Sailing and the "Crew Thing"
20 April 2016 | Herrington harbour South, Chesapeake Beach, MD
We've tried our hand at finding crew to maximize our sailing opportunities while visiting the Chesapeake bay this year - and with some promising success. Our vessel is set up to single-hand and fair weather is our preference. I would never take her out alone (Always have the Admiral with me!...or crew). When the Admiral travels (for work) then I'm sort of high and dry at the dock without sailing friends.
We reached out via the various local and Cruisers Forum crew ads with some success. Haven't attended any crewing parties yet but we have assembled a list of some nice folks that are interested in sailing with us on a routine schedule. Some have their own boats; some are in-between boats; some are experts and some novices. Diversity has been good for us so far.
- Crew selection: Everyone has their own selection criteria and engagement techniques. We started with a single solid ground-rule...no one steps aboard sight unseen. We make it a habit to meet (on land) first so owner and potential crew can size each other up. A boat is a very small place once it leaves the dock so there are safety, personality and confidence concerns. I'd hate to be stuck for a day with a "Captain Blye" or the Tasmanian Devil. Plus - the boat is our home and we want those aboard to treat her with respect...as well as us. I do experience the personal guilt of inviting a potentially interested crew member to meet/greet (first) knowing that they will travel several hours to do so. I take solace in the fact that if they are willing to do so...they are serious about sailing. Another consideration is uninvited guests accompanying crew. "Hey - I brought a friend" - thought you wouldn't mind" (whom I haven't yet met)...the answer is likely going to be NO. If that means not sailing that day, so-be-it! I do consider that - impolite. Children - we love them...but do not wish to take the risk of minors aboard. Our philosophy is - this is a mutual sailing opportunity for you and us...Children require more...well...maintenance. Plus - we do not carry the gear aboard to accommodate them. We have yet to have any of these circumstances appear but have thought through our responses to the potential.
- "Crew" or "Sailing Friends?": We prefer the latter. We certainly want two things to come from our crew encounters. First - camaraderie and friendship through a common denominator - our boat. Both owner and crew benefit. Second - There is much to be learned from every individual that steps aboard. Some have considerable experience or unique skills/qualifications that we can learn from. Others ask questions that make us think about whether what we do is the best way to do it. Some are know-it-alls and some really DO know a lot! Several folks interested in crewing aboard SV Take Me There have provided a Sailing CV - nice touch! Others make a point of verbally detailing their experience and skills/comforts. I have the greatest respect for novices or beginners that say "directly" I am inexperienced (or have no experience) but want to learn.
- Responsibilities: When "friends/crew" sail with us, each will be expected to participate in some way that aids in the safe operation of the vessel. Able/skilled crew will receive position assignments based on their capabilities/competence. Unskilled or novice crew will have more basic duties. Guests will share with chores aboard. Another of our basic rules is you must be present/participate in prep or recovery from sailing. Just stepping aboard in time to shove off will not get you invited back...and waiving bye-bye as the lines tighten up at the dock will result in the same condition.
- Sailing Terminology: If you are interested in crewing aboard...and you are a "newb" to sailing...
1. Google and familiarize with the basic terms and parts of a sailboat.
2. Practice coiling and throwing a line.
3. Practice using 3-points of contact when on a boat (one hand for the boat and one hand for you).
- Crew courtesy: Some do's and don't s...
1. Do bring your own gear (PFD, gloves) or ask your Captain is gear is available for you. If a non-swimmer - you will be required to wear a PFD at all times aboard.
2. Do dress for 10-20 degrees cooler than you expect (layers).
3. Do bring your own beverages/snacks/food and sea-sickness medicine (if prone) in a soft-sided carry-all/cooler (if needed).
4. Do "ask" if you don't know...and put it back where you found it when finished with it.
5. Do use 3-points of contact while moving around aboard (inside and out).
6. Don't wear shoes with dark soles (marks up the deck).
7. Don't expect to smoke or drink alcohol aboard.
8. Don't be late for preparations to get underway - Cast-off time means all prep is done. If you are not contributing to prep - you are not contributing.
9. Don't put anything in a head (toilet) that didn't come out of you first (paper and all other foreign material go into a trash container next to the head).
10. Don't let a safety issue go unnoticed - see something...say something!
- Time: Sailing is not conducive to a rigid schedule. Be patient. Mother nature, Murphy and many other factors may cancel, shorten or considerably extend your event. Those that seek to crew must accept the flexibility of sailing conditions. We may target an 11AM departure but winds may not cooperate until 2 PM. We may be out for the day and wind up over-nighting (odd chance - but things do happen). Weather decisions (WX) are usually made 24-48 hours out. Cancellations are a reality (weather/comfort conditions). Maintenance is also a factor - I may have a maintenance project schedule that falls behind where incomplete tasks could prevent departure - I will most often announce this at WX time.
We hope that those who crew with us have a great experience and become friends. There is so much more to the boating/sailing experience than just being under sail - although sailing is at the top of my list! "Marina life" is fascinating and fun - very social. One sailing opportunity may beget another on the boat just two slips down.