What Not to Say to a Captain

21 January 2010 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!