basic piloting skills!

Handheld VHF

Great to have in the cockpit, if the boat doesn’t have a cockpit microphone. Also useful for those in the dinghy/shore party to communicate with those staying onboard, or between helm and bow when anchoring. Choose a working channel so you don’t crowd Channel 16.


Helps your boat stand out from the crowd of charter look-alikes, and identifies your sailing club. Your charter boat probably won’t have the traditional masthead pigstick, so fly your burgee on the starboard flag halyard, below the host nation’s courtesy flag.


Your boat will have flashlights onboard, but a small personal LED flashlight will come in handy for night use in an unfamiliar cabin, or for night-time dinghy excursions.


Generally included on your charter boat, but if you are particular about binoculars (whether to spot navigation marks, birds, or other charterers), bring your favorites.

Leatherman/Multipurpose Tool

Useful tools for myriad purposes, ashore or afloat. Pack in checked baggage only, or you’ll part company with it at the security gate.



A pack of clean new clothespins will ensure your swimsuit is not clipped onto the lifeline with the mildewed, rusty pins that might already be onboard.

Soft-sided Cooler

Very useful for carrying ice & groceries during charter (which you’ll need to transport in the dinghy). Chill and store easy-access beverages here to reduce excess fridge openings. Use it to pack some provisions onto your charter (see Provisioning Article, Sep 2010), and to tote your souvenirs home!

Ziploc bags

Pack a variety of sizes, use to store documents, first aid supplies, food, wet swimsuits, laundry, treasures. For easy packing, remove bags from the box and secure the roll with a rubber band.

Marine Body Wash, Bathing Puff

On a tropical charter, you’ll do a lot of your bathing in the ocean. Savon de Mer makes an excellent biodegradable shampoo and body gel designed for use in salt-water and hard water. An inexpensive bath puff will make a good lather from many soaps and body wash products.

Drawstring Mesh Bag

Perfect to store your shampoo, body wash and bath puff while it dripdries over the stern. Also useful for dunking sandy sandals.

When packing for your bareboat charter, remember – keep it simple, keep it light, keep it fun! Refer to prior ASA E-news articles for tips on Provisioning and Packing your clothing and personal items. Coordinate with your crew so you don’t have too much gear overlap. Follow these guidelines, and have a terrific vacation!

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What to Pack for a Caribbean Charter

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey           

I love packing for vacation—it puts me in the vacation mindset! Conversely, my husband absolutely dreads packing; he waits till the last minute to get it over with as fast as possible. With a little advance planning, packing for a Caribbean bareboat charter can be quick, simple and enjoyable—the best of both worlds!

Today’s lightweight, fast-drying technical fabrics make the packing even simpler. You’ll be appropriately attired, comfortable and still have space left in your duffle for a souvenir tee shirt. Read on for the packing basics for Caribbean bareboat charter, followed by a handy Packing List.

Charterers invariably pack too much for a Caribbean vacation. I remember seeing the 3 duffle bags my brother packed for his first charter—I didn’t think he owned that much clothing! When I saw him unpack, I realized that most of it was fishing gear and provisions; his clothing amounted to 3 tee shirts and 2 pairs of shorts. A general rule of thumb: lay out what you think you’ll need on your bed, and consider critically if you’ll need each item. Put half the clothing back in your closet. Look again at your clothing pile, and reduce by half again. You’ll be all set! As a general guide:


While onboard, you’ll practically live in a swimsuit. Bring 2 or 3 for variety (and changing tan lines), add a cover-up for sun protection and modesty.


Bring 3-5 favorite tees or polo shirts. While cotton is comfortable, it doesn’t dry easily in tropics. Fast-drying technical fabrics allow you to quickly wash your shirts in a bucket, so they can dry on the lifelines. You’ll probably buy 1 or 2  souvenir tees along the way anyway.


Bring 2-3 pair of comfortable, fast-drying shorts. Zippered pockets retain cash or credit cards during dinghy rides or excursions ashore.


As appropriate.

Sun protective clothing

If you’re sun-sensitive, bring a fast-drying long-sleeved shirt and long pants, preferably with Ultraviolet Protection Factor integrated into the fabric. To save more space, wear these on your flight to and from the Caribbean, so you’re not lugging winter clothes onboard.


You’ll welcome a lightweight fleece or sweater on cooler evenings. You’ll be even happier if you don’t need it until your return flight!


