Introductions (as some line handlers may not know each other). Identify it anyone has previous experience. It is also good to learn peoples names so that instructions can be delivered without hesitation.
Boat Provide an overview of the vessel if your crew have never been onboard before. Regardless of experience, I find it always useful to provide instruction on the use of the head and any other facilities on the boat. Where to find the light switches, a cup for drinking, the fridge with water etc.
Accommodation Who will be sleeping where. Place to keep bags etc for the duration. These volunteers will be on board (in your home) for over 24 hours.
Overview Provide an overview of the transit, including the time of Advisor's planned arrival on each day and overall vessel itinerary.
Roles From the start give each person a role (e.g. Jim – Forward Starboard mooring line etc) More experienced crew should generally do the aft mooring lines. Brief the crew on the maintenance of the mooring lines (coiling it neatly after every use for easy feeding, how you want the lines to be cleated off NOT twist locks, etc).
Accommodation and catering
One of your tasks before you set off is to ensure you have sufficient space, bedding etc to accommodate the crew overnight (even if you are going from Pacific to Atlantic, the early start and late finish may mean that your crew may need to stay a night or two on board.
You also need to feed the advisors while they are onboard. Generally breakfast and lunch (not dinner).
Sample catering menu
The below is a menu we used when we crossed and it may help others. We decided to use paper plates to cut down on the amount of washing up. To make meals for 5/6 people and wash up can mean that a crew member spends most of their time in the galley!
Don't forget to have plenty to drink on board as 31 miles is a long hot motor-sail.
Our transit time (from Atlantic to Pacific) was early evening.
Day 1 (7pm transit – means that you will probably only moor at 10pm or so)
We decided to eat early, before going through the locks. We ate while we waited for the advisor to arrive.
Vegetable stew (1 pot meal)
Pancakes + syrup and fruit
Tuna, pasta salad (made the day before)
Chocolate / Sweets
In addition, we bought each person a water bottle and labelled it for their use for the duration. Remember that two different advisors will come onboard if you are heading to the Pacific. Advisors are also quite partial to a soda or two. If you have a fridge, a couple of cold cokes will not go to waste. We also had a few celebratory beers on board the first night once we had moored and for when we cleared the canal.
This is a contentious subject and not all will agree. Often boats reimburse the crew's travel expenses. Sometimes (if late at night), one might offer to pay for the taxi ride for the 3 line handlers back to Colon from Panama City (or vice verse).
The cost of a line handler is approx $90 for the two days. So having volunteer line handlers represents a large saving. Some people do it for the experience, some to help out. It all depends on you and the people who help you out.