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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lithium Grease and Silicone

The Gooseneck

When Hurricane Joaquin was bearing down on the East Coast I took the precaution of removing all of the canvas from Reboot. Yesterday it was calm enough to bend the sails back on. Putting an ocean quality main sail back on by myself was not fun. I took advantage of the bare poles to disassemble, clean, and grease the moving parts. Even with the main off dealing with the boom was quite the task. The goose neck had been squeaking and as I started taking things apart I realized that the greasing task was much overdue. I also took the time to replace all the cotter pins holding things together.

The vang pivot
When it became time to bend on the sails I got out my trusty can of McLube Sailkote. The can was empty. This happens a lot, the frequent bouncing around seems to destroy the integrity of the seals on cans. With the advent of the newer lighter soda and beer cans it frequently destroys a few of them too. I have even found glass bottles empty with the caps intact. I walked down to the marina office to see if they had any Sailkote. They didn't but they did have a can of CRC Marine silicone spray for $4.20 (9 oz.) I purchased it and finish the task of putting the main back on.

I rarely drink and even more rarely drink alone but after a long day I decided I deserved a beer and some quiet time watching the sunset. While sitting in the cockpit I got curious about the cost of Sailkote. When I got down inside I decided to do a web search. The cheapest price I found was $10.66 for a 6 oz can of Sailkote. Is the stuff really that much better? I don't think so.

Fair winds and following seas :)

EPIRB's and PLB's

ACR Global Fix Pro GPS Cat II
My strongest emotion is apathy and my greatest skill is procrastination but the calendar is relentless. With only a couple of weeks to go my first priority is to go over everything on Reboot that needs to be fixed and that might have to be shipped in. Emergency equipment is always highest on my list. Reboot has an old Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) that still passes the self test. However the newer EPRIBs have a GPS function that reduces the search area from a radius of about 50 miles to a few feet. I spoke to the tech at ACR and he told me that even if a unit passes the self test one does  not know how long the battery  will last. I decided it was time to bite the bullet and purchase a new unit. Fortunately the price has dropped to about 1/3 of the cost of my original EPIRB. I purchased an ACR Global Fix Pro GPS for Reboot.

Since I single hand most of the time I was torn between purchasing an EPIRB and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB.) PLB's are functionally equivalent to EPRIB's with the exception of smaller batteries. Until recently they also did not float - a problem for a ship board emergency device. They are intended to be worn on one's life jacket hence are smaller than an EPRIB. My thought was that if I were to fall or be swept overboard having an EPRIB in the cabin would not do me much good.

ACR ResQLink+ 375
Since I am taking crew more frequently (and frankly since the prices have dropped to a point where they are more affordable) I decided to get a PLB for the watch stander in the cockpit. On my last trip Michael was swept across the cockpit by a boarding wave after he had detached his harness to come into the cabin. A little bit bigger wave of a different direction and he could have gone overboard. As it was his forward motion was stopped by taking a header into the winch. At least he stayed on board but took a nasty cut. ACR has updated their ResQLink to the ResQLink +. The difference is that the ResQLink + floats. A very valuable upgrade. When I am single handing I will wear it for personal protection.

I note in passing that ACR is running rebates on both devices. It reduced the pain at least a little bit.

With the advent of the Internet it pays to shop around. I ended up ordering from Defender - I have done a lot of business with them in the past and they have great customer service. The prices with West Marine were similar (WM at little more expensive) but what tipped the scales was sales tax. Since West Marine has stores in Virginia they are obligated to collect sales tax. The cost of the sales tax was more than the cost of the shipping from Defender.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Odd Case of the Group MMSI

There are three (four) very common numbers for sailboats. The first is the hull identification number assigned by the builder. The second is the documentation number assigned by a government or by a locality (i.e. in the US by a State.) The third is a individual "Maritime Mobile Service Identity" (MMSI) assigned by the government telecommunications bureau (i.e. The Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.)

