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I just did a 62 hour boat delivery the only crew with the owner. He is highly experienced but I got to thinking that he didn't know me from Adam.

How would you evaluate someone as to if you could trust them to take a watch?
 
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I just did a 62 hour boat delivery the only crew with the owner. He is highly experienced but I got to thinking that he didn't know me from Adam.

How would you evaluate someone as to if you could trust them to take a watch?

David, I reckon if I spent one watch with you or anyone else for that matter I could tell whether you knew the difference twixt your arse and a pothole.

Basic ability should become apparent after someone has been on board for an hour or so.
 

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I've spent about 50 years doing crossings with people who have never sailed before. From transAts to deliveries from the VI to the states and misc crew help on short and long voyages around the world, I have very rarely had any problems.
If you can explain your needs properly, teach steering by the compass in one 4 hour watch, you should be able to trust almost anyone to at least call you if they have a problem or sight another vessel. In one recent case a young fellow called me up on deck after about 3 days (6 watches) on the way to Bermuda to inform me he was seeing a ship to the east. After about 2 minutes I realized it was the moon rising through the clouds. A funny experience after the fact, an interruption of my sleep at the time, but he'd done exactly as required; he'd called me up when he thought it necessary.
It really is the responsibility of the skipper to be able to get what he (she) needs from an inexperienced crew member, if the skipper remains available should that crew member require help. This is the reason I prefer inexperienced crew members; they do not oversell their abilities and have no bad habits. After all sailing ISN'T rocket science!
 

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Judgment is more important than ability, skill, or experience. As capta said, knowing when to call for help, guidance, or even just a second opinion is paramount.

One of the best crew I have ever had started with little sailing experience and no passagemaking. She was weak on systems. She spent watches reading manuals, took over the galley (my galley!), and asked questions. She provided tremendous support and counsel to me. By the time we got across the Atlantic she was an ace with all the instruments, including MARPA. I will be forever grateful to her. She recently finished her first Pacific passage two-up.

One of my worst crew experiences held a USCG 100 LT Master's license. He looked great on paper, sounded great on the dock, and even performed decently the first few days out. At night in pretty mild conditions (F4, maybe F5) he missed alarms including the autopilot kicking out which led to a series of gybes before I got on deck (having proved the concept of levitation). Then it turned out he couldn't steer a compass course, had no meaningful spacial perception, and was generally useless.

Over time and with many miles behind me on deliveries I've interviewed a lot of crew. I think I've gotten better at weeding the wheat from the chaff. I spend more time swapping stories during the interview than initially. I also assess the questions prospective crew ask of me.

I have a couple of dozen crew with whom I can sleep through a watch. A number of others that I just check on occasionally. Everyone else can expect to see me at any time. I never want to find crew asleep on watch again.
 

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Judgment is more important than ability, skill, or experience. As capta said, knowing when to call for help, guidance, or even just a second opinion is paramount.
Second that. I sail with many people with little sailing experience but I have only one rule for those watchkeepers: If ANYTHING changes, wake me up. I will not be angry or fussy if it comes to nothing. However, if something changes and you don't wake me up, I will be a BIT on the grumpy side.

Most skippers can handle the boat themselves while awake and rested, it's getting that rest that is paramount. You must trust the watchkeeper enough to exercise their best judgement and alert you when something changes or you will never get to sleep in the first place.
 

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I think a lot of this depends on where you are and the conditions.
 

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The boat I race one ZZzoom has always had a crew put together from free adds in the newspaper.

While plenty of people did not work out they were never really dangerous and the main problem was they just did not enjoy sailing
 

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heh heh,

I'm taking notes here as I'm usually the one you are wondering about :)

I'm not sailing watches, heck I'm only day sailing. I don't even wear a watch.

Seriously though - I go through the litany when I bring a new person (not just crew) aboard, you know, life preservers here, fire ext. there stuff. I never ask if they know how to use it, or more importantly when. I assume they do not.

No one helms my boat sans me over the shoulder without I watch them first.
 

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We've learned the hard way that you've got to choose wisely.

I've had a highly qualified 100 ton master sign on for an offshore passage with undisclosed medical problems that put him down for the count. I've had good coastal sailing buddies that I thought were reliable decide to have a couple of beers before departing on a rough passage and get sick and sleep through their watch.

When someone lets you down on a passage, others have to fill in and run with less sleep reducing safety for all. Yea, stuff happens, but the above cases were self induced.

