Charter boat check-in: a step-by-step guide

Find out what you can expect when taking over a rental boat at the marina, what the charter company will need and how the check-in process works. Plus, what you should consider before signing the contract and preparations to make at home before setting sail.

Taking over a rented boat (or check-in) at the marina is a key part of a boating holiday. We'll walk you through everything that needs to be done beforehand, from preparations at home to cancellation and deposit insurance, and the check-in process itself, including inspecting the boat. So, let's say you've just booked a boat with us. What's next?

What to consider before signing the contract

You've decided where and when you want to sail, found the most suitable boat with the help of our sales team, made your booking and are about to sign the contract. Don't forget to consider these things and discuss them with us.

Should you take out cancellation insurance for your boat charter?

It's entirely up to you, of course, but from our own experience, we highly recommend doing so as it will save you a lot of money if there are any unexpected complications. You never know when a last-minute emergency will force you to cancel your holiday — it could be an illness, an injury to the captain, a quarantine order or the crew has broken down. Cancellation insurance costs only 5.5 % of the total rental price and should be taken out alongside the charter contract. To find out more, read our article on 7 reasons to take out cancellation insurance.

If you're planning on visiting more than one country on your boat, you must have permission from the charter company

Some boats are not insured to sail beyond the borders of the country you are sailing from, so it may not be permitted by the charter company. Therefore, you must always arrange it with them in advance and inform them exactly where you plan to sail. However, it's also enough to notify our sales team and, if possible, they will arrange everything with the charter company for you.  

YACHTING.COM TIP: Most commonly sailors cross from Turkey to Greece, from Croatia to Greece or Italy, or in the Caribbean between the different autonomous Caribbean islands. Read more about sailing to foreign waters in our article — Can you cross national borders with a charter boat?

Check the validity of your skipper's licence

Yes, it really can happen that someone's captain's licence expires without them realising. And it's certainly better to find this out at home than when you get to the marina. Besides this, you also need to check that your licence is valid in the country you are headed to. For example, a Croatian skipper's license is only valid in Croatian waters, and although some captains say that they have still managed to rent a boat for it in, say, Greece, we don't recommend giving it a try. It is an unnecessary risk and if there's an accident on the boat, you could be in serious trouble.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you aren't sure whether your captain's licence is valid at your destination, get in touch. If you don't have one already, it might be worth investing in an international certificate. Check out our guide — International skipper's licences: which one is the best?. You can even do the prestigious RYA courses with us

Preparations at home: what to do before setting sail

Some things are worth doing at home before you leave. This will prevent unpleasant surprises and ensure your crew see that you have everything under control. So, what specifically do you need to think about, decide about or arrange before heading to the marina?

Research the destination, think about the sailing route and make reservations

Before you depart, thoroughly research your chosen destination — the coastline, islands, bays, places of interest, etc.. Check out the jetties, marinas, buoys and other anchorages, and some recommendations for good restaurants. If any of these are popular spots, we recommend making reservations in advance. This is a must in Croatia if you want to berth at a specific marina on a specific day or eat out in a popular restaurant. 

YACHTING TIP.COM: For some inspiration, follow us on Facebook or check out our online magazine, where you can find a ton of articles and tips on everything boating-related — interesting boating destinations, how-tos, life on board, and weather conditions. for both complete beginners and experienced sea dogs. Do you want to keep up with the latest articles about sailing? Subscribe to our newsletter so you won't miss out.

Check the weather conditions for sailing

We recommend checking the weather forecast daily a few days before your voyage. In particular, check the forecast for the direction and strength of the wind or potential storms (for example, on If conditions are likely to worsen, prepare several route options and itineraries. It always pays to have a Plan B when you're on a boat.

YACHTING.COM TIP: To find out the best way to predict the weather during a sailing trip on the Adriatic, which sources to monitor and how to get the info you need to find shelter in time when a storm hits, check out our article — How to get the most accurate weather forecast in Croatia?

Take out deposit insurance 1-2 weeks before your boating trip

Deposit insurance covers your security deposit, which is a relatively large sum of money that you have to put down with the charter company when you rent a boat. If you don't return the boat in perfect condition, the deposit will be forfeited. Commonly, people lose their deposit due to an accident, theft, vandalism or natural disasters. In addition, this insurance covers negligence, skipper's liability and subsequent financial compensation as part of a personal injury settlement. Deposit insurance should be taken out a week or two before the voyage.

Some of the most common reasons for losing your boat rental deposit include sinking the outboard motor, losing the dinghy, clogged toilets, broken hatch (genoa sheets get stuck behind the hinges), burnt-out anchor windlass (because you didn't rest it), or a scuffed or broken rudder blade (no one was watching the seafloor).