[The fourth number is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) number. it is assigned to big ships]

An individual MMSI identifies a ship's radio installation. In a sense it is the "digital" embodiment of the ship station call sign (e.g. Reboot's radio call WDB8435 identifies the same equipment as the MMSI 336 958 630.) Since automatic information systems (AIS) transmitters are radios it is also used to identify an AIS transmitter.

In a digital selective calling enabled radio one can "ring" another ship or shore station by using the DSC function and the called station's MMSI rather than making a voice call (Reboot, Reboot, Reboot this is OtherBoat, OtherBoat, OtherBoat over.) An alarm (ring ring) will sound on the called station's radio. This can be more efficient. It is also very useful when a ship is bearing down on you and not answering your radio calls! With the advent of AIS this has become much easier because one of the data fields of an AIS message is the other ship's MMSI.

MMSI numbers are a nine digit number constructed with a three digit country code (e.g.366 for the United States, a 5 digit unique number, and the number "0." The trailing zero identifies this as an "international" MMSI. In some countries the authorities have permitted other organizations to issue MMSIs for in country use. They will not end with the number zero.

What if one is participating in an event like a rally and would like to call multiple boats simultaneously? Or if one wants to place a DSC call to the Coast Guard but any Coast Guard station, not a particular station. The MMSI system takes this desire into account with "Group MMSI" functionality. A group MMSI will ring all of the radios that have been programmed to respond. Unlike the individual MMSI that is "burned" into your radio and AIS group MMSIs can be added and deleted at will.

A group MMSI is constructed by starting with a leading zero. Next one might enter the country code followed by a 5 digit unique identifier (e.g. 036 6xx xxx.) Since I am about the participate in the Salty Dawg Rally I thought it might be kind of cool if the rally had a group MMSI.

Here is where the story gets strange. I contacted the FCC to ask how one gets a group MMSI assigned. They had no knowledge of group MMSIs. I contacted a couple of different people at the FCC just to be sure that I had not stumbled upon someone who was not informed. None of them had a clue. Here we have this great functionality that does not seem to have a way of being implemented. Strange. I did a little more research and discovered that I am not alone in not being able to get the answer to my question. The common practice appears to be to make up a properly formatted group MMSI and use it.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meeting the cruising life

Do you dream of the cruising life? Do you go to Annapolis and look at the boats and equipment? Would you like to know what it is really all about?

From mid-October thru early November what may be the biggest annual collection of offshore cruisers on the East Coast will be gathering in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area staging to go South. Events that will draw them include:

Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous (15-`18 October)
Sail to the Sun ICW Rally (Leaves Deltaville 20 October, stops in Newport News area)
Sail's ICW Snowbird Rally (Departs 23 October)
The Salty Dawg Rally (Departs 2 November, events the entire week before)
The ARC Caribbean 1500 (Departs 8 November, boats will gather the week before)

There will be about 200 boats in the area preparing for their transit South. What a great time to walk the docks and meet people who live the life!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 3 - Safety)

In the 1950's Grouch Marx hosted a combination TV and radio quiz show called You Bet Your Life. Of course you didn't. But in offshore sailing you are betting your life. Fortunately the risks are small but every year boats sink and occasionally people die.

The International Sailing Federation begins their Offshore Special Regulations with a call to action for the person in charge of the vessel: “The safety of a yacht and her crew is the sole and inescapable responsibility of the person in charge who must do his best to ensure that the yacht is fully found, thoroughly seaworthy and manned by an experienced crew who have undergone appropriate training and are physically fit to face bad weather. He must be satisfied as to the soundness of hull, spars, rigging, sails and all gear. He must ensure that all safety equipment is properly maintained and stowed and that the crew knows where it is kept and how it is to be used. He shall also nominate a person to take over the responsibilities of the Person in Charge in the event of his incapacitation.”

I echo the same responsibility of the Captain in my "standing orders' (available as a page on this blog.) I take my responsibility seriously and Reboot has been outfitted with extensive safety equipment.

This is all well and good. But what is your responsibility as a crew member? I suggest you have two objectives:

  1. To assure yourself that the boat is safe,
  2. To know where the safety equipment is located and how to use it.
Is the boat safe?

