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163 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am finally getting the boat in the water after a lot of spring maintenance. This is my first "big" boat boat so I am looking for advice. Most of my friends and family are rookies when it comes to sailing. My last boat (a Catalina 21) was set up beautifully for single handed sailing so I never needed much help. My new 32' Ericson is a different story. I want to put together a pre-sail checklist and also a safety checklist to do a little 5 minute meeting before we go sailing. I want to make sure that I cover the big stuff with a rookie crew (i.e. where the safety equipment is, how to operate the VHF, etc.) I figured someone else has probably already done this so I don't want to recreate the wheel if I don't have to.

Kynntana (Freedom 38)
977 Posts
That's great to be getting the boat back in the water!

A check list is a good thing to do on departure. I will often forget to close one of the hatches in the cabin and to shut off the fridge to save battery juice. I sail single-hand and with guests who may not have any sailing experience. The main thing I tell them is how to deal with a MOB situation in which I am the MOB. I have come to the conclusion that the first thing they should do is press the DSC button on the VHF at the helm, then follow the prompts if they can do this without losing sight of me. If they're comfortable with sailing the boat, they can then turn around and try to get me. If they're not comfortable with that, then I tell them what to expect when they release the sails and how to turn on the engine. For offshore racing and more experience crew (I race single and short-handed), I'll go through the whole procedures of where the first aid kit and flares are located, how to rig the life sling, whether to call CG or try for a pick up first, etc., but this is too much info for inshore/bay sailing. Other than that, there's the usual safety stuff about one hand for the boat, staying on the windward side if going forward, and not jumping onto the dock when we come back in. These conversations are usually done at certain points during the sail so I don't bombard them with too much all at once. You'll find the right balance after a few times and from seeing how comfortable your guests are on the water.

Super Moderator
4,061 Posts
The 1st thing "new" guests need/want to know is how to use the head properly. I like to cover that at the dock..rather than wait for the need.

Then I show them where the life jackets are and the 1st aid kit.
I reassure them that the boat won't tip over
I make them aware of the boom and to keep their head down if moving around it.
Walk on the windward/high side, show them where the hand holds are above and below etc.
I have a Mayday procedure, posted next to the VHF radio. and show them where it is.
I show them where the trash can is and let them know that they can't throw anything overboard, biodegradable or not.

I get the boat in and out of the slip by myself, so I don't need to cover that, no one needs to jump on or off the boat... I think that's about as much as I cover..

5,257 Posts
Location of fire extinguishers.
Location and use of throwables (cushions, rings)
Demonstrate which switches can can operate and explain how operating the wrong ones can damage the boat.
Stove use or instructions to not touch it.

Beneteau 393
9,314 Posts
Its an interesting question.

I wonder if you need it at all. But many folks have one.

Certainly keep it flexible so as you learn and become more comfortable with the bigger boat you can alter your checklist.
Friends don't really want checklists or safety briefings so whats more important than the content is the way you put it across. If you tell them everything they need to know they will think you are Captain Bligh, if you tell them nothing and something goes wrong you are in trouble.... So its difficult.

A checklist for your self there must be a good way of doing ti... Maybe devise one
chronologically but work it so you have a visual reference to each part. This might help you remember it instantly and without a list in future.

Senior Smart Aleck
2,150 Posts
... I want to put together a pre-sail checklist and also a safety checklist to do a little 5 minute meeting before we go sailing.
O.K., here it is:

Pre-Sail Checklist:

1. Don Greek fisherman's cap, look in mirror, then remove in favor of traditional "scrambled eggs" captain's cap;
2. Don traditional blue blazer over turtleneck sweater;
3. Tie dorky boat shoes whilst singing "It is a Beautiful Day in Neighborhood";
4. Don combination inflatable PFD/safety harness over blue blazer and snap securely onto jackline;
5. Mix very strong dry Martini and hold between pinky and thumb; and,
6. Sound air horn 10 blasts to summon guests to cockpit for safety briefing.

