How To Be a Better Crew

Most people would agree that the crew-person’s regular duties are simply assisting with departing and returning to the dock, tending to the needs of guests, and so forth. This routine includes properly securing or stowing dock lines and fenders, making sure that opening ports and hatches are closed, and assuring that breakables are safely secured below. Guests should be shown the “do’s and don’ts” of using the head before you leave the dock. It’s obvious to us, but occasionally landlubbers might trash overboard, such as food, figuring “the fish will eat it”, or, “it’s biodegradable”. Remind them to recycle glass & plastic bottles. This should all happen without the skipper having to remind the crew. As we all know, a more relaxed skipper will make for a more pleasant experience for all.

At least one crew member should know how to use the VHF radio, the basics of engine operation, and distress signals…in the unlikely event that the skipper was incapacitated or lost overboard. Check to make sure your first mate knows these basics!

A good crew member is looking for ways to be helpful, without needing constant supervision by the skipper. However, when things are NOT going well, you can either help the situation, or make things worse, usually by alarming or embarrassing the skipper in front of guests. When things go wrong, this becomes a delicate situation. We have all seen a skipper yelling at his crew, when really the crew is not the one at fault. This can ruin everyone’s day, to put it mildly.

All skippers, no matter how capable, will occasionally get in a tight and tricky situation, usually around the dock. But sometimes, carefully worded reminders can prevent a far worse embarrassment, such as: “The stern’s getting close back here, Bill!” Or, “Uh, you do see that dinghy, don’t you, Honey?” Say it as quietly and tactfully as you can, depending upon the urgency of the situation, except in a real emergency.

A good crew member will sometimes need to bite their lip and remain silent, and remind guests to leave the skipper alone to concentrate. However, in a stressful, windy, tight-quarters situation, a few words of encouragement may help calm the nerves of a tense skipper, such as, “Lookin’good on this side….you’ve got it!” Should contact with boats or docks become a concern, take action early, and try not to panic, as you will make the skipper panic more. Quickly but calmly walk toward the spot where contact is likely, and be ready to fend off. Don’t wait for the skipper to ask; he or she will be trying to focus. Rarely will one want to admit that they are in serious trouble, until contact is unavoidable. Have a loose fender in hand, dangling on it’s line; or have a boat hook handy. The fender can be dropped in between the boats at the closest point, where they are about to touch. EXTREME CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN TO NOT ENDANGER ONESELF when fending off. Don’t risk getting limbs caught between boats. Boats can be repaired; body parts cannot be replaced!

Better yet, the boat hook can be used to fend off with steady pressure, long before you get too close. Your team spirit and professionalism will help the skipper relax, knowing that you are there to help save the boat from damage if he/she cannot salvage the situation. Whenever with wind is up or you are facing a challenging docking situation, have that loose fender and boat hook ready, and be on the lookout!