The first time I ran the Chicago - Mackinaw Race I invited a couple with extensive offshore racing experience to crew for me. This was my first long distance racing experience and I had just spent thousands of dollars purchasing the safety equipment required by the race organizers. Nigel (of Ranger) and his wife showed up and Nigel said "let me help you go over Reboot and make sure it is ready for the race. He made a lot of very good suggestions that I followed. In 20-20 hindsight I realize he was also doing something else - assuring himself that the boat was well founded and ready to race.

Nigel handled his safety inspection in the most gracious manner. Of course he is a Birt (you figured that out from the name, didn't you?) and they are known for the courtesy. But he taught me a lot. The easiest way to assure the boat is safe is for the entire crew to go over it from stem to stern together before setting sail. This way no one's feelings get hurt and done properly it can be a fun crew experience.

Using the safety equipment

Reboot has lots of safety and communications equipment. I know where it is and how to use it all. Do you? On my last voyage I took on a crew member. We were offshore in bad weather (the whole trip was bad weather) when my crew member got tossed by a boarding wave across the cockpit and went head first into the winch. This resulted in a 4" laceration of his scalp and large quantities of blood everywhere. Fortunately he remained conscious and was not concussed. But what if it had been me? What if I had ended up unconscious and/or concussed? My crew member would have been elevated to "the person in charge." Did he know enough to be responsible for Reboot and his injured crew (me?)

You owe it to yourself (and the rest of the crew) to make sure that you know the location and operation of all the safety and communications equipment on board. There are numerous stories (some perhaps apocryphal) of people dying of heart attacks, boats running aground, etc. because the only people available on board did not know how to call for help or operate the boat. Again the easiest way to assure that everyone knows what they need to know is for the Captain and crew to get together as a group before getting underway and doing a hands on inspection and instruction of all of the safety equipment on board.

Pre-departure Excitement

The days leading up to a departure are exciting. Particularly if you are going to travel in the company of other boats there are meetings, seminars, and parties. There is work to be done - provisioning, buying charts, cleaning, etc. In this pre-departure euphoria it is easy to overlook the two most important tasks: assuring the safety of the boat and assuring the safety of the crew. 


What if you are new at the game and not sure what you should be looking for. The Internet has many great posts and articles on pre-departure checklists. To get you started I will link to one - the Salty Dawg rally post. It not only contains good advice but also links to further resources. You can find it here: http://saltydawgrally.org/cruising-compass-outfitting-your-sailboat-for-safety-at-sea/

Parts 1 and 2

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

KPK Radio (Seven Seas Cruising Association)

Seven Seas Cruising Association Logo
The Seven Seas Cruising Association www.ssca.org was founded in 1952 by six couples on six boats: Shellback, Tropic Bird, Black Dolphin, Evening Star, Norwind and Stardust. Harry S. Truman was the President of the United States. LORAN-A was the long range electronic navigation system - it utilized the same frequencies as the amateur radio (HAM) 160  meter band. There were only paper charts. No Internet. No GPS. These six couples had a dream and a joke. The dream - to cruise the world. The joke - to not be a "stuffy" yacht club. A principle output of the association was the "Commodore's Bulletin." This mimeographed (I'm guessing) monthly document bound the association together. It's most important feature was "Letters from Cruisers." These letters contained valuable information about the voyages and ports of call of the members. Frequently they contained hand drawn charts and contact information for local services. For the first few decades the bulletins were the best (and perhaps for some places) the only source of local knowledge. They also established "cruising stations," locals who would greet and help visiting cruisers.

The organization has grown both in size and scope over the years. The most recent addition to their services is radio station KPK in Florida. This is a maritime (as opposed to HAM) radio station that operates each morning from 1100 to 1130 UTC on 8.104 MHz. The primary purpose of this station is to assist cruisers in the Caribbean with a US based gateway for assistance, telephone links, and cruising information. Glen Tuttle is the net controller.

