This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s Bareboat Charter Course, a comprehensive online course that equips you with all the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully charter a yacht. The Bareboat Charter course is part of the Bareboat Charter Master bundle of online courses, fully preparing you for near-coastal sailing and sailing charters.

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Heads on a Charter Boat

headYou don’t need trouble with the waste system, especially when on vacation. It is inconvenient, creates odors that contribute to seasickness, and means a nasty repair job for some unfortunate person (the “head” man!). Be certain that you understand the specific toilet operation of your chartered boat, and explain it to everyone on board before leaving for a charter. 

Unfortunately, there are still many places in the world where waste tanks are not used. So this is a good time to explain how it’s not a good idea to swim in marina ports, no matter how clear the water is. Getting a nasty bacteria while on vacation is something that has happened to me and it’s not fun.

The United States requires that no waste can be dumped within 3 miles of the shore or at any time in inland waterways. The rest of the world is working on passing laws but for now just assume that when chartering outside the USA, waste is being pumped into the water wherever boats are slipped, moored, or anchored.

Some charter companies have installed a semi-responsible system that pumps waste into a tank when the boat is not moving. Once it reaches a certain speed the tank’s drains automatically open and the waste is discharged.  This at least removes the waste to more open waters. This system is totally automatic to you and you need to do nothing regarding pump out or switching “y” valves. Again ask your charter briefing checkout person.


Other systems require that you operate a “macerator” which is a grinder pump to pump waste overboard once you are beyond 3 miles. There is typically a “y” valve switch which you’ll need to operate to pump overboard otherwise the waste goes into the holding tank. If all the waste goes into a holding tank it’s unlikely that you will be able to hold all the waste for a week or find a waste tank pumping station. So you’ll need to pump out some time. Preferably as far from land as possible.

Regarding the head operation, we’re assuming you know how to use a head and/or you’ve gotten the briefing from the charter checkout person. However, you’ll need to give a full briefing to your crew. Making the assumption will only end up in you lying on your back upside down deep in the head area trying to clean out a waste pipe full of stuffed toilet paper. This is especially the case if you have kids on board. Give the briefing! I know you’re excited to get on the water but give the briefing otherwise, you’ll pay for it.

Notice to Crew:- You can probably figure this one out but we’ll say it anyway. On behalf of the captain, please use minor amounts of toilet paper. If a big clean-up job is needed, flush the toilet for every 2 pieces of toilet paper. Then take a swim! Nasty topic but someone has to talk about it.

If you’re going to be the skipper on a charter boat – this is one of the many reasons you should be asking your crew to take this Bareboat Charter Clinic.

You can learn more in the Bareboat Charter Online Course....

The Bareboat Charter online sailing course is your go-to resource for planning an unforgettable sailing vacation. This comprehensive online course equips you with all the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully charter a yacht. Upgrade to the Bareboat Charter Master bundle of courses to fully prepare for near-coastal sailing and sailing charters.

Source: Bareboat Charter
Topic: Bareboat Chartering
Authors: Ed Mapes, USCG Captain Master Mariner. Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.