Sail Away – January 2007

Role Playing

This month’s contributor is Tom Reinke, who sails a Flying Scot with his wife, Mary. They love leading bareboat charters and turning over the helm to the officer of the day. If you’re new to chartering—or if your friends are—you’ll find his organizational ideas helpful.

The primary objective of a charter is to have a good time, and that means different things to different people. Some see themselves working hard to relax, enjoying a simple intinerary, lazy days, and plenty of time ashore. Others revel in spending the days sailing vigorously and putting as many miles under the keel as possible. And still others, new to sailing, want to learn as much as they can in the allotted time. A happy charter starts with providing time and opportunities for all crewmembers to have fun as they see it. If some of the crew is new to sailing, or if crewmembers are new to each other, having a good time takes on the extra dimension of converting new acquaintances into new friends, and transforming nonsailors into (reasonably) confident skippers.

A simple way to facilitate all this is to create a couple of roles for the crew—officer of the day and navigator of the day. As the names imply, these assignments rotate on a daily basis, distributing both the work and the opportunity for each person to accomplish his or her objectives. While this idea may seem a bit contrived, role assignments have been proven over hundreds of years on the high seas. They have helped to mold rum-guzzling sailors into an effective crew, so they will surely work to build cohesiveness and stimulate fun among a group of well-mannered 21st-century bareboaters.

The officer of the day coordinates all of the daily activities, ranging from mundane chores to the major events that have been planned. A key aspect of the role is making sure that everyone is involved in making the decisions about the day and in selecting the chosen activities.

Core tasks include:

  • Reviewing the day’s itinerary and confirming the time schedule.
  • Soliciting suggestions for any changes in plans or itinerary.
  • Discussing meal arrangements, menus, and cooking assignments.
  • Identifying chores that need to be completed and soliciting

  • Checking the boat’s systems and supplies, such as fuel, ice,
    water, and food.

  • If necessary, developing a helmsman schedule that gives everyone an equal opportunity at the wheel.

Obviously, these jobs can be modified to include whatever the group wishes.

Creating an officer of the day has two big advantages. First, it gives everyone a chance to leave his or her special mark on the charter. People usually respond well to this opportunity and add their own flare to the day’s activities, whether its source is new enthusiasm, creative ideas about how things get done, or suggestions for changes in the itinerary. The second advantage is that it builds cooperation. When you know that your turn is coming, you’re naturally more willing to be an active member of the group when someone else is the leader.

The navigator of the day works with the officer of the day specifically on getting the boat to its next destination. The navigator figures out how to get where the crew wants to go, how long it will take, where they will tie up or anchor, what the wind and weather will be doing, and all the other details of the passage. For inexperienced sailors, this becomes a crash course in an essential part of cruising; the assignment can be simplified for newbies by adding a coach. And, if the crew is made up of couples, the roles of navigator and officer of the day can be assigned to a couple. This often generates some serious entertainment and may provide new insights into your friends’ relationships.

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