But there I was in La Paz, Mexico, in January of 1998, suddenly the sole owner of Hio Avae, the Santana 37 I had originally purchased with my best friend and co-captain Sarah Dashew. After devoting a year to preparing Hio for Pacific passages and enjoying a brief cruise into the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Sarah had left the boat to become a rock-and-roll star. I bought her share of the boat, and was fully determined to leave Mexico in mid-April to cross the Pacific to New Zealandbut first I needed crew.
There was no way was I going to place an ad. I also would not advertise the job opening on the La Paz cruiser's net. I felt strongly that any public announcement would have left me open to con artists and pathological liars. I didn't want potential candidates trying to impress me with fake personalities and fudged credentials.
Ultimately, my strategy evolved to a slower, more methodical method of taking my time. I figured I'd make friends first, and then if it felt right, I'd clarify the expectations, and ask a friend aboard.
Of course I did have an ideal crew in mind. She was a young woman, 20-something, experienced in coastal cruising and offshore passaging, adventuresome, bilingual, easygoing, confident, communicative, team-oriented, tidy, clean-living, and a good cook in rough seas. Having PADI dive certification wouldn't hurt her chances either. I was quite attached to the idea of continuing my voyage with another woman; I fancied the swath two women would cut into the male-and couple-dominated cruising scene.
As I prepared the boat for the crossing, curious fellow cruisers constantly asked about my plans. My standard reply was: "If the boat's ready, I'm ready, and I have crew by the middle of April, we'll go. If not, I'll wait another season."
Time and maintenance projects went by and the fantasy crew-woman never appeared. Instead, I ended up considering a couple of close young cruising friends for the job. Wendy and Nathan were engaged, they owned their own boat, and had their own cruising dream. But when their engagement dissolved, I wound up with two excellent candidates for my voyage.
Wendy would have been my automatic first choice. She was female, tidy, confident, clean-living, and more communicative (rather, talkative) than anybody I had ever met. However, she was not prepared, after making such a huge change in her life, to join my dream. Actually, I was relieved when she took herself out of the running. She and I had become friends over two cruising seasons in La Paz, and I knew our personalities would clash if we crossed the Pacific together. If I had simply interviewed her, I wonder if I would I have discovered this?
Nathan, on the other hand, did not fit my ideal description, being male, monolingual, and messy. Fortunately, a mutual friend helped me to see how our differences could combine to create a great team: Nathan sails with his cajones, while I sail by the book; Nathan is good with his hands, while I am good with my head; Nathan is a get-stuff-done-guy and I am a process person.
When I invited Nathan to join me, I didn't expect him to be interested. He had been captain of his own boat, and had invested 10 years in his own cruising dream. Surprisingly, he accepted. Helping me get to the South Pacific was just the kind of mission he needed.
Another month, a trip to the States, ten trips to the supermarket, and one Aries windvane installation later, Nathan and I set sail. He had never sailed aboard Hio before we left La Paz for our jumping-off point, Cabo San Lucas. However, I knew Nathan, I trusted his skills, and knew he was capable. (It would be better practice to get any new crew comfortable with your boat under sail, in a variety of conditions, before making a long passage.)
We made a good cruising team. We inspired one another to experiment with sail combinations. We took turns cooking. He attacked boat projects that came up and we both navigated. I helped him process the breakup of his relationship, and he helped me understand the inner workings of my Westerbeke diesel engine.
Nathan left the boat a couple of months later, in Takaroa, Tuamotus, to return to his fishing job in Alaska. I applied my original strategy to fill the space he left empty.
|"I watched Nicki and Sandy work and live aboard somebody else's boat before inviting them to join mine. "|
Among the itinerant crew in the South Pacific were two young surfing Canadians, Nicki and Sandy, who had crossed from Mexico aboard a large racer-cruiser. I met them when they joined Distant Beat, in Hiva Oa, Marquesas. Hio Avae and Distant Beat buddy-boated through the Marquesas Islands, and all crew members became close friends. Equally important, I had the opportunity to watch Nicki and Sandy work and live aboard somebody else's boat before inviting them to join my journey.
Nicki, with her feminine strength and unstoppable enthusiasm, made my "Chick Boat" dream come true from the Marquesas to Tonga. Sandy, the ever-handy superboy, joined me for the intimidating passage from Tonga to New Zealand. Both proved to be excellent, trustworthy crew, and will be lifelong friends.
Some say I've been exceptionally lucky with my crew. I say my strategy worked. Take time. Make friends. Set expectations. Invite them aboard. Then see what happens!
Eliminating the Unexpected
When I began my search for crew, several cruising friends urged me to draw up a statement of expectations, rules, and goals. Potential crew would read this, and, if they accepted the terms, they would sign the document. The document might not hold up in court, in the event of a major injury or loss, but it would communicate my expectationsof myself and othersto prospective crew and their families.
Along with my crew, I sign and keep a copy of this. It's long, but the mechanics are simple.
The Value of Leadership Offshore by John Rousmaniere
Offshore Crewing Basics by John Kretschmer
Unsung Heroes by Beth Leonard
Buying Guide: Watermakers
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