Breakdowns & accidents

Sooner or later even the best maintained yachts break. There is some dispute about why this happens. For example, most yacht operators think that sails usually shred when something gets wrapped around something else, when the sail is let loose when it should be kept tight, or is kept tight when it should be eased!

Charterers on the other hand report a phenomenon similar to spontaneous combustion, whereby the sail “just goes”!

Regardless of who (if anyone) is to blame, it’s a fact that if you sail for long enough, even on the best maintained yachts, sooner or later something will break, and sooner or later, you will break something!

Accidents happen (but very rarely this bad). Crew safety comes before security deposit.

Accidents happen (but very rarely this bad). Crew safety comes before security deposit.

First and foremost consider the safety of you and your crew, swallow your pride and if there’s the remotest risk seek help immediately. I’ve nearly had yachts sink on three separate occasions because skippers decided it wasn’t worth bothering to report they were taking on water! Two of these were no fault of the skippers (and quite how the third expected to cover up the loss of half his rudder, a large chunk of his propeller, and a hole in the transom big enough to put your hand through I never understood)!

None of these incidents would have presented any risk to the crews or the yachts if we’d been involved when the problems were first discovered but nearly turned in to disasters because of the head in the sand approach taken. If in any doubt, let the experts at your yacht supplier check things out.

However problems arise, many yacht operators would rather you didn’t try to fix them yourself, a fact borne out by the spartan tool kit often provided to accompany the even more minimal spares!  So unless you are extremely confident in your maintenance skills and have the necessary gear to hand, don’t do it.

If you make repairs yourself and you make a hash of it, you may be charged for the consequences, so think of your wallet (and besides, you’re on holiday for heavens sake)!  Nor should you arrange for someone else to do the work, unless you have agreed this with the  charter operator first.  The charter operator may otherwise refuse to refund expenses you incur. Even if such repairs are approved, make sure you get a receipt for any money you spend.

So, contact the yacht operator (or his designated representatives) first.  Some operators provide a mobile on board for this purpose. From here a number of scenarios may develop:

  1. You may agree that you’ll live with the problem until the end of the holiday or a later time, so as to avoid losing sailing time.  This isn’t entirely your call – the yacht supplier may deem the problem puts you or the yacht at risk and so insist it is fixed.
  2. They may agree to come out to you, either by land or sea.  Some companies keep a fast boat for this purpose, others rely on land transport or ferries.
  3. They may ask you to return to base or meet them part way.  How reasonable this is depends on the situation.  For example if you’ve chartered a yacht in Turkey and taken it to Greece in full knowledge that support cannot be offered there you’ve no grounds for complaint. If it’s simply for the convenience of the base staff and the failure wasn’t your fault, that’s a different matter.

Some charter contracts provide for some form of recompense to cover lost sailing time but this only starts when you first notify them so don’t delay.

Most breakdowns and accidents are sorted out amicably and efficiently.  After all the yacht supplier wants you to come back (unless you’ve just wrecked his yacht in which case maybe not)!  If it doesn’t look like it’s headed that way, read the page on complaints!