SAIL - - Contents - By Jules Fredrick

How to choose com­pat­i­ble crew; words with a me­te­o­rol­o­gist

My part­ner, Jeff, and I needed crew for a two- to three-week sail down the Mex­i­can coast of Baja Cal­i­for­nia on our new-tous Antares 44i cata­ma­ran, El Gato, so we put an ad in one of our lo­cal sail­ing pub­li­ca­tions. We re­ceived some promis­ing let­ters of in­tro­duc­tion, but thanks to so­cial me­dia, I was able to delve a lit­tle deeper.

For ex­am­ple, Bet­tina was a bikini-clad Euro­pean bomb­shell whose motto was, “No clothes? No prob­lem.” Delete. Dolph, a chain-smok­ing ex-mil­i­tary sergeant, “sug­gested” that he serve as co-cap­tain. Alexa and Damien were al­ler­gic to dogs, could we just not bring them? Nope, nope, nopety-nope.

Six weeks be­fore our de­par­ture date, we re­ceived a re­sponse from a cou­ple that seemed a com­fort­able fit. We spoke at length to Jim and Jess, and met them on El Gato the fol­low­ing week. Since this was our first ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing strangers as crew, Jeff and I wrote down what we felt was ac­cept­able, and what was not. 1. Com­mit­ment: One flight, train, bus and taxi ride later, Jim and Jess ar­rived at the ma­rina. This showed ded­i­ca­tion, right? Pretty quickly af­ter meet­ing and shar­ing a few beers, it was ob­vi­ous that we would work and play well to­gether on the voy­age. They spent three nights aboard El Gato, dur­ing which we took the boat out for a bit of sail­ing. On de­par­ture, they left be­hind some items they would need for the trip south. Done Deal. 2. Fun: This ranked high on the list. We wanted 1+1=3. Not ones to miss an opportunity to dress up for Hal­loween, they were happy to throw on cos­tumes with us, de­spite the fact that we were alone, at sea, on an overnight pas­sage. An­other time, declar­ing an ‘80s Day, we out­fit­ted for the part and lis­tened only to ‘80s mu­sic. En­ter­tain­ing one­self and oth­ers aboard is se­ri­ous busi­ness, and we have the videos to prove it. 3. Boat­ing Skills: Be­yond level of sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, watch du­ties and com­fort off­shore, it is im­por­tant to have crew that are ca­pa­ble of meet­ing a va­ri­ety of de­mands. We would be mak­ing fre­quent surf land­ings in or­der to take our dogs ashore. Any­one plan­ning to get off the boat should plan on get­ting wet and be able to jump back into the dinghy in waist-deep wa­ter. We had plenty of laughs, but noth­ing more se­ri­ous than a few bruises and sac­ri­ficed sun­glasses. 4. Gal­ley Duty: It should be clear up­front who is ex­pected to pre­pare meals. As the cap­tain, Jeff had clearly stated that he wanted no gal­ley duty given his al­ready heavy work­load. For­tu­nately, Jim en­joyed cook­ing for oth­ers and was a damn fine chef at that; he and Jess put to­gether some scrump­tious meals. Since I am the cook on El Gato when it’s just Jeff and me sail­ing, I was happy to give them all the gal­ley time they wanted. 5. Ex­pec­ta­tions and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties: Work­ing well to­gether is of ut­most im­por­tance when shar­ing close quar­ters for weeks. Be pre­pared to dis­cuss the top three or four rea­sons you are are con­sid­er­ing tak­ing on crew. We as­sessed our strengths and weak­nesses, com­fort lev­els for dif­fer­ent du­ties and fig­ured out our shifts and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties ac­cord­ingly.

6. Pol­i­tics: Since our travel dates co­in­cided with a heated pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Jeff and I were straight­for­ward with our crew from the ini­tial tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion. We would not spend this mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion with op­pos­ing forces. As soon as we broached the topic, they both let out a sigh of relief. Again, we were on the same page. Po­ten­tial cri­sis averted. 7. Fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties: In our case this was a fairly low pri­or­ity as we planned to travel re­gard­less, but for some it may rank in the top three. Our crew was re­spon­si­ble for their trans­porta­tion to and from El Gato. Jeff and I paid for fuel and dock­age, but ap­pre­ci­ated a few meals get­ting picked up, thank you. Pro­vi­sion­ing costs were shared, un­less top-shelf liquor was in­volved: you’re on your own there. 8. Flex­i­bil­ity: While ma­nip­u­lat­ing one’s body into a pret­zel is im­por­tant while per­form­ing some tasks, I am re­fer­ring more to the dreaded “S” word—sched­ules. As any sailor knows, they are made to be al­tered. Crew must be flex­i­ble re­gard­ing tim­ing and lo­ca­tions. I rec­om­mend not book­ing the re­turn flight un­til well into the pas­sage. We were lucky and left on time, and even got ahead of our in­tended sched­ule. So in­stead of leav­ing in Cabo as planned, our crew de­lighted us with their com­pany for an­other week, even­tu­ally say­ing their farewells in Mazat­lan. 9. Re­al­ity: Let your crew know what they’re in for. Long pe­ri­ods of mo­tor­ing through no wind and drop­ping an­chor just be­fore sun- down doesn’t leave much time for lazy beach lounges. The re­mote and rugged Baja coast doesn’t of­fer casi­nos and five-star restau­rants. Plan ac­cord­ingly and no one is dis­ap­pointed. We travel with two long-haired dogs that run our lives. Any­one spend­ing time aboard El Gato should not only like dogs, but be pre­pared to share liv­ing space with them. 10. Le­gal­i­ties: We had con­sid­ered a Lim­ited Li­a­bil­ity Waiver, but de­cided against it in this par­tic­u­lar case. Af­ter some on­line re­search it ap­peared the doc­u­ment may not stand up in court, es­pe­cially if cruis­ing in a for­eign coun­try. We also felt it had the po­ten­tial to start a re­la­tion­ship off on the wrong note. At the same time, sail­ing off­shore is se­ri­ous stuff, so dis­cussing safety and ex­pec­ta­tions up front should en­sure you are on the same page.

To­gether for more than two weeks, we cooked, sang, danced and shared sto­ries and philo­soph­i­cal be­liefs with th­ese for­mer strangers. I know that we will be for­ever friends. Jim and Jess are on the top of our list for fu­ture crew needs, or maybe we’ll just join up again, some­where, some­time, in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture. s Af­ter cruis­ing the East Coast and Ba­hamas for three years, Jules and Jeff pur­chased their dream boat on the West Coast. They are cur­rently cruis­ing the Pa­cific coast of Mex­ico.

The crew (from left) Jim, Jess, Jeff and Jules pre-de­par­ture in Ense­nada

With the right crew, you’ll bond over shared ex­pe­ri­ences

El Gato at an­chor off Ce­dros Town

Not all crew can get on with dogs

New crew should have re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions

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