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What Not to Say to a Captain

Jan 21st 10
By Claire Griffiths

“Do not spin, keep away from fire, do not apply unnecessary pressure and…dry flat.’’

Nope, we’re not talking about the owner’s girlfriend’s nearly-nothing silk undergarments. These wise words could keep you out of hot water and on the right side of El Capitan.

Well, they’ll help a bit perhaps – but there’s just a little more to it than that. The list of “What Not to Say to the Captain” is pretty much unlimited and tonne loads of midnight oil may never be enough for you to learn it all by rote under the sheets late into the night.

A quick sweep of the docks and two things become clear: You show us a captain who says he likes surprises and we’ll show you a liar; give us a deckhand who knows it all already and we’ll point out a guy who’ll soon be walking the plank. Confidence is good, cocksure just ain’t.

Chef Jean-Claude of M/Y Sophie Blue can’t stand the “I knows” from novices who clearly don’t know chicken poop. Although it would take something large and monster-like to rattle the cage of Capt. Gary of M/Y Perla Blu and Capt. Erwin of M/Y Elena, “That’s not my job’’ is enough to tip them into a blue fug of fury.

“I need people who are willing to help each other,” says Capt. Gary. “If you have a party of fifty guests on board, you want a deckhand who won’t mind helping the stew with the washing up, for example.”

And since we’re on the subject, the words “It’s broken,” do not ring melodiously to his sensitive ears…. “When exactly did you notice it was broken?” Gary might innocently and calmly ask. Needless to say the answer “last week” is just plain W-R-O-N-G. (Get back under the covers with the midnight oil.)

Phrases on Capt. Erwin’s “Don’t Say It” list also include crewmembers who claim to be feeling ill when he knows they had a big night out drinking or crew who talk about their days off before they’ve cleared it with the captain. But he adds, “A lot of times it’s what a crewmember does that’s more important than what a crewmember says, which is perhaps where the answer lies. “Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to” could have been the most useful thing your mum ever said to you.

Capt. Peter of M/Y Candyscape hits the nail on the head when he dreams up the phrase that could send him into a hissy fit of senseless rage. “I know the boss is arriving tomorrow, but I’ve been having a long hard think and I have decided to quit. This industry is not for me.” Spare a thought for your captain’s blood pressure and try not to say it.

On the other hand, tiptoeing timidly around the captain’s sensitive soul doesn’t work either and Chief Engineer Ian of M/Y GU says, “You should speak your mind to a captain if you need to get things sorted out, be able to approach him and come to an agreement. If you have an issue, you should talk about it.” Too true, but…say it gently, say it kindly and be nice, huh! 


Related Topics:

Psychometric Testing and Crew

Teambuilding: Essential for Crew or Waste of Time?

Top 10 Things Never to Say to a Captain


Rating  Average 3.5 out of 5

  • As a captain in this industry for 20 years I've seen my share of good owners, captains, & crew. I have also seen my share of the bad apples. It is my opinion that a good captain leads by example and does not ask his crew to do anything he/she has not done, or would not do. A crew members efforts & accomplishments should not be lost on us. Crew should be complimented and given credit when deserved. Likewise they should guided (or reprimanded) when appropriate. Some people get into this industry thinking "Yahoo...I get to travel & party". Waking up hungover seems to be the norm to these people. I'm quite tired of hearing about my crew's nights out, or how hung over they are! This is not a part time gig to most of us; it is a career! Crew must also realize that captains do not work for them; we work for the owners. We deal with unseen pressures & issues that crew does not have to deal with. Overseeing the safety of the vessel, the lives of the crew, & the interests of the owners falls squarely upon our shoulders. Speaking solely for me; The owner is not my buddy, he's my boss & I'm not here to be your buddy, I'm your boss. I realize that some people are handed their licenses and feel a sense of "respect entitlement"...others of us earned our licenses and understand that if something goes wrong, losing that license may be the least horrible result.We depend on crew to be diligent, vigilant, and trustworthy. If sometimes we're less than cordial...maybe you should go look in the mirror and instead of saying "boo hoo, my captain is a jerk & mean to me" perhaps you should take a moment and ask yourself...why?
    One last note for those who joined the yachting industry because the bad economy elsewhere; I'm sorry for your situation, but please get onboard & stop whining, or get out. There are people with a true passion for yachting that want the job you're not happy with!
    Posted by Capt. Michael Crosby 03/02/2010 16:48:58

  • The more I think about it, the more this article pisses me off. I'm sick of hearing how to please the captain when so many of them go out of their way to play mind games with their crew.
    Posted by c.meaway 31/01/2010 01:48:20

  • When is someone going to write an article about what captains have no business saying to their crew? I've worked in several industries over the course of my career. I'm well educated, sane, respectful and familiar with current management practices in the sectors of education, corporate, retail, service, etc. In the past year alone, I've had the pleasure to work with two captains who I would go so far as to say were truly evil people. The choices they made on a consistent basis when it concerned others were always openly and unapologetically selfish, vindictive and often downright cruel. It was almost as if these men took pleasure in the games they played. I've only been on three boats- came to this industry only about a year and a half ago to escape the crap economy. I've met some loyal, hard working and honorable crew, but unfortunately 2 out of 3 captains were among the worst humans I've ever encountered. And no one ever has any power to do anything about it.
    Posted by c.meaway 31/01/2010 00:46:41

  • that's right!! be a team!
    Posted by nini 28/01/2010 21:58:23

  • What is it with some captains at their attitudes .
    It reminds me of quote.
    "What is the difference between God and a captain?
    " GOD doesnt think he is a captain"

    Screw the captain and "his sensitive soul"
    The captain must remember that he is a PART of a team ,and only one part . He is not the the center of the universe.
    Ive been a captain for 14 years , and realized that I need the crew, to make the boat a sucess . I am only there to guide then to be their best .
    Read the above comments and realise that many of the "faults "stated above , you as a captain have done, with out blinking a eye.
    Have you as captain fired a crew member , just before the bosses trip?
    Have you as a captain never sat quietly "working " at your desk after a heavy bing drinking session?
    If the crew have to wonder about their days off , where is your level of communication?
    No MISTER captain you are not so bloody high and mighty that the crew HAVE to pussy foot around you .
    Get off your throne and be a leader and part of the crew
    Posted by saafrican 28/01/2010 17:42:51

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