A sailboat half-submerged in the water.

It's not just about capsizing the boat. Minor damages frequently occur on rented boats and can be costly

YACHTING.COM TIP: Are you hesitant about whether deposit insurance is worth it? In our experience, it’s a definite yes! Not only will it save your nerves, but also a ton of money. Find out why it pays in our article — 5 reasons to take out deposit insurance.

Check-in process at the charter company: what you need to know

Early check-in

Boats are traditionally picked up and dropped off on Saturdays. For this reason, the marina is always busy at this time, with queues at the fuel stations and sometimes queues forming outside the marina entrance. If you want to avoid this chaos, an earlier check-in and later check-out can be arranged. Ask our sales staff about your options when booking your boat.

Where to park my car in the marinas?

If you are travelling by plane, parking your car isn't an issue. However, sailors often drive to European destinations, such as Croatia. Some marinas offer free parking with your boat rental, such as Marina Hramina in Croatia. Otherwise, there is usually a charge of around 10 Euros per day which you pay on the spot.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Some skippers try to save money by parking their car outside the marina — on the street, in a public car park or at a supermarket. But we don't recommend this to our clients because you can get a ticket and the fines for parking illegally can be pretty high.

Find the charter company office!

When you arrive at the marina, head straight to the charter company office. As part of our service, we will send you all the Base Info in advance, i.e. a briefing with a description of the marina, the name of the charter company, their opening hours and all the information on locating their office.

Opening hours of charter company offices

Most offices in the marina are open on weekdays during regular office hours from 8:00 am to around 4:00 or 5:00 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are often open longer due to incoming boats, from 7:00 or 8:00 am to 5:00 or 7:00 pm.

If this is your first time in the marina, don't hesitate to ask at the front desk where the charter company's office is located. Sometimes the offices are at the opposite ends of the marinas, and in larger marinas such as Trogir, Sibenik or Kaštela, you'd be in for a hike if you don't know exactly where to go.

Aerial photo of the beautiful D-Marin Marina Mandalina in Sibenik, the main port of the city.

One of the most popular marinas for boat rental: Marina Mandalina in Šibenik (Croatia) is huge

The check-in process itself

At the charter company office, they will ask you for your ID or passport and the charter contract, which is what we, as, will send you. You will then be handed a checklist and let through to inspect the boat. After this, you'll sign a document to take delivery of the boat. There is also a refundable deposit, the amount of which you can find on the specific boat's webpage and, of course, in the charter contract.

What is the boat takeover process like?

After visiting the office, you'll go to your boat to check everything out. A charter company employee will brief you on the specifics of that particular boat. They will show you how to start the engine, how to open the swim platform, where the circuit breakers are, how many metres of anchor chain there are and where the rescue equipment is, etc. Your job is to go through the whole boat including the galley and report any defects, damage or missing equipment.

Thoroughly inspect the boat before sailing

Some skippers underestimate the process of taking over the boat and just do a quick check but we recommend checking everything thoroughly. Firstly, you don't want to be stuck in a bay waiting for a mechanic if there is a fault. Therefore, make sure there is no obvious defect on board that prevents you from using the boat and the sails. Secondly, by checking thoroughly, you can prove the damage was already there and you're not the one who damaged it. Rental boats are never completely free of blemishes. Be especially cautious at the end of the season, when boats have been in use all summer and their condition may not be perfect.

What should you do if you find something wrong with your boat during check-in?

If you find a fault that you don't like, bring it to the attention of a charter company employee and, if it is not immediately repairable, ask for the fault to be recorded on the checklist you sign.

Sometimes this is not easy, as the captain and crew are excited to get sailing and the charter company staff want the check-in process over with quickly — not surprising when they often have more than 10 boats to check in on a Saturday. But don't let these outside influences throw you off and do everything at your own pace. Carefully go through your boat, check your equipment list, count your life jackets, check your tank, gas cylinders, caps and valves, ask what goes on where and really take your time.

Sailors hoist the sails on a yacht to check them before going to sea.

Check the sails for tears or ripped seams

Tips for taking over the boat

Take photos of any scratches, nicks and imperfections the boat has. The photos will serve as potential evidence in case the charter company wants to attribute the blame to you. If you have an experienced diver on your crew, send them to the keel. A scratched keel is grounds for losing your deposit and if you don't check it, it can be considered damage you've caused.

