Be Prepared – Charter Check List

Summer is a popular time for boaters to book with a Charter company. You have vacation coming, the kids are out of school and you just want to get away for some extended time on the water.

By the time you finish reading this article it will be evident that I’m the kind of person who wears a belt and also suspenders, just in case.

Charter companies do provide the basics. 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 not longer are useful. So follow the boy scout’s motto and “be prepared.”

Extra Items to Take On Your Charter

Navigation Tools

You may find that the dividers provided in the chart table have slid around until their ends resemble fish hooks. 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.

I always carry my portable GPS and a set of spare batteries. Even though the boat may have its own GPS the portable makes a good backup. In addition, if the onboard GPS does not have the associated operations manual it may be difficult to program in waypoints in an expedient manner. At least I know how my own works.

Charts and cruising guides are expensive items, but bring your own. You should also have onboard a light list and Coast Pilot or Sailing Directions for the area in which you will be chartering.


The charter companies will provide life jackets, but they normally are too bulky for routine wearing. I like to bring my own personal inflatable jacket with a built-in safety harness simply because it is already adjusted to my size and is comfortable.

You don’t necessarily have to carry extra line to the charter destination but prior to leaving the charter company dock make sure you have plenty of docking lines and lines that can be rigged as jack lines if necessary.

I would also advise bringing along a knife and marlinespike, a small sharpening stone and a Gerber or other multipurpose tool.

A hand-held VHF makes a good backup to the boat’s radio and also can be used anywhere on the boat without being in the vicinity of the boat’s radio wherever that may be located.


Add a small set of screwdrivers, a compact array of wrenches, and a pair of wire cutters and pliers, and you should be able to handle most temporary repairs. Don’t forget a flashlight, a 20-foot hank of fine line and some whipping thread. WD-40, electrical tape and duct tape also come in handy. Some cotter pins of assorted sizes in a film canister and rip-stop tape should prepare you for most minor emergencies.

You might want to check in advance to see if the charter company provides soft wooden plugs (bungs) that can be used to make a quick plug, should you have a hose or through-hull fail. If not, bring your own.

You also might want to check the Transportation Security Administration’s policies about what items can be carried on and what items need to be checked.

Personal Items

Don’t forget to pack your foul weather gear. A sudden storm may make your watch in the rain quite uncomfortable if you’re not prepared.

Do pack a can opener and a cork screw. Opening that favorite bottle you saved for the last night with a rusty screwdriver is not very appealing.

I use the list below whenever chartering or teaching students. Feel free to copy and paste into your favorite word processor and modify or personalize as necessary. You can check off each item before you leave and check off again prior to getting off the boat to make sure you have collected all your belongings.


Depart Return
Foul Weather gear – coat, pants, boots
Hand held VHF
Cruising Guide
Coast Pilot/Sailing Directions
Light List
Flashlight with batteries
Safety harness/PFD
Pencils – pack of a dozen sharpened
Navigation tools, dividers, parallel rules, calculator
Deviation/Variation wheel
Red Flashlight
Gerber Tool Kit
GPS with extra batteries
T-shirts one per day
Turtlenecks – seasonal
Shorts – 4 pair
Sweaters – seasonal
Wool watch cap – seasonal
Underwear – one change per day
Personal hygiene items
Socks – one change per day
Long pants 2 pair seasonal
Boat shoes – extra pair
Gloves – sailing, rubber, cotton, leather
ID, passport, calculator, check book, credit cards
Bathing suit
Snorkel and Fins
Personal and expense money
Camera with film

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Filed under Boat Operation, Boating Safety

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