Don't Look Like A Charter Dick | Become A Cruiser
Don't look like a charter dick

Don’t Look Like a Charter Dick

Chartering a boat is a great way to find out if you can live on a boat and transition to become a cruiser one day. Even if you have no desire to go cruising, going on a bareboat yacht charter to some exotic location on an almost new boat makes for an awesome vacation.

We Make a Point of Meeting People on Charters

When we are in a quiet bay and a charter boat anchors, we will make a point of jumping in the dinghy and heading over to say hi. And offer some tips for what to see and do while they are on their charter to make the most use of the short time they have on their holiday. We are often invited on board for a beer and have made some great friends this way.

Unfortunately, we don’t go over to all charter boats. Often from a mile or more away we can see if we just won’t gel with the crowd. As a matter of fact, just seeing how a boat approaches an anchorage can make cruisers nervous. You see, it’s really easy to come across as a charter dick.

The term ‘Credit Card Captain’ is also freely used to describe charter captains. Usually, after an incident such as a boat running aground. Or sinking a boat after going sailing and not remembering the close the escape hatches on a catamaran.

We Know You’re New at This and Are Just Trying to Keep the Shit Show Together

As cruisers, we understand that this may be the very first time you’ve taken a boat out by yourself. Let alone a boat three to four times the size of the boat you learned to sail on. And, you’re just trying to keep the shit show together! Much the same as when you see a Uhaul truck screaming through traffic, and you think to yourself “You know when last that guy drove a truck this size? Today.

So as cruisers we have a lot of respect for you getting out there. Getting out of your comfort zone and just doing it. We love to see how much fun you are having on your holiday. However, there are some things that so many charter boats do that makes us lose all kind feelings for you and think, “There goes another charter dick!”

Don't look like a charter dick
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Enter anchorages slowly, you never know what is hiding just beneath the surface of the water.

1. Approaching an Anchorage At Speed

Leading the list of coming across as a dick is, approaching anchorage at speed! It’s not the Indy 500 and you are not about to enter into a gladiator-like contest for the last parking space at the mall on Black Friday. You are on Holiday. Slow Down! 2-3 kts max. Think no-wake zone.

Not only does approaching an anchorage at 8 kts nose high in a catamaran, pulling a pair of rooster tails of wake behind you look unprofessional. It’s bloody dangerous! People are swimming, or worse snorkeling in anchorages. FYI don’t snorkel in busy anchorages unless you have a death wish!

Boats in Blind Spots

It’s common to see catamarans hauling into an anchorage at maximum speed, only for the skipper to not see a boat hiding in one of the many of the blind spots found on new catamarans until the very last minute. In busy anchorages frequented by charter boats, we see at least one emergency evasive maneuver a week to avoid a collision with an anchored boat or coral bommie.

Don’t be that guy! When you are about an eighth of a mile from the furthest boat out in the anchorage, slow down to about 3kts. 2kts is better in busy anchorages. This makes about a 5-minute difference to your arrival time, even in the biggest anchorages. It’s infinitely safer. You’ll also be seen as more considerate, as your wake won’t go knock all of the other boats’ wine glasses off of their tables.

The same bit of advice can be said for approaching fuel docks and med-mooring onto sea walls. Only approach the dock at the speed you are willing to hit it at!

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2. Use Two Lines On Mooring Balls

Using a single line from one cleat fed through the mooring ball attachment point to the cleat on the other side of the boat is a recipe for disaster. The line on line friction created in this arrangement can chafe through your mooring line in a single evening. Effectively all this style of mooring does is creates a big saw.

Rather use a single line from each cleat fed through the ball and back to the same cleat. Do this for both sides of the boat. This prevents the sawing back and forth that happens when a single line is used.

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This may work well on a monohull, but on a catamaran attaching your mooring line to one cleat will result in an uncomfortable night’s sleep as the boat tries to continually turn into wind. The boat will swing differently than all of the other moored boats. In tight mooring fields this can become an issue.

