Friday, September 5, 2014

Land is Underrated - Crew is Overrated

This trip has made me realize just how much I LOVE LAND! It is solid and doesn't rock (unless there's an earthquake). Land has a lot going for it: mountains, valleys, beaches, cities with lots of people to talk to and every kind of store to buy every kind of thing that you might want. Landlubbers really take this for granted. They should appreciate the options available to them more than they do.

Ocean, on the other hand, has its pluses too, like bioluminescence you can see at night, dolphins, whales, seals and sun fish that frolic on the surface occasionally. But it is also a desert of saltwater with frequent fog at its surface so that you can't tell the sky from the water, and big waves that threaten to knock you over and scare the living crap out of you!

So at this point I think it is safe to say that I am still solidly in the landlubber category. Perhaps with time, I will turn into the true sailor/adventurer that Brad is hoping for... Time will tell...

As for crew, this adventure has lead Brad and I to believe we don't need crew, especially inexperienced crew. We realize we didn't really take the interviewing process seriously when we contemplated this journey, and perhaps we could have done better if we had. Anyway, I want to discuss this topic for those of you may be contemplating an off-shore trip in the future so you don't make the same mistakes we did.

Consider this: Crew aren't house guests. Crew aren't employees. Crew aren't slaves. Crew may or may not be friends. So how do you really treat them? This is a question we wrestled with the whole time we had them aboard. I don't have an answer for this. It is difficult to strike the right balance. We were polite and tried to be firm and clear in what we expected from them and overall, I think we got along okay, but it was a struggle.

Brad and I like our space and our privacy so we realize we are better off as a twosome. We had reserved the storage space and hanging locker for the crew. This meant we had to store the spinnaker on the back porch, which meant it got all wet from the salt spray and you couldn't get into the lazarette without moving this cumbersome, wet monster somewhere (where?) out of the way. It meant we had to store all of our clothing and outerwear into one small hanging locker that was stuffed so full the door wouldn't close. Irritating. Claustrophobic! We left LOTS of the clothing we wanted to bring for this potentially year long voyage because there simply wasn't room. We told the crew just how limited the storage would be days beforehand. Then Natalie shows up in Anacortes with THREE rather large duffel bags full of clothing for a two-week cruise. Brad and I just looked at each other. WTF? Fortunately, Tolga only showed up with one medium duffel and a daypack. Naturally, he had nowhere to put his stuff because Natalie had already used up all the storage space!

Here's an important consideration: I would suggest only considering crew who own their boats and who have done an extended trip OFF THE GRID. Living aboard at a marina just does NOT count. If they haven't dealt with power consumption and water conservation issues, then they will only cause you grief. Case in point, when Natalie and Tolga were brushing their teeth, washing up, or doing dishes, I would be in the salon wondering if they were drawing water for a bath! I often found the bathroom counter sopping wet with water streaming across the floor. What was going on in there??? In one day, seriously - one day, they used 60 gallons, emptying our port water tank! This was after repeatedly instructing them on how to conserve water. Amazing! A typical water usage rate for this latitude is about 5 gallons per person, so this tank should have lasted the four of us three days. At the rate they were consuming water, if our watermaker broke, we would only have water for TWO days! (We have two tanks.) Fortunately, my clever husband finally found a solution! He swapped out the galley faucet for the swim step faucet which requires you to push and hold the button to get water to dispense. It was like magic! No more wasted water. Of course, it was inconvenient to use, so as soon as the crew left, we put the faucets back. Oh happy day! To a lesser extent, we also had wasting power issues like leaving on fans and lights when no one was using them anymore. Since we motored most of the trip, this wasn't that much of an issue, just a bit of an annoyance, but we ignored this to keep the peace.

Experience off-shore is what makes a crew member valuable. They need to understand how to prevent oversteering, how to hold the boat directly into the wind, how to use the chart plotter and the autopilot, how to keep awake at night, how to preserve their night vision, what is required to effectively keep watch, how to effectively handle collision avoidance. Suffice it to say, these were issues we had with our crew. We knew up front that neither Natalie or Tolga had off-shore experience but thought because they had Puget Sound sailing experience that this would be enough. It wasn't. And it takes longer to learn this stuff than we realized. Neither of us felt safe enough to leave them alone on night watch so we made sure one of us stayed up with them to handle any problems that arose, so we might as well have just done it ourselves.

Another issue was communication. Natalie is Russian and Tolga is Turkish. While they spoke good English, it was often difficult to understand them and some of our terminology was a complete mystery to them. We often found ourselves thinking we understood each other when later it became obvious that we clearly didn't. Most of the time this wasn't a big deal, but it could be disastrous if it leads to broken equipment.

Crew, on the positive side, can provide comic relief and camaraderie. Every morning, Tolga would hit his head on the ceiling when exiting his bunk. He apparently has a very hard head because the "thunk" each morning was quite loud. Why, we wondered does this keep happening? Tolga said it was because he doesn't have an early warning system! (He is bald.) That one really cracked me up! Especially considering how quiet Tolga is. He is very reserved, so a joke from him was really something!

One time, when the thought of going below deck to make myself something to eat made me queasy, Natalie offered to make me a sandwich. I fell in love with her in that moment. She was very good about volunteering to do things and was good about helping to provision the boat so Brad and I didn't have to pay for everything. Natalie also had a great attitude and always looked on the positive side.
Also, it is nice to discuss your common suffering, so having another soul to talk to and compare strategies for survival is a wonderful thing.

I can't say Brad or I really bonded with either of our crew, but we all managed to tolerate each other as best we could. No foul language was used and no yelling ensued, so overall I guess we got by. But be aware that an extended stay together in a small boat will eventually cause some personality conflicts. Even best friends get a little old with constant contact! Just something to keep in mind for you would-be cruisers out there.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, now that is a learning curve for sure and looks like you learned it!! I take it you won't need any 'crew' anymore? hope not.