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Old 21-05-2019, 11:41   #1
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What is your initial crew briefing?

I'm a licensed master, and I've skippered a variety of crew sizes and sailing missions. Most have been ferry jobs: other people's pride-and-joy taken to or returned from boat yards or "fly-out" destinations. Occasionally, the owners are among the crew.



I'm retired from NASA Ames Research Center, where Cockpit (now termed "Crew") Resource Management (CRM) was invented. Being also a commercial pilot, I appreciate how that approach and risk management framework has gone a long way toward making commercial flight safer. In a nutshell, it replaces the "Captain is God" approach with safety responsibility shared among all the crew. With that in mind, here is my initial crew briefing (which I try to keep true to its name -- brief):



"As captain, I am accountable for everything that occurs aboard this vessel. In an emergency, when there is no time for debate, commands will come from me. I expect them to be followed.



(In a much gentler tone) But the whole point of prudent seamanship is to avoid emergencies. Everyone aboard this vessel is responsible for safety.



Since I have only one set of eyes and I depend on each of you for the safe conduct of this voyage -- if you see something, say something. If you think something is being overlooked or faulty information is being acted upon, speak up before it becomes an emergency."
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Old 21-05-2019, 12:38   #2
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

I remember my first introduction to the captain's briefing. We were setting off, just the two of us on a 1,000 mile sail, I'd never sailed before.

"If you use to much toilet paper and clog up the pipe you have to get in the water and suck it out"

Those words have stuck with me.
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Old 21-05-2019, 13:08   #3
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

We don't really have them. My wife and I operate the boat alone. We rarely have guests. If we do have guests, I explain how to use the head to the men, my wife goes through the same briefing with the ladies. We discuss power and water management (including military showers), which is pretty simple "nothing should be left running unused".

Our discussions are simple:

1) Sit there until I tell you-you can move around (Typically for docking and leaving the dock)
2) Don't touch anything on the helm or any panel
3) Please don't 'help' with maneuvering the boat.

My wife and I do discuss Plan A and Plan B for a tricky docking or departing situations.

We can't see 35% - 40% of the vessel perimeter from the helm, leaving huge blindspots.

Commonly the person at the helm is merely the acting coxswain, while the person handling lines, spotting, hauling anchor is the person in charge. Plan C and D are always the same, we call them 'audibles', which basically means,

Plan C: Trust the spotter and fly by the seat of our pants.

Plan D: Abort Procedure. (Can be called by either).

We agree to not argue at the time and simply discuss it over a beer and a hug after the fact.
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Old 21-05-2019, 13:24   #4
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

Depends on the conditions in which I will be departing the dock and what the perceived competence of the "crew", they may just be passengers.

So it could be a discussion of safety and sailing or it could be just a brief clear statement:

Here, hold my beer.
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Old 21-05-2019, 13:47   #5
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrew View Post
We don't really have them. My wife and I operate the boat alone. We rarely have guests. If we do have guests, I explain how to use the head to the men, my wife goes through the same briefing with the ladies. We discuss power and water management (including military showers), which is pretty simple "nothing should be left running unused".

Our discussions are simple:

1) Sit there until I tell you-you can move around (Typically for docking and leaving the dock)
2) Don't touch anything on the helm or any panel
3) Please don't 'help' with maneuvering the boat.

My wife and I do discuss Plan A and Plan B for a tricky docking or departing situations.

We can't see 35% - 40% of the vessel perimeter from the helm, leaving huge blindspots.

Commonly the person at the helm is merely the acting coxswain, while the person handling lines, spotting, hauling anchor is the person in charge. Plan C and D are always the same, we call them 'audibles', which basically means,

Plan C: Trust the spotter and fly by the seat of our pants.

Plan D: Abort Procedure. (Can be called by either).

We agree to not argue at the time and simply discuss it over a beer and a hug after the fact.
Plan D:
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Old 21-05-2019, 13:54   #6
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

I should have mentioned that these are commercial voyages. I'm being paid good (well, fair) money to move someone's boat, usually with a commercial crew who are licensed at minimum as "ordinary seaman." But still, on a pleasure cruise, a brief of less than a minute seems prudent t me.
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Old 21-05-2019, 16:33   #7
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

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I'm retired from NASA Ames Research Center, where Cockpit (now termed "Crew") Resource Management (CRM) was invented.
NASA might have invented the jargonish name (they are REALLY good at that!), but good crew management has been around an awful LOT longer than NASA.

GOOD Captains have always understood that they were gods only in the eyes of admiralty law, and that handling and motivating crew was the most important part of their jobs. Good Captains have always known that issuing edicts wasn't the right way to run a ship.

My favorite story was about Cpt Cook, who understood (kind of...) that scurvy could be prevented by diet. His choice of anti-scurvy food was sauerkraut. Well, the english sailors in fornt of the mast were having none of this "rotten cabbage." He COULD have beat them until they ate it, but instead he ordered the new-fangled food to only be served at the officer's table. Within a few weeks, everybody wanted the high status food.

