ALL MY LIFE I’ve been searching for the ideal crew. I’m still looking. Why is this so difficult? All I ask is that my crew recognize the importance of being neat and tidy and — very important — knowing how to keep out of the way of others. Nothing irritates me more than a crew who lacks anticipation of where others are likely to want to be, and who is always in the way. Added to that, I suppose, is a wish that he always cleans up after himself and that he never leaves his stuff lying around. (And incidentally, when I say “he” in this piece, I also mean “she,” because she crews also have faults, and good ones are just as difficult to find.)
But that’s not much to ask, is it? I’m not demanding perfection. I mean, a really good crew would also be wonderful on the foredeck and an ace at spinnaker drill. A half-decent crew would be keen of eye and strong of arm, with the balance of a ballet dancer and the appetite of a canary. He’d be a fund of cheerful stories when things look bleak, and he’d know when to laugh loudly at the skipper’s jokes (which is all the time).
My ideal crew would possess the skill of a diplomat when it’s necessary to tell the skipper he’s doing something wrong. And, naturally, he’d have to be a good navigator and pilot, able to recite the Rule of the Road backward. He’d be a talented helmsman, a mechanical genius, and an excellent swimmer with lifesaving qualifications.
The best kind of crew would also be a trained cook, able to produce gourmet meals in all weathers, and a cocktail mixer of recognized stature. Needless to say, he’d also be able to reef, splice, repeat the international phonetic alphabet at will, and be trained in first-aid and firefighting.
Finally, the crème-de-la-crème of crews would:
► Never eat the last piece of chocolate or drink the last beer;
► Never need to use the head, and would be nowhere to be seen when females use the head, so as not to embarrass them;
► Never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, make himself at home on the bridge deck and block the companionway steps; and
► Never appear attractive to the skipper’s wife or daughter. (And preferably should be neutered).
I say again, for Pete’s sake, is this really too much to ask?
The desire of perfection is the worst disease that ever afflicted the human mind.
— Fontanes, Address to Napoleon.
Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #224
Whistling and bad weather. The old rule was that a sailor never whistled on watch for fear of bringing on bad weather. He could whistle during his off watch, or even play the fiddle if he wished, but the theory was that any sailor who whistled when he was supposed to be working didn’t have enough to do.
“How are things now that your husband has retired?”
“Oh, halved and doubled, I guess.”
“What do you mean?”
“Half pay, double husband.”
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