14 January 2018

First Time Boaters - 12 essential things you should know

Stepping onto a boat, any boat, for the first time can be daunting.

They're like something between a space-ship and a caravan with a pointy end.
Some bits within them will seem vaguely familiar while other things are positively alien.

A while back we wrote about how to date a sailor, but it was brought to our attention that advice should be given to those non-boaty types, or those giving it a go for the first time, on how to comport ones-self on board a boat or yacht. So for those of you deciding this is the year you're going to have a go, then get started with these 12 essentials.

alien caravanning on water. 




1: Bag size

Your kit bag/luggage must be squashy and roll up to the smallest size possible or be able to change shape to fit in a weird shaped space or ideally convert to a pillow. Hard sided suitcases will be left ashore. They don't belong on a boat.
If you bring a solid plastic suitcase, expect the boat owner to dismantle it and attempt to turn it into a dinghy.
To prepare, try fitting all of your stuff and yourself into the footprint space of a yoga mat. Comfy? Great. You're good to go. 

2: Footwear

Soft squishy or rubberised soles only on deck and inside (ie ANYWHERE/everywhere on a boat). Not black soled hiking boots. Not pointy shoes. Not fashion shoes. Not brogues. Trainers are good. Squash or indoor tennis court shoes are good too. Deck shoes are ok. Crocs are not.
Batman shoes are optional.

Batman shoes bring a little je ne sais pas quoi to the boat.

3: Clothing

Light, easy fitting, spandex or Lycra. Big pants/knickers.  Stretchy clothes that can move with you. Something that will dry quickly, walking trousers are good for this. Cover over with wind cheating or waterproof clothes if sailing in the UK.
You DON'T need to wear all the gear.
headwear, optional but recommended. 


4a: Safety: Always a hand for yourself

One hand for you. One hand for the boat.
It's as simple as that. Make sure the one hand for you is secure enough to stop you falling, slipping or flying in an uncontrolled way. Inside and outside the boat when moving.


4b: Safety: Wear a lifejacket

Find your jacket, make sure it's adjusted to fit before the boat goes anywhere, make sure it's all present and correct, ie that the gas bottle hasn't been disconnected or loose or discharged. Double check the service date.
Wear it when the boat is leaning, wear it when it's windy, wear it when it's dark or going dark, wear it when you are on deck, wear it at all times if you want to, just make sure you readjust it if taking a big jacket off to make sure it's not too loose and make sure you use the crotch strap.


4c: Safety: Wear sunscreen



4d: Safety: Always walk on the high side

If you need to go on deck, always choose the side that is highest.

4e: Safety: Never drink alcohol and sail

You'll either lose a finger in a winch or fall over and smash your face in and ruin everyones day. Save the booze for when the boat isn't moving.

4f: Safety: Never smoke on someone else's boat

You think you're outside right? Well, that smoke is wafting straight inside the boat. Trust us on this. The place that will stink the most is inside. The wind has a funny way of wafting that smoke inside. No. Matter. Where. You. Sit. Outside.
If you do this on Boogie Nights, you will either get threatened with a bread knife or be told to leave.

4g: Safety: Step, Don't Jump

Never try jumping off the boat when mooring up. You should be able to step from the boat to shore with a rope in your hand. Jumping onto small finger pontoons can result in rebounding off the other side into the water, into a neighbouring boat or slipping between your own boat and the pontoon which isn't an ideal situation. You can also slip, slide or break an ankle if you land awkwardly. If someone else on the boat tells you to jump, tell them to fuck off. You're not there to compensate for poor mooring skills.

5: Switches

Some boats have a lot, others have almost none. But pretty much all boats have some kind of switch craft sorcery.
The electrics on a boat are a product of the dark arts. Nobody really knows how they work. Not exactly. The switches seem to go on, lights light up on a console but nothing discernible happens.
Beware, these switches are usually the most important.

6: Cabin sharing/sleeping arrangements

If the host offers to share a cabin, this is pretty normal. Boaters are communal sleepers. It's not necessarily an invite to share bodily fluid.
If you're hopping on to a boat for the first time, there's some basics to observe.
You need to first find out, which cabin is the owners cabin. (unless you're renting/chartering a bare
boat and then you have free rein to choose)

Very often, the owner will take the forward cabin, which on most yachts is forward of the mast.
There's a general rule, never go forward of the mast unless invited.
The forward cabin on Boogie Nights is the owners cabin and is otherwise called the Princess Suite. Only good mates get invited to this particularly private area of the boat.

7: Operating the cooker/oven

Another special skills test. Lighting a boat cooker or oven can be a a mildly disconcerting. Holding open the gas tap, pointing a flame on the end of a stick at it and the pregnant pause before it lights with a "kerfoof-woof"

8: Operating the toilet

So many devices, which one might you have?
The Lavac? (put the lid down, pump 10 times, wait a few seconds, pump 5 more times) The Jabsco? (leave the lid up, pump at least 10 times on flush, then flick the switch to empty the bowl and pump until it's empty) The Baby Blake? The Bucket 'n' Chuckit?
The most reliable toilet is the one with fewest moving parts. The bucket can only go wrong if you slip over on your way outside to empty it.
The others all require pumping in some way or another. Make sure the valves (seacocks) have been opened to allow the raw water from outside to come in to the toilet and to let the water back out either to a tank or directly back into the water outside.
NEVER put anything down the toilet that hasn't been eaten or drunk first. 
be prepared to talk about poop

9: Operating any electronic device

Most items on a boat run on 12 or 24 volts. You're unlikely to ever get an electric shock. But, you are likely to need a degree in computing science to operate anything boat related. Never, ever drop your phone or electronic device into salt water. It will die.

Bring a USB cable with you and a 12v adapter the same as used in a car. If you have a larger USB powered storage battery, bring that as well.

10: Winches

They go clockwise. The winch handle can turn both ways with two different speeds, the drum always turns clockwise. Don't put ropes on anticlockwise. You'll feel stupid if you do and start trying to winch. If you're not sure, give the winch a little spin by hand just to remind yourself.

11: Ropes...

Once a rope arrives on a boat, it's no longer called a rope.
so here's a handy guide:


Description
Official name
Also known as
(on Boogie Nights)
rope that lifts up/raises the main sail
Main Halyard
Up-Fucker
rope that controls the reduction in the main sail size
Reef line (1, 2 ,3 or 4)
Down-Fucker
rope that controls the end of the boom/main sail power
Main Sheet
scream if ya wanna go faster
rope that pulls the boom down
Vang
The black one
rope that holds the end of the boom up/is stored attached to end of boom but moved forward and tied off at the mast when sailing.
Topping lift and/or
Spare Main Halyard
what's that weird humming sound?

Spare Up-fucker

rope that lifts up/raises the front sail
Jib Halyard
Front Up-Fucker
rope that controls the shape of the front sail
Jib Sheet
Fucking tack then
rope that turns the drum that rolls away the front sail

Furling line
It's that ratchety one
rope that lifts up the big colourful sail/kite
Spinnaker Halyard
Red Up-Fucker
rope that controls the shape of the big colourful sail
Spinnaker sheets/guys
who's got gloves on?
rope that we tie up with
Mooring line
fucking throw it then




12: Drinking Rum

If the boat isn't moving and this is a planned activity that the boat isn't moving, ie, you didn't just run aground, then get the rum out. It's not mandatory but it should be. It's medicinal.










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