Crew Harmony - Keeping the cruising spouse happy! | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Crew Harmony - Keeping the cruising spouse happy!

By Paul Shard, copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved

I am sure many sailors would like to introduce their spouse (or potential spouse), friends and family to the rewarding sport of sailing and cruising. But for some reason this doesn't always go the way we hope and new crew are often not keen to continue sailing. But have no fear! It is possible by carefully planning cruises and managing the sailing experience, to encourage that commitment to the sport in the novice or even the unwilling crew.


As much as I would like to take credit for these ideas, I am afraid they are almost all credited to other cruisers we have met over the years who I am certain are still happily cruising!

So here are some time-tested hints for the skipper who wants to keep a happy crew.
  • Plan departure times and stick rigidly to these plans. Discipline is important on board and small items like strong headwinds, stormy weather, and imposed deadlines build character as well as crew morale.
  • Don't involve the crew or your spouse in destination and passage plans. It will be a fun surprise when you announce you are now ready to achieve your lifelong goal of crossing an ocean to your tentative crew. They will appreciate your confidence in them and will overcome their worries and love it!
  • Plan as many tough ocean passages as possible. Nothing like "Offshore, Ocean, Overnight" sailing to get the beginner sailor up to speed quickly!
  • Install a loudspeaker on deck and use it to urge your crew on while you are coming in to dock "Susan, hurry up and get that dock line on" and "You could use a bit of practice tossing that line Honey" are a couple of suggested comments. This allows other boats in the marina to appreciate your crew's level of teamwork!
  • Assign the crew some jobs on deck as their skills build. For instance, in the event you slightly misjudge a docking approach, a crew member can help push the boat away from the dock. At sea commands such as "Ease off the port spinnaker pole topping lift" can be happily given without worrying they might be misunderstood by new crew. Better they get right in and learn these things.
  • Polishing stainless is another good job for building confidence, but be careful about letting the crew think they are getting ahead of themselves. After all, you know who the captain is!!
  • Don't help with galley chores. The galley is small compared to the spouse's larger home kitchen so there isn't much room anyway. As skipper you can stay up on deck in the fresh air, doing the hard work steering and tweaking the sails. Heeling the boat over while the chef is working increases their sense of accomplishment. When they come up for air you can call them the "galley slave" to show how much you appreciate the job they have done.
  • Landlubbers are not that familiar with water use on a sailboat. Simple exercises like offering the crew 1 litre of water to shower in can build this skill. Soon the sailing spouse will happily be showering in a teacup of water!
  • Laundry facilities in various islands are somewhat limited and can be expensive. Why spend money needlessly that could be better spent on extra boat-parts! Learning to do laundry in a bucket will give the spouse a new life skill. No need for the skipper to help out here as we don't want to impinge on that special feeling of nautical accomplishment.
  • Carefully squash any plans for extraneous activities such as sightseeing, historical visits, or shopping in exotic foreign markets. This time can be better employed (especially after a tough passage) by servicing the head pumps or changing the oil in the engine. Spouses appreciate the opportunity to learn these jobs! And the lighter crew can also overcome their fear of heights by being winched up the mast to do work aloft.

I am sure you will come up with many more ways to improve crew morale and keep the cruising spouse happy! ;-)

And if these methods seem unlikely to work with your particular spouse or potential crew - watching a nice episode of Distant Shores might be a better idea... Sheryl and I have cruised together happily for 24 years by keeping it fun, respecting each other’s fears, and taking things gradually. Romance and charm works wonders. And I insist Sheryl does everything I tell her to... :-)

Comments Welcome!
blog comments powered by Disqus