Safety Briefing:

1. Warm up crowd with a few tasteless, off color jokes involving ethnicity and sexual proclivities, while imbibing strong Martini liberally;
2. Climb to cabin top without speaking and dive headfirst into marina water to simulate spontaneous man overboard drill;
3. Laugh hysterically from water while crew scrambles in confusion, proving your point that they are helpless without you onboard;
4. Stab your now inflated PFD with tethered rigging knife and climb transom ladder to finish briefing;
5. Open bag of potato chips, stuff mouth full with chips, mumble incoherently with chips in mouth spewing crumbs everywhere, occasionally offering bag of chips to crew;
6. Excuse yourself to go below decks to mix another strong, dry Martini;
7. Drink second Martini while standing on cabintop, with a knot-tying demonstration;
8. Test fortitude of crew with string of profanity-laced commands from the cabin top, whilst spraying face with aerosol subtan lotion; and,
9. Quickly cast off docklines and start engine before crew leaves.

25,128 Posts
I bring a need for checklists over from the aviation world. I customize them for several things and laminate them. I have the following:

Arrival (how to turn everything on and find and open all thru hulls). This is mostly for when I have the rare guest that arrives before me and I trust can do this without me.

Departure (reminders on what to power down, close thru hulls, set dehumidifier, etc.)

Cast off (what to do prior to leaving the dock/mooring)

Head instruction (left on counter in guest head)

Invertor ON/OFF and Generator ON/OFF (wife just can't remember sequence)


Clearly, as you become accustom to your new boat, you can do these without a checklist, but it's amazing how you can be thrown off. My method is to have a flow to do each of these tasks without the checklist, then when I think I'm done, I glance down the checklist to see if I forgot something. While not always, I do catch myself with some regularity. For example, I will typically flip the breakers on for the VHF, Navigation and Autopilot, as I proceed around to do thru-hulls, etc. Sometimes I leave the VHF off, as I may not intend to leave very quickly and it would squawk in guests ears, while they are eating breakfast. Easy to forgot to go back to turn it on and discovering some of these at the helm, while underway, is a real nuisance, since you must go below to correct. I even have sunscreen, sunglasses and rigging knife on the checklist.

Another checklist tip. Don't put things you can't avoid on the list. I do not have, Start Engine. It can't be forgotten. I do not have Untie Dock Lines either. If your list has things you become accustom to ignoring, because they are too obvious, it will defeat the purpose. I do have Open Engine Thru Hull and Check Oil.

Over Hill Sailing Club
3,688 Posts
I have so many lists, I need a list to keep track of them:) The issue of a list for guests and family who are not sailors is a difficult one. If you tell them they may be hit by the boom, fall unconscious into the water, and be eaten by a hungry shark, it may just scare the hell out of them and cause them to walk back up the dock. Maybe that's a good thing. "Here's the MOB button. If I fall into the water and you feel the boat is headed out to sea all by itself with you aboard, hit the button so maybe when you get to the Canary Islands the authorities will know where to look for me," is probably not a good thing to say.

I have lists for food, clothing, tools, electronic devices, lead times for things like renewals and updates, worklists, etc. Excel spreadsheets work well for this kind of list and can be printed out. Things left on the boat and taken off can be noted on printouts so you don't leave that essential small item like the computer charger at home next time. Helpful printed, laminated lists: Ditch bag contents-left in the ditch bag, Steps to raise and lower the mast, Sea anchor deployment-with sea anchor, Head use-posted next to head on fluorescent paper in large print so only an idiot can miss it, Things to bring up on deck before lifting anchor-posted right next to companionway-singlehanded, this is essential because there may be no opportunity to get back below looking for lunch or binoculars.

712 Posts
Read what you see here, on the www etc., but then MAKE YOUR OWN... specific to your boat, your equipment etc..

Then remember this: Checklists are only as good as the people reading and answering them. Aircrews of 3 have landed their big planes with the wheels up AFTER all 3 did the checklist that has "gear down and locked".

1,865 Posts
I'm assuming by the question we are talking about taking guests out for a daysail that may have never been on a boat or at least a sailboat, and in aviation terms we are talking more about a passenger briefing than the pilot's (your own) preflight checklist. For the latter, Mini's advice is right on the money.

I'm most concerned about non-sailor passengers getting hurt or clogging my head. The getting hurt briefing includes don't put any part of your body between the boat and anything else like a dock, stay clear of lines under load, don't put your fingers between the line and the winch drums, why they call it a boom, stay in the cockpit unless you talk with me first about your plan to go forward, and how to use the head. I reassure that a healed keel boat won't roll over. Then we talk about their swimming ability, water temperature and life jackets. A very short description on MOB (don't try to teach them a Wiliiamson Turn:)) Then maybe we talk about the radio and channel 16. This all takes about 60 seconds before we go. Underway, if they are game I put them on the helm, teach them to manage the jib sheet winches during a tack, and get them as involved in sailing as they want to be.

