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Steven R. Van Hook

Sailboat Passenger Do's and Don'ts
Keep your ship mates happy, occupied, and safe
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 by Steven R. Van Hook

Steven R. Van HookKeeping your passengers safe, entertained, and happy is a foremost concern of any sailboat skipper. It all starts with early notice of what your passengers should wear, bring, and do.

Here's a copy of the tips I send to all my sailing passengers at least a day or two prior to casting off lines.

  • Wear white-soled shoes to keep from scuffing; tennis shoes are good

  • Dress in layers and bring a good waterproof jacket -- it can go from blistering to frigid in a flash

  • Slather on the sunscreen and bring a hat

  • If you get seasick, check a pharmacy for some preventers (but they need to be taken a few hours before sailing)

  • Powerbars and a water bottle in your pocket are handy in case we catch good winds and stay out longer

  • If you bring other snacks, make sure they are foods that don't spill, drip, stain, roll, crumble, etc.

  • Be prepared to maybe get a little wet and maybe take a turn at the wheel

  • If you already have a favorite life preserver, please bring it; otherwise there are plenty on board

  • If asked to help, please do as requested. Otherwise, usually the best help you can give is to stay seated and out of the skipper's and harm's way

  • We'll review five H's before we sail (hands, head, heeling, help -- plus, of course, hurling)

Those five H's, by the way, stand for:

1) Keep one hand on yourself and one on the boat at all times; 

Make sure everyone is thoroughly informed on how to use the head;
Sailboats heel (and people who aren't prepared for that squeal); 

Everyone should know how to holler 'help' on Channel 16 with a Mayday call, and give GPS coordinates; 

Seasick hurls should go downwind, and never in the general direction of the skipper.

I encourage guests to bring cameras, musical instruments, and other toys to share -- as long as it's nothing that would be inconsolably mourned if soaked by a rogue wave or 'accidentally' tossed overboard.

If you have other essential pre-sail passenger tips to share, drop me a line and I'll add them to the list.

Steven R. Van Hook has cruised California waters since 1976, 
starting with a 19-foot Glen-L powerboat in Santa Barbara Harbor, 
and currently sails a Hunter 326 out of Channel Islands Harbor. 

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