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Thread: Designated skipper: Is it necessary? Reply to Thread
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  Topic Review (Newest First)
04-09-2011 08:38 PM
fallard I had an interesting experience bringing my new (to me) 35' sloop from Florida to New England over 10 years ago. My first mate for the trip was an experienced offshore sailor (transatlantic, Bermuda 1-2, etc.). When he met me in Florida, he went over the boat with a fine tooth comb and assured himself of its condition and that we had adequate offshore safety gear (we carried storm sails, but I borrowed his life raft). He went aloft to verify the storm rigging, waterproofed the fuel tank vent, checked out the SSB, etc, etc. We had a loran and GPS on board that had been serviced by Raytheon before we took delivery but he brought his own 2 meter ham radio, GPS, and sextant for backup. All of this was reassuring, of course, for my first offshore experience.

Conditions were favorable and we actually made 2 offshore passages of 600 miles and 225 miles. I was nervous about my first offshore passage, but it was my decision to ditch "the ditch" after conferring with my crew.

My first mate made it clear that I was in charge. He was very laid back about the whole trip, and made it clear that he expected me to act as skipper, which included all decisions about itinerary. Fortunately we started our journey with the understanding that there would be no time pressures and that we could go offshore to shorten the trip, or not.

We didn't have any major crises, but did have some anxious moments, which we survived (obviously). I don't recall any occasion where my first mate suggested a course of action, but he did tell me--after the fact-- that he appreciated my decision to seek a harbor of refuge in the Chesapeake as the winds approached 40 kts.

In retrospect, I was very fortunate to have this individual aboard for the 2 1/2 weeks to took to reach our home port. It was a learning experience for me and the lesson was that it was my boat and I was the skipper. He was quite willing to offer advice when asked, but made it clear I was in charge, despite the substantial difference in our expertise. This was more about the responsibility to make appropriate decisions, rather than than expertise--as it should have been.

The bottom line: it's your boat and you are responsible for its operation. If you have expert crew aboard, that's great: they can provide advice, but the decision to act on that advice is yours.
04-08-2011 07:14 PM
Originally Posted by aaronwindward View Post
For a smallish sailing yacht, as a practical matter, whoever is on the helm is going to be in charge. It's not clear to me that militarizing the yachting context is any more necessary than, say, militarizing the automobile context. You don't need a captain and chain of command to drive down the freeway; you just need the driver to drive responsibly, ...
As a practical matter, I don't want people at the helm of my boat thinking that they're "in charge" and calling the shots. If they sign on as crew on this boat they do so knowing that I accept responsibility for their welfare while aboard, but I expect that they will follow the instructions that I provide concerning the safe conduct of the vessel. If they can't accept that they stay ashore.

The analogy of driving a car is not appropriate. My guess is 85-90% of the people driving a car know what they're doing and can operate the vehicle safely in most circumstances. (Their state certifies as much by granting them the license to drive). My guess is 85% of the people who board the typical smallish sailing yacht for a weekend cruise are not similarily competent. They can probably keep it pointed in the right direction, but do not have sufficient time behind the wheel to know what to do when difficult decisions must be made.

There are good reasons why one person is in charge and responsible for a vessel at sea. Committees are not good for decision-making in extremis and leaving the decision up to whomever might be at the helm at the moment the **** hits the fan is never optimal. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years of maritime tradition indicates that the best way to conduct maritime operations is to have one person "in command" (however, that might grate on 21st C. politically corrected phyches).

If you don't like it, drive a car!

PS. I never realized that SailNet had software censors. I typed "S H I , you guess it T" and it came out ****. And I thought we had human moderators!
04-07-2011 01:39 PM
CBinRI One person has to be in charge on a boat, even in relatively benign circumstances. As far as I'm concerned, this has everything to do with safety and nothing to do with sexism. However, I make every effort not to yell and if there is potential for unnecessary raised voices (such as catching the mooring) I gladly relinquish the wheel to my better half.
03-28-2011 09:42 PM
aaronwindward Honestly, I think the tradition of the supremacy of the captain, the responsibilities of the officers, and the formal chain of command has more to do with the military origin of merchant shipping than any intrinsic sociological characteristic of the sea. The legal momentum of the accountability of the captain is substantial. But I think some recreational boaters are surprised to discover that the helmsman is typically legally accountable in most simple recreational cases, giving the supremacy of the captain pretty much no legal basis.

