The Skipper on a Charter Yacht
The skipper is the heart of every floating vessel on earth. His word is (or should be) law to everybody on board. Yet, on a pleasant sailing holiday with your friends it can be deemed as unpleasant, and hard for the skipper, to order those friends to do something they may not like to do, and may consider unnecessary or a "dirty job". A crew member might think -"why me again, why not Charlie this time", not realising he may be the best person for the job, especially in difficult or tricky maneuvers. It is not always easy for skipper or crew member.
What about the situation where you have hired a professional skipper? You have to admit that the situation where your employee (the skipper) commands you to do something you may not like, is something which does not occur in other forms of business or social life !! But please bear in mind that you are paying this guy to do precisely this. If he doesn't, then he is not doing his job properly and you must remember that in extreme situations your life may depend on his decisions and commands, and the way you react to them.
There are three aspects regarding the skipper and I will analyse them for you:
a. You are the Skipper
You must discuss your position with your family and friends IN ADVANCE, preferably before you even book the holiday. Having chosen you as skipper, they have to understand that your word is LAW on board. If they can not accept this then do not accept the position. If you are the only one with sailing experience you can always accept the position of navigator, and let someone else be skipper, however if the crew can not all accept your original conditions you would be well advised not to make the trip, as the chances of failure are very high.
It has to be understood that the skipper's authority is not only confined to emergency situations where you are about to hit rocks (they will certainly accept commands then) but have to cover all the mundane daily tasks involved in living on board.
For example, there are 6 men in the crew, it has been a long and exhausting day and you have just enjoyed a magnificent dinner of fried fish, which you have bought at the local market, washed down with a sufficiency of good local white wine and are now sitting together to enjoy a coffee and brandy. BUT there is a huge pile of dirty plates, pans - approaching deck-high. Who is going to do the washing-up, when everyone is tired and a volunteer does not appear? To leave them will smell the cabin out - having eaten fish. But it has to be done and you have to ask, or eventually command, someone to spend the next hour doing the unpleasant job. If you don't, then what started out as a very pleasant evening will end up with arguments as to who will do what, and when - and it will all be your fault !
This example may be extreme but you would be surprised how many holidays are spoiled because these seemingly trivial issues are not handled properly. If the crew chose you as skipper they must accept your word as law. Good leadership skills by you, making sure that the crew all share the dirty jobs, as well as the rewarding ones, including yourself in the various domestic tasks, will ensure a happy ship and a subsequently enjoyable holiday.
b. You are the crew - and you have to choose the Skipper
Again, an early decision is by far the best. If more than one crew member has sailing experience choose the one with the additional leadership skills rather, than the purely technical sailor. You should choose someone you respect and whose orders you will follow without question.
Respect on someone's skills has nothing to do with age. How many children these days know more about computers than their fathers...
About the Author
This article was written by Alexander Vournas of Almi Yachts.