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Old 10-05-2012, 16:57   #1
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A Tale of Two "Captains"

*Disclaimer: Many boring words
**Disclaimer: Names may have been changed to protect the guilty

So I went racing on a boat that was owned by a fellow named Glenn. Glenn is the consummate gentleman. He handled his boat in an orderly fashion and all the crew aboard were fun to sail with, and understanding that I wasn't used to racing. However, they still involved me and I learned a lot. No real yelling. And then back to the yacht club for drinks, which he graciously bought for me and Dani.

The sailing was good. The crew was good. There was a crewman aboard who also owned a boat and was looking for crew for his boat. Glenn was going to man the committee boat for a few weeks so no more going out with them. So I volunteered to crew with this other fellow.

So the next week I call and he tells me that his partner/co-owner would be taking out the boat and I was welcome to join, but he had a medical emergency and wouldn't be going out. Okay, cool, no problem right? I've sailed with people I didn't know before and it wasn't so bad.

So I show up at the boat on time and meet another guy there. This fellow, lets call him Greenhorn, had never been sailing before ever. He was just a friend of the skipper. We chat and he is a nice guy. Air Force guy.

The Skipper arrives to the boat late. Lets call him Captain A-D-D. He is shuffling down the peer huffing as he comes. His look is that of a man in disarray. His glasses here swinging back and forth after taking a dive off of the end of his nose. They are those glasses you see in late night TV infomercials with amber colored lenses and thick plastic frames. "EAGLE EYES" where people pretend to have better than 20/20 vision when they put them on. Short and bear like, sporting a beard, he greets Greenhorn and I in a nasally voice before unlocking the boat and proceeding to go below and literally throw some stuff around, though he never emerged with anything and never actually secured anything that I could tell. I ask if I can help and he doesn't seem to think so.

About this time another experienced crew shows up. Lets call him XPCrew. He has been racing quite a while and owns his own boat. An older, calm fellow.

So CaptainADD greets him then decides its time to crank the outboard to "let it warm up." He pulls the cord and she fires up. Only thing is that he leaves it at 3/4 throttle after taking off the choke. I mean this thing is hanging off the back of the boat buzzing like mad on cold oil. I was cringing and biting my tongue hoping that too much damage wasn't being done. Would we have to duck a piston missle? Oh well.

CaptainADD shouts over the raging outboard noise that we should hoist the main sail. "But CaptainADD.... We're in the slip...." No matter, he wanted it up. Greenhorn already has the winch handle eager to obey despite choking on the noxious fumes that the outboard is spewing at us. I dutifully man the winch as the CaptainADD feeds the bolt rope into the mast track. "Go ahead and crank it up hard." So I start spinning and when I hit the end of the mast track the block at the base of the mast literally explodes. I'm not kidding, a screw hit Greenhorn in the head. "Oh F*ck!"

CaptainADD does a sort of angry dance on the cabin top, which I note flexes under his portly jig. At this point he appears to be frothing in anxiety and rage. But he recovers by adjusting his "eagle eyes" and then saying, "Its okay. Good enough to race." I go up and look at it. The block is still technically there but its held to the deck by only 1 bent screw. Not a bolt. A screw. And to make matters worse, the metal is all twisted and bent up. I can see the rotten deck through the now vacant screw holes.

I secretly back some of the tension off the main halyard while CaptainADD is untying dock lines. XPCrew sees me do it and gives a little discrete nod of approval.

So then its time to depart the slip. With the main fully raised. CaptainADD asks if I know how to "drive" with a tiller. "Sure skipper." Well he jumps onto the back of the boat where the outboard is still furiously buzzing its way to a premature death. Without backing off the throttle, he slams it into reverse. The thing made a thunk, shudder, and screech so loud I jumped. Then the boat begins to rocket backwards at high speed. As the bow starts to clear the slip I slam the tiller over to turn into the fair way and also to slow the boat down using the rudder as a brake. Big mistake apparently.

