Official Nervous Charterer Thread
I'm not exactly sure where I am going with this post, but here goes anyway. My wife and I have done all of the certifications through bareboat (coastal nav as well for me) and have had several successful charters. Still, whenever my next charter is getting close I start to get a bit nervous. I start dwelling on things like, "What if we don't get a mooring ball and have to anchor?", "What if I miss a marker and end up on a reef?", "What if we get caught in a particularly strong squall half way to Anededa?", "What if they ask me to back into the slip or squeeze in between two boats at the fuel dock (typically between an Oyster and a Swan with my luck)?", "What if they run out of lobster at the Anegeda Reef Hotel?". Even though this is all stuff I have practiced and experienced, they are also things that I try to avoid. Do any of you charterers have these concerns as well?
In reality, I feel that I am pretty well trained and experienced (relatively speaking) and exceedingly cautious. Still, when you only charter once every two or three years and don't own a boat at home, not everything can be retained and there is a bit of skills re-acquisitioning period that has to happen. I think my biggest fear is getting to a moorage late, finding that it is full and being forced to anchor in a crowded anchorage. I've anchored a handful of times and it is always nerve-wracking for me, though I have never had any issues. I also don't enjoy pulling into a slip at a crowded marina, so I generally try to be conservative on the water and fuel usage to minimize that. Compared to some other charterers I've seen I think I am actually a quite competent charterer. I guess I just have a strong sense of responsibility and realize that I am responsible for someone's half million dollar boat as well as the boats around me.
Anyone care to offer their tips to getting over their charter anxiety? Or share stories of how you were anxious and how things ended up working out fine (or not)? I guess this thread is part encouragement and educational and part entertainment.
Have at it.
A few words of advice:
"Discretion is the better part of valour" You seem to be there.
"Success teachers nothing." Experience is learning from our mistakes.
"Plan ahead." Get to the mooring fields early. Then relax. In the BVI, you are probably less that an hour way. Study the chart BEFORE leaving the destination, have a plan B. Listen to the weather, watch the barometer.
"Practice, practice, practice." That is also how you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice anchoring when you know you have time. Lots of scope and set the anchor. Practice maneuvers in forward and reverse. When you first get the boat take it out into a clear section and do figure 8's in forward and reverse. See how fast it stops in forward and reverse. Practice docking the boat a few times, They all handle differently.
Reef when you think about it.
Order your lobster in advance. Make reservations.
Hire me as an instructor. :) I have made all the mistakes (well many).
I am still cautious. The only thing that you can be to cautious with is docking; remember to maintain steerage. A little assertive power is better than none.
Have a painkiller or two for me. Enjoy the lobster. Have a great time.
Wise words indeed from Jack.. The only slight edit I'd add is (and it's only stressing the point)
"Reef when you FIRST think about it.." if you find yourself thinking "I wonder if we ought to reef.." then do it!
Alternatively, you could hire me... While I don't have all the official qualifications (paper wise) I do have a thousand or so miles of Caribbean sailing behind me. and I'd probably work for airfare! ;) ;) :) :)
Shucks, I sail three tmes per week in season. I still get a little nervous at times.
Fear is NOT a bad thing if it makes you pay more attenton to the details.
Omaho5 has it right. That nervousness your feeling is a GREAT thing, it might cause you to review those charts once more, double check the mooring ball, pay closer attention to the channel markers etc. Use it to your advantage!
Hire me, I'm already here. :D
I work part time for a charter company doing pre-sail briefings along with taking boats off the dock with charter guests to confirm thay they can handle the boat and operate the sails. There are repeat customer that come back and hire a capt for their first day every charter so that they can be refreshed on anchoring, picking up mooring balls, docking and sailing in general. I've much more respect for their conservative approach than the yahoos that show up, brag about all their experience from 30 years ago, and then can't figure out how to unfurl a headsail!! Egos are a funny thing. The biggest ones always seem to encounter the most problems!
