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Get new crew and be great crew

2022 June 1

Owners need sailors and sailors need boats; create great sailing relationships that last

Be good crew

1 Know the details

When you’re invited to go for a sail on a new-to-you boat, make sure you understand what kind of sailing you’ll be doing and what’s expected of you. What time should you plan to be at the boat? Can you bring anything to share like snacks or drinks (no glass bottles)? You might ask if you should bring your own life jacket or if the boat will have one you can use. It’s always best to bring your own if you have one so that you know it’s in good shape and fits properly. 

There’s really not much more to this than being as polite as you would be if you were invited to someone’s house.

2 Take a risk

It’s not easy to commit to spending several hours with someone you don’t know well, and it’s OK to do some legwork and ask around about the skipper who has invited you. Assuming you don’t hear anything alarming or your intuition isn’t putting up red flags, recognize that at some point you just have to go for it and take a risk. 

If you’ve been invited for a daysail with just the skipper, it may be helpful to ask if you can bring along a friend who is also interested in sailing. But remember, that a skipper is not there to entertain you.

3 Don’t pretend to know more than you do

There’s no fault in not knowing what you don’t know. Every sailor knew nothing about sailing at some point, and the only way to learn is to ask questions.

Most skippers can spot a person who’s exaggerating their skills from a mile away. You won’t learn anything by pretending you already know it and you certainly won’t impress anyone either. Feel free to ask questions about why you’re doing something or how to do it better. You’ll become a better sailor if you understand why what you’re doing makes a difference, rather than just how to do it. 

If you’re out for a daysail or sailing back to the dock after a race, ask if you can try out a couple different roles. 

Perhaps you’d like a primer on trimming the mainsail or tailing a halyard. It never hurts to ask.

4 Be very helpful

You will endear yourself to the skipper and rest of the crew by offering to help with anything you see people doing. If you see docklines being coiled and fenders stowed, jump in to help without being asked. When it comes time to fold sails, ask where you’d be useful. 

If someone is down below making sandwiches offer to help or just hand them out to the crew as they come through the companionway. 

These kinds of jobs don’t require special skill so jumping in to help without being asked will always be appreciated. Every crew needs people who help the team in hundreds of little ways and your contributions will not go unnoticed. It’s also a great way to learn more about sailing and how that specific boat’s crew operates.

And perhaps the best reason to pitch in is because you will know that you contributed, and that’s a good feeling to have at the end of the day.

5 Check out the boat 

Most new sailors have a basic understanding of general sailing theory, but it’s hard to understand how all the parts of a boat come together to make that happen until you’re standing on deck. It can be very helpful to look at how a new-to-you boat is rigged. Where are the halyards led to? What do each of the control lines in the cockpit do? 

Look at things like jib leads or how the traveler functions. There’s something to learn on every boat and they are all a little bit different. Not only will it help you understand all the complex parts on a boat, but it will make it easier when you have the opportunity to jump in to help.

And one final tip: Always say thank you. And if you had a good experience, do more than say thank you. Send a note, text or email thanking the owner and crew again and letting them know you’d love to go sailing again. Most owners appreciate nothing more than knowing that they helped a person who wants to go sailing have fun doing it.

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