On the day your BVI yacht charter begins, you will be required to attend a yacht systems and chart briefing. Briefings usually last 2 to 2½ hours. Only one or two people need attend the briefings if the others want to go shopping for provisions
Your briefer will show you through the boat and explain the operation of all the different yacht systems. You will also be provided with a reference manual that includes notes on all operating procedures. Once your briefer has completed your tour, that is the time to check the boat yourselves to make sure all systems are operational and that you have everything you need.
A smart skipper will run this part of the pre-charter preparations like a well oiled machine. Split up your list and delegate
various crew members to carry out the inspections for different sections as listed below.
This will help familiarize your crew with the parts of the boat they will ultimately be responsible for monitoring throughout the charter. As my mom repeatedly stated; "Many hands make light work".
Even if you have hired a captain
, it is your responsibility to check the boat before leaving the dock, so please allow yourselves at least an hour to do so. Your captain will help you.
Not all yachts will have all of the equipment listed below. Just skip over the items you don't have. Be sure to cross them off your list so your crew members don't spend time searching for them.
* Time Saving Tip:
- Is your yacht documentation and a copy of the boat registration is aboard?
- BVI Cruising Permit.
- National Parks Trust Permit.
- Fishing Permit(s) if you have prearranged them. Do not fish without a permit! Trust me, it isn't worth the heartache if caught. They are very serious about that here and penalties are very stiff.
- Crew Manifest. *
If you plan to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands
while sailing, take along at couple of copies of your crew manifest so that you will not have to spend time at Customs & Immigration copying out everyone's details when clearing in & out of the BVI or USVI.
Lights & Electrical:
- Familiarize yourself with the main breaker panel and switches for each system.
- Test all lights to be certain no bulbs are missing or burned out.
- Test navigation and mast lights.
- Is your shore power cord aboard?
- Be certain that you are familiar with battery charging procedures.
Navigation Station & Electronics:
- Charts. *
- Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands.
- Chart Plotter, GPS, Autohelm if the boat has it.
- VHF Radio - Call the charter office on channel 12 for your radio check. **
- Wind Indicator.
- Speed, Log.
- Depth Sounder.
- Divider & Parallel Rule.
- Cell Phone - Call the charter office to be sure your phone is operational.
- Turn on the stereo radio.Are your speakers are working?
- List of emergency contact numbers for all aboard. Keep the list beside your VHF.
- If you have an itrip, ask your briefer how to hook it up. Most of the newer yachts don't require one.
* Some companies only provide a small chart of the islands indicating zones where you may not travel. For navigation purposes, we recommend the Imray Iolaire chart #A233
which may be purchased online prior to your arrival. Some of the bases also sell them.
** Ask your briefer to show you how to get the weather reports on the VHF. Check weather reports every day before setting sail.
Cabins & Heads:
- Test fans in each cabin.
- Are the air conditioning controls working in each cabin?
- Test all marine heads for proper operation. *
- Turn on each tap & shower to be sure drains and sump are clear and functioning.
- If aboard a monohull without air conditioning, find the wind scoop. If there isn't one aboard, ask if they have one at the office.
* A blocked head is a major pain to deal with and very unpleasant to work on. It is both expensive and time-consuming to fix. You will be charged for unblocking a marine head so it is important that all aboard learn how NOT to block the head before leaving the dock.
- Check that your refrigeration unit is working properly.
- Locate the main breaker switches for the Fridge/Freezer as well as the drains.
- Check to make sure your cooler is aboard and that you have ice.
- Locate the propane locker. Do you have sufficient gas for cooking?
- Locate gas shut off valve and understand how to turn the gas on and off.
- Test stove and oven. Are all burners operational?
- Test your manual fresh & salt water pumps.
- Turn taps on and off to check pressure and for any possible leaks.
- Ask your briefer to show you the water tank switching procedure if there is more than one tank.
