Welcoming friends on board

What makes a visit on board even more enjoyable

My old friend Don, a basketball coach who has trained teams all over the world, is a wise man. He once told me: “Holger, it`s nice to own a Yacht. But it’s even better to have friends with Yachts”.

As a ship owner, I also know the double pleasure of having a visit on board. The joy of arriving, but in rare cases also the joy of departing. Since I myself have been a frequent guest on the ships of friends in recent times, I had the opportunity to reflect on board visits from both perspectives.

Sailing together is a relationship accelerator and quickly reveals the essential character traits of the other. In seven common days at sea you sometimes get to know someone better than in 7 years on land. Even if you think you know a person well, a cruise can be a litmus test and ending a relationship quite fast or it might be the beginn of an closer friendship. It has happened to me a few times that a trip was also the last contact to a fellow sailor, just like the opposite. I am fascinated again and again, how in stressful situations the everyday facade on board can crumble and one discovers quickly the gist of the matter of the dear fellow sailor.

It’s also not a bad idea for all those “who wish to bond eternally” could consider a somewhat challenging sailing trip before applying in order to get to know the future sailor properly.

But you don’t have to get married right away. In my experience, different expectations, unclear prerequisites and generally poor communication are the most common killjoys. Having nice days together on board is easier if you consider a few things.

This applies for both of them

Both sides are investing something very valuable: a few days of life. It’s much more fun when both know what the plan is and when the expectations are agreed. The duration of the trip, the goals, the type of sailing and details about life on board. If one expects barhopping, the other long distance sailing, then one will be disappointed. Are there harbour days in marinas or is anchored in bays. If you sail offensively even in heavy weather or prefer the crew to sail in fair weather only. Some places are suitable for extensive land visits while others are perhaps only nice for a beach day. No matter what you do, it helps everyone to coordinate in advance and to exchange wishes openly. Often it is much easier than you think to consider wishes, but you have to know them.

Clarity in costs is also the best way to avoid conflicts. If skipper and guests don’t clarify this beforehand, it can bring unpleasant surprises or a stale aftertaste. As a guest, I always ask the skipper in advance what contribution I can make to the on-board kitty, because the refrigerator is there for everyone. Going out to eat or cooking, immigration fees, marina costs – something can come together. However if this is shared, it helps everyone to talk about it beforehand. I find it extremely turning off, if one of six mentions after a delicious dinner – e.g. in the sensational Bloody Mary`s in Bora Bora – that he/she had no dessert when the cheque is presented.

Talking to each other and avoiding surprises is the key to a wonderful time together on board for both sides.

 

From the guest perspective

Anyone visiting sailing friends on board should be aware that this is not an all-inclusive cruise and the owner(s) are not service personnel. The skipper must lead and organise a boat. These are many tasks and responsibilities that the guest does not see or notice. Of course the owners do not necessarily have to give the waiter, the cabin service or the entertainer in addition. One should not forget that a skipper is a skipper 24 hours a day. I.e. even at night at anchor, you are always alert and have one ear open, while the guests hopefully sleep carefree and relaxed.

An important thing that a guest should always consider is the immense role of nature, which can influence the planned trip. It is quite possible that the weather conditions make the dreamed island inaccessible. However there will be just another one and a good guest sees it laid back.

For long-term planning experienced skippers recommend never to fix a place AND a date for a meeting. Sounds weired. But the weather can make it happen that you arrive a little later than planned. Cool visitors stay in a good mood and enjoy a day or two in the hotel if the ship is late or take the next island hopper and come to another island. Half an hour flight is mostly days of sailing.

Easy going works best when everyone on board actively contributes to the daily life on board, depending on their abilities. It is particularly considerate in any case to avoid additional or unnecessary effort for the owners.

A guest collects popularity points if he offers to take over certain tasks, which is also more fun and you become part of the crew. If you are lacking sailing skills, you can also cook or make breakfast and take part in the daily work. Even on a ship nothing washes itself.

I’m always happy when my guests put their stuff away without me having to remind them. A vessel is not an apartment, the functionality and safety on board must always be ensured. If books or clothes are lying on the sheets or winches, which obstruct processes or can become flying objects, sailing becomes more difficult and dangerous. The guest often doesn’t even notice this, but the skipper can be stressed.

At the end of the trip it is respectful to clean the used cabin and bathroom properly and leave them clean and nice. By the way, no matter what is agreed for the board cash, we always bring a small welcome gift for the owner, mostly a few bottles for some warm and enjoyable evenings together. We prefer drinks that are difficult for the owners to get on the spot. It is really great for owners on long journeys if the arriving guests offer to bring some stuff with them that helps the owners, e.g. mail, spare parts or their favourite jam.

From the owner’s perspective

The guest on board, usually invests valuable vacation days and this is more difficult if you buy a pig in a poke. Therefore it is helpful if the guest is briefed in advance with some information, because they are not always experienced sailors.

A wise skipper makes sure that the planned trip suits the guest. I would never invite a beginner to a long passage.

We like to talk to our friends before the visit, because the sailing area provides the framework for the time together. The kind of sailing and what the area has to offer. Maybe sooner or later an island fits better to the wishes. Usually the trip begins and ends at a place with an airport, which does not have to be identical. It helps immensely if the skipper knows when and where the guest wants to leave again.

We prefer to describe to our visitors before how the trip could proceed. What the accommodation looks like – for example that you have a double cabin with your own bathroom. Of course also whether the guests need VISA or vaccinations. It’s not really funny if you are approaching at the US Virgin Islands and the guests don’t have US VISA.

That you bring shoes with light soles, easily stowable suitcases and the right clothes for the planned trip. Should you bring a sleeping bag or towels? That makes half a suitcase. Not necessary if everything is available on board and less effort for the guest – small effort, big effect. Clear announcements make life more enjoyable for the guest.

Some owners are so sailors that they no longer put themselves in the position of non-sailors and assume many things that are simply not there. For us as sailors it is often the banal things that annoy, mostly through ignorance of the guest – like black soles – that pull stripes on deck. Or how on earth should a non-sailer knot a bowline or moor the ship properly? The mooring line thrown completely and unfixed on land is the classic.

During the trip we got used to talking with the guests about the day, about the wishes and possibilities during breakfast in the morning. When we sail off, everyone knows at least roughly what the day will bring.

And if at the end of a fulfilled day you toast on the water or on land with a glass at sunset, then everyone knows that there is hardly anything more beautiful than sailing through the World together./HB

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