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Deposits and the Matthew Factor

A month ago while sailing up the coast and shortly after my crew sent me up the rig with, I hope, great ease to replace a broken antenna, I received a call from a British woman. She was wanting to book three days for herself, her husband (a competent sailor she said to me), son and daughter. She had been trying to contact me. My email answers to her had been rejected as email invalid. We hatched it out over a couple of phone calls and texts, some sent over satellite because she wanted to make sure her plans were settled sooner rather than later.

She asked me about payment and deposit and I said what I say to all people who have come aboard since 2012: I do not take deposits. It makes it simpler particularly for people coming from overseas. I said that all I needed was their commitment to show up. I even remember saying to her “you are coming from England and making all these plans so I am really not all that worried about your commitment”. Ahhh the greater fool. . .

Fast forward two days prior to the charter. A month has now elapsed with my calendars blocked on Airbnb, Boatsetter and GetMyboat. I get an email that says:

Hi Claude,

Having checked the weather some more it is looking to be very light winds and so unfortunately we would like to cancel.

We are naturally very disappointed by this and apologize for any inconvenience, but wanted to let you know as soon as possible.

I am really sorry and I hope you understand.



I replied to Matthew that unfortunately, canceling because of what was essentially good weather is not an option. I pointed out to him the cancelation policy link which he or his wife must have seen when they used the contact page Unless of course they did not read what it says on the bright yellow link: please read before booking.

I also informed Matthew that all three weather models (European, GFS and NAM5k) and NOAA marine as well as the pro forecast for which I pay, all showed wind in the low to mid teens for both days. But we all know wind was not really the issue.

So, comes the issue of deposit. Everyone has been incredulous that I do not take deposits. After all, the season is basically two months here and someone canceling a three days charter mid July that includes a Sunday is not a small deal. Arabella Denvir, a friend who owns Premier Sailing in Irvington, VA said “deposits show they are committed.” which is something I thought, until now, that I could sense. . . I am beaten and now accept that deposits are to bookings what an anchor is to a ship.

From now on Sail the Blue will require fifty percent deposits for all bookings.

As a side note, on the day when Matthew contended there would be very light wind, my wife and I sailed out of Newport to visit friends in Block Island. The “very light” wind came in on the nose at around 10 knots, giving us seven to eight knots of boat speed. When the wind scaled twelve knots the boat was pushing above nine. At sixteen knots of wind we took a few turns on the jib and kept going. Eventually we saw a gust at 25 knots. It took us five hours to claw our way to windward and top speed was 11 knots.

We are currently anchored in Block. It is early morning and except for the birds calling and the occasional dinghy going by it is quiet. There is no wind. But as anyone who sails here knows, this area has a wind machine. It turns on around noon and no later than 1400. Today will be no different.

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