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Bareboat Accidents

Nobody wants to think about having an accident while contemplating a BVI Yacht Charter ... but the "what if's" really should be thoughtfully considered. Why; you ask? So you can do your best to prevent them from happening! In other words, prepare for the worst and plan for the best!

The most serious accidents often take place when traveling in your dinghy. Please use common sense and always consider the safety of others. The most common bareboat mishaps are caused by a lack of experience. In some cases, laziness and sometimes carelessness plays a role too. Some boo-boos can become very costly and the sad part is that the vast majority are easily preventable:

Problem: Getting the dinghy painter, mooring line or a dock line wrapped around your propeller. This happens far too often and is a dead give away of a rooky or inattentive boater. Don't be that guy!
Solution: 1) Assign one crew member whose task is to to take up the slack in your dinghy line when maneuvering in tight quarters or reversing. If that person is indisposed, be sure the backup person knows what they are doing.

2) Always put somebody on point (bow of the boat) to keep an eye out for floating mooring lines and submerged anchor lines when entering an anchorage.

3) When leaving an anchorage, make sure that the crew member responsible for releasing the mooring line tosses it well away from the yacht ... and that they toss it to the opposite direction you will be travelling.

4) Always stow unused dock and spring lines. Never ever, ever leave lines attached to cleats or lying on deck. Lines are easily swept overboard and can foul your prop and shaft while underway.

Problem: Your dinghy goes AWOL.
Solution: All aboard (or anyone who is going to use the dinghy) needs to know how to tie a few basic knots. Here is a great site with animations for the most useful knots.

The knots to concentrate on are the bowline, cleat knot, clove hitch, pile hitch and round turn with two half hitches. If your crew can manage to learn these basic knots, your dinghy will be much safer!
Action: If you do lose your dinghy, phone or radio your bareboat charter company and the police immediately. Be advised that you will likely be required to complete a police report.

Several charter companies provide cables with locks. Use them if you feel there is any possibility of your dinghy being taken by other sailors mistakenly taking your dinghy, thieves or if any of your crew failed their knot tying test. :)

Problem: Dragging anchor and hitting another yacht. Most boaters use the moorings provided in the various anchorages, but if you do use your anchor and it drags, that could pose a problem.
Solution: Be confident in your anchoring abilities and learn to do it properly before arriving for your sailing holiday.

The main anchor provided aboard almost all charter yachts is a Danforth, which is the best anchor for sandy bottoms. It is designed to dig into the sand and hold the boat solidly.

However, no matter how well an anchor is designed, it will not work as designed if you don't provide enough scope and snub it properly. Scope is the ratio of the depth of the water to the length of chain and rode fed out. The standard ratio for good holding is 7 to 1. For every 1' of water depth, you will want 7 feet of anchor chain and rode. In 20 feet of water, you will need 140'. In 40' you'll need 280', etc. As long as you know your 7 times table, you are good to go.

In high winds or storm conditions, you should provide a 10 to 1 scope and it would be a good idea to set your storm anchor as well. Drop your storm anchor about 30 to 35 degrees off the bow to weather. Set your main anchor 30 to 35 degrees to the lee ... creating a "V" with the bow of the boat in the center.

Weather and circumstances permitting, it's always a good idea to strap on a mask and fins and dive the anchor to be sure you have good holding.

Problem: Breaking or burning out the electric anchor windlass.
Solution: This is most often caused by putting undue pressure on the windlass motor by using the windlass to pull the yacht up to the anchor instead of driving up to the anchor and then using the windlass (as it was intended) to lift the anchor off the bottom. A windlass is not a come-along! These are expensive bits of equipment and you don't want to be on the hook for a new one due to abuse.

Problem: Hitting the dock or other yachts when docking.
Solution: Docking is an art which requires practice. Most folks hit the dock because they are either moving too quickly or too slowly. If you approach the dock too quickly and then slam the gear shift into reverse, chances are you may hit the dock and possibly damage the gears in the process.

Advancing to the dock should be done slowly, but with enough power that you maintain control over drift. Slowly is much preferred to quickly. At slow speeds (should you hit anything), the damage to the yacht, other nearby yachts or the dock itself will be minimal or non-existent.

The main solution to this problem is practice. Nothing replaces experience. If you are concerned about your ability to safely dock the boat, call the charter company in advance and arrange for them to send someone out to assist.

Problem: Dropping equipment (such as winch handles and boat hooks) overboard.
Solution: The only cure for this is for all crew to be aware that it happens all too frequently. Boat hooks tend to get yanked away from a crew member's hands when trying to pick up mooring lines while the yacht is still moving too quickly.

Make sure your crew are advised as to "when" and "when not" to try to use the boat hook. Boat hooks also tend to be forgotten when not in use and are often left unsecured on the deck. Winch handles usually go overboard when they are put down on the deck while the crew member performs another task instead of putting the winch handle in its holder.

What to do? Don't allow your crew to put the winch handle down anywhere other than in the holder. You should be aware that as the charter guest, you are financially responsible for any damage or loss of equipment up to the limit stated on your charter contract. It could be anywhere between $30.00 to $1,000.00.

Problem: Cigarette burns.
Solution: Don't smoke below decks and stay to the stern of the boat when smoking above decks. Paying to fix upholstery or (worse) ... burned sails or decks can be very costly!

Last updated: Apr 6th 2020
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