Before any cruise with passengers onboard can begin, we follow a strict routine to ensure safety and proper mechanical operation, no matter how long it’s been since the last cruise. This is standard procedure. It also means that there is a lot going on behind the scenes, things our passengers never see.
One of the key areas we check – the one we begin with – is the Engine Room. This is the beating heart of any boat and is probably the most important functional area. If there is a problem here, the 78 tons of the Papagallo won’t be leaving the dock.
So, we begin by checking the water levels of the main engines and generators. After that, the oil level of the engines and transmissions are checked to be sure they are at proper levels. If water or oil is needed, now is the time they’re added. Failure to keep these critical levels up can cause overheating and subsequent damage to the equipment, resulting in costly repairs.
The air compressor is turned on in order to provide air pressure to operate the air horns on the boat deck. Air horns are required for sound signaling and can be invaluable in extreme fog conditions or to alert other craft in various other situations.
From a passenger’s perspective, the most important system onboard can be the head (restroom). Our heads operate with a pressurized tank of salt water that enables the toilets to flush to a holding tank. After the cruise is over this tank is emptied when the Papagallo returns to the marina.
The battery charger gauge (constavolt) is an important piece of equipment that few passengers ever see. It is checked to be sure there is enough charge to turn over and start the main engines. If the gauge indicator is not strongly in the green, the engines will not start. This means that we’re not going to leave the dock until it’s comfortably back in the green zone again.
To check for seawater in the bilge (never a welcome sight!), we lift a deck plate and raise a float by hand to be sure the bilge pump is operating properly. Its job is to pump water out the side of the vessel and in very extreme cases, keep us afloat.
Remember that all of this is taking place before any passengers are boarded. Also, before any active cooking can begin.
Once passengers have boarded, we officially begin their cruise with a brief safety talk. This is to put them at ease and to acquaint them with the Papagallo and “being at sea.” We cover such things as how to move about the vessel, where the life jackets are stowed, and how to operate the head. We also go over what to do if someone goes overboard.
After this talk is completed and people are nodding their heads to signal they’ve understood it and have no questions, the captain gives the order to cast off lines.
Here again, we follow a strict procedure. The lines are always cast off in sequence. The aft line first, then the aft spring line, followed by the bow line and finally, the midship spring line, the last one. Once this is done we give one long blast followed by three short blasts from the air horn to signify that we are under way and backing out of our slip. These are traditional nautical signals that are universally recognized. Because of the 72-foot length of the Papagallo, we station a deck hand aft both on port and starboard to watch for other traffic as we back out. Any sign of trouble or impending collision is immediately relayed to the captain giving him time to act to avoid a mishap.
Once we are cruising the bay, it’s time to party! We open the ship’s bar and our wait staff begins serving a wide variety of hors d’oeuvres for our passengers to enjoy. The crew remains professionally vigilant throughout the cruise, watching for safety issues that might come up with any of the guests or other craft around us, but does this unobtrusively, never dampening the fun onboard.
As you may have realized by now, cruising on a commercial yacht is very different from attending a party or banquet in a restaurant setting. Our passengers tell us “it’s like being rich and living in luxury,” an experience they won’t soon forget – and one they never thought was possible before boarding the Papagallo!
“Won’t you join us on a sea cruise aboard the Papagallo….Oo ee oo ee baby oo ee oo ee baby, etc. etc.”
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