I recently met a crew member who told me a terrible story of a delivery. A lifelong sailor and a tall, strong young man, he admitted he was afraid on that trip. The captain wasn’t prepared, and when things got dangerous, he didn’t step up.
It got me thinking how serious it is to set sail with someone we may know little about, so I asked crew at the show yesterday if they had ever been in a situation like that, where they doubted the skills of the captain in charge of their vessel and, of course, their life.
I was a little surprised at the results. A full 40 percent of crew — more than I expected — said they had worked for captains that in hindsight they probably shouldn’t have.
Interestingly, though, almost as many said they doubted the captain’s managerial skills, but not necessarily his or her navigation or safety skills. Since I intended the survey to check the safety skills, I group these responses in the “no” category.
If a crew member had doubts, I asked how they handled it, whether they quit or told someone about their concerns. Most followed the chain of command, unless they were second in command. In those cases, they didn’t get much sleep. It was also interesting to note that the majority of those dubious captains occurred on a crew member’s first job. Not sure what that means.
And just to be clear, none of these answers relate to the captains these crew work with now. I began my conversation with that caveat. (Otherwise, no one would have let me take their photo.)
Deckhand John Ioannides
M/Y First Draw
Yes. I knuckled down and didn’t say a word. I didn’t sleep well.
2d Eng. Steve Gondusky
M/Y Golden Compass
No, they’ve all been really good. I was questionable about one guy, but when there was an emergency, he handled himself. I’ve had a really good run of experienced captains.
Mate Kevin Greenstein
M/Y Miss Lisa
Yes, but technically I was only dayworking. I corrected the situation. But basically I associate with captains who know what they’re doing.
Mate Terry Roche
M/Y Mary Alice II
No, but I’ve only been with a few captains. I’ve been lucky.
Capt. Ron Gonsalves
M/Y Red Pearl
100-foot MCP Yachts
Yes. I watched him so closely for self preservation. I stood next to him the whole time.
Chief Officer/Capt. Wendy Umla
Networking at the show
Yes. At the point where you doubt their engineering, navigation or safety skills, that’s when you make sure everything is done properly. You make someone on the bridge is covering for him.sure the other person on watch with that captain is aware what to doare set and make sure the look-out person is extra prepared.
Stew Krista Glauner
M/Y Battered Bull
No, not the driving and knowledge of navigation and all that stuff they are educated in. I would question some of their leadership styles, but I’ve never felt unsafe or anything like that.
Capt. Hendre du Plessis
M/Y Remember When
No, and I’ve been doing this 13 years (eight years as crew before becoming a captain).
Capt. Mike Petty
120-foot Ocean Alexander
Yes, but it was a long time ago and on a small boat. I was so inexperienced. If I had the experience I have now, I never would have gotten onboard.
Bosun Clayton Van Dyk
Yes. I’d follow the first mate’s direction. We worked together as a team. In the end, I did end up quitting.
Capt. Veronica Hast
139-foot Abeking & Rasmussen
Yes. Eventually you leave, but when you’re there, you just look over their shoulder and call the crew agencies. And you always know where the fire extinguishers and the exits are.