Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Care & Feeding of Crew

Some Tentative Thoughts

When I played tennis (for decades), I preferred singles to doubles. My asymmetrical style of play was more suited to not having opponents encamped on the net. But more importantly, I always tried too hard at doubles and such striving occasioned more frequent injuries.

In sailing, single-handed racing appeals most to me, but I am too old now for Lasers. Still, smaller is better. I never subscribed to the old saw that a man should always own more LOA in feet than he is aged in years. Smaller boats, smaller crew. The larger the boat, the more assignments I resent not being able to perform any better than my crew.

The most anxious moment for me is always how many crew will show up for a race. It's an unreal worry. My crew is golden. They can be counted on. But these are trying financial times, and pressures on the smart people in our group can be unpredictable and unsurmountable. Otherwise, I am confident they epitomize the bumpersticker that reads,


Because of absences, I have felt it advisable to overbook crew. That's better than having to cold-call fill-ins. You owe it to the crew that shows up not to be shorthanded for ambient conditions. OTOH, crew doesn't like a crowded boat. Too many aboard one week can cause you to have too few the next. As a way to re-distribute responsibility for attaining the right boatload, I have taken to group emails ('Reply to All'). I tried a ship's log site, but most people eschew anything that rhymes with 'blog'.

Underway, I feel I am in charge. But guest rail meat might never know it. Controversy spills out over tactics, bearings, sail trim, etc. There used to be references as to a deleterious event five minutes prior, but that's a diminishing problem. Over the years with basically the same great people, I have learned to hold my counsel and remain aloof from these conversations. Being the guy who makes the call requires concentration that this separation affords. Inward personal satisfaction ultimately comes whenever a contested call is validated in the next moment: unexpectedly an adversary is crossed or a mark is fetched.

Sometimes it helps to explain reasons for what I'm trying to do. Oftentimes it helps just to give the biggest mouth a bigger assignment to keep its mind and hands busier.
Occasionally, like last night, I give up the helm on the last leg to go to the head and to secure some electronic gadget. Increasingly, it feels good to do that.

I have complete confidence in everyone aboard. Unsolicited advice, complaining and even carping - there's less of that as the years go by - are all signs of concern about the boat's performance. Would I have it any other way? Everyone aboard is a competent and competitive person in his/her own professional world. And their mutual respect for each other precludes blame-gaming. I am extremely fortunate to have them invest some precious hours or even occasionally risk their precious lives on my boat. They are entitled to their opinion.

They are not entitled to mine. That's what this blog is all about.

Now, about that clusterfook last night......


  1. When the same people work together as crew year after year, it's a beautiful thing. You're right; the contentiousness decreases as everybody is generally on the same page, and everybody is accustomed to what everybody else is going to do. It's what I've always loved about sailing with Team Constellation.

  2. Well written Doc. Are you an english teacher? I like your style. I'm still waiting.....

  3. Carol Anne, "Team Constellation" is right. All of my email is addressed to the "Team".

  4. Speaking of Team Constellation, since you've been so supportive, I thought you ought to know ... the medical examiner has released results that show Marty apparently had a massive heart attack. So a life jacket might not have saved his life -- but it WOULD have saved a lot of anguish caused by his being missing for 20 days.

  5. Thx for the closure. A PFD also would have lessened the risk of any diving in looking for him, it goes w/o saying. Those are cold waters.

  6. Yeah, the State Police diving team spent two days at the lake ... they had side-scanning sonar and everything, but weather and water conditions weren't good. And Marty's widow was -- I am not exaggerating -- insane with grief. She was having delusions that he might still be alive and was just waiting on the far side of the lake for somebody to come and pick him up.