Notes & Tips:
- The staff will already have your refrigeration working for you in anticipation of your arrival. Put your hand inside to see if it is cooling properly before loading your provisions.
- Your briefer will show you the breaker switches for refrigeration during your briefing. Be sure the person responsible for the galley knows where they are and how to use them.
- Keep your cold drinks in the cooler rather than the refrigerator, as this will drastically reduce the number of times you will have to open the refrigerator. It will help keep your food colder much longer and will help prevent spoilage.
- No matter which yacht you will be aboard, ice is a great assist to your refrigeration. Yacht refrigeration units are not nearly as efficient as those at home. It's just a matter of fact.
- Pick up your aluminum propane tank and slosh it back and forth. If you hear the sloshing noise, it is full. These tanks are light ... so weight is not the issue. It's all about the sound they make.
- Life jackets for all aboard? *
- Is your First Aid kit aboard and is it fully stocked?
- Flare Kit - check expiration date on flares.
- Binoculars, signal horn, bucket with lanyard, flashlight & batteries.
- Location and operation of fire extinguishers. Check charge levels.
- Basic tool kit.
* Life jackets for very small children are in short supply. You would be best served by bringing your own to ensure a proper and comfortable fit.
- Familiarize yourself with how to check the oil, transmission fluid & coolant levels.
- Do you have spare oil and transmission fluid aboard?
- Do you know where all manual shut-offs are located?
- Visual inspection of belts. Are they tight and free of cracks or any fraying?
- Turn on the engine blower to ensure it works properly.
- Start engine and check that water is being expelled without blockages.
- Check that fenders are properly in place, then test forward and reverse (very gently) while at the dock.
- Turn engine off to be sure it stops without run-on or knocking.
- Start generator (if not already on) and check air conditioning in all cabins & salon. *
- Locate the bilge pumps and check that they are clear of any debris.
- Find the location and learn how to operate the sea cocks. Are there any spare bungs aboard?
* Air conditioners aboard yachts will not
perform as efficiently as land based units. A low temperature of 70 to 74 degrees is the best you can expect. This is the normal range. Some struggle to keep a low temp of 75 degrees on particularly warm nights.
Deck Equipment, Sails and Rigging:
- Raise main and unfurl jib. Check for any small tears in the sails.
- Check halyard and all other lines to be sure they are in good shape and are not tangled.
- Boat hook.
- Locate the emergency tiller.
- Check condition of main anchor and ground tackle.
- Test anchor windlass and locate your windlass reset button.
- Ask your briefer how to manually operate the windlass in the event of a power failure.
- Locate storm anchor. Check rode & ground tackle.
- 2 Winch Handles.
- Cockpit cushions. Count how many are aboard and make a note.
- Fenders? How many? Make a note. You are responsible for lost items.
- Test fresh water deck shower and locate shut off valve.
- Do you have the fuel & water tank keys and your main entry key.
- Dock, spring lines & reefing lines?
- Snorkel gear for all aboard?
- Water toys, SCUBA equipment, fishing gear?
Dinghy & Outboard:
- Check your gas tank level.
- Start your outboard motor to be sure it starts easily and that it expels water.
- Ensure dinghy is properly inflated and that you have a working air pump aboard.
- Does the kill switch work and is there a wrist attachment?
- Do you have a bailer properly secured inside the dinghy?
- Are the dinghy oars aboard.
- Do you have a dinghy anchor? Make sure the anchor rode is not tangled.
- Be sure the painter isn't frayed and won't break under strain.
- Towing line?
- Cable with lock to use at various anchorages?
- Dinghy Drain Plug.
- All around white light for running at night. Navisafe makes a good one, but each attempt to link to it has failed. Sorry.
Once you have completed your checklist, bring any deficiencies or missing items to the attention of the base staff so that they may attend to it a.s.a.p. Make sure your fresh water and fuel tanks are full before leaving the dock! Now go have some fun and explore the magnificent British Virgin Islands!
We at Bareboats BVI wish you a joyful sailing holiday!