In this day of social media and online forums do we need another radio station? My answer is HECK YES. If you aspire to voyaging I suggest this simple test. Turn off your Internet connection. Turn off you cell phone. Now figure out how you are going to get weather information, talk to your friends, let people know where you are, etc.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 2 - Expectations)

[Part 1 is here]
[Part 3 is here]

My first experience in finding crew was inviting whatever cute girl I could find to join me on my parents Sunfish. It was always a tight fit - I was 6' 6" tall. But at 14  with emerging hormones it was, as my sons would say "All good."

As I transitioned into around the buoys racing and later long distance racing finding crew was still very informal. I raced with friends and friends of friends. We were a pretty cohesive group and the trips were short enough (maximum three days) that the day to day routines were pretty easy. For example, we didn't worry a lot about cleaning or fixing fancy meals.

This all changed when I looking for crew among people I did not know. In my early career I did hire employees but by the time I was in my mid-30's I was the final decision maker. Potential employees were found by Human Resources and pre-screened by my subordinate managers. They only got to meet me for the final hire - no hire decision. I mention this because actually having to do the "hiring" was quite a shock. I really didn't know what I was doing.

Formal Expectations

Somehow I didn't realize that crewing on a sailboat was a job. I assumed everyone knew what was expected. Wow was I wrong. After a couple of trips I drafted a formal document of expectations. You can access if by clicking on the (blog page, on the right column) page "Standing Orders." I also discovered that it was difficult if not impossible to get a detailed understanding of crew skills from a phone conversation. I drafted a "Potential Crew Questionnaire." I decided this was much more comprehensive and efficient than the "job interview." You can also access this from the "pages" menu.

Compatibility and Synergy

The two most important attributes of a crew are compatibility and synergy. (I think they overlap a great deal in a Venn diagram.) As a potential crew member you should like the people you are sailing with and share common expectations. Each crew member should also add something special. The whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. When a crew "clicks" it is the closest thing to nirvana one can find on a sailboat.

To me compatibility refers to having a similar life outlook as the others in the crew. I am not talking about political or religious views. Rather, how do you live your life? Are there dirty dishes in your sink or is the kitchen clean and neat? Are you dirty clothes spread around your house or put away in a hamper? Are you the first to volunteer or do you have to be asked to help out? Do you have respect for other peoples' possessions? These are the things that make or break a crew over a long passage.

Synergy is a funny thing. The three members of the greatest crew I have ever sailed with had very different skills. One, in addition to being a very competent sailor (she always showed up at the right place - the mast, the winch - before I ever asked) brought craft materials on board. The rest of the crew was soon making bracelets and other paraphilia to commemorate the trip. The second was a "certified marine mammal spotter." Her normal activity was watching for marine mammals on acoustic survey vessels. I thought it was pretty much BS until, on a daily basis I would hear the cry "whale ho!." It made for a very cool trip. The third member was the sushi maker. We trolled for fish. Once caught she would go to work. It doesn't get better than sea to mouth in 30 minutes or less.

Captain's Privilege

Some potential crew members question the fact that I never stand watch. On many boats the Captain takes a spot in the watch rotation. I don't. The reason is that on Reboot the Captain is always on watch. When making a long transit it is unusual for me to get two hours uninterrupted rest without being called by the watch stander. This could be a sail change, a weather change, or the sighting of another boat. The early morning watches are difficult. After several days at sea just staying awake can be a challenge. By not standing watch I am free to go up and join the watch stander at any time they need support without compromising my ability to be available to everyone else. Individual boats and Captains will have their own "privilege." It is their boat and their responsibility. Grant them the courtesy to manage it their way, but make sure you understand it and are good with it.


