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aaronwindward 02-08-2011 02:08 AM

Designated skipper: Is it necessary?
One of the more amusing activities I've found on SailNet are these individuals who expound with substantial detail on the notion that, as captain of their yacht, their wife, I mean, crew, must do exactly as they say. Evidently some of them are quite serious about it, and I can only imagine the extensive lectures they've given to their wives on the proper chain of command.

Clearly there is a time and a place where these sorts of things are relevant, such as in military and commercial contexts, or where the voyage is of a larger scale. But the notion that a man has some legitimate basis for ordering around his wife, when they're, say, cruising around a warm lake on a dinghy is completely ridiculous.

My girlfriend and I are of approximately equivalent sailing skill level, and so far, only sail together, on our 27' coastal cruiser, on the SF Bay. She's better controlling the helm and feeling the boat and I'm better at some of the technical aspects. We share most responsibilities, favoring me somewhat for the grunt work. We've never felt the need to designate the one or other as a skipper, and it's not completely clear what relevancy it would have. In any emergency situation, whatever that would be, we would talk about the proper solution to decide together what to do. If there wasn't time, and it's something like a course correction or emptying a sail, obviously the helmsman is in charge from a practical standpoint. (The worst emergency we've suffered so far is running aground in the bay mud.)

Admiralty law has lots of things to say about the masters of vessels, but it's unclear to me what relevency, if any, that has when the skipper isn't licensed and the boat purely recreational. At least with respect to state law, it's my strong suspicion that the helmsman will be held fully accountable from a criminal and liability standpoint, regardless of any a priori decisions about who the skipper is. Given that my vessel is insured, but not worth a while lot, it's hard to imagine ever realistically becoming a party to a serious admiralty case.

So my question is: is there any value to designating a skipper? Are those individuals who designate themselves captains doing it for some legitimate or useful purpose? Are we taking a risk by not designating a skipper? Does the authority of the captain extend to kinky things in the v-berth?

Faster 02-08-2011 08:51 AM

I expect the most important question here is the last one! ;) :rolleyes:

Most couples most likely follow a cooperative plan, with decisions made together or by consensus for the routine stuff.

In our case "go-no go" decisions are usually made together but I rarely override a strong desire to give this one a pass. This would include heavy weather forecasts, tidal pass predictions/timing, anchorage choices etc.

OTOH I do believe there will be times when the committee approach is not best and quick response to a request/order is required. The trick is for each of us to understand when those situations are in play.

but as the saying goes.... " I AM the Captain, and I have the Admirals permission to say so...."

neoxaero 02-08-2011 09:13 AM

When my other half and I are out on the water and something goes wrong/needs to be resolved quickly she does what I say without questioning my decisions. She does so because she trusts that I am able to make the right call to avoid damaging her, myself or the boat (in that order).

Any other time we discuss what to do, where to go, when to leave and everything else.

On the other hand if we're doing something that she knows more about than I do - I do what she says when poop hits the fan.

Its a safety aspect to know who is going to be in charge if/when its needed in my opinion and it works out well for us in our relationship.

When decisions need to be made quickly and implemented immediately there typically isn't time for discussion.

Oh and as far as the V-Berth goes - someone is usually the captain in there.. If you're not sure who it is.. it's probably her

sailingdog 02-08-2011 10:00 AM

You really need to have someone that is in charge of making the decision. Now you can split this up between you and your SO, where the one with the greater experience in a given area is responsible. For example, since she's better at the helm then let her make the calls when close quarters maneuvering is the issue. If you're better at the technical stuff, you make the call when a rigging problem or engine problem arises.

Command by committee is generally a bad thing and really fails when time is critical.

As for your last question....neoxaero has it right...if you're asking, you ain't in charge there.

Boasun 02-08-2011 04:18 PM

A good captain will take in the considerations of the crew as long as it doesn't violate the SAFETY of the Crew or Vessel. What are the common goals? Having fun, Cruising, Racing, Gunk-holing (explorations), Meeting other sailors or whatever. You are there to enjoy life and contribute to the operation of the vessel. The Captain has to manage all of the skills that are brought together and let the crew know that their endeavors are greatly appriciated.

Heinous 02-08-2011 04:36 PM

I thought this was about having a designated sober skipper...

However, not having a wife or other similar encumbrance, I am always the skipper.

genieskip 02-08-2011 04:41 PM

I wish I could remember which well known sailing couple this comment comes from but for the life of me I can't. She said - he is the more experienced sailor so he is the captain and makes decisions in an emergency but when we are in port deciding where we are going next I have to remind him that the boat has two owners.

Faster 02-08-2011 06:27 PM

We have friends that cruise the Caribbean each winter, and we have heard on numerous occasions the statement "Well, MY half of the boat is going THAT way!";)

erps 02-08-2011 06:34 PM


I thought this was about having a designated sober skipper...
me too, or soberest skipper, depending on the crowd on board.

centaursailor 02-09-2011 12:33 AM

You need a skipper for lots of reasons, he/she should not need to give orders very often. Advice is better.Leadership and experience are the best qualifying qualitys, :cool: if you can lead well others will follow. In a crisis everyone on board will have an oppinion :eek: but there wont be time for a discussion.:confused: Then the need for a single voice of authority will be apparent.:)
I was on board a yacht doing my day skipper, the guy in charge just enjoyed giving orders, it was very unplesent untill he spiked a electricity outlet with the bowspirit while demonstrating docking manouvers. He was a bit less pretensious after that. :o
Safe sailing

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