When you charter a catamaran it is recommended that you do a thorough check off the boat you just rented. It is the best way to avoid any unnecessary complications due to an error on previous check-ins and outs. If you have hired a skipper with your catamaran charter, he will do this before you come aboard. But if you are renting a bareboat catamaran then some tips may come in useful.
Do provide the basic tools and equipment. But often, small items like navigation instruments, toolboxes and flashlights may not be checked due to the quick turn-around of the chartered boat. The items may not be missing, they may just be damaged, rusted, or neglected to the point that they no longer are useful.
Before you leave the dock, the representative of the charter company will give you a tour of the boat and its systems. Don’t get caught in their ”will do this quick thing”. When you have a local on board ask him everything. Ask about tides and currents, areas of navigational difficulty and holding grounds. Ask how is it best to plan your itinerary to avoid crowds in the event there are desirable mooring fields that fill up early. Test the motor and the outboard motor before he leaves your boat and make sure there is adequate fuel, oars, a pump, a bailer, and a dinghy anchor. Try to lower the anchor and then pulling it up again. If this doesn’t work you can be in great trouble while in a secluded bay.
Be sure to do all of your checks so that you understand how to use every system on board. Learn how to use the chart plotter, switch the water-tank feeds, light the stove and locate the solenoid, activate the anchor windlass, trip the windlass breaker, turn the generator on and off, and operate the VHF radio. Do a VHF radio check on the boat you’ll be chartering. Request an answer from someone 15 miles away just to be sure it works. It is a good idea to bring your own navigation tools including dividers, parallel rules, pencils and sharpener, eraser and a pocket calculator. You should probably also throw in a hand bearing compass and your own binoculars.
Establish whether there is a boat databook which will detail the boat’s specification, including water capacities, call sign, draft, etc. It may also detail the location of seacocks, water tanks, etc. Refrigeration is critical to the success of a charter. Make sure they work before you buy provisions.
Depth sounder. Ask if the sounder is displaying depth beneath the keel, the waterline, the transducer or something else.
The charter companies will provide life jackets with crotch straps, ( it should be for every crew member one jacket). And harnesses (plus spare jackets) and spare CO2 canisters and cartridges and have your crew fit them to themselves. Check lifelines (if fitted) and all stanchions and safety rails. You don’t necessarily have to carry an extra line to the charter destination but prior to leaving the charter company dock to make sure you have plenty of docking lines and lines that can be rigged as jack lines. Check all hatches are watertight and in good order. Check all bunks and lee cloths are in place and secure.
Complete an inventory of charts and navigational equipment including almanacs and additional equipment such as GPS. Complete standard engine checks and make sure that everyone knows how to start the engine and how to send a mayday using the boat’s VHF and knows what to do in the case of a man overboard, including how to mark the MOB on your GPS or chartplotter.
I would also advise bringing along a knife and marlinespike, a small sharpening stone and a Gerber or other multipurpose tool, and a small set of screwdrivers, a compact array of wrenches, and a pair of wire cutters and pliers, a flashlight, a 20-foot hank of fine line and some whipping thread. WD-40, electrical tape and duct tape also come in handy.