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Genuine advice appreciated
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2009 9:59 AM
Joined: 11/12/2009
Posts: 1

I am a chief stew on a reasonably big boat, we normally run with 8 or 9 crew sometimes 10 when we are busy. I have been here for almost 4 years now and I love the boat. The owners are super nice people and treat everybody with genuine affection and respect. We spend summers in the Med and twice now we have gone to the Caribbean for the winter. Our Captain is a great guy, I always feel safe going to sea with him and I know he knows what he is doing. But..... He tries to control every aspect of what we do. Not just what we do when we are working, but everything! He tells me what I should do when I am creating a table layout, he tells the First Officer how to rinse as the guys are washing the boat. Not only that when we sit down to dinner he seems to have to tell us all how we should be running our personal lives. Now to my question. I think he might have OCPD. The only reason I think this is I looked at how he is and googled it and thats what it came up with. Is there a way of getting him to look at himself? I have pasted what I found that made me think. I know this might describe a lot of Captains but where do we draw the line. Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder OCPD symptoms tend to appear early in adulthood and are defined by inflexibility, close adherence to rules, anxiety when rules are transgressed, and unrealistic perfectionism. A person with obsessive compulsive personality disorder exhibits several of the following symptoms: abnormal preoccupation with lists, rules, and minor details excessive devotion to work, to the detriment of social and family activities miserliness or a lack of generosity perfectionism that interferes with task completion, as performance is never good enough refusal to throw anything away (pack-rat mentality) rigid and inflexible attitude towards morals or ethical code unwilling to let others perform tasks, fearing the loss of responsibility upset and off-balance when rules or established routines are disrupted.
Clive C-W
Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2009 4:51 PM
Joined: 25/09/2008
Posts: 12

Oh shit, I am a Captain and when my Chief Engineer teased me about having OCD I thought he was joking.  Now I've read the symptoms it would seem he is not.  Maybe it is a character flaw in old fashioned seadogs brought up in an earlier era of higher standards of both professionalism and morals, who do not possess the modern fear of saying so in case anyone takes offence?  Honestly, I wouldn't tell my crew what I expect of them all the time if only they were perfect .

Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2009 5:36 PM
I worked for a doctor with OCD for 14 years. It is tough to work and live with people who suffer this disorder, it can be done. First, they are usually aware of their compulsions. They often cannot control their impulses. Medicines can help some of the obsessive behaviors like chronic hand washing. Remember these are tortured people. Don't be afraid to point out when the behavior is unreasonable. Know and accept that things "have" to be a certain way and do them that way every time without being asked. Anticipate what things will cause anxiety and compulsive behavior and head it off at the pass. In time this will be reassuring and reduce compulsive outbursts. If he offers advice on matters not job related, gently remind him it is "off limits" and move on. You will learn a lot from OCD personalities. You stated your feelings of safety in his capable hands. You will also learn discipline, precision, the right way to do things, loyalty, risk management, professional respect and quiet affection. Beats a tyrant or a cowboy ANY day.
Crew Confessor
Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:46 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 94

Dear Advice Seeker,

I am not a psychiatrist but the symptoms you describe may certainly put your captain within the spectrum of one suffering from OCD.  He might also be described as a micro-manager and not suprisingly, these two often go hand in hand. Some degree of OCD could actually be seen as a positive trait for the captain of a large and complex yacht with a never ending barrage of details to contend with, both large and small, Captain Ron was a funny dude but he wouldn't last five minutes in today's professional yachting scene.  And lets face of it, to the outside observer nearly ever crew member would appear to be afflicted with OCD, from the stainless polishing deckhands to stews cleaning with q-tips (cotton buds) on their hands and knees, and the sparkling engine rooms so pristine in appearance it boggles the mind, if you're not OCD before you got into yachting chances are high that you will be when you get out!  By it's very nature this crazy world of yachting is a playground of OCD behavior.   What I'm trying to say here is that to be successful in this biz you've got to be a little on the OCD side, or at least adopt some of the classic OCD qualities, cleanliness being one that immediately comes to mind.

Now, if someone were to have a severe form of OCD it would be nearly impossible to function.  You may recall Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good as it Gets."  This man's life had been nearly ruined by his affliction, which manifested itself in classic repetitive actions like washing of hands and germophobia.  Some experts believe that a chemical imbalance in the brain might be the culprit and thus many with OCD are treated with drugs such as Prozac. 

Behavioral therapy has also been found to be successful for some, forcing the afflicted to severely limit their acting out until they become desensitized.

Some psychiatrists think that OCD may come about as a reaction to parenting that placed unrealistic, high stress expectations on the child, with nary an aknowledgement of a job well done.  Standards of perfectionism so high that they are never realized,  Sound familiar?  Just like physical childhood abuse can create a generational vicious cycle so to may this form of OCD.

The pluses of having an (mild) OCD captain are many for both owners and crew.  It is doubtful he'll ever forget to make sure the liferafts have been inspected and the fire exstinguishers are not out of date, and his yacht will have nary a spot of salt spray anywhere.  Yachting is an excellent career path for this typed of individual.  But, at the root of this affliction is often severe self doubt and feelings of inadequacy.  He overcompensates to reassure himself that he is capable of the doing the job.  

Micromanagement in the extreme is a danger to everyone on a yacht if for no other reason in that it creates a sense of disenfranchisement amongst the crew.  If crew are continually over scrutinized, given goals or tasks that are impossible to fulfill and are operating in an environment of mistrust, destruction of any sense of teamwork is a foregone conclusion.  Micromanagers can be demoralizing, and will often produce an unhappy yacht with a high rate of turnover.  Crew will simply put in their "time" until they can jump ship.  In subconscious retaliation ironically the crew may perform below standard, exactly what the captain had originally feared, but in a convoluted way had brought on himself.                                    

The most effective managers are well versed in the duties and execution of every position on the yacht, but they are self confident enough in their ability to hire the best people for each job and then allow them to do it.

Some OCD types can also be bullies and narcissists.  Thankfully this does not appear to be so in your case.  It should be noted  that stressful conditions can exacerbate the symptoms of OCD and these times of economic instability and tenuous employment are fertile ground for OCD.

If you feel that his symptoms are becoming significantly greater in severity,  and you get along very, very well with your captain; it may be worthwhile to have a heart to heart talk with him.   Discuss with him, in as rational a manner as possible, your concerns couched with liberal praise for his fine abilities as captain.  He may be well aware of his "issues" but thought he had them under control.  He may also be in denial and become very offended so be careful!  He certainly has no business dictating to you how you should be running your personal lives off the yacht.  Failing that your awareness of his problem can serve as reassurance to yourself that you are capable and skilled at performing your job and determine to "humor" him should he follow behind you with a white glove or a ruler to measure the placement of the cutlery.

If any captains out there are reading this and see a picture of themselves presented here, please get yourself some professional help before your crew all need counseling.  There must surely be a middle ground between a well run yacht in Bristol condition appearing as if it lived in a bubble of perfection and Captain Ron.  Hope this advice qualified as "genuine."

Happy Holidays!

Your Crew Confessor

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