For a smallish sailing yacht, as a practical matter, whoever is on the helm is going to be in charge. It's not clear to me that militarizing the yachting context is any more necessary than, say, militarizing the automobile context. You don't need a captain and chain of command to drive down the freeway; you just need the driver to drive responsibly, and slow down or safely park the car if something comes up that they can't handle.
03-28-2011 09:01 PM
fallard My wife lets me be the skipper and I let her be the admiral.
03-28-2011 07:55 PM
billyruffn When faced with an difficult problem such as whether a boat / ship is best commanded by an individual or a committee, I think it's best to let the wisdom of the ages inform us.

And what, pray tell, is that? Methinks we know the answer.
03-14-2011 04:31 PM
omaho5 JP Jones is turning over n hs grave.
03-14-2011 04:15 PM
Originally Posted by aaronwindward View Post
So my question is: is there any value to designating a skipper? Does the authority of the captain extend to kinky things in the v-berth?

Maybe it doesn't affect you where you are sailing but on the registration papers when you actually sail somewhere interesting, you need to put in the name of the Master (as well as the owner). I thought it very important to put my girlfriend on the papers as Master along with me.

If you get injured (arrested etc) then the 'authority' (coast guard etc) may say the other person isn't a master and can't control the boat and therefore try some trick to get you both off, impound the boat etc.

Remember your US Coast Guard have (or they think they have) the authority to remove anyone on board and sink the boat. So if they chopper you off with a broken .... whatever, they need to be reminded your girly-whirly can legaly sail on into the deep blue. (I can give her my Lat & Lon)

As for the V-berth, if you are both on the papers as Master then you have to take the spankings in turn!

03-14-2011 02:14 PM
Yorksailor My wife and I are a team and who is Captain depends on the situation. However we are both licensed skippers.

If we have very experienced guests, one regular guest has over 50,000 off-shore racing miles, I tend to be skipper as I have more miles and experience.

With officials she is always Senora Captan, especially in Latin America. They find her perfect Spanish and her CG 100 ton Captain's License quite intimidating.

In a F9 gale we each took our watch and ran the boat and the crew on our watch.

In the occasional emergency situation like loosing the steering 50 yds from a shallow reef we both did what had to be done.

Phil & Nell
03-14-2011 12:59 PM
IslanderGuy For the most part, I would just repeat more of the same. I am the designated skipper, not because I am the man, but because my wife has more confidence in my skills then in hers. (Notice I said SHE has more confidence, not that I actually have more skills, or less confidence in her's ) We have some friends where the wife is the captain, and he is the first mate, and for them it is as it should be.

For daily decisions, or anything we can talk about we do. I am not a guy who likes "giving orders" although I have met a few "captains" who do. However, there is an understanding on our boat that in an emergency situation, you need to have one person in charge so that you are all acting as a team toward one goal in any situation, not having everyone trying to do something different.

When we have guests on board (usually none sailors) I will always say something like "I am in charge on this boat, and therefore responsible for the safety of everyone on board. I do not like to give orders,you are free to be involved in the sailing as much or little as you want to. However, if I (or we) ever tell you to do something rather then ask you, please do it right away, no questions asked, and we can discuss why later."

So far I have only had to "tell" rather then "ask" a few times when things really went sideways, and always got a good response form the crew.

While being mindful of my responsibility for the safety of the vessel and crew, I am also mindful of relinquishing some control to the helmsmen. If my wife is sailing the boat and I am doing stuff below or just taking a break, I let her sail the boat. I don't jump in with "don't tack yet" or "ease the sheet there" unless it is a matter of the safety of the boat or crew, or I am asked for help. Obviously she is a competent sailor and knows what she is doing, but we do have a few different ideas. She would rather tack early then get very close to shore. I tend to push the tacks a little farther. (And I am the one who ran into the sand bar last summer ) Our sail trim tactics tend to be different, I do not know who's are actually better, some days hers, some days mine, but bottom line is if she is sailing, let her sail, even though I may do it differently. When she is at the helm, I'll follow her orders and trim like she wants as long as it will not harm the boat or crew.
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