Mak­ing sure you and your stuff stay safe on char­ter

Zuzana Proc­hazka ex­plains how to hang onto your stuff

SAIL - - January 2019 Vol 50, Issue 1 -

Ioften get asked about safety and se­cu­rity on char­ter, and most of the time I shrug and say it’s a mat­ter of com­mon sense, just like at home. Some places may be more prone to is­sues than oth­ers, but it’s usu­ally a mat­ter of luck—good or bad. For ex­am­ple, you may be warned to lock your dinghy in parts of the Caribbean, but you can pretty much leave your wal­let on the dock in Tonga. In Tahiti, one of our boats in a rally I helped or­ga­nize had their kayak stolen when they left it in the wa­ter overnight, while an­other boat had theirs brought back by lo­cals af­ter it blew off the deck in a gust one night—all on the same trip. Then again, be­cause you never know, here are some tips to en­sure you stay “lucky” and hang onto your stuff.


The best cure is preven­tion, so lock the boat when­ever ev­ery­one goes ashore. If peo­ple will re­turn at dif­fer­ent times, hide the key aboard and let ev­ery­one know where. The boat usu­ally heats up when closed, so open small hull ports or head hatches that won’t cause prob­lems in case of rain.


This was al­ways my fa­ther’s fa­vorite de­ter­rent at night. A light in the saloon of a cata­ma­ran isn’t help­ful, since it just il­lu­mi­nates the whole in­te­rior and shows that no­body’s aboard. How­ever, a light down in a cabin may do the trick.


I gen­er­ally don’t leave the boat with­out my pass­port un­less I’m go­ing for a SUP or am swim­ming to the beach. In that case, I hide all my valu­ables, in­clud­ing jew­elry, doc­u­ments, cam­eras and so on. Pil­low­cases make ex­cel­lent hid­ing places as do shoes—well, now I’ve blown my se­cret.


Ex­pen­sive and flashy jew­elry will at­tract at­ten­tion and may make your boat a tar­get when you’re ashore. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it on your va­ca­tion at all. If you do bring it, con­sider not wear­ing it in town or put it in a purse or pocket.


If ev­ery­one is off the boat, don’t store all your elec­tron­ics and wal­lets at the nav desk thereby mak­ing it a one-stop-shop for un­wanted vis­i­tors. Take valu­able items and purses down into the cab­ins.


Ask the base for a ca­ble and lock to se­cure the dinghy to a dock when you go ashore. Make sure to thread the ca­ble through the out­board locks and also be sure to check to see if the key ac­tu­ally works be­fore­hand. Oth­er­wise you may be stuck on the dock in­def­i­nitely. Stuff left in a dinghy (mask, snorkel, fins, etc.) is on dis­play, so de­cide whether you want to carry it with you.


SUPS, kayaks, pool noo­dles, float­ies and other play­things should come aboard at night. Tie each down to the boat to pre­vent it from tak­ing flight in a mid­night squall and to make it more dif­fi­cult for de­ter­mined thieves. I also bring the dinghy up at night. On a cat with davits it’s easy and worth the five min­utes it takes away from happy hour. On mono­hulls, I use a main or spin­naker hal­yard and lift the dinghy up out of the wa­ter and onto the hip of the hull. Some­times, this re­quires a makeshift har­ness.


If you want to hang onto your shoes, tow­els and toys through the night, bring them into the cock­pit or tie them on. This is more a mat­ter of the wind than thieves, but ex­pen­sive wa­ter shoes may be tempt­ing to peo­ple who have lit­tle, so put them away for the evening. I’ve never had an issue with swim­suits left on life­lines other than that they’re still wet in the morn­ing.


There are many ways to get hurt on a boat, but be­ing boarded isn’t usu­ally one of them. I never lock the boat at night be­cause I’m a light sleeper and be­cause I usu­ally sack out in the cock­pit. It has hap­pened that boats have been boarded and robbed with char­ter­ers on board, but it’s rare. If in doubt, an­chor near other boats and leave your VHF on so you can call for help.


Fi­nally, the best se­cu­rity mea­sure is to ask the base man­ager what to ex­pect be­fore you head out. The char­ter com­pa­nies don’t want their stuff stolen or dam­aged any more than you do. They also want you to have a safe and happy va­ca­tion, a pow­er­ful in­cen­tive to give you straight an­swers. For fur­ther cor­rob­o­ra­tion, ask cruis­ers. The co­conut tele­graph is very ef­fi­cient and there’s noth­ing like tak­ing a few pre­ven­tive steps to help keep hon­est peo­ple hon­est. s

When you bring the dinghy up at night, don’t for­get about the toys

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