If you get too crazy with a simple daysail passenger brief, no one will want to sail with you;) And also remember, the captain's job is to look confident, never let them see you sweat, otherwise the passengers get worried:D

Corsair 24
4,594 Posts
^^^^Im not against check lists per se...BUT if you feel the need make a BASIC and OBVIOUS one.

dont make it too long and dont clutter it with minutae...

basically have one that addresses your boats needs, and systems...

if you have an outboard you dont need a big engine checklist with tests for idiots lights, tach, oil pressure, fuel et al you need one that says is there fuel, oil, some spare plugs etc...

same for the boat



ps and x 2 on doing this to safe(mostly you...and they will follow) but there is nothing worse as a guest to go on a boat and have a briefeing 1 hour long on the intricacies and "systems" and bla blah blah your boat has

if it where me taking noobs here is a thought

take them down to the boat first and invite them for cokctails, food or whatever and let them mingle on the boat without going sailing...look at the sunset, have some music playing etc

those interested will naturally asks questions, be inquisitive and learn and you can explain them certain things and how they work

then next time you have them hooked and briefed and all you have to do is explain a couple of things before leaving the docks

much more enjoyeable in my view and everyone is happy

5,928 Posts
In case no one mentioned it (I didn't read all posts), if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there are links to previous threads about checklists. Some of those may be helpful, too.

Old enough to know better
4,350 Posts
And also remember, the captain's job is to look confident, never let them see you sweat, otherwise the passengers get worried:D
Best thing in the world is to turn upwind and bury the rail and go "Why is it doing this? Oh S#*%, what do I do now? We are all going to die!" then just turn back down wind, and give no further reaction. The looks on the guests faces is priceless! :laugher:laugher

I don't understand why I can't find crew.

9,376 Posts
Checklists for yourself and crew are a good idea; for guests maybe not.

Make a couple of copies of the interior layout of your boat label them to the show the location of

1) All safety gear

2) Food and drink storage

Instructions for using the head are valuable: what to do and what not to do. Near the radio post a set of instructions for issuing a Mayday

1,662 Posts
The following is my presail brief that I have on a sheet that all can read at their leisure. I use the brief as talking points that I modify dynamically depending on experience level or whether they've been on the boat before. At a minimum, it gets everyone's head in the game.

Sailboats lean (heel), it’s normal. We keep the heel less than 25°, but may temporarily be more. If you are uncomfortable, let us know. WE WILL NOT TIP OVER, our keel weighs 6,400 pounds.


Man Overboard
• If you see anyone go over the side (unintentionally), call out loudly “Man Overboard!” and point to the victim. DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE PERSON IN THE WATER.
• Whoever is closest to the yellow life ring should throw the ring to the person in the water. DO NOT THROW THE RING AT THE VICTIM.

Movement Afloat
• We do not restrict movement except as weather conditions warrant. However, there may be times such as during sail changes and docking when we will call everyone aft to the cockpit.
• Children who cannot swim or who are under age 10 are required to wear a life preserver when outside the cabin.

• No consumption while we’re away from the dock.

• We carry three fire extinguishers.
• Inside the port (left) side locker in the cockpit.
• At the foot of the companionway steps, starboard (right) side.
• In the starboard (right) hanging locker (closet) across from the head (bathroom)
• Point the extinguisher at the BASE of the fire and pull the trigger.

Life Preservers
• Four adult preservers are located in the Lazarette hatch behind the wheel.
• Adult and child preservers are located in the hanging locker in the Head (Bathroom).

Bilge Pumps
• A manual Bilge pump is located on the port (left) side to the left of the steering wheel near the floor. The handle is located under the second step of the companionway steps. The handle inserted in the hole on the pump; move the handle up and down. It will take about 10 strokes to gat a flow going.
• An automatic bilge pump is located in the bilge. The switch on the electrical panel is always ON.

Distress Signals
• Handheld and aerial flares are located in the chart table (at the bottom of the stairs on the starboard side). Lift the table lid; they are inside. NEVER POINT A FLARE AT ANYONE.

