Charter Life: Making Memories and Bringing Them Home

Making memories while on charter is the easy part—bringing a few home with you takes more consideration.
shadow-box frame of memories from the sea
Our shadow-box frame from a charter has glued-down sand as a background, with photo and shell mementos. Chris Caswell

Way back in the 1850s, the wise Indian Chief Seattle (clearly an early environmentalist) said, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.” The words remain true for today’s bareboaters: Take memories, leave nothing.  

But how do you take memories, and which ones should you take? First, choose memories that will last. A bottle of wine or liquor brought home is a wonderful remembrance…once. Sorry, Mr. Pusser, but it’s better to soak off the label so that you can remember it long after the bottle is dry. Tip: Soak the bottle in warm water in the sink, and then gently ease off the label. Or tie the empty bottle (securely) and hang it in the water overnight. The label will come off easily. 

The same goes for local T-shirts. They’re great fun at the time, but, like a bottle of wine, they don’t last. We have many dusting rags that were once a not-inexpensive T-shirt.

A logbook or diary is the absolute minimum. We have bareboat diaries that date back decades. Each one is a fun read that brings a flood of memories of sights and sounds, mistakes and recoveries. Pick up simple notebooks (with a pen attached) at the local dollar store, and give them to everyone aboard, including the kids. Tell your crew to include everything: descriptions, sketches, even tracings of a special shell.

Next on the list is a simple waterproof camera. Again, everyone on board should have one and should be told to immortalize memories—from the breezy rail-down sail to the steak someone dropped in the sand. Shoot from dawn to dark. You can sort and edit when you get home. For now, leave nothing undocumented, and don’t be shy about selfies with your crew.

You can find an Ausek underwater camera for $42 or so, or the Polaroid 16-megapixel underwater camera for about $49. Either is well worth the investment for pointing and shooting. 

Bring clear plastic bags to stash your treasures. Grab a handful of sand from your favorite beach. A few shells can be keepsakes, but be absolutely certain no little creatures are still inside them. Colorful pebbles and sea glass will also add to your mementos.

When it comes to paper memories, get creative. Grab the brochures from the ferry, resort, marina, and restaurants where you dine. These make great scrapbook additions. I’m not sure what this means, but bar coasters and cocktail napkins populate our collection and readily stir memories. Pick up postcards at local shops and marinas. Every bareboat destination is near a post office with colorful stamps. 

Bric-a-brac and trinkets are also great. I have a friend who has a keychain from every charter destination, and another who buys shot glasses (certainly more practical). Refrigerator magnets and souvenir plates all fit into this category to put on a shelf (or use) for memory lane.

Artwork is a delightful reminder of a trip. At your check-out briefing, ask if there are any street art shows in the area. A watercolor or sketch from a local artist is a perfect memory for your wall at home.

In local shops, you’ll find pins and iron-on badges for every destination. We have a friend who collects tiny bells from every European charter. Snow globes are fun, but beware: They quickly add up in your luggage weight.

Books aren’t light, but you can find small photo books of your destination that are packable. Also keep your eye open for local recipe books that will help you re-create some of the foods you enjoyed on your charter. As with the wine labels, take the labels off foods you cooked aboard (and that scalded everyone’s tongue with local spices).  

At the end of your charter, don’t trade in all your money. Keep a few small-denomination bills and some coins as great memory-makers.

On your charter, think ahead in terms of how you’ll use these mementos at home, such as in a scrapbook or in a shadowbox frame hung on a wall, or displayed flat on a coffee table. Our walls are covered with shadow-box frames memorializing various bareboat adventures. Several have the sand we brought home, glued to the inner backing, and then we hot-glued or taped in a mélange of photos, shells, pebbles, ticket stubs, and anything else that sparked a memory.

Personally, I like being able to glance at a frame on the wall, but many bareboaters prefer to create a scrapbook of their adventure. Craft stores have entire sections devoted to scrapbooking, including albums of all sizes, filler pages that make short work of photos, and other paper items. This approach leaves the question of what to do with your shells, so our house has several glass bowls filled with a worldwide collection of shells and pebbles on a base of sand.

Whatever you do, plan ahead to create memories that will last a lifetime. To ­paraphrase Chief Seattle, you’ll not only have the ­memories, but you’ll also see your ­footprints forever.

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