Thoughts on Captaining and Crewing, especially newbies

A few thoughts on my experiences with crew, especially untrained/newbie crew and reminders to myself.


– Always remember what is second nature to me is new to them and needs instructions and follow-up. It’s a never ending cycle; communicate and follow-up.

– Follow-up to ensure tasks understood, completed and completed successfully. Especially important in stressful situations like docking in high winds, sail changes in high winds, being aground and man-overboard situations.

– Ensure inexperienced crew understand the simple instructions, constant overseeing and checking-up is a process to ensure everyone’s safety and not to take it personally. This will disappear as we each become comfortable with the other abilities.

– Instructing someone is not the same as them knowing! Get feedback, have them show you.

– When teaching a new task, show them once and then have them perform the task as you walk them through the steps. Then when they are confident, have them teach you.

– We had team meetings before events like docking, locking and anchoring, but found I needed more detail on the alternatives. For example, I detailed roles, sequence and lines need to dock in high winds, but should have added that extra lines would be needed once we docked.

– Plan with your crew the steps and roles needed for regular and emergency situations.

– Listen to the crew’s suggestions and criticisms Give them a fair hearing. If it is not prejudicial to safety, give their suggestions a try. No one know it all.

– Important to meet crew beforehand and of having shakedown cruises. The longer the cruise the more important it is to ensure everyone is compatible.

– Follow your inner voice. If you have concerns about a crewmember, listen to them. Sometimes you need crew, but have a concern you may be inclined to accept them. You do not need crew that bad! Better meet the concern now than later when it’s festered. Or it may be a misunderstanding!

– Having to keep an eye on them all the times and worry about the results of their mistakes, adds greatly, but often unnoticed, to a captain’s stress. For example watch out for their position on deck and dangers of a boom and jibbing when sailing downwind.

– Important to have systems and a place for everything. For example, the boathook is always …… Follow-up to ensure everything is in it’s place.

– The more systematic and consistent storage and labeling the better.

– Use the correct nautical terms. The sooner everyone has a common language the better. Help this by using the common or an explanation and nautical together. “Please get the boat hook, that’s the 6 ft silver coloured pole with the funny hook on one end from…”

– Involve everyone in decision making. Like is it time to call it quits and get in harbour? Have we sailed enough today?

– Always listen that inner voice, never ignore it, never put it off. If you ever think “Did I..”, “Is it..”, “What about..”, and you are snuggled comfortable in your bunk, go check.

– When talking to crew, listen not to the words but also to their body language, tone and hidden meaning for clues as what really is going on.

One response

21 04 2010
Dale H. Arden

There are times when people use different terms to mean the same thing. For example: in the U.S., we use the term “range lights” to indicate two lights aligned to mark a channel. In the U.K., “range lights” are known as ” leader lights”. Both terms mean the same thing. When sailing with a mixed nationality crew, make sure you are “reading on the same sheet of music”.

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