CaptainADD howls in anger! "You're stopping the boat! You're stopping the boat!" And runs forward yelling at XPCrew to man the outboard while he'll deal with the tiller. Admonished for my poor "driving", I apologize for stiffling his jet engine exit of the slip and move aside to observe instead. Perhaps he knows some secret of high speed departure. XPCrew gets to the motor quickly, slows down the throttle, and puts it in neutral. With the main up the boat is drifting. Drifting towards the expensive yachts nearby.

I grab greenhorn and we run forward to fend off, which becomes almost immediately necessary. CaptainADD is shouting at XPCrew and vacillating between "FORWARD FORWARD REVERSE REVERSE" in his high pitched fury. So after about 10 (and I'm not kidding) transmission shifts from forward to reverse and back again, we are able to actually point out of the fairway. I imagine it looked a lot like the Austin Powers movie where he got the golf cart stuck in the hall way. Anyway, the only way we actually got going was that I fended us off a post very hard to swing the bow around and point in the right direction. Who needs a tiller?

Underway and heading out... CaptainADD asks Greenhorn to go below and start turning on and off things. Apparently every switch must be on except the stereo. Greenhorn is looking a little green in the gills down below. Its rough on the lake and he is being tossed around a lot down there.

He comes out and asks me if I've been messing with gasoline today. "What?" Oh yeah, he thinks I must have it on me. Tells me he smells it on me. "No dude, sorry, I only play with diesel, not gas." So we sniff around. His suede shoes are soaked in gasoline. Hmm. I drop below and look around. Gas spill in the cabin. Nice. Thank God no one is smoking. CaptainADD doesn't seem to care so much though. "Oh just ignore that. I'll clean it up later." Later never seemed to come.

We make it out to the lake and get ready with the racers. Race starts are chaotic under the usual circumstances, with CaptainADD, its a veritable hell. He produces two, not one, but two stop watches and gives them BOTH to Greenhorn and asks him to start timing so he can get to the start line at exactly the right time. He is a scientist and knows exactly what to do. He has careful instructions for both watches but the purpose of the second one was never clear and he literally never asked for a reading from it. We also never actually caught the horns that announce the intervals for the race heats to start. And it was just too much for CaptainADD to sail near to the committee boat so we could hear or see the flags that announce the starts.

As we're tacking around getting ready, he is shouting at any boat he dares near us, "STARBOARD, STARBOARD, or PORT PORT" so they KNOW who has the right of way. I'm thinking this is a bit goofy, but it got really bad when he turned to XPCrew and asks... "What tack are we on now?" I'm serious. I almost jumped overboard to swim to shore at this point. I would have made it too, had my PFD on. The only one aboard with one on. I had brought my own.

So we finally get going towards the start line. XPCrew and CaptainADD fight about when the start is. As it turns out, we totally miss our start and disqualify ourselves. I'm serious. We were disqualified from the start. CaptainADD decides to race around the buoys anyway. Fine.

XPCrew trims the jib. One of the blocks breaks. At least this time it wasn't a nuclear shrapnel bomb explosion like the main block. XPCrew shakes his head knowingly and gives me a little nod and smirk. CaptainADD is confident though, "Just move that jib car forward." So XPCrew dutifully tries but it won't move. Then CaptainADD starts telling him about some sort of knot he must untie first. "Umm... Skipper there are no lines tied to the cars." SkipperADD is again befuddled but recovers himself by demanding a beer from Greenhorn. Greenhorn retrieves it out of the gas house below. Boats downwind of us must be getting high off the fumes. By this time the gasoline has mixed with the "bilge water" and a stink so pungent that it was melting my hair was bellowing out of the cabin.

CaptainADD seems not to notice the stench that is flaking the varnish off his topsides and proceeds to tell us a story about the time he partially sank this very boat when its keel was holed, but he was still able to get 10kts of speed out of her even half full of water....

God it just kept getting worse. So the boat we're on is actually pretty quick despite the manifest dangers. We make it to the J buoy and the offset. CaptainADD has a deep and philosophical discussion about the offset as we approach. He discusses his ideas on how far to sail out past the buoy to clear the offset by making an ideal single tack. He makes his plans with the utmost care. Finally he makes his all important tack. Then he literally steers us between the buoy and the offset despite having executed the first part of the plan well and being fully able to clear the offset. I'm really not sure why and I don't ask. Even XPCrew is mystified and has a look on his face like he just sniffed a rotten egg.

Undeterred though, CaptainADD gybes us all the way back around and does the whole thing over AGAIN in an attempt to "redo". After that the en devour is abandoned and we fall back in with the flock heading towards the finish line. Thwarted by the offset. I think he would have gone for it thrice but the other boat's skippers were shouting at him.... You know, since he was going BACKWARDS on an important part of the race course. Its true what they say too. Sailors can swear with the best of them. Trust me.

By this time I think Greenhorn is near losing his lunch. He looks sad. Sweating, green, and gasoline soaked shoes. CaptainADD asks him to go below to get more beers. We're beating upwind now and the boat is crashing everwhere. Below would be hell for him. I stop Greenhorn and get the beers for him even though CaptainADD asked him to do it. Not sure getting beers on this death ship is a good idea, but I hand them around. Then I crawl up on the deck as "ballast" and stay there as long as I can out of earshot of the endless dribble of CaptainADD's nasally expressed wisdom.

It gets very dark heading in. Two boats are charging across our bow, locked in a very close race. It was exciting for me to watch the duel for a while until I realized CaptainADD was not yielding to them despite not having right of way. I wasn't in the cockpit so I didn't hear CaptainADD discuss what he would do, but we came damn close to hitting them. And the other skippers were >not< happy. Hopefully my face was hidden so that future associations aren't permanently ruined.

We finally crossed the finish line. As we turned towards the harbor I go back to the cockpit. CaptainADD doesn't want to take the sails down but XPCrew is arguing with him that it would be safer to motor in. CaptainADD gets a little too passionate about his case for sailing in and forgets to helm the boat well... Then we had our first crash gybe. It almost killed Greenhorn. The poor guy was too gone to even much notice that the boom swept over his head by about an inch. I made him lay down on the side deck as the argument raged. I climbed on deck to drop the sails no matter if CaptainADD wanted it or not. It was going to be MUTINY. Then the second crash gybe. The boom crossed the deck and crashed so hard that the entire boat shuddered and shifted in the water. It was a miracle nothing broke and no one died. CaptainADD's arguments died down.

I took the main down right away. XPCrew got the outboard started and we then tried to roll up the jib. It was jammed. I went up on the deck and tried to free the furler but with no deck lights I couldn't see. CaptainADD had no flashlights. So we motored in with a nasty crosswind and the jib flogging wildly across the deck.

XPCrew took us in, somehow usurping the tiller, and we actually made it into the slip without TOO much trouble.

Green horn kissed the ground. XPCrew farted in CaptainADD's direction, and after putting the sail covers on, I got the hell out of dodge despite CaptainADD's repeated suggestions I let him buy me some hamburgers and drinks at the yacht club.

My thoughts... Don't sail with people you don't know unless you have to. If you get a bad feeling at the dock, just say you're going to chicken out and leave. It isn't worth it.

If this would have been my first sailing trip, I doubt I would have ever sailed again. The wonderful experiences I had with Glenn and his boat/crew give me the fortitude to look past CaptainADD's night of hell. Find good people to sail with. Love them for being awesome. They protect you from the bad times even long after you've parted ways.
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Old 10-05-2012, 17:09   #2
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

That was fun reading. Anyway we could get Captain ADD to post a verision.
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Old 10-05-2012, 17:18   #3
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Let me attempt it from Captain ADD's perspective. ....

So there I was coming down the pier with my best shades on... Damn I looked good. That **** was matching my white socks I had on under my strappy sandals. Good thing I had them on too so that I could see those two punk kids standing on my boat, probably scuffing my paint, from a long way off. So I ran down the dock to put them in their places...

You can continue on from here if you like.
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Old 10-05-2012, 18:29   #4
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

he sounds reasonable
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Old 10-05-2012, 21:11   #5
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Just received a pm from ADD, he does not wish to be involved in this discussion as it may cast bad aspersions on people that you may know.

I must advise that it is a very bad move to take people out sailing with you whom you have never met. This was foisted on me by an EX friend who i thought was a good judge of character. He arranged for these three blokes to meet me at the dock so i went down to get the boat ready, as you do, and i find them all to be rudely there ahead of me, thus seeing my boat in it's worst state, no time to mop up the gasoline, tidy up the cabin, or anything.

Anyway, i give them a few simple instructions, let one guy take the tiller(who insisted that he knew how to steer a boat) and started the outboard in my usual way, i like to know that it can keep up the revs and not stall when i throw it into gear, and ordered the old bugger to hoist up the main. Well, he rolled his eyes and "suggested" that we leave it down until we got out there. At this point i thought, this is going to be good, apart from the obvious novice the others think that they know more than me. Well, i told him to hoist the damn thing up and hard, guess what? He made such a fool job of it he nearly tore the boat to pieces. He also nearly killed the novice by sending a missile at him at great speed fron his stupid overwinching.

We got it up anyway, and cast off, only to find that the idiot in the helm had no idea how to handle a boat to my instructions. Only by my superior skills did we not crash into other boats when i took the helm from him and ordered him to do something he could possibly do, like be a fender. I had a perfect start and race strategy already in my head, and knew that we would have won easily if they had just followed all my instructions instead of thinking they knew it all. But, these nautical nincompoops managed to get me disqualified before we even started, i thought bugger it, i'm racing anyway and went around the course with these clowns. Upon seeing the antics of the other skippers in the race i am now glad that we weren't in it seriously. They were all over the place, had no idea about port/starboard tacks and who had right of way and we nearly had a few collisions because of a combination of that and my inept crew. How inept? you may well ask. The novice could not even get me a beer without complaining about the smell down below, then he nearly damaged my boom by having his head in the way during a very necessary and strategic gybe. The old bugger was as useful as an open toed wellington boot and the other guy seemed to be so in awe of my skill because he kept looking at me with his mouth open and writing little notes down in his pad. Somehow i managed to get my boat back to shore more or less by myself and then they had the rudeness to not want to come for a drink with me after all i had done for them. Never,ever again.


So, i share his version with you to give it an even balance.

Coops.
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Old 10-05-2012, 21:56   #6
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Great fun and great story.

One time early in my race career I was railmeat on a Benne 40.7. About ten minutes into the race we blew the genny - it was old. We put on the number 1. It was a passage race and the skipper was definitely in the wrong place for the current we were fighting. There was lots of testosterone in the back of the boat including the tactician/instructor, skipper, main trimmer and one genny trimmer who thought he was gods gift.

I whispered to my railmeat-mate that were in the wrong place and most of the other boats were near shore in favorable currents. He asked me why I didn't say something. I told him that it was that the skipper gets to make the decisions becuase he is buying the new genny. Later in the same race we blew out the (old) main sail. New race sails ended up around $15k.

I ended up as main trimmer on that boat for almost a year. Then I was one of the testosterone buttheads in the back... The skipper turned out to be a great guy and we won races after he learned the boat. I learned more from the tactician than I have from anyone else, ever. The main trimmer lost interest and the genny trimmer got flicked - couldn't shut up.

There is a hierarchy on a race boat that needs to be understood.

Certainly I wouldn't sail twice with ADDSkipper but I have taken valuable lessons from every skipper I have sailed with. To be honest I will sail with any skipper even if he drives and manages his boat like ADD. If he wants to break his boat who am I to judge. I begged the ride in the first place...

It is hard to undrstand and easy to criticize a skippers actions but unless you have skippered a while you sorta can't understand the multitude of frustrations that are possible finding, training and keeping good crew.

No yelling at stupidity is rule one. Yelling to convey urgency or to be heard above ambient noises is fine. Failure of crew is simply failure of skipper to train and retain.
Have fun but set a tone that makes it clear when game face is on. Pretty much no beer on beats and depending on race beer on downwind or no beer until post race may be the go.
Never give the helm to anyone you don't know, especially docking and undocking. Same category as train and retain. However, post race I always try to carve time for a short booze cruise at which time I give someone, often foredeck guys the helm. At this point we drink some beer, reach/reach at an easy pace and unwind. Rarely a rush to drop sails and get back.
A skipper who gives up start timing to anyone but the tactician is a losing skipper. When a tactician is on board the tactician runs the race. The skipper focuses on boat speed and collision avoidance. It is awesome to see a good skipper and tactician working together.
Crew should be trained to trim without command except during starts when, power on, power off and luff should be rersponded to. Everyone trimming should know what power on means for each point of sail.
The main trimmer is probably the most important position on most boats due to ability to affect weather helm and power.
Did I mention have fun? And BTW winning is fun. Find crew that agrees and priooritizes that over getting hammered as soon as the dock lines are cast. Take time to get the crew out in non-race situations to just socialize and have fun.

(jeez what a ramble...)
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Old 10-05-2012, 23:24   #7
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Seems to be a thread for rambles,

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Old 10-05-2012, 23:24   #8
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Ex-Calif, I'm dying to even find a boat down here that has the word tactician in their vocabulary.
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Old 10-05-2012, 23:41   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Target9000
Ex-Calif, I'm dying to even find a boat down here that has the word tactician in their vocabulary.
I have been acting as tactician/trainer lately for a cruising boat that wants to race. I am sort of enjoying it but to be honest I vastly underestimated the frustrations of the position. I feel big responsibility for results but I have no direct say in crew.

It is really tough to lead a skipper to a decision that the main trimmer who is a buddy and been on the boat a while is never going to get it, but at the same time complains privately about weather helm on the beats. Then once he has decided that the main trimmer ain't cutting it, it's his job to flick the guy but can't and doesn't give clear indication that I can. Not that I want to as I've only been on the boat for months.

It's even worse if the genny trimmer is the wife and we convert 5 1/2 knots to .5 knots after every tack as she spends two minutes grinding the winch at slow speed. Then he yells at her, she yells at him and after the race crew comes to me and complains of atmosphere and conflict on the boat.

At times I feel like the consigliory and pshychologist.

Oh, well. Doesn't matter. Got to sail - LOL
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Old 11-05-2012, 01:29   #10
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Perhaps now the appeal of single handed racing becomes clearer...

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 11-05-2012, 03:42   #11
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

In all seriousness i have to say that the OP was superbly written and witty and a big thank you for it. I have linked it to a sailing forum here in Australia and they are now enjoying it. Keep posting more if that is an example of what you are capable of.

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Old 11-05-2012, 04:08   #12
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

haha yes , great story ! thanks for that ,,will be keeping up with your blog as well
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Old 11-05-2012, 05:23   #13
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Y'all all make me very glad that I have a multihull and only three crew.

AFAIC, I have a mantra: "whatever happens aboard the boat is the skipper's fault. Even if the crew screws up and is absolutely moronic, it's still the skipper's fault because she should have known this and taken steps to compensate."


edit: @target9000, i think i know who the 'good' skipper is, and yes, he's a good, good egg....
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:43   #14
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Re: A Tale of Two "Captains"

Quote:
Originally Posted by tamif27 View Post
edit: @target9000, i think i know who the 'good' skipper is, and yes, he's a good, good egg....

Cool, do you come race sometimes or do you just know him? He is a really nice guy.
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:28   #15
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I've never had the desire to race until I read the posts in this thread. That sounds like fun!
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