Ask for an extra life jacket. You never know when it will come in handy — for example, you might drop one overboard. The fuel tank should be full, if it isn't, have the tank status noted on the check-in sheet.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Taking over the boat is one of the most important tasks. If you had to check absolutely everything, you’d probably never leave, so it is best to focus on key items and equipment that you would definitely miss or your boat can't do without. To find out how and more, take a look at our articles — Boat check-in: examining a yacht down to the last screw and What to check when taking over a boat?.

What should the crew do when the captain is checking in?

The captain goes to the office, takes over the boat, runs around a bit... which could all take some time. What can the crew do that's both useful and prevents them from getting bored? Here are some tips on what you can do to keep them entertained.

Buying supplies in and around the marina

During check-in, you can send crew members out shopping. You'll need groceries and consumables for a week or two-week sailing holiday. The smaller islands don't offer as much food, and prices are often higher than on the mainland. We recommend talking to the crew ahead of time and discussing their food allergies and preferences, and then making a menu and doing shopping accordingly.

YACHTING.COM TIP: The fridge you'll find on the boat is relatively small, so don't buy everything you can lay your hands on, otherwise your supplies simply won't fit. Plan what you're going to cook and come up with your shopping list with this in mind. Most people tend to overdo it, buy things and then end up throwing food away at the end of their stay. To find out all about food provisioning — how best to cater for the crew, where to shop, what to cook and how to account for the costs at the end, check out Food for sailing: how to manage meals on board.

Don't forget these basic consumables:

  • Plenty of drinking water (don't drink from the boat's tank)
  • Toilet paper, tissues
  • Salt, sugar, tea, coffee, basic spices or herbs (unless you brought them from home)
  • Oil, butter, fat
  • Cheese and cold cuts (for snacks)
  • Fresh baked goods (remember that these spoil quickly in the humidity of a boat)
  • Onions, garlic (these always come in handy)

Take a tour of the harbour

If you have first-timers on the boat who've never been in a marina, send them out for a walk on the piers. They'll see other yachts, and in the repair area they'll get to see them from below — they'll find out what a keel, propeller and rudder blades look and work like. If you have someone experienced on your crew, they can give them a guided tour and describe what each piece of equipment does on the boat, what it's called, how it works... Just show them the ropes.

Practising knots never hurts

It's a good idea to take short pieces of rope with you to practice nautical knots. The crew can learn the knots while waiting for the captain to check in, or refresh their memory if they've forgotten them after a year on land. Be sure to teach them the clove hitch, the bowline knot and the cleat hitch — they can't do without these three. You'll find these and more in our guide to 9 essential sailing knots.

Man tying a knot on a rope

The crew can while away the time at the marina by, for example, practising knots

Crew checklist

As part of crew training, some skippers will print out an inventory checklist in advance for each crew member and have them go through the boat on their own, figuring out what the equipment is supposed to look and function like and checking it. The only snag here is that some charter company employees don't want anyone other than the captain to board the boat before the check-in process is complete. However, this all depends on the charter company and the approach of the individual employee, you just need to ask.

Preparing the boat and crew for departure

Before you leave your home marina, there are certain things that need to be sorted out and checked. What are they?

Preparing the boat

Before you start the engine, double-check the boat isn't still connected to the electricity at the marina — you'd be surprised how many boaters have gone off like this and ripped the cable out. Also, check the water level in the tank so you don't have to fill up soon after setting sail. Leaving the gangway or water hose on the jetty, or the water hose adapter/extension on the tap are also surprisingly common mistakes.

What to tell the crew before setting sail?

You've got the boat loaded, the documents are in order, so anchors away! Right? Not yet and especially if you have first-timers on board. Before you leave port, you need to brief the crew on the basic rules and responsibilities of boat conduct to avoid damaging any equipment or causing accidents before you even set off. These are a few things you should mention right from the start:

  • Why the boom is one of the most dangerous things on a boat
  • Where the gas supply, the valve and the cylinder are and why it's necessary to shut off the gas
  • Where to find all the life saving equipment and how to use it
  • What the principles of working with lines and winches are
  • How to properly flush the boat's toilet (head) and what doesn't belong down it

YACHTING.COM TIP: Our clients often ask us how the toilet works on a boat (known as a head). That's why we've prepared a dedicated article on the topic to answer the most frequently asked questions — Marine toilet: how to use it.

Are you just looking for information for your first boating adventure but haven't booked yet? Take a look at our step-by-step guide to renting your first boat, where we've outlined what the process involves — from the required documents, choosing the right destination and right boat through to making the booking.

Take a look at our range of boats:

About to set sail but finding the whole process too complicated? From choosing a boat to setting sail, we're here for you. Just give us a call.

FAQ about the boat check-in process and making preparations at home