The skipper is in charge and bears the responsibility for the safe operation of the boat and the welfare of everyone aboard. That sounds simple enough, but when family or friends are aboard they may unintentionally take over and influence decisions. This can happen especially when the skipper is still learning and there are more experienced boaters aboard. Sometimes a person offers advice, and the skipper follows it because it comes from an “old salt.” This may be a good way to learn something new, but, in some cases, the skipper or the crew may not be experienced enough to judge the validity of the suggestion or to carry out the idea properly. Or a crewmember says “you don’t have to do that; we never do that on Karen’s boat,” and the skipper agrees, without thinking more about it. Then there’s the crewmember who shows another person how to do something in a manner that is quite different from what the skipper asked the person to do, saying “here’s a better way.” There may be a reason the skipper told the person to do it that way. The bottom line is that while the skipper may consider advice from the crew, the final decision is his or her own. In some cases, a decision may have to be a quick one when things are going wrong, and the ultimate responsibility is the skipper’s. The rest of the people aboard should be sensitive to this when making comments or giving advice.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.