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Crew Compass: Remember radio etiquette to stay efficient, out of trouble

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Crew Compass: by Stew Melissa McMahon

In this industry, communication is one of our top priorities when it comes to safety. Even though it is sometimes uncomfortable to wear a radio, it is indeed our lifeline. We must treat our radios onboard the same way we treat our cell phones: they should never leave our side and we must always check up on them. At the very least, they should always be clipped on when we’re working and charged with a full battery.

One would think that all crew would have general radio knowledge and know how to effectively communicate, but that is not always the case. There are times when crew members scream on the radio or use harsh language. And then there are those who should move to the next channel to complete their 10-minute personal conversation. There are even some crew who don’t even know what 10-4 means.

Radio communication should always be professional, no harsh language, short and sweet, and no negativity, especially when guests are onboard. It turns into an awkward moment if a guest overhears an unprofessional radio call.

Having an earpiece saves us from those moments, thankfully, but it can also create a distraction for the interior crew when they are focused on service or talking to guests and a fellow crew member is in their ear asking them questions or trying to get their attention. Selective hearing is a great skill to have.

Then there are crew members who don’t even have their radios charged, then they get up, clip it on, and start working. I noticed one of the biggest pet peeves of a captain or heads of departments is trying to radio someone and they don’t answer because they have a dead radio battery.

Situations arise fast onboard, so it is always important to leave the main channel open for when those events do occur. Some yachts use separate channels for each department, so when those departments need to talk longer than a couple minutes, switching channels is beneficial.

It is also important to let the rest of the crew know the department is switching to a different channel. That way, if there is a situation onboard and all crew need to be informed, someone outside the department will switch to that channel to let them know and update them on what is going on.

When guests are off the boat and the atmosphere onboard is fun, then go ahead and make those little jokes in communicating. It is fun to hear conversations. When someone makes the whole crew laugh, that eases some stress and tension from the work day. A few stews and I on my previous boat, used to talk in creepy voices or say lines from movies such as “Taken” (“I will find you”) or “Terminator” (“I’ll be back”).

There is a line, however, that one does not want to step over. Remember that everyone is listening, even the captain.

A label maker comes in handy when first receiving a radio. I label both my radio and charger with my name because there are those crew members who misplace theirs and like to play a little game call see and snatch.

There was also a situation onboard between the deckhands who decided to play a joke on another deckhand by taking his radio that he had unclipped during wash down so it would not get damaged. They hid it and didn’t tell him where it was for a couple hours, causing him to get annoyed and agitated. Let’s just say the joke didn’t seem funny to others and especially not to the deckhand who had unclipped the radio in the first place. Knowing where our radios are 24/7 is one of the most important tasks.

Luckily, no one ever took mine because I always keep it safe next to my bunk. But I’ve seen crew members leave chargers in the pantry, in the crew lounge, or on a seat in the crew mess, open for anyone to take if it has no name on it.

Keep in mind most radios are not waterproof so before jumping into the clear waters of the Caribbean or the beautiful blue water in the Mediterranean or the freezing waters of Alaska or somewhere else north, remember that a lifeline may be clipped on.

Melissa McMahon is a stew from Long Island, N.Y. (www.longislandmermaid.com). Comments are welcome below

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One thought on “Crew Compass: Remember radio etiquette to stay efficient, out of trouble

  1. Paul Figuenick

    As captain working in the industry for over 40 years I have found radios to be a very necessary evil. The cost of issuing radios to all crew is very expensive, yet I have found crew who care little about the expense nor care about keeping the radio in good working order. I have made up contracts for each crewmember to sign to make them accountable for the issued radio, this has helped at times. But even then it appears they care little about losing a radio over the side.
    There should never be any joking on the radio, remember these radios transmit far and anyone can hear the conversation on them, always keep the conversations short and professional. You’re also right about captains being upset about radios not being charged, I mean really? There is absolutely no reason not to have a radio fully charged at all times.
    Working on passenger ships one must always be aware of the guests around them, keeping the volume down is important as is the reply one makes must be quiet and professional.
    I guess we all love and hate our radios.
    Capt. Paul Figuenick

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