Update: Crew light on whines, heavy on plans, budgets, details

Aug 29, 2016 by Peter Herm

By Peter Herm

In previous months, I have written about our crew inherited with the current boat in Europe.

We got lucky. Over the past 15 months, we have experienced many of the joys of big boating. These have included thousands of miles of Med and Adriatic cruising, yard periods, repairs, replaced equipment, amazing sights and spectacular weather.

Like any good crew, ours is more than competent at the maritime parts of their jobs: safety, navigation, docking, maintenance, repair, etc.

But what sets this group apart is its true desire to make the owner’s and guests’ enjoyment of the boat complete, including the little details. The crew that goes the extra mile is the crew an owner wants. For some reason, it can often be difficult to find.

A few of the elements that have made this our best crew ever in more than 30 years of yachting:

  • No Whingeing (the British term for whining). Certainly they have commented on various elements of their jobs, like my overpromising of their talents to guests, back-to-back usage, insane refit schedules and my desire to always slow down.

But in general, there has been little or no whining. Whining crew are fairly common in my experience and have probably led to more than a few owners departing from boat ownership. By all means, communicate, but this crew does it in a way that is not whining; many others do not.

  • Great Cruise Planning. I am not experienced in most of the places we have traveled in the past 15 months. A lot of them don’t even make the guide books. Virtually everything has been new to me, and much of it has been new to the crew as well.

When I said, “Let’s run Montenegro to Venice,” the captain gently suggested another plan. Given the hundreds of unspoiled islands on the Croatian coast and my desire for uncrowded places, we would be missing a lot by trying to make such a long trip in a relatively short visit.

The captain was right. He guided us toward a more rational schedule, and we saw some amazing places he picked from research into the guides and chatting with other captains. My advice to owners: Let the crew plan your trip; you might be surprised at what you get.

  • Watching the Nickels. Big boating is not a sport for the light of wallet, but there are ways to reduce the financial impact of a lot of decisions. These decisions can be as small as provisioning and as large as engine rebuilds. But it is critical to have a captain and crew who do not view the owner’s wallet as a place to continually feed the black hole of big boats.

Here’s just one example. Years ago, I interviewed a captain who was looking for a new job because the owner rarely used the boat. If the owner never used the boat, I asked, why was it docked in one of the most expensive marinas in Ft. Lauderdale? His response was scary. “It is more convenient for me. The owner doesn’t care, he is worth a billion dollars.”

Needless to say, I did not hire him as this was not the financial attitude I was looking for, nor would any owner I know. There is a fine line between being cheap and being wasteful. My crew has it figured out.

  • The Little Things. Every boat owner I know has pet peeves, the minor irritants that drive them crazy. My list is well communicated: running out of beer/ice, dirty deck scuppers, broken bits on the tenders, and marinas in general.

Fortunately, my perceptive crew has picked up on the needs/wants/peeves of my family members and guests as well. They have all commented on how the crew has been able to anticipate their needs/desires and make them happy, just by paying attention to the little things.

It doesn’t take a lot, just listening, asking and anticipating rather than waiting to be told. That’s a critical and valuable skill that is tough to teach.

I hope for a long-term relationship with my current crew. Hopefully, they will feel the same after a lot of R&R at the end of the season. For most folks here in the Med, that season end is September.

But did I tell you how fabulous October is around here? And they did move the Ft. Lauderdale boat show into November, which leaves October wide open for one last trip.

Bow west and high tide only.

Peter Herm is the pen name for a veteran yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. Comments are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.