Basic safety checks to undertake when joining a charter yacht

When joining any charter yacht it makes sense to undertake some basic safety checks in addition to the detailed appraisal of the inventory likely to be provided. If you are chartering a yacht from a professional company then you can expect these checks to have been done before you board - but nevertheless, it’s worth checking anyway!

When joining a yacht you may find this checklist helpful as an aide memoir;

  • Locate Gas Bottles and confirm that gas is off and isolated at the bottle.
  • If the gas was left on, check the bilges for gas and, if necessary, isolate all batteries, ventilate the boat and hand pump the bilges (don’t use the electric bilge pump!).
  • Establish whether there is a Boat Data Book which will detail the boat’s specification, including water capacities, Call Sign, draft, etc. It may also detail the location of seacocks, water tanks, etc.
  • Inspect all skin fittings (the holes in the hull that have pipes attached to them from the toilets, sinks and raw water intake, etc) and exercise all sea cocks. If the seacocks are stiff or broken, raise the issue with the boat’s owner. On a charter vessel, all sea cocks should have bungs attached to them to use in the event that a sea cock ruptures and you start taking on water.
  • Check the boat’s inventory with specific reference to the location of the vessel’s first aid kit, engine spares, tool kit, lifejacket spares, batteries, torches, the flare pack and other survival equipment that may be on board such as TPAs, a charged handheld VHF and EPIRB, etc.
  • Check you have enough lifejackets (with crotch straps) and harnesses (plus spare jackets) and spare CO2 canisters and cartridges, and have your crew fit them to themselves.
  • Check battery charge levels, water tanks and diesel tanks and make sure you have sufficient domestic supplies including cleaning materials, matches, kitchen roll and tea towels, not forgetting toilet rolls!
  • Check all bunks and lee cloths are in place and secure.
  • Check the bilges for water and if they are wet why?
  • Check that you have sufficient sails on board. If the vessel has storm sails, check them and make sure you (and your crew) know how to bend them on and set them.
  • Undertake a safety brief for your crew and open the log. Make sure you detail how many crew are on board (including you) and start checking and recording weather forecasts and your barometer readings.
  • Check the deck and the rigging. Look for loose or broken wire strands, corrosion, broken deck gear, check all standing and running rigging, make sure you have an anchor and that it is tied on at the bitter end and able to be utilised in good time.
  • Locate the emergency tiller and make sure you and your crew know how to fit it.
  • Locate any additional bilge pumps, buckets, throwing lines and danbuoys / horseshoes, etc.
  • Check lifelines (if fitted) and all stanchions and safety rails.
  • Check all hatches are watertight and in good order.
  • Complete an inventory of charts and navigational equipment including almanacs and additional equipment such as GPS.
  • Complete standard engine checks and make sure that everyone knows how to start the engine and how to send a mayday using the boat’s VHF and knows what to do in the case of a man overboard, including how to mark the MOB on your GPS or chart plotter.
  • Make sure you have a plan for your week and let someone on shore know about it.

Stow all kit, allocate bunks, then perhaps it’s time to open a cold one and start to enjoy your holiday!

Of course, this is not an extensive list (and the last item is not obligatory!), but hopefully this will give you an idea of what you should be considering when joining a new charter vessel for the first time.

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