Some of the best advice I've received is from a doctor who does a lot of offshore passages. He treats his crew like part of the equipment. He dictates what they eat, what they drink, and when they sleep. He wants their medical history. If they don't like his rules they don't go.

There are only a handful of people I want to do a passage with. I admire those who can figure this out on the fly with new people (but based on my experience with selected "friends" maybe you're better off).
 

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Second that. I sail with many people with little sailing experience but I have only one rule for those watchkeepers: If ANYTHING changes, wake me up. I will not be angry or fussy if it comes to nothing. However, if something changes and you don't wake me up, I will be a BIT on the grumpy side.

Most skippers can handle the boat themselves while awake and rested, it's getting that rest that is paramount. You must trust the watchkeeper enough to exercise their best judgement and alert you when something changes or you will never get to sleep in the first place.
Definitely agree. This is one of several reasons I try to sail with three crew in addition to me. With three crew standing four hours on and eight off everyone gets rest, including me even though I'm up multiple times per watch until I have everyone assessed. My approach also means if someone doesn't work out or gets sick I can just step into their spot in the watch rotation.

The boat I race one ZZzoom has always had a crew put together from free adds in the newspaper.

While plenty of people did not work out they were never really dangerous and the main problem was they just did not enjoy sailing
I have a long racing history. Full size crews with blue-gold watches are vastly different from two, three, or four folks on passage.

No one helms my boat sans me over the shoulder without I watch them first.
Which works fine day-sailing. Not so well on passage. The people that have been problems for me did fine under observation.

Some of the best advice I've received is from a doctor who does a lot of offshore passages. He treats his crew like part of the equipment. He dictates what they eat, what they drink, and when they sleep. He wants their medical history. If they don't like his rules they don't go.
I'd like to think I treat my crew a lot better than just as cogs in a wheel *grin* but the do eat, stay hydrated, and get rested. I will send people down to rest, especially in the first few days while everyone is excited and jazzed on adrenaline.

We always have a "sharing" session before departure to understand medical issues, sleeping patterns, how early to wake folks before watch, and so on. Once in a while I get a private medical concern but most aren't relevant. Heart problems, weak backs, bursitis, allergies, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, dietary restrictions are things that everyone aboard should know about.

There are only a handful of people I want to do a passage with. I admire those who can figure this out on the fly with new people (but based on my experience with selected "friends" maybe you're better off).
Sometimes friends and family make the poorest crew. You have to deal with all kinds of collateral emotional issues. I have put crew on an airplane in the Azores for example. That would have been more challenging (although I'd like to think I'd still do it) if the crew was an uncle or a sister-in-law. Thanksgiving can get testy. *grin*

I don't want to turn people off to getting crew.

I met Chip over the Internet. We got to know each other over time. We live half the country apart from one another. He is my very first choice of crew every single time I can get him. He and I did Annapolis to Narragansett two-up non-stop and landed in the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge in fog that left visibility at about 50 feet (we could see the bow of the boat, but not the rip-rap at the breakwaters on the west entrance to the harbor). Chip went with me from Boca del Toro to Rio Dulce and was an outstanding engineer as we worked through engine troubles underway. He was similarly invaluable working fuel issues on a Passport 40 offshore - he dealt with the engine while I sailed the boat.

I met Anja over the Internet also. Outstanding crew. Open minded, collaborative, the ultimate morale officer, smart, and funny.

I met Adam over the Internet. Good friend, good sailor, smart, strong, motivated, and willing. I'd sail with him anywhere. Seeing Adam walking down the dock to meet me on delivery always makes me feel better.

There is great crew out there. You just have to find them.

On that note, I have a couple of hundred folks on my crew list. If you're looking for crew and you convince me that you're a decent skipper I'm happy to float your opportunities to my list and share my experience with the candidates. Time permitting I'll help with conference calls for interviews. To be clear - no one pays to be on my list and I won't ask for money from you.

I also strongly recommend Hank Schmitt at Offshore Passage Opportunities. Crew pay $250 per year to get his list but owners don't need to pay. Like me, Hank will want to make sure boat and skipper are in good order. Hank has a handful of pro skippers (I was one for some years) if you need support.

