How Do You Go About Determining The Safety of Yourself and Crew With An Unknown Captain?

I'm new on float plan. I've not sailed with folks I don't know so this is new for me. How do you go about determining the safety of yourself and crew with an unknown captain? Does Float Plan keep resumes? Are there "reviews" of captains similar to what we can find on other professionals, doctors included. (I'm a retired physician.) I'd love to get some feedback from experienced members of this organization and I'd love to do some serious off-shore sailing but not anxious to get myself into trouble. I hope that there are others who may share this concern and join the discussion. How about you folks from Float Plan? Thanks and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to everyone! Ned Yellig, MD

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I can tell you it is hit and miss a lot of the time.  I have resumes for folks.  A couple even Lisc. Captains. They were worthless pretty much past being rail meat.  I have decided to meet with folks via SKYPE and emails and then if all goes well, offer a short cruise of a couple to a few days. I try to ask specific questions about their experiences, what they saw was good, and not so good.  What the ACTUALLY DID on the boat too. So many say 'I helmed the boat, I stood watch, I trimmed sails, and such, but when actually questioned start making noises like they are not really sure what they are talking about.  If a person tells me they know nothing but are willing to try and learn, that goes a lot further than lying about what the know.  Many only know for a day sail and reading books and watching videos.  Truth in advertising seems to be lost a lot here on the internet. If all goes well during our talks, well, it depends. I also have made it clear they are to pay all expenses to and from the boat.  I make no promises up front and until I can evaluate and verify that we will be compatible on MY HOME, it is still a short ride, maybe even just a day sail. I am not getting a lot of people volunteering to join me anymore since I have made these statements, but then, I can make passages alone too. Been there, done that.  Good luck.



Jim Lussier said:

I can tell you it is hit and miss a lot of the time.  I have resumes for folks.  A couple even Lisc. Captains. They were worthless pretty much past being rail meat.  I have decided to meet with folks via SKYPE and emails and then if all goes well, offer a short cruise of a couple to a few days. I try to ask specific questions about their experiences, what they saw was good, and not so good.  What the ACTUALLY DID on the boat too. So many say 'I helmed the boat, I stood watch, I trimmed sails, and such, but when actually questioned start making noises like they are not really sure what they are talking about.  If a person tells me they know nothing but are willing to try and learn, that goes a lot further than lying about what the know.  Many only know for a day sail and reading books and watching videos.  Truth in advertising seems to be lost a lot here on the internet. If all goes well during our talks, well, it depends. I also have made it clear they are to pay all expenses to and from the boat.  I make no promises up front and until I can evaluate and verify that we will be compatible on MY HOME, it is still a short ride, maybe even just a day sail. I am not getting a lot of people volunteering to join me anymore since I have made these statements, but then, I can make passages alone too. Been there, done that.  Good luck.

Jim: Sounds like a very thorough process and one that likely discovers strengths and weaknesses right away. I'm not surprised that fewer crew have applied for your positions. 

It also, so far, doesn't sound like anyone has a formal process of evaluating and reviewing either captains or crew. It is hit or miss, good luck or bad. Just kind of have to jump in and trust your own judgment during a short shake down cruise. Skype calls are a great idea as well. 

Thanks, Ned

Hi Ned I'd have to go with what Jim says in terms of a hit and miss process. Basically I try and do as much homework as possible before-hand in terms of googling that person, checking out their Facebook and any other profiles I can find eg like on Cruiserlog. Then I arrange skype meetings and communicate a lot via email etc. I'm a single, older woman. I crewed in Thailand with a single unmarried skipper .....fantastic, no problems or untoward behaviour, in Malaysia, I crewed with a married skipper (wife had returned to the UK on business) and no problems there either. Last March I crewed from La Paz, Bahia to Mexico mainland. I was supposed to crew to Panama. The skipper and his wife (who would not be on the ocean crossings) had chatted to me and we sent numerous emails to each other. Everything looked rosy. It was hell! The skipper was a terrible sailor and as lecherous as can be. I got off the boat in Zihuatenejo when his lechery became too much. It was a very expensive exersize for me having flown on a one way ticket from South Africa expecting to fly home 4 months later from Panama. Possibly an idea would be to try and get references from previous crew members. Anyway good luck and hopefully Fair Winds!

Hi,

We are keen to know what you think could be done about logging and validating a skippers experience/qualifications?

We are adding member-to-member references so you can get to know your skipper/crew better and we can eliminate the members with the wrong intentions. We are working on a logbook tool that would allow members to enter their sailing experience, but this could turn into people bragging, so we are looking at having the logbook entries verified by another member.

What do you think, going in the right direction or not?

That's a great idea for those of us who want to sail for all the right reasons! Yes....going in the right direction.

