What to expect on your first day of a yacht charter
The worst day of a rally for me, and for most people, is the check-in day.
Firstly the staff at the base for the yachts has been very busy all day - cleaning the yachts and addressing any breakages from the previous charter. Usually the staff are under pressure as there is far more to get through than time allows! The greeting is friendly but you may already feel some tenseness in the air. It is often hot and still in the marina and that can be an added discomfort. It may also be you are still just a tad jet-lagged after the long haul across the world!
When the ‘new-bees’, (us) arrive, the staff at the base have already been hard at work since around 7.00am and they are run ragged. We arrive and expect everything to be spick and span, as is our right! But invariably things are still not entirely sorted and still in progress. In the meantime any pre-ordered provisions have arrived and, depending on the base organisation, the food can be strewn from fridge to cockpit, or in some cases even on the wrong yacht.
So the task is to stay cool, and set out a plan of attack.
First cabin allocation has to be decided among the crew. Each yacht is different and guests have various needs and preferences. Depending on the readiness of the yacht and staff at the base you are required to do a boat briefing and this can involve a three page treasure hunt to find all the contents of the yacht from first aid kits, to emergency tiller and down to the tea strainer! I have to confess the first thing I check is the coffee making equipment!
One member of the crew is called to the office to pay the security deposit and collect the boat papers. The office may not even be in the marina but can be a walk away.
So having searched every locker, cupboard, drawer and plastic container you will have some idea of what is on board. The life-jackets are usually under the mattresses in the cabins. Thankfully I have never needed to find one yet but it may be an idea to leave some in more accessible locations if possible. We have a daily weather forecast and if the conditions are not safe the rally does not leave the dock – but it is still good to know where the necessary equipment is stowed and how to operate it.
Meanwhile the important task of unpacking the shopping as you check the order and tick off the items, is waiting. Having completed that – stacked the fridge, found a place for more water than you could possibly drink (who ordered so much water?), and made sure the fridge is on and working – you can begin to think about unpacking your bag and sorting out the cabin.
If you are sharing a cabin of course only one person can fit in the cabin at a time so this process is also slowed. Not all operators make up the beds and have simply left the linen and towels for the guests to complete the task. And with all the organisation I can muster I still lose things for the first few days on any yacht. The number of times ‘has anyone seen my…….?’ Has to be heard to be appreciated.
All this activity can be interrupted at any time for the base staff to run though the ‘briefing’. Everything on the yacht has to be understood from how to work the toilet to dropping the anchor, (the ever elusive trip-switch reset button is where???) And what is that anyway!
Unfortunately the skipper and one other crew member are supposed to be the only people on board for the check-in as the space is once again an issue. So when all is complete two people know all about how to start the motor and hoist the sails (taking into account any yacht foibles – and they all seem to have foibles), and no other crew members are privy to all this valuable information.
It then becomes the skipper’s duty to inform all the crew and demonstrate anything necessary. The thing is, this is a ‘team’ effort. One person who found the first aid kit in the treasure hunt needs to share that information and this can be critical. How to work the toilet may not be the most desirable conversation you may want to have but I assure you it is a very necessary part of your essential holiday information on a boat.
Some hours later, at the end of what has invariably been a long day, as you are sitting around having a cold refreshment, the sharing of all this information and planning procedures is an excellent idea. The skipper of each yacht is responsible for the safety of all crew members, and the operation of the yacht. A safety briefing is the very least that should be organised. Many of the crew may have experience but is should never be assumed and should always be aired. Each person in the crew has to assume responsibility for certain tasks and this needs to be planned and communicated. Speak up! Don’t feel that you have no say – we all paid to come on this holiday and if we are each to enjoy the experience to the full - then communication is essential.
I promise you that on the following day when we stop in a glorious bay for a swim and simple picnic of cheeses, ham and salad washed down with a chilled wine perhaps, it will all have been worthwhile! And after a week of the freedom that a yacht allows to enjoy nature up close, get to know your other rally crews and explore the most beautiful bays – you will have forgotten the first-day-blues!