Take care when choosing a sailing crew

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 08/09/03
By Ray Pendleton

It was over 18 months ago that one of my Water Ways columns generated some surprising results.

A Star-Bulletin reader on Maui, Bruce Curtis, asked if I would help him find volunteers to help sail his boat back to Hawai`i from French Polynesia.

So after describing Curtis' boat and his sailing experience, I asked for any interested readers to contact him by phone or e-mail. The response was unbelievable.

Not long after, Curtis told me, his 40-foot boat Rhapsody was fully crewed.

"And the beautiful part is I could select individuals, vs. taking whoever," he noted.

"I had been getting crew requests from all over the world. Israel, Hong Kong ... the list goes on.

"I challenged the contact in Hong Kong as to where he found out about the passage and me," Curtis explained. "He said on the Web and sent me the site he had found on Google under Star-Bulletin/sailing. It was your column."

I bring this up now because I have finally met Curtis in person. After several hours of delightful conversation, I have learned something of his methodology for bringing new crew members aboard his boat. It's worth sharing with others who may be in a similar situation.

All new crew members are given a written copy of what Curtis calls his "Rhapsody Norms." It is a compilation of what every crew member should have and expect during his/her time aboard.

The list begins with the personal stuff one should bring aboard, such as grooming items, seasick prevention, sunglasses, sunscreen, foul weather gear, a "real" flashlight with batteries, a folding knife, a hat, gloves, money, and sheets and a pillow case.

A personal safety harness is also mandatory for all channel crossings and blue water passages.

Curtis' Norms go on to list such optional items as snorkel equipment, favorite CDs, a Walkman (if you like your music loud), a cell phone and any food "you cannot live without, but that can be stowed under your pillow."

The division of expenses incurred are explained in one sentence: "We are a commune - all expenses -- i.e., food, beverages, fuel and docking fees are shared."

The division of housekeeping is equally to the point: "You will dedicate one hour each day to the welfare of Rhapsody. This may include exciting things like waxing, cleaning stainless, cleaning the bottom or polishing the interior with oil."

Buying the wine for dinner is the penalty for not devoting that one hour of labor.

The rules for personal behavior are only slightly longer. Smoking and drugs are prohibited, as is alcohol consumption on channel crossings and long passages. However, exceptions may be made for the above-mentioned wine with dinner.

Beer is allowed on board, as personal coolers are recommended, rather than using the boat's refrigerator.

To insure a crew member's commitment to the passage or cruise they have been confirmed for, Curtis asks for a cash deposit ranging from $100-$500.

"If you do not make the cruise, the (remaining) crew on board will share the deposit, as it will go into the Trip Kitty," he explains.

And finally, Curtis reminds the crew that while sailing is the norm, "we have lazy days, rainy days and let's-just-enjoy-ourselves-where-we-are days."

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