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The Skipper on a charter yacht
by: Alexander Vournas
The skipper is the heart of every floating vessel on earth. His word is (or
should be) law to everybody on board. Yet, on a pleasant sailing holiday with
your friends it can be deemed as unpleasant, and hard for the skipper, to order
those friends to do something they may not like to do, and may consider
unnecessary or a "dirty job". A crew member might think -"why me again, why not
Charlie this time", not realising he may be the best person for the job,
especially in difficult or tricky maneuvers. It is not always easy for skipper
or crew member.
What about the situation where you have hired a professional skipper? You have
to admit that the situation where your employee (the skipper) commands you to do
something you may not like, is something which does not occur in other forms of
business or social life !! But please bear in mind that you are paying this guy
to do precisely this. If he doesn't, then he is not doing his job properly and
you must remember that in extreme situations your life may depend on his
decisions and commands, and the way you react to them.
There are three aspects regarding the skipper and I will analyse them for you:
a. You are the Skipper
You must discuss your position with your family and friends IN ADVANCE,
preferably before you even book the holiday. Having chosen you as skipper, they
have to understand that your word is LAW on board. If they can not accept this
then do not accept the position. If you are the only one with sailing experience
you can always accept the position of navigator, and let someone else be
skipper, however if the crew can not all accept your original conditions you
would be well advised not to make the trip, as the chances of failure are very
It has to be understood that the skipper's authority is not only confined to
emergency situations where you are about to hit rocks (they will certainly
accept commands then) but have to cover all the mundane daily tasks involved in
living on board.
For example, there are 6 men in the crew, it has been a long and exhausting day
and you have just enjoyed a magnificent dinner of fried fish, which you have
bought at the local market, washed down with a sufficiency of good local white
wine and are now sitting together to enjoy a coffee and brandy. BUT there is a
huge pile of dirty plates, pans - approaching deck-high. Who is going to do the
washing-up, when everyone is tired and a volunteer does not appear? To leave
them will smell the cabin out - having eaten fish. But it has to be done and you
have to ask, or eventually command, someone to spend the next hour doing the
unpleasant job. If you don't, then what started out as a very pleasant evening
will end up with arguments as to who will do what, and when - and it will all be
your fault !
This example may be extreme but you would be surprised how many holidays are
spoiled because these seemingly trivial issues are not handled properly. If the
crew chose you as skipper they must accept your word as law. Good leadership
skills by you, making sure that the crew all share the dirty jobs, as well as
the rewarding ones, including yourself in the various domestic tasks, will
ensure a happy ship and a subsequently enjoyable holiday.
b. You are the crew - and you have to choose the Skipper
Again, an early decision is by far the best. If more than one crew member has
sailing experience choose the one with the additional leadership skills rather,
than the purely technical sailor. You should choose someone you respect and
whose orders you will follow without question.
Respect on someone's skills has nothing to do with age. How many children these
days know more about computers than their fathers ??
During the trip you must follow the skipper's orders without question. If the
skipper appears to be picking on you and you seem to be getting more than your
share of a particular job - don't argue in front of the rest of the crew, just
do it - and then have a quiet word with the skipper about your feelings quietly
and in private later.
c. You hired a professional skipper for your holiday
Well, this is an article by itself and will be published separately in the short
Alexander M. Vournas
About The Author
Alex. Vournas is the owner and managing director of Almi Yachts ltd, a yacht
charter company in Greece. He is also the web designer and SEO for