Skipper and crew intercourse

When there’s foredeck work to be done, such as when anchoring or picking up a mooring, reliable intra-boat communication is vital. But with skipper and crew operating at opposite ends of the boat it can be quite difficult and, particularly with husband and wife teams, fraught with consequential damages.

(Yes, this post is about intra-boat communication – what did you think?)

The really slick teams have sorted out a series of hand signals that allow them to carry out their tasks noiselessly, as if communicating by ESP. The helmsman and foredeck crew work in silent harmony to arrive precisely at the mooring buoy; the crew triumphantly grasps the ring with the boathook or Mooringmate and gets a line attached effortlessly.

I’ve seen teams using headset walkie-talkies – a great idea as long as you stay calm and enunciate properly. If the crew switches off the headset and can still hear the captain screaming at her, little has been achieved.

Shouting is one form of communication that simply doesn’t work – it leads to a terrible atmosphere when the anchor is finally secured and drink is being taken in the cockpit.

Another method I would strongly discourage is one we witnessed in a Bahamian anchorage one dark and stormy night: A large modern sail boat with him-and-her crew was engaged in an anchoring saga of epic proportions. They were communicating intra-boat by vhf radio – she with the handheld on the foredeck, he on the fixed set back at the helm. They chose to use channel 16 – in an anchorage full of boats monitoring channel 16. I have to say it was very entertaining but if it were a movie it would have had an X rating. And what she suggested he do with the anchor would be nigh on impossible, I reckon.

But, whatever means of intra-boat communication you use, remember the wise words of George Bernard Shaw: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.