The visit had been a nightmare. After six days of feeling as if she'd done nothing but wait on their guests, Annie was fed up. She looked on in dismay as most of their precious and dwindling supply of gourmet foods and expensive wines were consumed without asking. The water tank was almost empty, and they had to run the engine continuously to charge the batteries and keep up with the power demand.
For some reason, their guests seemed to think and act as if they were on a Carnival cruise ship. Fortunately, they never actually did the naked limbo on the foredeck, as they threatened. Annie and Bill had felt nothing but stress since the day their one-time dear friends came aboard to sail with them for a week in the Bahamas.
What went wrong? They had been their best friends when they were back in the old neighborhood before they started cruising. Could they really be the same people they spent every Friday night with for all those years?
As they lay in their berth, relieved to be alone for a moment, Bill whispered to Annie, "Perhaps we could just push them overboard tomorrow and claim it was a terrible tragedy. Tell everyone that they didn't duck for the boom, and wham-o, right in the drink ... What do you think?"
Annie agreed that would be nice but reminded him that they were godparents to their horrible children and would probably end up having to care for them. They'd just have to get through the last day and somehow manage to get them back to the airport without killing them, however tempting it might be.
So, what went wrong? Why did Annie and Bill end up hating their best friends, and was there a way to prevent this? Although Annie and Bill aren't real characters, they do represent the frustration and some of the real-life situations that other cruisers we've met have experienced with their guests.
It's not always easy for people to get along in the close quarters of a boat. In life on land, the time you spend with your friends is usually just a few hours in a row. To suddenly have them with you 24 hours a day and just a few feet away is a whole different ball game. Having consideration of others is put to an all-time test.
Expectations of the trip must be realistic by both parties. A frank and open discussion between everyone regarding what to expect is the first order of business when planning the visit. Talk about the duties and responsibilities of each person. It's certainly not a hotel or charter company that youre running, so be sure to remind your guests that flexibility is extremely important when traveling by boat. Depending on the weather, schedules and destinations are subject to change. And remember to discuss how expenses will be handled.
There are many things about being a guest on a boat that differ from being a house guest. Your visitor needs to be aware of these differences; so unless you tell them, they will never know. For instance, the amount of fresh water used for showering or washing dishes in someone's house would probably never be given a second thought. When cruising, however, water is precious and must be conserved. You need to show or tell the guest exactly how much water is reasonable to use for a particular task. Aboard Safari, for instance, we consume under a gallon of water each time we shower. (Hard to imagine this is enough to do the job, but it isno one downwind has yet to complain about us smelling bad.)
First-time sailors will need direction on the use of boat power. Power consumed on a boat has to be replaced. If a light is inadvertently left on, the full battery bank could be run down. Without power management by everyone aboard, you could find yourself unable to start the engine, or possibly without navigational electronics when needed.
Then there's the head, always an intimidating experience for the first-time user. Make clear the correct operating procedures of this often temperamental deviceits in everyones interest. Malfunction could lead to some highly undesirable consequences, the least of which would be having to use a bucket for the rest of the trip.
Yes, Sue and I have enjoyed many great visits on Safari, but we've also had not-so-good ones. In looking back, we realized the not-so-good situations were really our fault. We didn't fully communicate to our friends before they came and when they were aboard about all the unique situations of living on a boat.
Time spent with our guests aboard is special to us. Sue and I love our lifestyle and we want to share it with our friends and family. We look forward to every visit. Now we're learning as we go on how to make these visits great experiences for everyone. As a road map (and to lessen the chance of a mysterious man-overboard situation on Safari), weve come up with these two checklists: one for us and one for our guests. We hope that one day you'll find these handy, whether you're the host or the guest. And if youre the latter, just always remember to duck for the boom.
If Youre the Host
Plan the length of your guest's visit for a reasonable amount of time. You'll soon learn what that amount of time is for you.
Don't plan long voyages with new guests. Stick to short hops, allowing plenty of time for shore-side activities.
Let your guests know in advance if you have budgetary restraints on shore-side entertainment. Some guests may expect to eat out every night.
Set up a schedule to share in the daily chores such as cooking and washing up. This way your guests can truly relax when it's not their time to perform any duties.
Show your guests where snacks and drinks, etc., are kept and encourage them to help themselves. This will ensure that you're not always waiting on them.
If you want your guests to share expenses, discuss this in advance so there are no surprises.
Go over using water and power systems with your guests. Make sure they understand how to operate them and are familiar with any usage limits.
Show each guest individually how to properly operate the head.
Prepare a safety checklist showing the location of all safety equipment aboard, and make sure your guests understand how to use all of it.
If Youre the Guest
You may be on vacation but remember this is your host's home and lifestyle.
Remember to have a flexible schedule whenever possible due to weather. You dont want to put pressure on the captain to meet time constraints that will place everyone in a risky situation.
If you'd like to bring a gift, forget the knickknacks and decorative items. (It may have been hard enough for your hosts to decide what little they could bring from their house to begin with.) Some nice wine or gourmet food items that will keep well will always be appreciated.
Of course, only bring a duffel (one bag per person); dont expect drawers or closets. Naturally, bring soft-soled shoes only, and remember this is the casual cruising life: No need for fancy dress-up clothes.
Most cruisers go to bed early (even at 8 pm). After a night or two of staying up late with you, expect them to retire early. Bring along a good book for yourself.
To give your hosts some privacy, insist on going ashore or off in the dinghy on your own for a while each day. This will make everyone's time spent together more enjoyable.
Ask if there are any maintenance or special projects you can do. Since maintenance is a daily occurrence on a boat, offer to polish the stainless or scrub the deck for your host. This will be genuinely appreciated, and may ensure a return invitation.
Expect to share the cooking and cleaning duties.
Offer to share expenses of the trip (food, fuel, dockage, etc.).
Obviously, communication with the outside world may be impossible at times (your cell phone may be out of range and there may be no phones where you anchor), so dont expect it.
Don't even consider asking if you can bring your pet along. And if you're allergic to cats or dogs, check and see if your hosts have such pets on board. (Sue's sister slept on deck for a week due to her allergy to our cats.)