Once upon a time we were not yachties. And then one sunny day, somebody took a chance and gave us our start. Shortly thereafter, more than likely, this poor soul glanced over at a young protégé and observed him or her scrubbing the topsides with a doodlebug or washing custom white linens with a scorching red t-shirt and wondered, with a feeble whimper, what they could have possibly been thinking?
Everybody started somewhere. It’s true. I myself was once an eager young pup anxious to be out on the mighty deep and battle my way across formidable oceans. With a warm heart, I wistfully recollect the smoke spewing from the captain’s ears the first time (not the last) I smashed the tender into the side of the boat. I think back to those halcyon days when I cleaned the scuffed jet ski seats with acetone and then smile pensively while evoking images of guests sitting up, butts bright red, swimsuits ruined, covered with the melted plastic of the seat’s upholstery.
“Why would you ever hire a greenhand?” some might wonder. If it’s not a junior stew burning the boss’s favorite shirt with an iron then it’s new deckies dumping battery acid on the teak or a fresh-faced engineer forgetting to fill the day tank and running the engines dry.
I say let somebody else hire greenies and then poach them away once they’ve learned that farting in the boss’s company is not a catchy icebreaker.
However, the inexperienced have their advantages. The first that springs to mind is that, on occasion, they will actually do what they’re told. In my first season I did everything that was asked without complaint, stayed on late and tried to impress in any way I could. I’ve since learned that doing this puts me at grave risk of collecting an uncomfortable callous or two and have since re-directed my ethic in a more leisurely direction that has me as likely to catch a cold from air-conditioning as being sunburned on deck.
But that’s beside the point. I listened and followed. I hope it might have come as some consolation to that first captain that I did my best to fix up the hulking abrasions scarring the hull after my second high-speed tender encounter. Never mind that I mixed the filler incorrectly and that I didn’t allow it to cure properly. Never mind that the shipyard had to be paid to re-do everything. I did give it the old college try and that’s what counts. It doesn’t really. But at least it makes me (if not that poor four-striper) feel a bit better about the whole thing.
Furthermore, without being buoyed up by new faces there would very soon be no crusty old grumblers like me left to complain about youngsters or tell people how hard life was when we had to go all the way to the marina office to check Facebook. The ranks of experienced stews, mates and captains would fade to the point that there would be nobody to remember listening to the even older timers claiming to have known how to turn on a single sideband or, and God help us all, navigate without GPS.
In order to keep the yachting herd healthy, fresh blood is needed. It remains incumbent upon us slightly older, slightly saltier and moderately more able to navigate (with the aid of GPS of course) sea dogs, to take this crew under our collective wing. We need to explain that the tenders need gas to run. We need to be there to guide that engineer and delicately, without embarrassment, pull the fuel nozzle out of the black tank discharge line and place it gently into the filling point. For the health of our industry, for yachting’s children, we need to be the firm hand guiding this new generation out of the coil of line they’re standing in and away from the 480 volt electrical panel they’re spraying with a waterhose.
Ultimately we all learn. It feels like eons since it took me six tries to get the heaving line ashore and still further away when I managed, despite it being an almost physical impossibility, to get that same monkey’s fist tangled in the bow thruster. But there was patience. They understood that one day I would lead a docking and that eventually I would be docking the big boat myself. That old captain knew, just like he knew what loran-c is (I think it’s an outdated vitamin supplement), that one day things would turn out.
So treat greenhands like flowers and help them grow. Then, when you’re finally comfortable enough to sleep while they’re on watch, you can sit back in satisfied silence until somebody (hopefully me) hires them away for a few dollars more.