• If you are not comfortable swimming in deep, murky water, use a Life Jacket. It’s not wimpy!
• We trail a float about 30 feet behind the boat. Stay between the boat and the float.
• We maintain a “lifeguard” in the boat at all times while someone is in the water. Under no circumstances, will VICTORIA be un-attended.
• Weather conditions change rapidly. We may curtail swimming if the conditions change.

First Aid

First Aid Kit Location - A Red Cross First-aid kit is located in the cabinet in the bathroom (Head).
Jelly Fish Stings - Vinegar is stored in the galley. Soak a paper towel & apply. It will still sting, but not as bad.


• Located inside the sliding cabinet at the chart table on the starboard (right) side of the boat.
• To make a distress call, tune the radio to Channel 16 and call “St. Inegoes (“In-knee-goes”) Coast Guard, St. Inegoes Coast Guard, this the sailing vessel VICTORIA.”
• When the Coast Guard responds, state the nature of the emergency clearly and calmly. You may be directed to switch to another channel (usually 68). After switching, call the Coast Guard again.

• VICTORIA has a diesel engine. To start,
• Push the handle on the right side of the wheel all the way forward.
• Push in the red SHUTOFF handle beneath the key switch in the starboard (right) side hatch behind the steering wheel.
• Turn the key located inside the starboard (right) hatch behind the wheel, to the right.
• Push the START button.
• If the engine does not start, turn the key to the right, push the pre-heat button for 30 seconds, and push the START button at the same time.
• Adjust the engine to about 1000 RPM and shift the transmission into forward by pushing DOWN on the handle on the left side of the wheel. Pull the handle UP for reverse. Remember “BACK – UP”

• Tremendous tension is placed on all lines. NEVER rest your hand on a line that is under tension.
• NEVER wrap a line around your hand when pulling on it.
• To drop sails in an emergency, remove the line from both winches located on the cabin top in the middle of the boat, near the mast.

Head (Toilet)
• Do not be uncomfortable. Use the head.
• To flush, pull the lever near the handle to the “Flush” position and pump the handle 10-20 times. Dry the bowl by pushing the lever to the “Dry” position and pumping until dry. If it is difficult to pump, hold the lever down while pumping dry.
• Please do NOT put anything into the head other than organic material and toilet tissue.

Senior Smart Aleck
2,150 Posts
... And also remember, the captain's job is to look confident, never let them see you sweat..:D
This is quite a challenge whilst wearing my blue blazer over my turtleneck sweater and captain's hat, particularly in mid-August on the Chesapeake, and whilst holding my laminated checklists in my damp, sweaty palms.:eek: Perhaps I should use a clipboard and name tags???

Once, a guest had to put me out with a fire extinguisher as I began combusting spontaneously during the crew briefing - hence the MOB drill...destroyed one of my checklists in the process...:rolleyes:

Load Bearing Member
644 Posts
I have a few checklists. The biggest one:

Before Leaving
Flush Head (if used) (set to 'Rinse' and pump 5-6 times)
Turn Off All Power Panel Breakers
Set Battery Switch to OFF
Close Through Hulls
Head Rinse
Head Sink
Galley Sink
Engine (leave key on handle)​
Test Bilge Pump
Switch to Manual; verify light & motor; leave in Automatic.​
Dog V Berth Hatch - Dog Cabin Hatch
Close Cabin Curtains - Latch Both Doors Open
Ice Box: Drain - Sponge Dry - Leave Lid Open
Stow Ensign
Install Equipment Covers
Binnacle Mainsail​
Lay Out Solar Panels
Companionway (combo)
Lazarette Locker (key)​
Close Lifeline Gate
Check Lines & Fenders
2 Fenders (check height)
Bow Line Stern Line
2 Spring Lines​

(The SailNet BB code ate my formatting.)

I have them for 2 reasons:

1. Some stuff is very important

2. Guests often ask if they can help

This thread reminds me to add a small section for a safety briefing and also to add Empty Trash to the 'Before Leaving' checklist.

Beneteau 393
9,314 Posts
• No consumption while we're away from the dock.
Well, that solves the having Guests problem!

Nothing better than having a beer while cruising with mates on a warm day. Or a sundowner at sea. I even pop a bottle of red when by myself and cooking dinner. A couple of glasses is a wonderful touch to a dinner at sea.
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