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  Topic Review (Newest First)
03-13-2012 09:28 PM
Re: advice needed, discipline...

Learned early on, there is only one captain aboard a boat.
Best of luck with your situation.

03-13-2012 07:28 PM
Re: advice needed, discipline...

All good thoughts. A presail briefing laying out your expectations for everyone would be the best. And while working with women you don't know well may be uncomfortable, you still need to be assertive, and firm with your orders so they don't get the mistaken impression it is a democracy in the first place. (or they may be so self centered and spoiled and used to getting their way that they are useless as crew). Something to find out early.

I've never had someone refuse to yield the helm to the owner of the boat before.

When I was a new inexperience boat owner, I hired a licensed captain to assist in moving the boat to a shipyard to be checked out. I drove most of the way, but the final few hundred yards were in a narrow canal. After entering the canal a crosswind blew up, I thought I had it in hand, but he placed a hand on my shoulder and suggested it could be tricky and he should take the wheel... unless I wanted to give it a try. I thought for about 3/4's of a second and gave him the helm. I cared more about my new boat than my ego.
03-13-2012 06:48 PM
Re: advice needed, discipline...

Part of the knack of successful racing is getting a clear division of roles. In the OP's situation, it seems to me that there are four roles that are potentially conflict.
  1. Owner: The person who owns the boat. Usually involved in sailing the boat--although (e.g. America's Cup etc teams, charters etc) may not be! Usually in charge of deciding who takes what roles, although may delegate this.
  2. Skipper: The person ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat and her crew, and the highest authority on the boat.
  3. Tactician: The person who decides how the boat should be manoeuvred when racing, by reference to the other boats on the water and prevailing conditions. Orders can be negatived by skipper, but should only be done when the skipper is unwilling to accept tactician's direction due to risk to boat and crew.
  4. Helmsman (Helmswoman): The person at the helm. Duty to avoid collisions...

Obviously, in many boats all four roles will vest in the same person: the owner will be in charge of the boat, making tactical decisions from the helm. Nevertheless, others boats will put the skipper at the helm but cede tactical control of the boat while racing to someone known to have good tactical skills. Or vice versa. I knew one owner who liked to win more than he liked to be in charge and would delegate the helm and tactics roles to people better at those roles than he was .

It might never have struck your helmswoman that being at the helm didn't make her in charge of the boat. It might never strike an owner that someone placed at the helm might think they were in charge. It might never strike a skipper to have someone else be in charge of racing decisions.

The only way to avoid this confusion, as Matt says, is to make sure everyone is fully briefed (at least as to what they need to do and what the hierarchy is) before you go out racing. And the only way to do this is to decide in your own mind, as the owner of the boat, who takes the different roles.

(N.B. Obviously my thoughts on this only apply to racing! Seamanship & leading a team when passage making is a subject I am definitely not qualified to have a view on.)
03-11-2012 08:09 PM
Re: advice needed, discipline...

While I don't have near the level of sailing experiance that some of you gentlemen have, I feel that my position as an officer of Marines has given me a bit of knowledge in the department of managing people. The entire process of giving an order actually begins with the planning process before you even get to the boat. In a military setting one can get by through orders alone because my "crew" is bound by law. On a private sailboat, discipline is tempered by proximity, attitudes, and personalities. Practically speaking, you're not going to make someone walk the plank for ignoring you when you say "Do x", you're just not likely to invite them back. The most successfull captain (and crew)is someone who gets the crew to buy in to the overall picture. The crew doesn't HAVE to obey...they WANT to obey. They believe in your skills as a captain and realize that their experiance at sea will be better by following your directions.

One of the ways that we as private captains can obtain this level of respect is by simply being on top of our game. Tieing in to what I said above, the first impression of the day is an important one and begins with the planning process. While no situation unfolds exactly as planned, a plan serves as a basis for change and shows your crew that you've put the time and effort into your activities for the day. This instills confidence in both the crew and the captain. To say that we're sailing from Pensacola to Mobile, AL via the ICW is one thing. When I tell the crew, The weather for the day looks like this, the winds are doing this, and that will have this effect on our plan. We'll be departing Bayou Grande Marine at 0800 enroute to Mobile Marina via A, B, C, D. I expect to hit A at __:__. I expect to hit B at __:14. If we lose someone we'lll do this. If you fall overboard do that, etc...That's a plan that instills confidence and it sets the tone for the remainder of the sail. Start out as you intend to continue. Plan EVERYTHING. It may seem redundant, but that's a good thing.

Prior to sailing, brief everyone on your plan so they're familiar with everything. When you're finished, ask specific individuals questions pertaining to what you just told them. This not only reinforces what they've been told, but also gives you a guage on whether or not you've laid everything out in an easy-to-understand manner. Come up with a standard brief and do it the same way every time so that the crew becomes used to hearing the format...They'll know what's coming next i.e. here's the route. Here's the MOB plan. Etc. When you brief them on what the plan is, ensure that they understand what will be expected of them, what your intentions are, and how you plan to deal with specific situations regarding crew behaviors. Remind them that they're a team and you're in charge, but employ tact.

