Did you really check the bilge pump?

August 5th, 2007

Last summer, we chartered a Beneteau 28 from Navtours at Mooney Bay on Lake Champlain, just above Plattsburgh, NY. After Yanik with Navtours reviewed the “Official” check-in list, he then tolerated our own check list. We always have lots of questions. The bilge pump is one of the important things we like to test. During my “Introduction to Cruising” course and certification in Charleston, SC, with Ocean Sailing Academy the importance of making sure the bilge pump works by lifting the float switch was stressed. It is also important to know whether the pump is wired through the electric panel or if it has a direct connection to the battery. If it is wired through the panel and you turn the main panel off, the bilge pump will not work. Nice to know. Our pump appeared to be in working order.

On the second evening of our charter, we decided to take showers, so we moved the valve manifold under the sink in the head to the correct position to pump out the shower (which took a while since all the labels were in French). The pump ran, but water was not being removed. We then set the manifold to pump from the ice box but that didn’t work either. Since it was getting dark, we decided to just sponge up the water with towels and a bucket.

The next morning after I checked for obvious (or stupid) things, we called Douglas, the owner of the boat, on his cell phone which we had programmed into our phone (always make sure you have an emergency number or know the radio contacts to make). Since we were about 40 miles away from Mooney Bay close to Westport Marina, Douglas advised us to get the mechanic at the marina to checkout the problem, pay with my credit card, and then give the receipt to Navtours for reimbursement when we returned the boat. Unfortunately Larry (the mechanic) was very busy that morning but was finally able to get to us about 4 hours later. When Larry arrived, he was not able to prime the pump, so he removed and disassembled it. The pump contained a piece of trash on the diaphragm that looked like a piece of gel coat, so Larry cleaned, rebuilt and reinstalled the pump.

The good news was that Douglas and Navtours readily agreed to compensate us for the lost time as a result of the episode. Needless to say, we are chartering from Navtours again this summer.

Our lesson learned, is to not only check to see if the bilge pump on a charter boat (or any boat for that matter) runs and how it is wired but see if it will actually pump water. So the plan for next time is to pour some freshwater into the bilge or shower (depending on how much water is needed if any) so the pump intake is covered and then manually run the pump to see if the water will pump out and go overboard.

If anyone has any related experiences (good or bad), please share your comments.

Docking: Lucky or not?

July 19th, 2007

On our first charter on Lake Champlain in 2005, we were faced with our first chance to dock the Oday 28 with just the two of us. Even though we had docked our own Oday 28 in Charleston, SC, more than a dozen times or so with currents of up to 3 knots, we wanted to get this one right. One of the reasons we picked Lake Champlain over many other destinations, including the BVI, New England coast or the San Juan Islands, was that we could get more experience sailing together as a couple without the added concerns (and tensions) of tides and currents.

We had reservations for a slip at Westport Marina. As we approached the marina under power, we called the marina on the radio without success. Luckily we had the marina’s telephone number in our planning book so we called using our cell phone (not something we had ever done in Charleston). On the phone, we asked the marina a number of questions regarding choices of slips, the direction and speed of the wind, etc. We decided to take a windward slip since it would be on our port side so we could make use of the light wind and the prop walk of our right-handed prop on the Oday to stop and ease us up to the dock.

We asked for a few dock hands to help with the lines just in case, but when we approached the hands were waiting at the wrong slip. We calmly (that doesn’t always happen) stopped the boat and stood off from the slip and motioned that we Oday 28 at Dock in Mallets Baywere docking at the other slip. The hands moved promptly and we proceeded according to plan as we swung wide to port into the slip and let the prop walk and light breeze lay us up against the finger slip on the port side.

The dock hands said it was the best docking they had seen all summer. YES! They gave us a grade of “A” and said they would have given us an “A+”, if we had backed in (haven’t done that yet).

A few things we have learned about docking and try to keep in mind are:

  1. Plan you approach & make choices consistent with your comfort and skill level.
  2. Ask for help at the dock with lines if you are short handed (or your crew is inexperienced).
  3. Place fenders on both the port and starboard sides of the boat. (unfortunately some charter companies don’t supply enough fenders for this)
  4. “Make use of mother nature” (we learned this one at Ocean Sailing Academy in Charleston). In other words, make good use of winds and current and don’t try to fight them with the small motor of a sailboat.
  5. Make use of the boat design/mechanics (i.e., make any prop walk work to your advantage).
  6. Have a backup or escape plan. If the docking is not going as expected, back-out (or pull-out) and try again. Don’t push it. Better to back off and eat crow than damage the charter boat or neighboring yachts.

If you have any docking stories (good or bad) or would like to add other recommendations or lessons learned, please comment.

Getting Started

July 19th, 2007

Planning a sailing charter?

Are you planning your first sailing charter? Are you looking for information on how to get started or where to go? Are you an old salt who would like to share some of your great stories and lessons learned? Or like us, (see About Us ) are you still learning and have chartered only a few times, but have some interesting or funny stories about your chartering adventures?

So what are we planning for this website?

This website and blog will be for everyday sailors who charter sailboats for weekends and vacations. When we started ourSloop Cove adventure, we had trouble finding useful and unbiased information about charter sailing on the web. So we hope we can provide you with useful information and links to other sites we have discovered that will help you on your first or next sailing charter. This may include information on the fundamentals of chartering, learning to sail, charter destinations, quality – but lesser known – charter companies, anchorages, marinas, places to eat, good books and cruising guides, etc. We’ll share some of our personal adventures and lessons learned, and I’m sure Claire will tell you about her experiences sailing with Captain Bligh (me).

We do have a plan but we may change our minds about our destination (Actually that happened on a previous charter). We hope you will add your comments and Contact Us privately if you would like to become a contributor or author on this site. If you are having trouble finding an answer or information on a particular aspect of charter sailing, please also Contact Us privately and see if we can help.

This is a moderated blog, so remember, it may take 24 to 48 hours before you comment to a post is visible. We are moderating this blog initially to help eliminate spam. If you are new to blogging, visit Technorati for the basics of blogging.

Enjoy your first or next sailing charter and keep us posted on your adventures.