These are things that you may want to watch out for:
  • Expense Trap: The ongoing costs of long distance ocean sailing are actually quite low. On Reboot I expect that you will share the food expenses and pay for your own personal entertainment. I also expect you to pay to get to Reboot and get home when you get off. There are a few boats that will be asking for contributions of $100 US per day or more. This is not sharing expenses. This is asking you to pay for the privilege of sailing.
  • Repairs Trap: You arrive at the boat ready to sail. You discover that the boat is not seaworthy and the Captain has a long lists of projects he expects you to help him complete for free. Unless you really enjoy this find another boat. (Frequently the boat is never ready, so you never get to sail.) Helping get the boat ready and doing some last minute projects is OK. Becoming the unpaid laborer is not.
  • Knowledge Trap: This is a tough call both for the Captain and the crew. As a Captain one has a desire for competent crew. But if one is very competent there is a natural desire to take charge. On one trip I took aboard a very competent crew member who captained his own very successful race boat. Everything he said was prefaced with "On xxxx (the name of his boat) we .... It got to the point where the rest of the crew would say on the way to the head "On yyyy the way we use the head is ....." If you are crewing on another boat you are crew. Keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that the owner is the one who is going to bear the financial burden of anything that goes wrong.
  • Incompetent Peers Trap: I once took on a crew member who kept falling asleep during the night watches. I was disappointed that the rest of the crew did not apply peer pressure. After all, their lives were being equally compromised.
  • Couples Trap (Teams:) I never take couples aboard for a transit. In my experience on my own and other boats it frequently nets out to couple vs. the Captain and/or couple vs. crew. There is a natural human tendency to support your spouse/significant other even if they are wrong. This is very disruptive to crew safety and morale.
  • Shore Pressure Trap: With the advent of rapid communications such as the DeLorme InReach and the Spot Communicator it is pretty easy for on board crew to be in contact with friends and lovers back home. Although this sounds like a good idea it can have very negative consequences. Two stories:
    • The crew member who continuously complained that he was spending a fortune on a hotel room for his girlfriend at our destination while we were becalmed during a race. We voted on either throwing him overboard or gagging him. Clearer heads prevailed.
    • The crew member who, during a long period of terrible weather, got a message from his on shore significant other at least once an hour asking if was OK to send the Coast Guard to "rescue" us. When you are on a sailboat your head has to be 100% on the sailboat!
Reasonable Expectations:

What is reasonable? This will of course vary from sailboat to sailboat and Captain to Captain. But some things are pretty straightforward:
  1. Stand watch in a professional manner. This is "Job 1."
  2. If you are expected to clean the boat then clean the boat. It is difficult underway but you should make a decent effort.
  3. If it is your turn to cook for the crew then cook for the crew. I had a crew member who was a vegan. Her attitude was "I will cook for me since I am a vegan and the rest of you can cook for yourselves. Not the agreement she made when she signed up to come on board.
  4. Make a reasonable effort to learn the boat. Modern sailboats go way beyond knowing how to put up the sails and steer. You should learn how to use the chart plotting system, the radar, the radios, etc. You should understand thing like SOG, COG, CPA (not to mention how to use the head!) Not knowing is not a crime. Not putting in the effort to learn is one. Most Captains love to teach. Take advantage of it.

Take Responsibility for what you Break:

I once had a crew member that dropped over $1,000 worth of equipment overboard. Needless to say I felt they were obligated to replace the equipment. They did not agree. They will never crew for me again. Things on sailboats break and, at least on Reboot, I take responsibility for the cost of replacement. But if you dump the dinner dishes overboard, or leave a winch handle on the deck where is gets swept off the boat, or you drive the dinghy into a channel marker I expect you to take responsibility for your actions. (And yes, crew members have done all these things to me.)

Sex and Drugs:

A sailboat is a work environment. You should expect the same rules about sex and drugs to apply. I would also emphasize that most countries have very severe drug rules. You may be tempted to "let it all hang out" when on a cruise. Under the rules of most countries the owner is going to lose his boat if you are caught doing drugs on board. Are you ready to buy him/her a new boat? Also, with the advent of Instagram, Facebook, and the like your antics are very likely to make it back to your home country immediately if not sooner!

