Owner’s View: Text on your own time

Jun 30, 2017 by Peter Herm

Owner’s View: by Peter Herm

This article is about the now ubiquitous smartphone and the crew management challenges it creates. The editors were kind enough to ask me to address this topic, not because of my delicate management skills (none), but rather my strong opinions on the topic. A friend of mine was killed recently while texting and driving. Dumb and a terrible shame, but a lesson for all of us.

Smartphones are amazing devices. We can check the weather in Ulaanbaatar, find old girlfriends from high school and see the instant replay on the baseball game. Who needs an AM radio? My nephew even met his new wife on some app. Smartphones are a great tool,  without question. But in the crew world, there is a time and place for everything. If you are on someone’s payroll, texting your girl/boyfriend is not working — and not safe, in many cases.

Driving through Dunkin Donuts today, I watched as the kid taking out the doughnut trash, two bags in hand, stopped in the middle of the parking lot, whipped out his smartphone and furiously pounded away on the screen. Perhaps it was a job-related emergency: They ran out of pink sprinkles and wanted him to run to Walmart to buy more? Or maybe it was his stockbroker with an urgent update on one of the stocks in his Euro portfolio? I don’t know, but I am reasonably sure it was neither urgent nor important, and probably not what his boss wanted him to be doing at that moment. I would guess he was supposed to be taking out the trash, not texting.

On a boat, a crew’s smartphone is for personal time. It is not work; it is play. Play with it on your break, during your meals — whenever it is not the paycheck writer’s time. That time should be spent working, not setting up your hookup for tonight.

There is also, of course, the issue of safety. A lot of what crew does is dangerous. People get killed or injured on boats every day. Most owners don’t fully comprehend this, but with more than a few scars from my early boat maintenance days and even some recently (alcohol involved), I can tell you from experience that you need to pay attention. A phone is a distraction.

Yes, we are all addicted to those “dings,” but if you are a professional on someone’s payroll, they have to be ignored until off duty. I don’t mean wait until you put the brush down — I mean wait until your “dings” can be checked on your time, not mine. The “dings” can wait or you can walk. Harsh? Maybe, but consider these U.S. statistics gleaned from the web:

  • 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving.
  • According to an AAA poll, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35 percent admit to doing it anyway.
  • 21 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by their cellphones.
  • According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year,
  • Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
  • 1 of every 4 car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving.
  • Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while drunk.
  • Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.
  • Texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

Is there really anything so important on your phone that you should risk injury to yourself or your fellow crew members? Or waste my money? I doubt it. Have a great summer, look me up in the Adriatic. I am the fat guy on the aft deck texting while checking emails on my computer. But not working.

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 below.