It’s hard to know the unspoken rules of any culture. To avoid any clashes, here are a few secrets to help you understand what your new skipper is thinking in various hypothetical sailing situations and how you should react:
A skipper asks you to bring lunch. Do not be offended if this happens. Fuel is expensive, as is boat maintenance. Just as you would offer a dinner party host some cheese or wine, crew members often bring their own lunch or share costs for snacks or beverages. Remember, recyclable cans and plastic bottles are better than glass on boats.
A skipper asks you to wear a lifejacket. This doesn’t mean he or she questions your swimming abilities; it means he is considering your safety. Trust your skipper’s hunches. Put it on.
A skipper asks you to wear different shoes. Again, no offense. Dark-soled shoes have always been a no-no on boats. Certain shoes such as Keens have dark, but non-scuffing soles (see page 17). To see if your shoes scuff, you may want to test them first on your linoleum floor at home.
A skipper asks you to be quiet. Have you ever tried to perform a tricky parallel parking or lane-changing maneuver with someone yapping in your ear? It’s equally distracting on a boat. When a skipper asks for quiet, respect the request. Leaving and returning to a dock and certain on-the-water maneuvers require concentration. Quiet crewmembers, who are ready to listen and jump into action, keep the tension level down on a boat. Crew members with open ears, open eyes, and open minds who keep their mouths shut get many more sailing offers than chatty ones.
A skipper asks you to go down below for awhile. Especially during a gybe (see page 9) or during rough weather, it is smart to have newcomers go down below rather than be on deck unsure of what to do. It is for your safety and that of the other crewmembers. Even if the skipper doesn’t have time to explain why, just listen, and trust his or her hunches.
A skipper yells repeatedly at his or her crew. Despite the tyrant-captain stereotype, this is not cool or acceptable behavior. Yelling is offensive and often the sign of a skipper who lacks confidence, skill, and manners. Reconsider his or her next sailing offer for your own safety and sanity. There are polite, level-headed sailors out there. You don’t need to waste time on rude ones.
A skipper is offensive. Unfortunately, such people show up on land and in boats. We’ve told you a few times here to trust your skipper’s hunches. Make sure to trust your own, too. Say goodbye... and keep up the search for considerate sailors.
A skipper emails potential sailing dates, but you don’t know your schedule yet. Please respond to his or her email anyway. Being a prompt, honest communicator will bring you future sailing invitations!