Float master said:

Hi,

We are keen to know what you think could be done about logging and validating a skippers experience/qualifications?

We are adding member-to-member references so you can get to know your skipper/crew better and we can eliminate the members with the wrong intentions. We are working on a logbook tool that would allow members to enter their sailing experience, but this could turn into people bragging, so we are looking at having the logbook entries verified by another member.

What do you think, going in the right direction or not?

Thanks, any other feedback you have would be great. Happy sailing!

Resumes can be embellished, reviews can be biased and without knowing the other side of the story, near useless.  The reality is you do all the research anyway but in the end it is your gut feeling...

There is the boat though and this can be a much better indication than the skipper as it is a reflection of him/her.  Ask specific questions about the safety equipment.  Not, "Is there a life raft?" but, the last time you had the life raft repacked and serviced?  Educate yourself on the basics of boats.  There are many popular , "how to survey a boat in fifteen minute" type lists widely available.  In the end it is the boat that will make the difference, not the skipper.

Maybe a simple "Validation" process would be nice.  Something like this:

A person has worked for me and clicks to "Validate" me.  Then they can type a short paragraph about what they think of working with me.  Then I can click to Validate them and can also type a paragraph about what it was like having them on board.  Then anytime someone was considering working for me, they could click my profile and there would be a list of my Validations from everyone on FloatPlan that they could read to evaluate the experience others had on my boat, and likewise, captains could see all the validations that potential crew members had.

It might not be a 100% perfect solution, but it does work, and it holds people accountable for not only their actions on the boat, but also for the words they say about those they've worked with on the boat since nobody can make blind comments since everyone can see exactly who is saying what about who.

A way to prevent someone from creating a fake profile simply to complain about someone could be prevented from doing this if before anyone is allowed to Validate someone, they first must click to register that they are going to work with them.  Once a "Match" has been made on FP, then after they've worked together, the FP system would allow them to Validate and comment about each other, but not until they first went through that process... Nobody could comment about anyone unless they both first clicked confirming that they were going to be working together and a "Match" was made from either the captain or crew replying to a crew of captain's posting.

Just a thought. :)

Thank you all for adding to this topic. We are really excited about a new feature we will be adding soon. The member-to-member referencing feature will work just like Leigh's idea and allow members to leave a rating for each other so members can clearly see what to expect. We really believe this will change the Floatplan website into a community of safe and like minded sailors. Please let us know what you think.

Also, on the note of resumes, we are also working on a logbook feature that skippers/captains will be able to validate a crew members voyage and a skippers experience can be confirmed by the crew on board, really removing the chance to embellish

We are also revamping the Wanted items and adding a search tool that will make them much easier to find.

Please let us know what you think.

Thank you
Andrew
Floatplan

Aloha Ned,

I am a conservative engineer and read up on all the right questions to ask a captain before going aboard.  I sent this captain all the questions and received back lots of good answers.  I was prepared to not sail if upon arrival things were not as he claimed.  It turns out on one vessel the captain basically overstated every answer or...pretty near...down out lied. 

For example I asked about chain plates, mast step, engine, mast, and sails.  Most people don't know to ask into details like the mast step, however, the book I read taught me the importance.  Most just focus on the price, where they are going, distance, and might ask about communications, and rescue equipment. 

Despite what this captain did, I still sailed with him.  Everything that could go wrong with every item on my check list caused grief before and/or after we set sail.  And you know what?  It was the best thing the could have happened to me.   

I was seeking a learning experience.  There was nothing better for me than to sail aboard his boat with problems.  It gave me the confidence I needed to buy my own boat.  Nearly everything that went wrong on his boat went wrong on mine.  It turns out we all have nearly the same common problems.  I got in one condensed course with a captain that knew how to solve problems more than any classroom could have given me.

And that is the key.  The captain you seek is a problem solver.  That brand new boat in perfect condition with every gadget is far more risky if the captain isn't a problem solver. 

Doctors, lawyers, CEOs, that can afford expensive new boats, and please no offense, are rarely as good when it comes to being a captain than a grease monkey.

The number one thing above ALL!  A good captain will tell you to go to blazes and screw the fact you will miss your flight a wedding or anything else.  The most dangerous thing a captain faces is a crew member anxious to meet a deadline.  It causes them to sail into conditions that were questionable. 

A good crew member never questions and demands a captain to push his vessel limits against his better  judgment.

Philip Maise

Owner HOT BuOYS Sailing Vessel

 

Ask for a recent picture of the engine, and confirm spare starter motor,  spare impeller pump, spare belts, good clean fuel, fuel filters, and 2 changes of oil. Ask the reason why oil level must be checked every time the engine is started.  If they don't know about high oil level don't go. 

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