Documenting Your Experience:

You found the (maybe) perfect boat. You sailed with the (maybe) perfect crew. You have reached your destination. What now? There are three things you should do:
  1. Get the Captain to document your experience. This might be the U.S. Coast Guard CG 7195 or the UK "Yachtmaster" logbook. Even if you never get a professional yacht certification you will have these on file as a memory and a resource for your sailing resume / CV. If in the future you decide to apply for a Captain's license these will be important documents.
  2. Ask the Captain for a reference on the crew matching site (if that is how you met.) This will help you find future crewing jobs.
  3. Write a reference for the Captain on the crew matching site. This is the best way to say "thank you."
In addition if your voyage accomplished one of the famous landmarks - crossing an ocean, crossing the equator, crossing the international date line etc. you should definitely get the Captain to issue the appropriate certificates. Examples can be found at several sites, one is: http://tiffanypublishing.com/certificates/shellback/. I would expect that you would pay the cost of the certificate, although not terribly expensive the cost of multiple certificates can add up.

Fair winds and following seas :)


Monday, September 21, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 1 - Finding a position)

As we approach the departure of the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton to the British Virgin Islands I am once again in the process of interviewing potential crew for the trip. My experiences have motivated me to write a series of blog posts about crewing on private sailing yachts. We will "start at the very beginning, its a very fine place to start,"  finding a boat.

For those of you thinking of working a a Superyacht this post is not for you. The very best source I have found for you is: Work on Superyachts. The specific focus is finding a position on a modest, privately owned offshore sailboat. The duration of your stay might be event driven (e.g. The Salty Dawg  is a commitment of about two to two and one half weeks) or might be a more extended period of time (e.g. nanny to a family spending a season in the Caribbean.)


There are three sources of information for available crew positions (beyond a personal relationship with a sailboat owner:)

  1. Crew matching services - primarily web sites. Like dating sites you register, fill out information about yourself and you are matched with boats looking for crew. In most cases the "crew" side of the match can be accomplished as a "free member." The boat owners pretty much have to pay a fee for the sites to be useful to them. One example (and a site I use) is: Find a Crew. Sailing forums also may have crew finding sections (e.g. Sailnet.)
  2. Event specific web sites. Most events (rallies, races, etc.) will have a "looking for crew" section (e.g. Salty Dawg Crew Want to Crew)
  3. Walking the docks: If you happen to live in a area where boats are departing for an event or because it is a normal departure point (e.g. the Canary Islands in November and December) you can walk the docks and ask each boat if they need crew. Depending on the location you may easily find a boat or find it very difficult. For example, in past years boats staging in the Canary Islands for the winter transit to the Caribbean were always looking for crew. In the past few years so many potential crew have shown up in Gran Canaria and Teneriffe that crew are asked to pay as much as 5,000 euro for the privilege of crewing on a boat.

Crew positions are a "buyer's market." Since most modest sized sailboats (35' to 55') are sailed by their owners the concerns of the boat are similar to those of a person hiring someone to work in their home on shore (e.g. as a nanny or housekeeper.) Most boats represent a substantial part of the owner's assets. It should go without saying that you need to be trustworthy, respect the owner's property, and deliver on your promises with respect to crewing on the boat. Most owners would rather go without crew than take someone they don't trust and/or who isn't going to contribute.

How do you compete?
  1. Your biggest competitor is yourself: Except in movies like The Devil Wears Prada being totally unprepared for a job interview will  result in you not getting hired. This starts with your posting on the web sites. I am contacted by numerous people who have not bothered to fill out the requested information. A contact message from someone who has not posted a picture or given me any substantive background information is going to get an instant no.
  2. Do your homework: Sailboats travel to certain places during certain seasons. Looking to crew in the Caribbean in the summer is an instant turn-off. You should know that it is hurricane season. Wanting to crew for a couple of weeks on a trip that takes several months is another indication you haven't been serious enough to do some research. Learn enough about the areas to be visited, the length of any potential trips, etc. to be literate when you speak to the Captain.
  3. Bring something to the party: Most people self describe on web sites as the kind of person I would want to bring home to my mother. (Well, she is dead, and a lot of the people posting are guys, but you get the point.) What attribute(s) do you have that set you apart from all the other hard working, charming, sailing loving individuals posting?
  4. Be realistic about what you are willing to do: The implicit contract between you and the Captain is that you are going to work in exchange for the opportunity to sail and see fun places. You are not just there for a good time and to go along with the ride.  In my experience crew members come with very different ideas about what constitutes their contribution. In my case I expect you to stand watch, cook, clean the boat, keep your personal belonging neat and out of the way, help shop and run errands while on shore, and do your fair share of pitching in with the rest of the crew to make it a safe and fun trip. This topic will be the subject of Part 2 of this serious. I will explore more fully the range of expectations for crew that have been communicated to me by other boat owners.
  5. Be realistic in your expectations: I still shutter at the memory of the young couple who approached me to crew across the Atlantic. They were walking the docks in Tenerife with two large suitcases, three guitars, and one large (and very pretty actually) dog. They had no sailing experience. I still don't know what they were thinking.
  6. References: Unfortunately these are of far less value then in the past. Fear of litigation and personal loyalty prevent most people from saying anything negative. However, if you have crewed for someone successfully ask them for a reference. If you though they were a good Captain post on reference on the crew matching web site.

