This article was published in Winter 2017 Nor’Easter for TONE (Tartan Owners Northeast).

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by Robin G. Coles

They say the most successful businesses are those that work well with their employees. The same holds true with Captains of boats. The most successful trips are the ones who know their crew.  More importantly, their crew’s limitations and how to work around them rather than complain about it.   As the Captain of the boat, you need to be competent in the boat’s operation and equipment.  Plus, know how to sail and navigate her.  Last, but not least, you need to control your tone and volume when directing commands.

Unlike the bigger yachts and cruise ships you don’t have the luxury of hiring crew for specific jobs.  Usually when you go away it’s planned with people you know.  Men and women together in close quarters can be difficult, even if married. Add another person or two to the mix could be challenging.

Before you leave for your trip you should sit down with your crew to get answers to these three questions.

  1. What skills do they have and at what level?

Do they feel comfortable and confident on any sailboat? How many nautical miles have they sailed? Are they good at navigation, handling a boat, run the sails? Can they handle the radio if something happens? Or are they only good on the rails, cooking, cleaning or for companionship?   Also, ask if any of them want or need to freshen up on certain skills. Don’t assume anything!

  1. Are they considerate of others on the boat? Do they drink too much?

Remember there’s not much room to hide if an argument breaks out.  Even the biggest of yachts can feel tiny if you’re out on the ocean with no place to escape. Don’t take the women for granted and expect them to do all the cooking and cleaning.

  1. Do they have any food and/or drug allergies?    How serious are they?   What about health issues everyone needs to be aware of?  Are they on any medications?

You’ll want to make sure any food and/or drug allergies are known well in advance and plan accordingly. Is your crew physically fit to face bad weather, handle the sails and any other work deemed necessary on the boat?  Last, but not least, collect full medical records of each crew member and put them in a dry, safe spot.  Make sure everyone knows where they are.

Before you head out, you’ll want to make sure the crew knows where to find the safety equipment and how to use it.  As for lifejackets, it’s good practice for each crew member to have their own and to wear them. Just make sure in bad weather, everyone’s lifejacket is on and tethered to the lifelines.  Most important, the captain needs to know which crew member he can appoint as back-up in case of emergency.

There are lots of chores once on the boat.  Make a roster.  Set ground rules.  See that everybody abides by them; especially the Captain. Remember, the ship only runs as good as the captain.