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Continued from the February 2011 ASA E-Newsletter

Bareboat Chartering Essentials
Crew Management (Delegating Tasks to Build your Team)

By Captain Lisa Batchelor Frailey , ASA Instructor and ASA School Owner

Experience” is often defined as “learning from your mistakes”. If that’s the case, then I gained lots of experience during my first bareboat charter!  Eager to skipper my first BVI charter in 1995, I gathered a crew comprised of my college roommate and best ski-buddies – ladies whom I knew could remain friends after spending a week onboard together. None of us had chartered before, but my willing and capable crew onboard “The Blonde Lady” made a well-coordinated sailing team. Sailing, however, is just one aspect of chartering. While I focused on the sailing and seamanship aspects that first charter, I neglected to delegate tasks for domestic chores. Instead, I simply asked each day “would somebody like to…? “. Given the option of taking the trash ashore or basking in the sun, these requests were not always met with enthusiasm. Consequently, I often felt like a mother hen instead of a Captain. The next year (yes, they all returned!) I changed tacks. Covering the spectrum of seamanship and domestic tasks, each crewmember chose one preferred duty and drew straws for the remaining less-desirable jobs. Everyone knew what was expected, pulled their weight, and I didn’t have to ask for chores to be done! We were a stronger team all around, and had a lot more fun in the process. Since then I’ve experimented with a number of ways to delegate onboard tasks for training, social and family cruises. Read on, experiment, and discover what methods work to build your team! 

Why Delegate?
Delegation isn’t easy. Let’s face it – it’s often easier to “do it yourself” than to delegate a job to someone else. You may have far more experience than your crew, and be perfectly content to handle all the jobs onboard by yourself, or with your sailing partner. Besides, the adage “You can delegate authority but not responsibility” applies even more when at sea.  So… why bother?  Because successful delegation:

  • Provides the Captain breathing room to perform at a higher level and see the big picture
  • Allows the entire crew to accomplish more in less time – leaving more time for sailing and fun
  • Allows each crewmember to develop or refine skills
  • Promotes a sense of worth and accomplishment in crewmembers
  • Fosters teamwork and team thinking
  • Builds a “deep bench” of experienced crew – critical in a crisis

How to Delegate.
  On your bareboat charter, it’s pretty safe to assume that “Everybody wants to help.” Otherwise, your team would be on a professionally-crewed charter sipping pina coladas! But while everybody wants to help, not everybody knows what to do, or how you’d like it done. Follow these tips for successful delegating:

  • Identify the tasks - lay out the range of seamanship, domestic and social duties for your charter, and explain what is involved in each.
  • Match crewmembers to the duties - identify your crew’s interests, strengths and capabilities, and delegate duties with these features in mind.
  • Coach and train where needed. Partner novices with more experienced crew to get them comfortable with new duties.
  • Establish expectations and timelines. In delegating, you are giving crewmembers authority, but you may need to define the degree of authority. (e.g. “check the engine oil daily” – if it’s low, should the Engineer tell the Captain first, or go ahead and top up?)
  • Remember that your way is not the only way – there may be several ways to achieve the desired end result. So long as safety is not compromised, be open to creative new methods.
  • Write it down. Put the duties in writing; make a watchbill or list to avoid confusion and maintain accountability.
  • Follow up. Encourage feedback and provide a positive environment for communication.

What to Delegate
.  Because the Captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat and crew, the role of Captain cannot be delegated. The Captain delegates tasks and the authority to conduct them, but cannot delegate overall responsibility. The Captain’s task is to monitor all the duties onboard (delegated or not) and to ensure they are being carried out properly. The Captain provides training and infuses the crew with enthusiasm.  A bareboat charter involves a wide range of seamanship, domestic and even social duties - most of which can be delegated. The titles are not important, but the tasks are. Let’s look at some examples:

