...THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD VACATION AND A GREAT ONE.
The choice of people can make or break an experience. In sailing, there comes a time when you need to gather your own crew. How you choose the people determines who you choose. Companies like The Yacht Week allow crews to find each other on their platform. This can be very helpful. Even so, how can you be sure you are assembling a crew of legends?
Perhaps you have recently finished a Sailing Virgins course and are a freshly minted Bareboat Skipper. You want to make the right call on your crew. At this point, after your initial question of “how do I charter my own boat?”, you may be asking “how can I find the ideal crew on a yacht?”. We share some tips to this end below.
Most of us don't have seven friends on tap, ready to have a sailing vacation at the same time together. Even if you can reach half that number, you may need to find a few others to make up your crew. Below are some tips to finding the right crew. Some are not what you might think.
1. Prioritise Competence
The week is much more enjoyable if at least a couple of people know what they're doing. This is oftentimes easier said than done. Lots of people (especially some guys) can talk about how America's Cup (ie. incredibly brilliant) they are with their sailing. Yet when it comes down to it, they might have been out once or twice in a Hobiecat as a kid and don't now a jib from a gybe.
You want at least a couple of people who have their knots down, who can handle a boat the size you are chartering, can fix an impeller, know how much rode to put out so you don’t drag, know how to throw in a quick reef if a squall comes; these sorts of things.
2. Find People who are Adaptable
It's great to have people who when sailing can enjoy the sail, then when the party happens can match it with the best of them. Hero by night, hero by day sort of thing. Also if there is a challenging character on the boat, look for the types of people who can roll with that and keep the spirit up. Nobody's going to be exactly the same, but if you can find adaptable people, you will be winning.
Above: Chin and Joe. Heros at all hours of the day.
3. Balance the Genders
If you're a guy you may think a boat load of girls is nirvana. But generally, having a balanced crew is the way forward. Through sailing dozens of different crews, and talking to my fellow captains, we agree that a mixed crew is usually the most harmonious crew. Try to find that goldilocks mix.
4. Make Sure Sailing/Partying/Music Tastes Are Known
This sounds like we're about to get a whiteboard out, but hear me out. If you have a bunch of people who like chill music and are happy to balance out partying with adventure, this is a different crew to people who want hardcore EDM 24/7 and want to party every night until it becomes the next night. Set up a little questionnaire when you are fielding people. Not only will this inform you what sort of people they are, but it also shows them that you are being selective. Everyone wins.
5. Eat Together
Also part of the questionnaire, you might have picky eaters, which is fine, but make sure everyone is happy to eat together. This is made much easier if everyone cooks the same meal. You can allow for vegetarians etc by cooking the meat separate and offering a decent substitute, but just make sure everyone is happy to sit down together.
6. Establish a kitty
Also called a slush fund, agree to seed the kitty with $100 each that can be used to buy drinks when you are out or even to pay for the meal. You can all order tapas-style, where even if they are main-courses, you can agree to all share them around. It's this type of personality that you will enjoy having on the boat. Establishing a kitty helps avoid the need to pass the hat around all week for $4 here, $3 there.
7. Decide who the booker is going to be
There must be one person who books the yacht. Usually, this is the person organising the trip in the first place. This person will be collecting money, signing his/her life away that the boat will return in one piece, that sort of thing. Get your booker a drink or two as thanks.
Above: one of the most legendary crews everrr, all Yacht Week skippers, off Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Conclusion - finding a good crew is worth the effort
At Sailing Virgins we train people in their 20s-40s to become skippers. Some come to learn to be more competent at crewing (ie. Competent Crew or the upgraded version we call Awesome Crew), while others come to become a captain and make a career out of their sailing with our Fasttrack to Bareboat Skipper course. The Sailing Virgins alumni network is a rich place for finding your crew. They have all been blooded with us!
Thanks to legendary photographer Michael Vanarey for many of the shots here.