How to accept a boat properly.
Every experienced yachtsman pays due care and attention to the acceptance of a boat and spends sufficient time doing so. This is why you too, should do the same. Certainly, never sign a handover record without having first carefully inspected the boat.
After arriving and before the whole crew boards, the skipper must accept the boat. The best procedure for this is as follows: the skipper chooses an assistant and sends the rest of the crew to the pub, where they have usually been sitting until then, anyway. He gives the assistant the checklist (inventory list), which is usually lying on the navigation table, and enters the acceptance of the boat into it. The assistant reads it item by item and the skipper double checks everything. He checks everything off which is clear in the record but adds a question mark next to items which he cannot find, or whose operation is unclear. He then discusses these unclear items with an employee of the charter company.
Perform a check on the following:
- All electrical equipment.
- Switches and circuit breakers including a check on the functionality of individual electrical devices.
- The anchor winch and circuit breaker for the anchor winch, which is usually hidden somewhere.
- Positioning lamps.
- Navigation devices.
- Refrigerators and their functionality (during a summer cruise, the refrigerator is the second most important item on the boat after the engine).
- The cooker, and its functionality.
- Gas cylinders and the gas shutoff valve, (check that gas cylinders are full—also, do not forget to check spares).
- WC including valves and its functionality.
- Drainage of water from the shower cubicle.
- Switching of the faecal waste tank and its discharge.
- Condition of the hull—under the cabin soles (check for the presence of water, the condition of the area around the screws securing the keel—whether there are any cracks in the area around the screws), deck of the boat, sides of the boat (which may have been damaged by impact or may have been scratched, due to the insufficient use of fenders by the previous crews), front part of the boat (which may have been damaged by the anchor), stern of the boat (which may have been damaged by harbour breakwaters during manoeuvring).
- The engine (the level and condition of the oil in the engine and gearbox, coolants, tension of the v-belts. Perform a visual inspection of the engine to see whether anything is leaking, check the inlet valve for cooling water and also the level of fuel in the tank).
- Safety equipment (the condition, number and location of life vests, life belts, flares, fire extinguishers and scissors for cutting the stays).
- Bosun’s chairs for climbing up the mast, check the integrity of bosun’s chairs and halyards (often excessively frayed at the top).
- Sails and deck equipment (stoppers, capstans, the condition of the halyards, furling and sheets, life belt or ring, and rescue light buoy).
- Rudder play (check for any play in the wheel by turning it left and right).
- Contents of all lockers (where there should be a reserve tiller—which it is advisable to try to fit and use, sling ropes, reserve anchor, bucket, brush, lever for the manual bilge pump and paddles. Check that the paddles are complete and can be fitted to the dinghy, also, the pump for the dinghy—check whether the pump has the correct adapter which can be used to inflate it and check the oarlocks for the dinghy paddles, extension cable etc.).
- Boat documents, (pratique—in Croatia the so-called Prijava, liability insurance, where applicable the Concession list required in Croatia, the Crew List) maps and navigation manuals.
- Water tanks, to see whether they are full (ideally check they have been filled—the water level indicator may not always be working properly).
- Fuel tank (the fuel level indicator may not always be working and is frequently imprecise. If the indicator shows low fuel, the boat should be refuelled at the home marina to prove that the fuel gauge is not working properly, and so that you are certain you have a full tank).
- Spare parts (whether there are any v-belts for the main engine on board and a rubber impeller for the salt water feed pump for cooling the engine).
Now all that remains is to check the submerged part of the hull. This is, or can be, very unpleasant if not impossible at a dirty marina. This is why you should perform your check on the submerged part of the hull at the nearest bay, and if you do find any defect, immediately report this to the charter company by telephone to ensure they don’t demand compensation for it from you. You can however, usually assume that the submerged part of the boat is undamaged.
Each charter company employee you meet on the breakwater has ten or more boats to hand over on the day when crews change. This means that they don’t have enough time to carefully go over the whole boat with each customer. Acceptance of the boat usually takes one to two hours. The larger and more complicated the boat is, the more time is needed. Only mark those things in the handover record which you did not find, or equipment which you are not sure how to operate. And only then, ask the person handing over the boat to you about those points which are unclear. It can sometimes happen that the person handing over the boat does not themself know how to use this equipment. Leave it to them to find this information somewhere, but in any case, always demand that the absence of things on the boat or damaged equipment be entered in the checklist. If necessary, demand removal of defects immediately. If there is any dispute during final handover of the boat, you will be in a better negotiating position or completely covered if the damaged or lost item was recorded during the handover.
There is a definite difference between accepting a new boat and an old one. When accepting a new boat, you have to check all, even minor, instances of damage to the sides and the deck, any and all damage to the sails, and then enter all of this into the handover record. Carefully check the boat at the bow where the side is often battered by the anchor. If you take photos or make a video of the deck and sides of the boat, when you return it you will have a record of the condition you accepted the boat in. However, you need not pay attention to minor scratches and dents on the sides and deck of an old boat. It is important to check the functioning of all important equipment—the engine, refrigerators, depth gauge, sails, radio equipment, anchor winch, and lights.
Today, when everyone has a camera in their phone, we recommend that you walk the whole deck with your camera switched on and make a video of everything, even minor damage and also, the sides of the boat. If any dispute arises when you return the boat, play the video and you will immediately be able to check the condition the boat was in when you accepted it. A video showing a time stamp can in many cases also serve as evidence that you accepted the boat with damage and that the damage is not your fault.
Reasons why people sometimes neglect the proper acceptance of a boat
- The language barrier and shyness.
- The feeling that acceptance of the boat is such a simple matter that there is no point in spending a lot of time on it.
- The approach taken by employees of the charter company who aim to resolve the handover of a boat to the customer in 10 minutes.
A few reasons why careful acceptance of a boat pays off
- It will save you money when returning the boat, thanks to a record of all its defects.
- You know where everything is and where to find it quickly—harnesses, vests, fire extinguishers, valves connecting the individual water tanks, gas shutoff valve for the cooker, circuit breaker for the anchor winch, impeller for engine cooling, tools...
- You will have familiarised yourself with the functionality and use of individual items of equipment on the boat.
If you accept a boat this carefully and thoroughly check everything, you have met the first condition for a relaxing and problem-free cruise. To help make acceptance of a boat easier, you can use our standard Inventory list (available to download in pdf here).
Specimen inventory list in PDF - download
What to check when accepting a boat - download