We round up the Yachting Monthly panel of experts once again to bring you their top tips for keeping a happy crew onboard no matter the circumstances
Whether you are our for an afternoon sail or crossing oceans having a happy crew onboard is the single biggest contributor to having a good time out on the water. If your crew is unhappy, it is likely that everyone will have a miserable time.
It might seem like common sense to keep those onboard happy, and so basic as to be barely worth considering before you cast off. However, the sea is a fickle mistress and it is quite possible, despite best efforts, to find yourself surrounded by frowns.
It is key to try to predict any issues that are likely to come your way, so you know how you will respond in unhappy or stressful situations. It’s impossible to predict every eventuality, but having a plan for the most likely scenarios is common sense – as is understanding as much as possible about those on board so you stand a chance of predicting their response to a variety of situations.
Expert tips for maintaining a happy crew
Consider a harness not a lifejacket – Graham Snook
There is a time and a place for lifejackets, and children should wear them in dinghies and when close to the water.
On a yacht, however, wearing a lifejacket while sailing can be unwieldy and uncomfortable, and if your child isn’t happy, neither are you.
A better solution is a child’s safety harness.
Attach a short tether and they won’t be able to leave the cockpit but they’ll still be able to roam safely.
Harnesses can also be worn below decks, giving your child the freedom to go below without having to extricate themselves from the jacket only to have to put it back on when they change their mind.
Watch schedules for the best of both worlds – Daria Blackwell
Whenever we give a talk on crossing oceans or distance cruising, two questions come up.
The first is: ‘Where do you stop at night?’ The second is: ‘How do you determine your watch schedules?’
Alex and I typically sail short-handed with only the two of us and we don’t stop at night unless we are coastal cruising.
We do, of course, have an autopilot and windvane steering because hand steering for long distances is not feasible.
After all, sailing short-handed is like sailing single-handed half the time. When one is asleep, the other is on watch.
Many couples like to have consistent watch schedules to facilitate sleep routines. They might do three hours on and three hours off.
The same person then has the same watches every day. One sees the sun set, the other sees the sun rise.
We do something a bit different.
To alternate what we experience in daylight and night-time hours, we take four-hour watches at night and six hours during the day.
So 2000-0000, 0000-0400 and 0400-0800 are the night shifts. During the day, 0800-2000 is more flexible depending on what needs to be done.
That means we alternate seeing sunrises and sunsets, we only have the dreaded 0000-0400 watch every other day, and we both get enough sleep.
After a few days, we are settled into the rhythm.
Learn to communicate for harmony onboard – Kika Mevs
Dan and I sometimes joke that living together on a yacht for one year is equivalent to seven years for an average couple living on land.
This is because the average land-based couple has different office jobs and routines.
Even before our cruising life, Dan and I worked and lived together in a very small room that we rented at a friend’s apartment.
We were already used to being together in a tiny space 24/7, so for us, moving onto Uma was an upgrade.
However, for most couples, moving onto a small boat can be very challenging.
On a boat, where there is very little to zero privacy, there is no room for drama, so learning how to communicate with each other and figuring out how to take care of each other is the most important step.
Talk it through with the crew – Helen Melton
Since owning a boat, we have had a permanent berth at several marinas in Britain, France and Ireland, each with their own set of challenges.
From unpredictable tidal eddies or strong cross tides to flat water with lots of wind, it can be complicated to predict which forces are going to dominate as you’re lining up to approach.
Despite numbers onboard, we can also feel shorthanded, sailing with youngsters who lack judgement or experience, or with an older generation who are more reluctant to step off onto an unknown pontoon with ropes in hand.
So, we take our time, sailing past the end of the fairway to assess the berth before attempting the manoeuvre.
Each member of our team needs to know what the plan is, their role within it (even if that role is stay below and keep quiet) and what plan B looks like if we need to abort.
Success is defined by a safely completed berthing with no injuries to crew or boat, and no raised voices.