First, do you have an operative horn that is easily accessible at the helm position(s) on your boat? Powerboats and sailboats are required under the Navigation Rules to sound appropriate whistle signals (ships have “whistles;” the rest of us usually have electric or portable air horns) for maneuvering and warning and in or near areas of restricted visibility. These sound signals are discussed in Navigation Rules 32-36. Even if you are not sounding whistle signals yourself you must know what the signals mean if you hear them. There are a number of signals, and some differ between the Inland and the International Rules. Read Rules 32-36 carefully: the text is available at www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent.
Are specific jobs on your boat done exclusively by one particular individual? One person always maintains the engine, another always does the varnishing; one person does the provisioning and galley work, another does the navigation planning and execution; one person is always at the helm, another person always does the anchor work. The list could go on. Cross-training is a buzzword in business and industry, and it can be a good idea on a boat, too. Having people aboard who can take over to give each other a break from always having to do the same task contributes to an efficient and safer boat.
If the particular crew member who is the only one who knows how to handle the boat, navigate, or make a minor engine repair becomes incapacitated, safety could be affected. Certainly, each person is better at some things than others, but most people can learn a new task or part of a task, if they’re willing to try. Having a cross-trained crew makes life aboard more interesting and pleasant for all. The chief varnisher may not give up putting on the flawless final coats, but almost anyone can do the surface preparation. The mechanic on the boat doesn’t have to teach the complicated engine repairs, but almost anyone can learn to change the engine fluids, tighten belts, replace an impeller, bleed the fuel system, clean and check the engine, etc.
(See “The Engine Room” at www.womenandcruising.com/admirals-angle/2008/06/22-the-engine-room.) Probably the skipper is not going to have any luck trying to cross-train someone to disassemble the toilet or work on the holding tank, but there is really nothing that most people cannot learn to do if they’re willing, encouraged and taught. Share the responsibility. Share the fun.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.