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Old 05-31-2011
twinkles twinkles is offline
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Charter Boats--acceptable v. unacceptable defects

My wife and I are new to sailing. We have taken ASA 101, 103, 104, and 114. And in the past 14 months we have done three charters in the Bahamas and BVIs.

So not much experience.

We have read enough cruising blogs to realize that things go wrong on boats. What we don't have is a good feel for what defects are reasonable and what defects are unreasonable on a charter boat (and should entitle one to a partial refund or credit). Here were the defects we encountered on our most recent charter (a catamaran):

1. The most dangerous issue was the absence of a backflow preventer on the water heaterís supply line (obviously there was not a thermostat regulating the temp of the hot water, either). The residual heat of the engines heat water well beyond scalding. The absence of a backflow preventer on the water heater supply line allows that scalding water to enter the shipís cold water supply system. If a sink or shower valve is opened while the water pump is off, steam within the water heater forces scalding water through the supply line, into the cold water system and out the open faucet or shower head. Both my wife and I burned our hands this way before we discovered the problem. Fortunately, neither of us was in the shower when it happened.

2. The most annoying issue for us was that the freezer/refrigerator did not work. We managed our refrigeration needs the same as our great-grandparents, but unfortunately the iceman no longer delivers, so we were forced to go ashore and buy ice to keep our food and drinks cooled.

3. The next most annoying issue was that the reefing lines had become twisted and knotted inside of the boom preventing the sail from being fully raised and causing a crease. We spent considerable time while underway diagnosing this problem and correcting it.

4. There was no rack in the oven making baking or roasting impossible. We managed to broil by supporting a baking pan on top of an unused sauce pan.

5. The hatches over the stern port and the bow starboard hulls leaked. Since there were only two of us onboard, we were able to change cabins when drips from the leaking hatches woke us.

6. The lazy jack lines were so old and brittle that they snapped when we performed a jibe. My wife was manning the main sheet to control the boom, which put her in the line of fire, and the whipping lazy jack snatched her sunglasses off.

7. The throttle friction plates were so worn, that it was not possible to run the engines at 1600 RPMs to charge the batteries as were instructed to do. When the throttles were placed in neutral at 1600 RPMs, they immediately fell back to idle.

8. The throttles were so out of adjustment that when pushed forward evenly, the port engine ran at 500 RPMs faster than the starboard engine.

9. One cockpit light was burned out.

Dingy Davits

Dingy davits may not be an important issue to charterers who come down to motor between snorkel, dive, beach, and sightseeing opportunities. But they were a significant factor in our selection of this yacht. As mentioned, sailing is a relatively new hobby for the two of us and we most enjoy working on our sailing skills during our charter trips. We deliberately selected a yacht with dingy davits so that we could work on our skills without the drag of a dingy pulling us to one side or the other.

When we arrived at our yacht for an evening start, the stern was up against the dock. Another vessel was in our slip in-front of our yacht, so our dingy was tied to a bow cleat. During our yacht briefing, we mentioned that we would want to install the dingy on the davits before pulling away. Our briefer told us to simply call the dock master in the morning to have the blocking vessel pulled out of the way, so that we could pull our yacht forward sufficiently to raise the dingy on the davits. We did as instructed. When the dock personnel arrived, we were chastised, because we were not ready to leave immediately. We tried to explain that all we wanted was to have the vessel blocking us moved so that we could pull forward sufficiently to raise the dingy on the davits. As the dock personnel untied our mooring lines and tossed them onboard they shouted that the davits were unusable. So as our yacht began to drift unmoored within its slip we were first informed that the promised dingy davits were simply marketing hype with no practical use. I tested the davits that evening. The dock personnel were correct. With no winch to run the lines to, I could not budge the dingy at all with the simply block and tackle that was supplied.
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