July 31, 2012

Jail under sail

HAVE YOU EVER thought that being on a sailboat at sea is like being in a prison? Dr. Michael Stadler says in The Psychology of Sailing: “In many respects the situation at sea does not differ in principle from the situation in a prison or cloister. Sociologists have described such living conditions as ‘total institutions.’” That means all activities are carried out in the same living space, with the same objective, under one authority.

As the skipper of a boat at sea, you are that authority — and thus the target of every gripe and resentment. As skipper, the law requires that you accept full responsibility for what happens on your boat, but you shouldn’t keep to yourself all the difficult tasks that require a high degree of skill, such as steering in bad weather, navigation, docking maneuvers, sail changes, and so on.

It’s smarter, for your good and theirs, to teach and delegate. Offer your crew the opportunity to learn and develop their own skills. Give them responsibility in the day-to-day running of the ship. In this way, you’ll instill a sense of team spirit and the satisfying feeling that they’re making valuable contributions to the welfare of the group. And (not coincidentally) it also keeps them too busy to think about mutiny.

Today’s Thought
Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.
— Samuel Johnson
“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(20) “Yes, sir, is it done the way you like it?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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