March 11 2015

"Know your enemy" or: Why it´s crucial to do a crew meeting before the yacht charter holiday

I have always considered it overcautious to do a crew meeting before a yacht charter holiday. Hey – what could be the worst thing to happen? A sailing trip in Croatia with a couple I thought I knew pretty well has changed my mind. Ever since then, I insist on clarifying some important topics in advance.

I have always considered it overcautious to do a crew meeting before a yacht charter holiday. Hey – what could be the worst thing to happen? A sailing trip in Croatia with a couple I thought I knew pretty well has changed my mind. Ever since then, I insist on clarifying some important topics in advance.
Sailing with your friends as crew
I was working as an editor for a sailing magazine when a charter company offered us a charter week in Croatia. Only the flights and provisioning had to be paid – great deal. My boyfriend and I invited Miriam and Jörn to join us. They were a couple we met for dinner from time to time, and we always had big fun together. Though they didn´t have any sailing experience, they were sporty and relaxed – so no concerns in this matter, right?

The first bit of doubt arose when we met at Hamburg Airport: Miriam and Jörn arrived together, but didn´t say a word to each other during the flight to Split. As Miriam told me later, they had had one of their nonsense rows the night before. Thought they didn´t even remember the reason for their fight, they used to ignore each other for days.

I like Dalmatia a lot: Its bright blue waters, the gentle breeze and the scent of rosemary that fills the tiny island´s anchorages always makes me happy. After some days of practice when we hopped form port to port, we decided to spend our first night at anchor. We were all a bit excited: Miriam and Jörn had never spent a night at anchor before, and for me and boyfriend it was the first time we were responsible for boat and crew. So we set the alarm clock every half an hour to check our position. We felt totally rewarded for the tiring nightwatch when, on the next morning, we jumped inti the watrer before breakfast.
When we climbed back on board, Miriam was awake. Though wrapped in a blanket and a scarf, she was shivering: “I am not used to sleep in the cold”. She urged for a hot shower, but all we could offer was the shower hose in the bathroom. Jörn joined her complaints, and so we decided to go for a marina.

After having found a berth in a crammed and overpriced Marina in Split, my boyfriend and I felt a bit of nostalgia for the beautiful anchorage we had left behind – just for a shower. Miriam and Jörn, on the contrary, smiled for the first time of the day when they came back from the bathroom freshly groomed. I tried to hide my bad humour because it seemed mean to me to judge two people who didn’t have any idea of what life on a boat really meant: little space, limited privacy, the need to save water and energy.

That lesson learnt, I now try to give new crew members as much details as possible about the boat and its limited amenities. As a next step, I work out a rough itinerary which does justice to the needs of all crew members – be it a hot shower or the proximity of bars and clubs for the night.

At least, Miriam and Jörn talked to each other normally again. When we arrived in the beautiful town of Hvar, we decided to go out for dinner and some drinks. The days before, we had prepared the dinner at the yacht. In the old town of Hvar, we found a cosy Konoba which served local dishes like Dalmatian ham and cheese. Miriam barely tasted the food and, unlike us, denied the wine. When it came to pay, Miriam and Jörn demanded a separated bill which, aside from being very uncommon in Mediterranean countries, made me frown. I took it for granted that, on holiday, the restaurant bill was shared equally. Maybe we didn´t fit as well as we thought…

It would have been way more relaxed to pay the dinner from the kitty. But at the beginning of the holiday we had decided to split bills because of our very different eating habits. As a result, we discussed about “who has paid how much and who has to pay how much to whom” even when we were back home. Never again!

I since then insist on a kitty out of which berthing fees, food and eating out is paid. One important point to discuss is whether alcohol is also paid by all. In some crews, there is a big gap between people who don´t drink at all and some who need their daily dose of spirits.

Having arrived home again, we said good-bye to each other in an icy atmosphere. The dinner appointments decreased until we lost contact. Miriam and Jörn broke up shortly after the holiday.

Of course, a crew meeting wouldn´t have saved the relationship. But discussing some important questions would have spared all of us some awkward moments.
Who would not like to sail with them?

Crew MeetingThis check list for the crew meeting may help you to figure out the important topics in advance:  

1)    What kind of sailing holiday do you wish for?
Hopping from anchorage to anchorage or sailing 30 nautical miles a day? Party every night or rather enjoy the silence? Eating out or saving money by cooking on board? All crew members are invited to express their expectations. Based on these ideas, you have to find a compromise that fits all likings. The next step is to plan a rough itinerary consulting charts, nautical guides and tourist guides. Planning your trip in advance will create a positive, anticipating atmosphere.

2)    Which items will be paid from the kitty?
One purse controlled by one crew member may save you a lot of discussions. Typically, the berthing fee, provisioning and eating out are items paid from the kitty. What exactly shall be included and what should be everyone´s personal expense is a point worth clarifying in advance.

3)    Which insurance is needed?
Newbies to yacht charter are often surprised by the fact that their third party liability insurance is not worth a penny on the charter boat. Insurance companies offer special packages which cover damages on others and within the crew. After some explanation, no one will refuse to contribute to this insurance financially.
Felix Wolf

Felix Wolf is co-founder and owner of YachtBooker. He is a charter skipper himself and enjoys discovering new sailing areas.

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