The range of financial arrangements is very broad. Some boats are willing to pay you to crew. This might be for a nanny position or similar. Some boats will absorb the costs of having you on board (typically food.) Most boats will expect you to make a modest contribution - usually your share of food, and pay for your own entertainment expenses: restaurants, shore excursions, etc. Most boats pay the boat expenses: fuel, dockage, clearance fees. It is reasonable to expect to have to contribute between $10 and $25 per day to the shared expense pool.

A big concern for me (and most Captains) is that you have money to get home. When traveling internationally on a sailboat most countries will give you a tourist visa (or tourist status) when you arrive. You can not work! Most of us are not cruel enough to leave a penniless crew member behind in a foreign country. We avoid this by making sure you have enough money to get home, or agree up front that we will get you back to where you started. This second agreement is rare.


This is a job interview followed by a job. Just as it is foolish to not get around to replying to a potential employer not being prompt in your communications with a potential sailboat will most likely disqualify you from being invited on board. If you post on a web site check it every day. I am unimpressed (as are most Captains) with someone who posts and then doesn't bother to check back in for weeks at a time. We assume you are not serious.

Most cruising sailboats are owned by individuals or couples in their 50's or older. They usually have finished their careers, raised their children, and retired onto their sailboat. There are a few younger people and families with young children but they are more rare. There might be a few rich, dashing young Captains out there - I have never met any of them. Crew ages could be anything from 20's to 60's. But the vast majority of the time you are going to be living, working, and experiencing life with people in their 50's or above.


As noted above everyone has to start somewhere. But starting with absolutely no experience on a offshore sailboat is (in my humble opinion) a non-starter. Most Captains will tell you, and I agree wholeheartedly, that the "emotional fit" between a Captain and crew is far more important than experience. But that does not mean experience is unimportant. Even if you are landlocked you can read and learn. A great place to start is Start Sailing Right. There are lots of instructional videos on YouTube. If you live near the water get down to the docks and look for a ride! Be prepared to demonstrate that you are actually serious about learning to sail.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Screwdrivers and the 50-50-90 rule

For those of you unacquainted with the 50-50-90 rule it states as follows:

If there is a 50% chance of a good outcome and a 50% chance of a bad outcome 90% of the time you will experience a bad outcome.

To the screwdriver.

When Al was on board he was up on the top of the mast and dropped a screwdriver. It of course went ping, pang, plunk, splash. We joked that he owed me $2.00 for a new screwdriver (I am holding you to it, Al.) In the store the other day I went to purchase the replacement screwdriver. Compared to the cost of the single replacement screwdriver I was able to purchase a set of seven screwdrivers for only a few bucks more even though six of them duplicated screwdrivers in my toolbox. So I did.

This morning I replaced the broken bracket for the hailing horn. I dropped the screwdriver. Ping, pang, plunk, splash. Need I tell you which of the new seven screwdrivers I dropped overboard?

Fair winds and following seas :)

Two out of three ain't bad

I have two confirmed crew for the Salty Dawg. I am still looking for one more person. Let me know (rebootagent at gmail.com) if you are interested or look at the write up on find-a-crew (search for 208909)

Fair winds and following seas :)