Charter Advisors' How To Guide
How To Brief Your Crew The Charter Advisors Way
Charter sailing is a whole lot of fun, but it's even more fun and quite a bit safer when everyone knows what's up. Safety must be priority one for any captain, charter or otherwise. Enter the crew briefing.
As a charter yacht captain it's your job to take responsibility for the yacht and the souls onboard. Having a well briefed crew from the get go keeps your crew safe and lets everyone have the best possible time aboard.
Here's the Charter Advisors Crew Briefing Routine for captains and crew before leaving the docks:
First, ask who has sailing experience. Knowing who has experience comes in handy.
Who wants to do the sailing? - Regardless of experience, find out who wants to lend a hand on deck. This is not about assigning crew duties, rather it's an opportunity to identify those who really don't want to get their hands dirty in a polite way.
Turns at the helm - Let those that want a turn at the helm know they are welcome. Even with the Auto Pilot running, everyone likes to "drive."
Boom Safety - Always walk on the "boom side" when moving forward.
Reading the water - Dark Blue: 60+ feet, Turquoise: 25+ feet, Gin Clear: Less than 10 feet.
Lines - Explain what line does what and which lines not to worry about. Eliminating lines your crew won't need to touch helps them focus and keeps things from becoming confusing.
Powered winches - Demonstrate how they work and only allow adults to run them.
Attaching lines to winches - Demonstrate how to put two turns around the winch and run the line over the dove-tail.
Winch Handle - Show how to attach, release and operate the manual winch (show how it runs in low and high gear).
Setting sails - Run through the drill. For the main, explain heading to wind, watching batons running clear of the lazy jack lines, and how you'll unfurl the jib. This doesn't need to be sailing 101, all you need to cover is what you will be doing and what you need them to do so you can stay in sync and know what to look for and what's next.
Dinghy Routines - Review how to start and use the outboard, use of the kill switch leash, how to tie up to the boat, how to arrive at the dock and back at the boat without bashing, swimming / snorkeling only when the engine is off, what to do if the engine dies (oars!), and last but not least: pulling in the painter line when mooring and how to safely extend the line when heading out. If you have a stand out crew member, make them the "dinghy captain" and give them responsibility for the dinghy (though you are still responsible for them and the dinghy).
Non-swimmers - They should wear lifejackets anytime the boat is moving.
PFD's - Show where lifejackets are stowed.
Just Ask - Ask, ask, ask. If you are not sure or have a question, just ask.
Kids - Make clear where children should and shouldn't be and when.
First Aid Kit - Show where the First Aid Kit is located.
Sunburn Protection - You'd be surprised at how many people don't take the Caribbean sun seriously.
Water toys and Fins - Make sure even the best swimmers take their fins with them in the kayak or SUP in case they get separated from it.
Man Over Board Procedures - Be sure you cover this one. Having a crew that knows what to do can be the difference between life and death.
Pan-Pan-Pan, Mayday-Mayday-Mayday - Cover what these are and what they are all about including monitoring channel 16 for these "keywords."
Hands Rule - One hand for yourself, one hand for the boat. Always keep one hand on the boat when underway. Balance is a funny thing when the ground is always moving.
Stay out of "The Bight" - No Feet in the middle of a looped line laying on deck.
Companionway - Reminding your crew how to move though this area can save lots of bumps and bruises, including keeping transits up and down the companionway to a bare minimum when underway.
Mooring - Run through your general mooring procedures. Hand signals, who runs the lines, how they should be run, where they should be cleated off. Demonstrate how to extend the boat hook.
VHF Radio - Let your crew know that this radio should be used only by those trained to use it or in an emergency situation. Then let them know that you're happy to teach whoever wants to learn.
Pick someone to be the "Ladder Lookout" - This is a great job for a non-sailor or kid. This crewmember checks to see if the swimming ladder has been put up before you go sailing. You'd be surprised how many times we've left ours down!
Kid friendly Jobs - Give the littlest crew a role in the action. They love to help (and do a pretty good darn job in our experience)! Things like turning the mooring light on in the evening and off in the morning helps them be more involved and feel responsible.
Sand - Clean feet before returning from the beach to the boat.
Shoes - No shoes or sandals (or sand) allowed onboard or below decks.
Onboard Water / Conservation - Unless you have a water-maker onboard, water is a finite resource shared by all. Remind your crew how to conserve water and how it should be used (Showers and not drinking for example).
Marine Heads - How to use them and the importance of closing the sea cocks.
Galley Safety - Show how to turn off the low-pressure gas (LPG) for the galley stove and to never leave the gas switch on unless you're cooking.
Hatches and Opening Ports - Let your crew know that these need to be closed anytime you go to shore or go sailing. Going to shore with a hatch open guarantees rain. No kidding!
Have fun! Sailing is all about enjoying time on the water. It's a lot more fun for everyone (captain included), when everyone knows how to do what they need to do and be safe doing it.
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev