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O Captain, My Captain, You Jerk.
By Barb Hansen
June 2, 2003

Vic and I have been thinking about renaming the First Mate course at Florida Sailing & Cruising School. We're considering something like Marriage Counseling for Boaters 101.

We have come to this opinion over time as we have noted that students in the popular course often bring up the issue of poor communication between the skipper and the crew.

The First Mate course -- there's one scheduled almost every month -- is a two-day powerboating course here at our headquarters at Marinatown Marina in N. Fort Myers. It combines classroom instruction and instruction on the vessel, including hands-on practice. The instructors tell me some students seem to pay especially close attention to the discussion about knot and line-handling and they would not be surprised if someone were to ask how to tie the hangman's knot.

We do not teach the hangman's knot. The First Mate course costs only $195 per person, not enough to cover extra legal fees to defend against a charge of accessory to murder.

One student said that if that jerk at the wheel didn't lower his/her voice, he/she was going to rope his/her neck, not the piling. As you'll note, I'm not naming names, pointing fingers, or even suggesting whether the jerk is a man or a woman. Readers are free to draw their own mental pictures.

One the other end of the scale our instructors hear comments like this one. "Boy, I can't wait to tell my Fred. He's been doing it all wrong."

Fortunately, most of the comments we hear more closely resemble that of Fred's wife.

Skippers who shout abuse from on high are really few and far between, in my experience. For those, instead of a boating course, an anger management course or three might be in order.

Nevertheless, all skippers should periodically ask themselves how they would measure up against the high standard of being a good skipper. According to Charles F. Chapman in Piloting, a good skipper knows his job so well he or she doesn't have to think about the details of doing it. A good skipper thinks ahead, is vigilant, and knows the capabilities of the crew.

Skipper, if you measure up, good for you. But, either way, in the interest of smoother communications on the vessel, we invite you to join your First Mate and other members of the crew and attend. You'll all become better boaters and better on-board communicators.

It may turn out, however, that the prescription requires stronger medicine. Perhaps with a little collaboration with Dr.Phil or somebody like that we could tackle head-on this issue of marital communications on the boat.

Our working title for the new course is Boating Communications (BC-101). The goal would be for students to learn what is required of the Skipper and First Mate to communicate effectively and courteously with each other. Skippers and First Mates need to communicate effectively for the sake of safety. Skippers and First Mates need to communicate courteously for the sake of having fun together on the boat. That's what it's all about, right?

I'll bet we could charge a lot for that course.

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Southwest Florida Yachts
3444 Marinatown Lane N.W. • North Fort Myers • Florida 33903
(239) 656-1339 (800) 262-7939 Fax (239) 656-2628

Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
Burnt Store Marina 26° 45.71' N 82° 04.20'W


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