These two words either bring joy to the heart or shiver one’s timbers. After exchanging ‘visitor stories’ with other cruisers, we collected these tips to prepare visitors for a boating holiday at your pace, with your itinerary. Planning ahead, providing information and discussion are the keys to happy cruising with others.
Planning ahead saves unpleasant surprises. Are your visitors island-hoppers, cruisers, divers, land-trippers or anchor-sitters? Have you planned a passage only to discover that they want to dive at anchor? Share your itinerary and activities and suggest when and where you can match their expectations. Keith and Jenny’s friends sent them a ‘desired’ itinerary for island-hopping that would have required a helicopter on the aft deck. Most non-sailors don’t understand distances and the time it takes to sail from one destination to another. Enlighten them.
Provide a General Information and Tips sheet. This covers everything from bringing soft, roll-up luggage, sun and insect protection, suggested clothing and footwear to things that we supply, such as lifejackets, etc. Provide a Crew Contract that outlines duties and responsibilities for visitors from cleaning the cockpit daily to chopping vegetables; from adjusting sails to cleaning fish. This form filters out those who might mistake your boat for a five-star hotel. Bill and Betty ran themselves ragged serving and picking up after visitors who were not given tasks on board. Give them chores and responsibilities. This is your holiday too.
This information form also provides a very good place to bring up the delicate matter of money, as cruisers live on budgets, too. You needn’t provide a free two-week vacation in return for a free lunch. We’ve seen that happen. Although happy to share their time and toys with visitors, cruisers often charge a daily flat fee for ‘room and food’ to cover expenses such as groceries, laundry, fuel, etc. Have visitors check your fee against a fully chartered boat in the same area. On land, each person is responsible for his or her own expenditures; rental cars are shared expenses. Costs for marinas can be negotiated though many cruisers prefer to anchor out. Jim and Bev spent a small fortune on marinas and car rentals because visitors wanted land access to shop at malls and do day trips. Discuss money issues prior to visitations so everyone understands their fiscal responsibilities and budget accordingly.
Arrival and departure: Location of arrival and departure for visitors may differ so flights should be set up accordingly. Visitors can expect to join you at a specific place and time with the proviso that you will be there or within 50 to 100 km. depending on weather. We email visitors prior to their departure with our location. Departures are also weather dependant, and backtracking to airports is not always feasible.
Visitors arrive! Give them a quick tour of your boat, get their gear stowed and give them a bit of time to recoup from travelling. Make them feel welcome; provide them with a specific space in the cockpit, some local treats and a basket for their lotions, cameras etc. to reduce clutter. Before hauling anchor, walk them through the boat pointing out the location of safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, life jackets, EPIRBs, hand grips, lee cloths, etc. and ensure they know how to use them. We also provide a small cooler for their liquids rather than access to the main cooler.
Bottom line: plan ahead, inform, discuss, learn when ‘yes’ and ‘no’ work for you and keep your sense of humour. These are but a few tips to create a welcoming and stress-free vacation for you, your family and friends. Happy sailing!