THE GOOD SEATS
Where your crew sit or stand may affect your boat’s safety and performance.
Keeping crew on the constant move is a normal part of many a day sail or cruise. While not needed to that degree aboard powerboats, we motorboat skippers should consider our crew movable to the extent that we can increase safety and enhance performance.
One of the biggest reasons to move crew is when one or more decide they want to sit on the bow of the boat with their legs dangling over the side. The attraction of such a perch is obvious. But if they were to fall off the bow of a boat under power, even one that’s just idling along in a no-wake zone, chances are almost 100 percent that they will be run over by the boat.
For reference, a boat moving at 5 knots (about 6 mph) is moving at 9 feet per second.
Never allow crew to ride up on the bow unless their entire body is inside the boat and inside any railings. If there are no railings, crew should not be riding on the bow while the boat is underway. I’ll add that many boats now have stern lounges that can be arranged to face aft. Some of these essentially provide seating on the swim platform, which is fine for the sandbar or cove. But if the motor is running, crew should not be on any such seats.
Another reason to move your crew pertains to stability. Depending upon the sea conditions and the size of your boat, too many people on one side can cause the boat to list dangerously. Also, boats with flying bridges can have too many people up top, which may also compromise stability. The boat can flip, yes, but doesn’t have to for tragedy to strike. If it leans too far, it could dip a gunwale and scoop a wave. We know our boats, and it’s up to us to err on the side of caution. Instruct crew to take turns riding on the bridge, or take turns on the side with the best view of the frolicking porpoise.
As for performance, moving crew can have effects that range from fine-tuning to dramatic. An example of fine-tuning might be asking one person to move from port to starboard to counter some wind-induced lean, and then to move back again as your course changes. A more dramatic example of how crew positioning affects performance is endemic to pontoon boats but can occur aboard any boat with bow seating, whether that be a bowrider, dual console or center-console. When crew is encouraged by comfy lounges to all sit in the bow, the stern is raised. Put enough people in the bow and the boat’s props can have a hard time staying hooked up once on plane. We are responsible for placing crew so this doesn’t happen. As stated above, it can be as simple as having crew take turns using the “good seats.”
For safety’s sake, and to enhance the ride quality and performance of your boat, be conscious of your crew’s positions and remember to move them if, in your judgment, it is necessary.
Our sailing brethren refer to crew as movable ballast, needing friends and family aboard to move from one side to the other in order to better balance the boat. Instruct crew to take turns riding on the bridge, or take turns on the side with the best view of the frolicking porpoise.