Underway/Seamanship Duties

  • First Mate – Second in command, the Captain’s primary assistant. Often a “Captain in Training.”
  • Engineer – Checks and maintains the boat’s systems. Daily checks of fuel, engine oil, coolant, belts, battery state, freshwater levels, holding tanks. Ensure below-deck areas are secure for sea. (See checklist in ASA’s Cruising Fundamentals text)
  • Bosun – Topside focus; sails, rigging, deck hardware, ground tackle, hatches, safety gear, flags. Takes lead in anchoring, mooring pickups, docklines & fenders.
  • Dinghy Captain – Ensures dinghy/outboard are secure for voyage (towed or lifted) or mooring/anchoring detail, fueled, bailed, safety gear stowed, dinghy secured when ashore.
  • Weather - Checks forecast against actual conditions, advises on implications for sailing plans.
  • Navigator – Focused on boat’s position; plans journey, maintains charts, advises Captain, avoids hazards, maintains position and provides time estimates. Often dual-hatted with Weather.
  • Helmsman – Drives the boat along the point of sail or course ordered. Generally the most fun job, and the most often rotated.
  • Trimmer – Responsible for trimming sails (main, genoa, spinnaker) for optimal performance.
  • Lookout – Focused on spotting traffic and hazards, and advising Captain and helmsman. A lookout is always required.

Domestic Duties

  • Purser – Responsible for the “cruising kitty” – credit/cash used for provisions, daily expenses including mooring or marina fees, ice, trash disposal, pump-outs, fuel, gas and water top-up, etc.
  • Steward – Head provisioner; stows provisions onboard for best access and security, monitors provisions, helps cook find required ingredients for planned meals. May also plan the menu.
  • Cook – Prepares and serves onboard meals. Requires close coordination with steward and galley cleanup. May be one person/team or a rotated duty. Don’t forget a “Snacktician”.
  • Galley cleanup - Responsible for cleanup of galley after meals and throughout day. May be an individual or team, rotated by day or meal.
  • Ice Supply – Monitors ice supply, restocks as needed. Not as easy as it appears!
  • Trash Disposal – Responsible for taking trash ashore for appropriate disposal.
  • Swabby – Keeps topsides and common areas ship-shape. Crew maintain their own cabins.

Social Duties

  • Maestro – Maintains appropriate music onboard, respects “quiet time” at anchorages.
  • Cruise Director – Researches and advises on highlights and events in port, promotes onboard entertainment (games, jokes, story-telling, etc).
  • Mix-Master – Takes the lead for “sundowners” acknowledging crew preferences and local specialties.

Timing & Options.

  • Start the delegation process early. Once your crew “signs” on, learn their capabilities and interests. These factors may have already played a role in your crew selection.
  • Rotation of duties is necessary in a student/training environment. You may wish to have crewmembers retain certain duties throughout the charter, and rotate others for variety.
  • On small crews, each crewmember (including the Captain) will be responsible for many duties. Titles are not important, but it’s key to ensure that all required duties are covered.
  • Even with a larger crew, it makes sense to streamline functions and share the load. Ice Supply and Trash Disposal both require a dinghy-ride ashore. Navigation/Weather are complementary. One Cook/Galley team per day or meal spreads the load, while alternating teams act as Swabby.
  • Don’t forget to delegate to young children and teens; ensure the tasks are appropriate for their age and skill levels. It’s never too soon to contribute and feel like a valued member of the crew!

Delegation is a great way to build your team.  Your crewmembers will develop and refine skills, and come away from the charter with a sense of accomplishment. With the Captain focusing on the big picture, the crew can pull together to think and perform as a team. Take time to define the wide variety of tasks and duties on a bareboat charter (or your own boat) – there’s quite a lot! Explore ways to delegate these tasks to build your team for success!

About the Author:  Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey is an ASA Instructor and co-owner of Sail Solomons Sailing School & Yacht Charters. A retired Naval Captain, she has significant experience in delegation and team-building – from both sides of the coin. Lisa is also an independent charter broker with extensive chartering and cruising experience in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Chesapeake Bay.

Copyright © 2010, Lisa Batchelor Frailey
All rights reserved. 


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