I do owner-aboard training/delivery trips often. Those aren't free. *grin* If you want support for an offshore passage I'd like the chance to bid.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'd like to think I treat my crew a lot better than just as cogs in a wheel *grin* but the do eat, stay hydrated, and get rested. I will send people down to rest, especially in the first few days while everyone is excited and jazzed on adrenaline.
That makes a lot of sense to me but I've never seen anyone do that not even Hank.
When I see that everyone is excited at the beginning of the trip I volunteer to sack out for a couple hours. Then I check on everyone again, usually everyone is still going strong. But by midnight all of a sudden it hits everyone at once and then they all get the same idea.
I inevitably get the whole boat to myself from midnight till 4 AM or later. It has happened that they don't wake up until morning.

My thinking is that while everything is going well, the weather is nice, the boat is OK and everyone is healthy I sleep as much as I can.
Then if something goes bad I've got a good 20+ hours in me because I've banked some.
 

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Ask a lot of questions before you leave. I once helped deliver a 33 foot sailboat from Mobile to Biloxi with three other people, myself and one other person (who I barely knew from work) being the only people with any boating experience.

On the night passage, through the Mississippi Sound, I and one of the other inexperienced crew kept watch until midnight when we turned it over to the other two (including the one who had claimed he had boated and sailed a lot). I lay in my bunk for about 45 minutes, and couldn't sleep, and went back up to the cockpit. Looking ahead I couldn't see any stars in one direction. It took me about five seconds to realize that the reason I couldn't see any stars was that a large ship, an oil tanker, proceeding down the Pascagoula ship channel toward the Chevron refinery, was blocking them out, and that we were about to cross directly in front of his bow.

I made an immediate course change in the same direction the ship was going and we missed being hit by it by a good ten feet, as we surfed off of the bow wave. We were motoring and neither of the watch had seen the vessel.

I stayed up the rest of the night.
 
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The Wombet is an excellent watchkeeper. Erred on the side of caution in the beginning , but that's OK, and now is utterly reliable. I don't get seasick very often but when I do I'm down for the count. She can be relied upon to keep on keeping on.

Otoh .... she cannot reverse under power to save her life. EWG.
 

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When I am instructing offshore or on bluewater, I like to take myself off the watch cycle. I doze in the saloon where I will usually wake up when i sense something is wrong. I have a set of standings about when to wake me up.

On a couple of deliveries I have had watch captains in whom I had faith - I am prepared to go onto a watch.

Several years ago I had a Canadian Navy Lieutenant Commander as a student. I asked him how the captains on naval vessels managed. He said they did the same thing. They were in in their cabin or in the operations room. If they showed up on the bridge, there was a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
The reason I'm asking is because on this Norfolk trip I did miss a really big ship.
In my defense I was not on solo watch, the captain/owner was also on deck, The ship was two miles away, and it was not on a collision course with us.

The AIS alarm picked it up before me and even after we knew it was there it took quite a few seconds staring in exactly the right place before we could see it.

On a night watch you have way too much time on your hands to do some mental calculations.

At a theoretical high end closing speed of 35 knots that two miles would close in about 3.5 minutes.

I'm pretty confident we would have seen it because even though we were out of the shipping channel we were both on high alert coming near the Norfolk harbor.

I also found that the very good condition dodger glass was still a significant hindrance to visibility especially when it was raining or when looks at certain angles because of curves in the glass. They guy I was with was on his way to do the Salty Dog by himself. He has soloed for tens of thousands of miles and was way more relaxed then I was.

You really couldn't see that well out of the dodger. So what I did was every three to five minutes pop my head above the dodger and do a 360 scan.
You really couldn't stay out in the open for more than a few minutes at a time as your face would freeze.

I was concerned about my timing. Was it 3 minutes or 6 minutes. As you can tell I'm a worry wort. I was thinking about getting an egg timer kind if gadget so between scans you could just huddle under the dodger.

I've done hundreds of hours at night, probably more than in the day but it still bothers me a bit, overactive imagination.

I guess what I'm trying to find is a protocol where I just follow the protocol and while nothing is perfect it is what I'm going to do and it will have to be good enough.
 

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There are a ton of "crew finding" websites out there right now, I think I even have a profile on a few of them myself. What always bothered me though, is that you can basically invent your credentials on your profile without any verification what so ever. These sites understandably, never ask the really important questions, such as "Are you mental?", "Are you wanted by Interpol for Organ trafficking?" or even "Have you escaped a court mandated drug treatment facility within the last 15 days?" instead it is left to the user to describe their ability to function as able crew and sound mind with little or no need to verify such claims.

