I really enjoy the view from where I live. I’m right on the Indian River, which is the Intracoastal Waterway about 100 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale.
I particularly enjoy migration season. Not the birdlife, but the yacht migration.
Each year as yachts cruise by, I keep binoculars close by to admire and try to identify the designs. And invariably, my mind recalls deliveries I’ve done over the years. Only twice did I have owners aboard, and that was enough.
The first trip was delivering a 65-foot ketch from New York to the Virgin Islands via Bermuda. There were four of us on board, plus the owner. The owner was not really a sailor; especially not an offshore sailor. He wanted to experience the first leg.
I didn’t know him well as I had just started with the vessel, but I had a good feel for his personality. For all his success and wealth, he seemed pretty easy going and humble. He made it clear he had no desire to run the show on this delivery. There were enough capable hands aboard so he really didn’t have to do much.
Sure enough, as we ventured farther offshore, he was fine. I remember the weather was fairly stable, a little sloppy at times but not bad for October. We had a good ride; under sail most of the way. Our mellow owner remained just that. He read pretty much constantly and really didn’t have a whole lot to say. It was hard to tell but I think he really enjoyed the chance to do the trip and just shut down his other life for a few days.
We arrived in Bermuda, the owner caught a flight back to New York and everyone felt good about the experience, piece of cake. Who says you don’t want owners on delivery?
The second time, it was a different personality and ego, leading to a different experience. I had been captain for this man and his family for about a year. We were getting on just fine and on a whole, he treated me well. I had brought the boat, a beautiful 50-foot sloop, to the Bahamas with a couple of friends for crew earlier that winter.
The owner came down a couple of times with his wife and I sailed them around the Abacos. All was well as we usually had a nice time on simple day sails. When the time came to deliver the boat back north, the owner informed me he was going to do the trip. I was not thrilled.
This man was Type A all the way, a corporate mover and shaker who worked his way to the top at a Fortune 100 company. I respected his drive and success but I really didn’t want to go offshore with him. I was concerned about his ego and his need to be the smartest guy in the room. What served him well in his corporate life could be an issue on delivery.
So in an effort to avoid conflicts out there, we talked about who was going to be the captain out there. He assured me he wanted me in charge and had no problem with that. It eased my mind a little but I didn’t completely buy it. Sure enough, about Day Two, we had a discrepancy on our plotting. We were marking our positions on the chart and I noticed one of his marks was about 50 miles off. When I pointed this out he refused to believe he was wrong. (He was clearly wrong.)
Instead of admitting his error, he proceeded to bust out the GPS manual and started pushing buttons, convinced some settings must be wrong. Things were a little tense the rest of the way and sadly, our relationship was never really quite the same.
So what’s a captain to do with a big ego owner causing issues on delivery? If it’s regarding navigation and safety, we must step in and take control of the situation. That is our job, our responsibility as captains.
But be aware that the big ego will dig in when challenged. Approach the owner’s ego smartly and tactfully to minimize tension. That’s really all you can do once you’re out there.
If you are going to do an offshore delivery with an owner understand that the ego you see onshore is the ego you’ll see offshore.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (www.yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.