Daytime beach wear is very casual, and your onboard clothing will be fine. But if you’re shopping in town, respect local traditions and dress accordingly. When visiting churches or museums, covered knees and shoulders may be required. Ladies, a pair of capris or a sarong are invaluable. Most restaurants you’ll encounter when chartering are casual; pack casual slacks/shirts (men), and a capris/skirt/sundress (ladies) for evenings at restaurants. Higher-end resort restaurants require a jacket & tie for men; if you’re planning to dine here, check the dress code and pack appropriately. Before packing your best silks or cute heels, keep in mind that you’ll likely be scrambling into a rubber dinghy when going ashore!


Non-marking, close-toed shoes (boat shoes/Keens/Crocs) are best for wearing on deck—they give you good traction while protecting your feet. Bring water shoes or sandals for wearing ashore. Try to keep sand off the boat by rinsing “shore-side” shoes before reboarding your boat. Bare feet only below decks!

Rain Jacket

As with the fleece, you may be happy to never have to wear this on vacation. But in the event of tropical showers, squalls, or head-on seas, you’ll be very glad you have a lightweight, breathable rain jacket!


Important sun protection—ballcap, visor, sailing hat—whatever you’re most likely to wear. A chin-strap or tie-down clips are critical when sailing!


Good-fitting sunglasses will protect your eyes from all that tropical sunshine. Bring a spare pair, just in case. Polarized lenses cut the glare and allow you to distinguish coral reefs under water. Retainer straps will help keep your sunglasses on your head, instead of overboard! For the over-40 crowd, consider magnified “cheater” sunglasses available in many pharmacies. You’ll be able to read charts or a novel while still protecting your eyes from the sun.

Sailing Gloves

If you wear them while sailing in home waters, bring your sailing gloves along.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Charter yachts will come equipped with PFDs (probably Type I or II), but if you prefer to wear your own, bring it along. Check airline regulations if carrying a CO2 cylinder for a Type V PFD.

Toiletry/Wash Kit

To your normal compliment of products, add salt-water soap and a bathing puff (which foams up most liquid soaps). Leave the hair-dryer at home; it’s unlikely to work onboard, and you’ll ruin that sought-after windswept look!


Most charter companies provide cotton bath towels, but microfiber sports towels are more absorbent, quick-drying, and easily packable. Beach towels are generally not provided.


Bring plenty of high-UPF sunscreen and lip-balm, and apply liberally each day onboard. You’ll still get plenty of sun!


Bring necessary medications in your carry-on luggage, with copies of appropriate prescriptions. Unless you’re SURE you don’t get seasick in the conditions in which you’ll be chartering, bring seasickness medication. Check with your doctor, and try the meds in controlled conditions before your charter.

Personal Gear

Camera, phone, small flashlight, books, magazines. Tablets or iPads keep you connected, and have great sailing and navigation apps. A watch or travel alarm will help you make the flight home, and remind you that your colleagues are still at work. See our post ‘What to pack – beyond clothing‘ for a more detailed guide!


Pack everything in a soft, collapsible duffle, which can be stowed easily. There is no room onboard for hard or wheeled suitcases! Also bring a lightweight beach bag/backpack for going ashore.


Don’t forget your Passport (is it current?) and appropriate Visas. Bring your sailing logbook and Charter Documentation. ATMs are easy to find; bring a credit and/or debit card with PIN for cash advances.

When packing for a Caribbean bareboat charter, remember—keep it simple, keep it light! Follow these guidelines, and have a terrific vacation! Check our other post for: “What to Pack—Beyond the Clothing.”

Packing Checklist

1-week Caribbean Barefoat Charter

– Swimsuits (2-3) & cover-up
– Shirts—tees, polo shirts, sun-shirts (3-5)
– Shorts—quick-dry, zippered pockets (2-3)
– Underwear—as appropriate
– Quick-dry long pants, long-sleeved shirt (UPF)
– Fleece or lightweight jacket
– Evenings ashore: Ladies: capris, top, sundress/Gents: lightweight slacks/shorts, shirt
– Shoes/onboard—non-slip, non-marking, closed-toed (eg. deck shoes, Crocs, Keens)
– Shoes/ashore—sandals, water shoes
– Rain jacket—hooded, lightweight, breathable
– Hat—ballcap, visor, or sun hat (tie-down)
– Sunglasses (polarized if possible), retainer strap. Bring a spare pair.
– Sailing gloves
– PFD (for those who prefer their own)

– Toiletry / wash kit
– Micro-fiber sports towel / beach towel
– Sunscreen & lip balm (30+ UPF, waterproof)
– Seasickness medication—as required

– Personal LED flashlight (small) or headlamp
– Travel alarm clock—if it matters!

– Camera, phone, tablet, books, magazines

– Duffle bag (soft, no frame)

– Passport (if overseas)
– Debit or credit card, with PIN for cash advances
– Sailing logbook

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