A Duty Roster for a Shipshape Charter
When bareboat chartering with friends or family, it can be tough to be the captain. Not only are you ultimately responsible for navigation, anchoring and the safety of the vessel, but you also have to manage crew duties without coming off like Captain Bligh. Part of good crew management and morale is keeping the boat clean and shipshape so you don’t have a mutiny.
I like to see how roles develop naturally aboard before making a roster. Some people cook because they like it, some are fastidious cleaner-uppers, some are capable mechanics, some are good shoppers and some can be downright lazy. Even if your whole crew chips in, you might want to rotate duties to eliminate grudges and make sure everyone is involved in managing the boat, although that can also mean being a little out of some of the crew’s comfort zone. I set up a four-component roster and rotate everyone through, including myself, because the captain should lead by example.
This is a tough one. Some people excel at meal preparation while others get hives when asked to boil water. However, even kids can get involved with making an occasional meal, especially if it’s just setting out sandwich meats for lunch or fruit and yogurt for breakfast. Leave the big dinners to the chefs aboard, but get everyone in the galley at some point to share in the fun.
The first rule is: the cook doesn’t do dishes. A cook might have a sous chef who will help clean up as they go, but the big dishes are done by someone else. You seldom have three meals aboard as people scatter to bars and restaurants during the day. For dinners, I like to have a rotating shift of people who make sure the galley is spic and span for the night. Dishes are not allowed to sit overnight for three reasons, including 1) the smell and bugs they attract, especially in the tropics; 2) the mess the morning cook has to deal with if the cleanup crew is still asleep; 3) if the weather gets rough during the night, it’s best not to have stuff flying around in the galley.
Decks & Cockpit
Boats get dirty. Even with daily rain showers, the cockpit usually fills up with food crumbs and hair, sand lodges in nooks and crannies, and there’s always a tangle of lines that needs tidying. A bucket on a length of line is a great way to sluice the decks with seawater just before dinner and a quick wipe down makes a happy hour, happier. Just be careful of open hatches over people’s beds.
Heads & Floors
This is usually the least popular duty aboard and hence the reason for having a rotating schedule. Floors should be swept and wiped down with a mixture of vinegar and water if they’re salty. If you have enough heads for each couple aboard to have its own, it’s usually up to them to make sure the facilities are usable and not aromatic. Even so, someone should cruise through to check that the through-hulls work and that the heads get freshened up with vinegar or lubricated with oil for proper function. If the captain is smart, he or she will take this duty first. Not only will the crew admire your selfless example, but the heads are never as foul at the beginning of the trip as at the end, so you’ll catch a break.
Now that you have the tough stuff out of the way, that leaves sailing, navigating, checking the engine, jury-rigging anything that’s broken and provisioning. I have no official roster for these functions because people have natural tendencies toward certain areas. But it’s easy to spot a wallflower who might benefit from a quick navigation lesson or who would get a thrill out of hoisting the sails. Don’t let the same people do the same stuff all the time, and try to get everyone involved.
There’s an important function for everyone aboard, even if that’s an enthusiastic cruise/entertainment director. A duty roster is not just about keeping everyone busy, but rather about running a shipshape charter that will linger in everyone’s memory as a fantastic vacation. And it doesn’t hurt that you, as the captain, will be the star of the story. s
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Zuzana Prochazka holds a 100-ton Coast Guard license and cruises Southern California aboard Indigo, a Celestial 48