When actually giving an order to someone on deck, make eye contact if possible and get their attention by using his/her name. This personalizes things. People are more likely to listen when spoken to when you're making eye contact. It's easy to blow someone off when you're being talked AT vice being talked TO.

When the crew accomplishes a task well, let them know. Especially when one member stands above, being recongnized for his actions feels good. Praise in public, reprimand in private. When one member of the crew messes up, don't bust him out. It makes him feel like a jackass for a mistake he may not have known he was making. When the task is finished, pull him aside and let him know what you wanted, what he did, and then ask him why. He might have had a viable reason, or he might've just not known. Either way, dealing with it privately will smooth the situation. Deal with beligerant crew in accordance with what you stated when you initially briefed them on the plan (You did tell them, right?). If you tell the crew, "If you disobey me twice, I will assign you a spot on the rail and I expect you to remain there for the rest of the cruise", and then someone disobeys a direct order several times and you don't assign them a spot on the rail, the rest of the crew is going to lose confidence in you.

Understand that although no one likes to make the difficult decisions, they have to be made and its your ship. Your crew depends on you to make these decisions. When one member of the crew is acting beligerant, ignoring the situation spurs a lack of confidence in your abilities as captain. Although no one likes to tell a crewmember he's jacked up, the rest of the crew is depending on you to maintain discipline because in the end you're responsible for their safety. What's your answer when you fail to correct a crewmember because you don't want to step on toes and then someone gets hurt? You owe it to everyone on board, including the beligerant crewmember, to maintain discipline and promote safe decisions. Stay ahead of the curve.

Understand that every situation is different, but having a good plan, ensuring the crew understands what is expected of them and acting on your statements, promoting cohesion, and maintaining good order is your responsibility as captain and will lead to increased performance on everyone's part as well as a safer sail.

03-04-2012 10:20 PM
Re: advice needed, discipline...

No prudent captain prohibits his crew from questioning orders. Good crew sometimes have better ideas, sometimes notice things overlooked by the skipper, and sometimes note that the skipper has made a mistake.

Any man who says his brain, eyes, hands and mouth are always perfectly synched when his mouth is open is either lying or delusional, and even the most perfect among us, the experienced seagoing captain, isn't exempt. Thinking starboard and saying port is a not unusual mistake.

My policy has always been that anyone can question any order...once. If I issue the order again immediately after the crew's question, I have considered his comments, and his urgent attention is needed to doing what the hell I ordered.
03-04-2012 08:33 PM
Flybyknight "God Almighty rules over Heaven and earth, but the Captain Commands this ship"
02-21-2012 07:17 PM
Espoir In my opinion, questioning direct orders or countermanding the captain is completely unacceptable. I'm not female, but I have crewed a yacht a few times that belong to the father of friend of mine, and I of course accept a lot harsher treatment (within reason, of course) when sailing than, say, in anchorage, or when on land for that matter.
01-31-2012 07:58 AM
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
That would certainly be logical but there have been other threads and I've done other research and have not been able to determine any evidence to support this concept...
jackdale is correct (again).

This is a common concept in negligence cases against professionals. The standard of care in ordinary negligence cases is that of reasonably prudent person. Someone rendering professional standards may be held to a higher standard of care, that of exercising the average degree of skill, care, and diligence exercised by members of the same profession, practiced in the same or a similar locality, in light of the present state of knowledge and information in that profession.

No one would be judged by less than a "reasonably prudent person" standard of care in negligence cases. A professional captain would likely be held to a higher standard of care commensurate with his profession.

A consumer may also have a cause of action against a professional based on a breach of a contract instead of a tort claim of negligence.

I suggest you google "standard of care", "maritime law", "professional captain" for further research on the issue, for example: "..the acting skipper will be held to a higher standard of care.."

This is general information and not legal advice. You should consult with a maritime lawyer in your jurisdiction to discuss your particular situation.
01-31-2012 07:26 AM
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
In the heat of the race, it is acceptable to make it clear that want an order followed. You probably did the best possible.

However, prior to the race, there should have been a deliberate briefing on who will give tactical orders. For that matter, it should be discussed exactly what everyone's role will be. That could then be referenced prior to having to yell.

I probably wouldn't invite that crew back, because it should be fairly evident that the owner trumps the guest. Duh.... If you do want/need the crew back, then asking her how she thought it went may be the best ice breaker. But make your desire clear going forward. The crew then gets to decide if they want to play by those rules.
I'm probably there, too. The point about not asking the helmswoman back is obvious, though it might be advisable not to invite the entire crew back, as well. This may be the case because if the crew was tolerant of the woman at the helm countermanding your directive, they may be as tolerant of someone else doing it in the future. Making your expectations very clear before going out is obviously very important in avoiding situations like this.
01-30-2012 06:34 PM
Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
In another forum, someone suggested that the most dangerous item on a boat was a calendar.
I would also add alcohol.
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