3. Anchoring too Close to Other Boats

We’ve been asked on more than one occasion when sharing beers with new charter friends “why cruisers are so touchy about their space. And boats anchoring near them?”

The answer is really simple. The boat they are living on is their home. They most likely do not have another home. So if you do hit them at anchor, even though you and your charter boat have great insurance and you have no qualms paying for the claim.

Anchoring is An Acquired Skill

The issue is two-fold. Anchoring is a skill and the complaining cruiser has no idea of the charter captain’s skill level. Much the same as you will surely say something when your neighbor at home starts cutting down the big tree in his yard that hangs over your home’s roof!

Long After The Damage Is Paid For

If the boat is damaged. Where do the cruisers live whilst their boat is repaired? The nearest haul out yard may be many days sail away from the present location upwind and could be a serious inconvenience to get to.

Having to haul and repair may cause the victims to miss the next weather window, or worse delay them enough to put them in the wrong season to continue their trip. So, while the charter captain who damaged a cruiser’s boat has long forgotten and paid for the damage, the cruisers are left high and dry for many months, waiting to carry on with their lives.

The other thing discounted by charter captains is that most cruisers spend over 360 days a year on anchor. And have enormous experience with how boats behave at anchor. It is also very likely that the cruiser who is telling the charter captain that they are anchoring too close has been in the same anchorage for a couple of weeks already and knows how the currents and winds change during the night.

We Get Hit On Anchor At Least Once A Year

On average, we get hit by charter boats at least once a year whilst at anchor. This year is an oddball year, and we got hit three times in two weeks. Normally this happens when a charter boat arrives while we are away, and they immediately leave the boat for dinner.

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We see the boat is a touch close and decide it's too late to safely go re-anchor someplace else. We may also foolishly think, they are really nice, it'll probably be ok! After all, who wants to go stop a bunch of drunks returning from a great night out to tell them now is a good time for them to go re-anchor. So we leave it.

False Sense of Security

Normally, the trap for us is that even though we know the bay, the wind is calm and forecast to stay calm, so we drop out guard a little. Fortunately, in these conditions when the bang in the night happens, it is gentle, and no real damage occurs. A scratch here and a gel coat chip there. Not enough for an insurance claim, but over time all these little scratches and 'fender benders' start to make our boats look beaten up.

So, the next time you're a charter captain, and a cruiser or even their kid left alone on the boat, yes kids know what looks wrong, asks you to re-anchor, a little bit further away. It's not because they are trying to selfishly occupy the primo spot, they just don't want their home damaged.

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What looked like a good anchor spot may not be, once the wind or currents change. Cat meets Mono with cruisers trying to hold the boats apart with dinghies.

4. Treating Other People's Boats like Crap

As a boat owner, it hurts to watch someone treat someone else's boat like crap. When you charter a boat, except on very rare occasions, that boat that you have hired is owned by a private individual. It's their pride and joy. Heck, they probably have a model of the boat on their desk!

The proud owners are sitting at home counting down the days until their boat is paroled from the charter program, and they can bring it home or cast off and head-off cruising full time.

Yes, you've paid for it and the owners knew their boat would get a bit more than normal wear and tear in charter. That's fine. What's not fine is letting your kids run wild and jump up and down on the bimini or some other weaker part of the boat. Dragging hard water toys such as kayaks or paddleboards down the decks. Walking on the decks, wearing the same shoes you just wore on land, even if you're just walking to the cockpit to take them off. Going inside wearing dripping wet, seawater swimsuits.

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5. Not Knowing the Colregs Cold

It's fine that you're new as a captain. But for the sake of everyone else out on the water, please learn the Colregs, or carry a cheat sheet with you at the helm. I can't tell you the number of times we've nearly been in a collision with a charter boat.

The issue is not so much that the captain of the vessel doesn't know Colregs. It's the unknown of how they will react in a collision situation.

Sure, it's my responsibility under Colregs to avoid a collision at all costs, even if I am the stand-on vessel. The problem comes when that point arrives and I turn in what seems like the most logical way to turn and then panicked the charter boat turns directly towards us. Opposite of the direction we would have expected them to turn under Colregs.

