How to be a good crew (and get good rides)

The other night I came across the following passage from Sailing the Bay by Kimball Livingston [amazon].   I had been thinking a lot about crew management and recruitment, and it seemed like a timely find.

As a skipper, I would have probably put ‘loyalty’ in there a few more times.

Coincidentally, there was a thread started on Sailing Anarchy discussing the same topic, although more slanted to getting on the fancier rides rather than to the novice.    The user known as Blue Water Swimmer has the following advice:

Getting aboard

  • Walk before you run. Don’t expect to do races before you’ve done deliveries.
  • Network yourself like it’s a job.
  • Show up.   Example – my ride for MHOR isn’t a sure thing, yet. If I don’t get it, I’ll get my ass up to Marblehead a day early and ask around. Someone will nab me. Same thing for deliveries/returns – there must have been 20 boats leaving from Bermuda last July after the Newport race who would have paid for crew had any been available.
  • Leverage who you know already – if the big boat at your local club is full, ask the skipper about his competition and if they need anyone – unless he’s a jerk, he will want to get his class up to full strength and will help you get a ride.
  • The Sailing Anarchy crew board is probably the best generic one, but don’t overlook the race web site. Not everyone reads SA.

Getting invited back

  • Do the dirty jobs before you’re asked.
  • Unless you walk on water and have been brought on board because no one trims downwind like you, be humble. (Of course, if you’re that good, then you don’t need my advice – I need yours!) Don’t talk about how good you are, no matter how good you are, until after you’ve done some sailing with the crew and they know you’re not an asshat. I have found it’s better to patiently wait for the chance to demonstrate your skills than talk about them ahead of time.
  • Don’t get too friendly with any one person until you learn the dynamics of the boat.
  • Don’t talk trash about anyone or anything until you know who you’re sailing with, and who their sisters are dating.
  • Age matters. If you’re young and a great sailor, expect to be treated like you’re young. You won’t be treated like a great sailor until you’ve bled a little.
  • If you’re an oldster, watch out that someone isn’t giving you more responsibility than you’re ready for. You’ll embarrass yourself and potentially endanger the boat if you don’t fess up and something goes wrong (don’t ask me how I know this).
  • Act like someone who deserves to be entrusted with the owner’s most prized possession, as well as his life and that of his family’s.
  • Don’t goof off until you know you’re ‘in’.
  • Prepare as if someone had asked you to. Know the weather, local conditions, SIs, etc. If you are a local, then you might have some great intel on the competition, and should be ready to share it – if someone always leaves too much mark room, let the skipper know that.
  • Buy the first round at the bar (unless you’re a poor student, in which case no one will expect you to).
  • Ask someone how to use the head and the galley as soon as possible. Your mates will appreciate not being woken up when you need to take your first crap, and they will embrace you as one of their own if you’re the guy who brings them a hot cuppa as you come on watch.
  • Save something for later. On a new boat, I hang back a little at first, because every one is different. As an observational learner, I pick things up by watching others. The regular crew will be fired up at the start and they know everything better than you anyway. So watch what they do and keep an eye out for a-holes, lines in the water, foul traffic, etc. Then, when they’re grabbing a sandwich, offer to grab the sheet, man the winch, backstay, whatever. This goes for later, too. Be the guy who got rest when he could so when it really hits the fan you have the energy to deliver.

More tips from the thread:

  • bring a spare knife (cheap)
  • don’t bring a lot of heavy gear if conditions don’t warrant it
  • have a sailing resume ready

BWS makes some great points above, prospective crew should take them to heart.     Here are a few more:

  • Make sure the skipper knows you will do the delivery associated with the race when you first are invited.
  • When you are pinged or invited to go on a race, respond promptly with a definitive answer, either yes or no. Don’t leave the skipper hanging, if the answer is no, tell him and let him get on with finding someone else.
  • Also, bring ice.

And a few don’ts:

  • Don’t stress out the skipper by being late for boat call.  (You would think that this was too obvious to mention.)
  • As new crew, don’t necessarily point out every little thing that is wrong or non-optimum about the boat, rigging, condition of the sails, etc. Chances are the owner already knows about 99% of the things you are observing.
  • Don’t spend too much time slagging other boats and owners as conversation fodder. Sure, funny anecdotes are funny, but later people wonder what you are saying about them when they are not around.  (BWS says much the same.)

Finally, here are some crew list resources for you aspiring racers:

Good luck!

2 Responses to “How to be a good crew (and get good rides)”

  1. 1 Blue Water Swimmer

    Thank you for reposting my thread here!

  2. 2 app source Code

    Hi friends, how is the whole thing, and what you want
    to say concerning this post, in my view its truly amazing in favor of

Leave a Reply