I am too busy to code up something right now, but I always thought it would be really helpful if someone made a Linkedin/Anges List/Yelp style website that was based solely on actual end user interactions with said crew using a rating system. You would run into the same hurdles regarding authenticity as those sites do, but at the end of the day it would still be far more descriptive of actual hands on experience than the no frills fill in the blank crew finding sites we have now.

I am really busy this winter with coding, but perhaps if enough people were interested in the spring, I love to push out a test platform. Just as some in this thread have described, the worst experience i had with a crew member happened to also have the most credentials spouted at the dock.
 

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if you're going to do more cold weather sails, you might want to get a couple of balaclavas. They keep your face and neck warm. I have lightweight synthetics, wool and fleece..varieties accumulated over years of winter sports activities.
 

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Auspicious said:
I'd like to think I treat my crew a lot better than just as cogs in a wheel *grin* but the do eat, stay hydrated, and get rested. I will send people down to rest, especially in the first few days while everyone is excited and jazzed on adrenaline.
That makes a lot of sense to me but I've never seen anyone do that not even Hank.
When I see that everyone is excited at the beginning of the trip I volunteer to sack out for a couple hours. Then I check on everyone again, usually everyone is still going strong. But by midnight all of a sudden it hits everyone at once and then they all get the same idea.
I inevitably get the whole boat to myself from midnight till 4 AM or later. It has happened that they don't wake up until morning.
Hank pays more attention than he appears to. I've sailed with Hank a couple of times (you have to before he'll pick you up as a pro skipper). He is at once more laid-back and do-it-yourself than I am. I've seen him take 8 hours in a row a couple of days running to allow crew to find their own groove. It works, but isn't my style.

During the same pre-departure session I mentioned earlier in which we discuss any medical issues or concerns we also talk about sleep patterns (after all there are morning people and night owls) and set the watch schedule. We also make sure everyone has a chance to describe what they want to learn from the trip. Some just want the sea time, others have some knowledge or skill in particular they want to gain.

When I am instructing offshore or on bluewater, I like to take myself off the watch cycle. I doze in the saloon where I will usually wake up when i sense something is wrong. I have a set of standings about when to wake me up.
I do the same on delivery whenever I can. I usually do most or all the cooking, weather, navigation, and instruction. If I'm not doing one of those things I'm resting. The primary responsibility of the off-watch is to get rested.

I was concerned about my timing. Was it 3 minutes or 6 minutes. As you can tell I'm a worry wort. I was thinking about getting an egg timer kind if gadget so between scans you could just huddle under the dodger.
Somewhere in there. Just don't let it creep up to 10 or 15 minutes. That's just too long. If I'm reading I do a scan every time I turn the page. If I'm listening to music I scan between songs (just not Ina Gadda Da Vida). Sometimes I'm just thinking and keep an eye on the time.

I always thought it would be really helpful if someone made a Linkedin/Anges List/Yelp style website that was based solely on actual end user interactions with said crew using a rating system.
I don't intend to turn this thread into a love fest for Hank Schmitt. Offshore Passage Opportunities does an informal version of that. I still use OPO as a crew source in addition to my own list. When I get candidates together and start my selection process I call Hank and get his assessment of his guys at the top of my list. He's corresponded with them over time, he's talked to them, he's often sailed with them, and he gets feedback from skippers (like me) and owners.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Hank pays more attention than he appears to. I've sailed with Hank a couple of times (you have to before he'll pick you up as a pro skipper). He is at once more laid-back and do-it-yourself than I am. I've seen him take 8 hours in a row a couple of days running to allow crew to find their own groove. It works, but isn't my style..
I'm in awe of his resume. Yes I got the feeling he was doing that thing my cat does. Has is back to you but you know he knows exactly what is happening.

I've been accused of being too type "A" and was thinking it was just a sign of paranoia even though I've logged a lot of trips.

I like to stack the deck in my favor. That being said you can make yourself crazy with low probability scenarios. How many of us really check the rear view mirror when traveling in a car every 15 seconds. If you do the math it might be possible that if you are going 50 and a car behind you is going 80 you should probably check every 8 seconds depending on the visibility. But the probability is so low and the effort might cause more problems that it solves.

Same way with sailing long distances. You have to manage your energy vs the risk.

I'm pleased to find someone with more experience than I that looks at this the same way I do.
That is that if you are on watch you don't have to keep your eyes on the water all the time but you do have to do a 360 every few minutes.
I have some misgivings about the 360 as it can happen that is you are not expecting to see anything and look too quickly you can miss something important.

There are several reports of this happening.
I did have a new found respect for AIS, it worked very well.
 
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