Or worse, the charter boat is the stand-on vessel. The new skipper panics and turns (normally motor sailing) in the direction that we have altered course to give them way. Suddenly we are in a potential collision situation. What's worse is now we still have no idea how this skipper will react as we get into an even more serious potential collision situation.

Getting A Finger Pulled In The BVI

In the BVI, while under sail on a very busy day between Dead Mans Bay and Rhode Town with tons of traffic going in different conditions. We had exactly this situation happen to us. A power cat panicked and turned the wrong way as the stand-on vessel. We started to tack, to get out of the collision situation, and just as we were getting into the tack, he turned again.

To make things clear, I grabbed the horn and gave two quick blasts of the horn, the official signal to indicate that we would be turning to port to pass him off our starboard side. The skipper and all of his guests' reaction was priceless. They pulled a finger at us. Thinking as in traffic on the road, I was annoyed at him and blew my horn at them!

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6. Give Your Anchor 30 Minutes to Set

We know that you have limited time to tick all the tourist boxes and hit all the must-see places, in the one to two weeks that you are on your charter holiday. But, dropping the hook, often not even testing that it is set, and everyone leaving the boat five minutes later shows a lack of seamanship.

In five minutes, you have no idea if the hook is properly set. Nor how the boat will swing, and when it swings, what the boat will get near to or hit. Other boats? The Reef? Mooring Balls?

Grab a Beer and Chill

Have a beer! Or if that's not your style, make a cup of tea. Take thirty minutes before you leave the boat. I've lost count of how many charter boats we've seen drag this year alone.

Thirty minutes will give you enough of an idea of how well you've anchored. It will also give you enough time to see that the boat is secure, the anchor is properly set. And the boat has been correctly shut down. Yes, I said shut down! You'll be amazed at how many charter boats we see, where the people were in such a rush to get off, to head to the local attraction, that they forgot to shut down one or both engines! For hours the boat sits there with no one on board. Engines running. Oops!

Let's also remember with charter boats, nine times out of ten, the charter company has done the charter captain no favors, and has fitted (or left the factory-fitted) piece of garbage, cheapo, barely spec'd to size anchor on the boat. Leaving the charter skipper at a disadvantage to start with before they even set the anchor.

Not only does the anchor down, abandon ship routine look sloppy. It often results in the boat downwind of you, giving up their plans for the day. They feel uncomfortable leaving their boat because they have no idea if your boat is going to stay in place.

Plastic Bottles Blowing Into the Ocean

One other point to make after the boat has been abandoned before being properly secured is that any plastic water bottles left on the cockpit table blow overboard. I went paddleboarding in Norman Island in the BVI. A bay frequented by charter boats, who like ourselves were there to do a little misbehaving at the legendary Willy-T floating bar. What I saw was shocking! On the leeward shore, almost knee-high were thousands of identical-looking plastic water bottles.

Don't look like a charter dick
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It's so fantastic to be spending time on the water. The key is don't look like a charter dick. A little situational awareness as a charter skipper can go a long way towards everyone being able to enjoy an idyllic anchorage.

Conclusion

I hesitated writing this post. I don't want to call anyone out. However, we have just spent eight months in an area heavily frequented by charter boats, watching some of the antics. Including seeing more than a dozen charter boats on pristine reefs damaging coral.

I only decided to write this article after we shared a few beers with some newfound friends on a charter boat, who we met by racing out in the dinghy to stop them from passing on the wrong side of a danger marker on a hazardous reef at the entrance to the anchorage.

After many hours of fun with them, I was asked the question. "Why are the people who live on their boats cruising this area such dicks?" We got talking and many hilarious antidotes were shared. During this conversation, the skipper who had chartered for many years told me he had never given the points I mentioned above (other than treating other people's boats like crap part) any thought.

He said that honestly, he had just followed how everyone else was doing it. Without thinking about it when he first chartered. And that now it was the way they 'did charters'. He said, "You know we're on holiday, so none of those things seemed like an issue." He encouraged me to write this article.