That you even think about potentially imperfect situations before you find yourself in them makes you wiser than most, IMHO! Jackdales thoughts are very good so I won't bother to repeat them. In general, sail like a Boy Scout, be prepared...
I've owned my own boat for 10 years now and I still have butterflies in my stomach every time I drop the mooring pendant. Of course, they go away as soon as the boat heels to the breeze.
An instructor for a day is a great idea if you only sail a cruising boat every few years. They aren't that expensive (inexpensive actually), particularly in the context of a week long charter. If I leave with full fuel, I've never needed more on a one week charter, so I'm not sure why you feel pressure to conserve so much. I would practice techniques, such as anchoring or picking up the mooring, that would allow you to relax and not be forced into situations you prefer not to be on vacation. I would think you could refresh those with an instructor in just a matter of hours. In many cases, you will then be able to motor in, take a look at the fuel/water dock before you decide if it is an approach you're comfortable with. If so, give 'em a call. If not, go pick up a mooring or drop the hook.
If I recall correctly, there is a fuel/water dock in North Sound on Virgin Gorda (Leverick Bay maybe?) that is a grounder (big long unobstructed pier and can pick your side for wind) and North Sound has plenty of easy places to anchor, as long as the wind and fetch are not out of the north. Nothing wrong with waiting off until the pier clears to your satisfaction.
If the experience become more stress than relaxation, I would not bother with Anegada at all.
Have a great time.
I think being nervous is just going to be a normal part of your trips. We started chartering a little over 2 years ago. First was Oct of 2009 and it was a 47' Catamaran. I was definetely nervous as I had never handled a boat that big before. It took some getting used to and I skipped topping off water one day since I wasn't comfortable with the docking situation. By the end of the week I brought it in and backed it into the dock no problem - just took my time.
2nd Trip was October 2010 and I felt more comfortable going in and got more and more comfortable as the week went on. Docked a number of times without issue - most of them being along side a long dock, not in a slip.
3rd trip I just returned from yesterday :( This time I felt very comfortable although still a bit on edge when manuevering in tight quarters, especially with the winds we had. I pulled into a slip a number of times this trip with no issues any time or any major concerns.
So, I think as you get more experience you'll feel better - even if there's a lot of time between trips. I'm still not all that interested in anchoring, although next trip my wife and I decided we'd try to anchor whenever possible just to get more practice.
Thanks for all of the replies. It is nice knowing that I'm not the only one who gets butterflies on occasion while chartering (and that even some of the old salts still get nervous from time to time). This will be my sixth charter in the BVIs so I know my way around pretty well and should feel pretty comfortable. I have taken the classes and logged several hundred miles in the BVIs, probably over 1,000 in all my sailing experience, so I guess I should realize that I am likely at least as capable as many of the other charterers down there. However, it's just normal for me to worry about what can go wrong and over analyze things. As previously said, that is probably a good thing when it comes to sailing, I think I may worry just a little too much...
The two main things I get overly anxious about are anchoring and navigating the entrance if we decide to head to Anegeda. On the other hand, I have picked up plenty of mooring balls in the past, sailed in fairly big wind and swell on a couple of trips, and last time the charter company made me back into the slip when returning the boat and I did fine. I think to overcome my hesitation on anchoring I am going to find a place to practice that is exposed to wind and some swell. If I can set an anchor there and get it to hold it should be not problem when in a protected anchorage. As far as Anegeda, we have ten nights down there and have an itinerary planned for nine nights not including Anegeda so we will just play it by ear. I suspect it isn't as tough as I am making it out to be - as long as you keep an eye on where you are and take it slow (but still fast enough to maintain steerage).
Thanks again for the responses. I felt a bit funny starting this thread as I didn't want to come off as some inexperienced schmo who woke up one day and decided to rent a boat. I just figured it would be nice to have a thread so that charterers who's nerves get to them can relate and realize that a bit of apprehension is normal. It certainly helped me to realize that I am in the same boat (no pun intended) as other charterers down there who only sail once every year or two. Maybe it will help others as well get over their nervousness.
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