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Nic

Hi, I’m Nic! Our Family of four have been out cruising since 2016. We have sailed about 15,000nm, almost halfway around the world. We sold everything, took the leap of faith, and bought a 10-year-old Lagoon 380 ex-charter catamaran. We’ve fixed every system on the boat, often more than once. Cruising has been such a wonderful, positive experience for our family that I want to share my tips to help you Become a Cruiser.


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6 thoughts on “Don’t Look Like a Charter Dick”

  1. Enjoyed this post! One of the biggest mysteries to me, as someone who is only just getting ready to take the sailing courses, is seeing boats closely anchored but not swinging into each other. The idea of sailing into a popular area gives me the heebie jeebies!

    1. Hi Kat, It’s not as difficult as it seems. What I and many sailors do is when entering a busy anchorage take note of the spacing between boats. That should give you a conservative idea of what distance is keeping boats safely apart that they don’t hit each other if the wind stops or the current changes. Find a space in the anchorage that gives you at least that distance and start dropping your chain splitting the difference of the two boats ahead of the space roughly in line with their transoms to drop back into the space which you’ve identified. This works well in crowded anchorages. How much chain to drop depends on the required scope however there is another factor that is forgotten. What is the nationality of the boats around you? You want to try match the amount of chain they are dropping. ‘Normal’ scope for a good anchor is about 5 to 1. US boats will tend to drop around 5-7: 1 with most boat at 7:1 many European boats will drop 4:1 while many French sailors used to very tight anchorages at home will drop less than normal at 3:1. We tend to be in the 5-7 to 1 depending on the depth. If we’re in shallow water and the wind is expected to come up we look for someplace that will give us 7 to 1. If the same anchorage is crowded I’m happy with 5:1 and if it’s deep then 4:1 is fine.

      I hope that quick and dirty explanation gives you a bit of an idea on anchoring in crowded anchorages. Good luck with your sailing courses.

      Nic

      1. I just discovered your website and I’m getting some good tidbits here and there. It’s also a fun read. When you say “start dropping your chain splitting the difference of the two boats ahead of the space,” do you mean if the boats in the anchorage are, let’s say, 100 feet apart, I should drop anchor 50 feet from the boat in front of me, and as I let out more chain I will drift back to my desired location? I’ve anchored, but never in a tight anchorage. Thanks!

        1. Hi Casey,

          Thanks for your kind words. I try to keep it light-hearted. To answer your question let’s say you find a nice spot in amongst some boats. Move forward of the spot you wish to drop into. Up to the next row of boats in the anchorage (it’s amazing boats dropping similar amounts of chain and using the same strategy form rows in the anchorage). Let’s say they are 100ft apart move between them and split the difference between their transoms so 50ft from each boat. Then drop the required scope in line with their transoms remembering if you’re surrounded by French-flagged or for that matter many other European flagged boats all with 3-4:1 scope you do not want to drop 7:1 as you will end up too close to someone if the wind turns. I hope that clarifies it a bit.

  2. Another great article Nic.

    I appreciate you always telling it how it is. So many cruiser bloggers choose to take the overly ‘correct’ approach to their writing and shy away from the unpopular topics always trying to maintain the center lane. I love how you always call it as you see it.

    I appreciate you putting yourself out there. For so long I’ve been wanting someone to call out the unbelievably careless, lack of consideration for others shown by those who charter boats. As you said, they’re on holiday but and just don’t think about it.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. I do appreciate the feedback. It is such a big mistake that so many want to be cruisers make. Buying a boat especially catamarans that are too big for them only to have no money to maintain this massive boat. I also had an email from someone last week who told me that they had bought a large catamaran only to find out it needed extensive work not discovered on the survey. Now once the refit is done they don’t have enough money to go cruising and need to push back their cruising plans for a couple more years to save. Good luck finding and buying a catamaran that works for you.

      I’m always here if you need some catamaran buying advice. Just drop me a note via the contact us (I don’t put the direct email on here as it ends up getting spammed). I’ll give you my ‘mostly’ unedited opinion.

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