Now THATS good CRM!
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Old 21-05-2019, 17:36   #8
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

I guess it depends on the jurisdiction you are in, but the authority will have rules.
At the very least, you will be required to explain emergency procedures and muster points, lifejackets etc.

Your commercial ticket should have given you training in that area, if its a valid ticket in that jurisdiction that training should be ok, but may be added to by local rules. As a commercial master you are required to know those rules.
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Old 21-05-2019, 18:27   #9
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

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I guess it depends on the jurisdiction you are in, but the authority will have rules.
At the very least, you will be required to explain emergency procedures and muster points, lifejackets etc.

Your commercial ticket should have given you training in that area, if its a valid ticket in that jurisdiction that training should be ok, but may be added to by local rules. As a commercial master you are required to know those rules.
Sure, I know the rules. But mine isn't a legal question. It's a question about human behavior. (The post above about Captain Cook carries good advice.)

To see the effect of the traditional paramilitary command structure (that I was taught and disagree with), please read: "Run the Storm" by George Michelsen Foy, about the wreck of El Faro. The whole deck crew knew the captain had them on a doomed course, but none of them asserted their disagreement. CRM was invented to prevent that situation.

In aviation, there were many cases like when the First Officer said: "Ah, the fuel gauges read nearly empty - maybe we should land," and when the captain said there was plenty of fuel, everyone else just sat back until the plane crashed. "It's skipper's problem" is not a good attitude.

You may not know it, but sitting back in coach on a commercial flight, you have the authority to stop a takeoff. I don't suggest ever doing this without a valid and really good reason, but if you push the flight attendant call button, and then say: "someting's wrong with this aircraft," it'll stop the takeoff. Everyone on board has abort authority. It's that way because safety of flight authority is delegated to everyone, even passengers. The consequences of being on the ground wishing you were in the air are better than being in the air wishing you were on the ground. It's the same with my crews - they all have safety responsibility. If you see something, say something. If it turns out to be nothing - no harm no foul.

I don't sail with idiots as crew (except possibly when I'm single-handed). If they're on my crew, I hand picked them and I trust them. And trust works both ways.
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Old 21-05-2019, 19:26   #10
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

On my powerboat, I have a pretty extensive briefing, which I give if one particular person is aboard. I may or may not give the full version if he is not. I don't have it handy, but here's my memory, after a very excellent (and powerful) beer. All of these were due to one guy, a member of our casual SCUBA diving club (and a lifelong boater, son of marina owners):

All body parts must remain inside the ride until the ride comes to a complete stop and the captain instructs otherwise.

If the captain is using the radio, he is not available for other conversation. No exceptions without exceptional reason.

If the captain is conversing with CPB, all other conversation stops. No exceptions. Again, no exceptions.

No potato chips.

Keep your gear tidy. I will forward an ebay link for any gear left behind.

If you do not know how to coil or stow a line, please ask. Lines are stored in (these) line hangers. No not stuff it anywhere else.

The radio is for captain's use only, or ask permission.


The briefing for my sailboat is very simple-

This is how the head works.

Just ask.

Here's your life jacket. Throwable is there.
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Old 21-05-2019, 19:57   #11
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

When new crew come aboard my boat I tell them,

"I have three rules: Rule number one, stay on the boat. Rule number two, stay on the boat. Rule number three, stay on the boat. Other than those, I run this boat like a pirate ship. No rules, and it's a democracy right up until it isn't, and then I am the only captain. The most common conditions under which it is not a democracy are bad weather....and combat."
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Old 21-05-2019, 21:44   #12
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

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When new crew come aboard my boat I tell them,

"I have three rules: Rule number one, stay on the boat. Rule number two, stay on the boat. Rule number three, stay on the boat. Other than those, I run this boat like a pirate ship. No rules, and it's a democracy right up until it isn't, and then I am the only captain. The most common conditions under which it is not a democracy are bad weather....and combat."
Your rules are very similar to mine:

1) Don't fall overboard.
2) In case you violate rule one, wear your PFD at all times on deck.
3) (If there are two heads) Ladies use this head, and men use the other head. If the lady's head breaks, the ladies fix it. The same for the men and theirs.

Since adopting rule 3, I've had no more than one broken head incident per voyage. Guess which one always breaks.
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Old 21-05-2019, 22:55   #13
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

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I remember my first introduction to the captain's briefing. We were setting off, just the two of us on a 1,000 mile sail, I'd never sailed before.

"If you use to much toilet paper and clog up the pipe you have to get in the water and suck it out"

Those words have stuck with me.
That is about the same briefing I give when sailing with friends, except it is "no toilet paper in the toilet". And location of fire fighting equipment.

The rest can be taken at everybody leisure while sailing.

When doing sail training, I give a real briefing for the trainees, though, with most safety aspects addressed.

Toilets!
Escape routes
Fire fighting equipment and procedures
MOB procedures
risks while sailing
seasickness
fatigue
Toilets!

Also show location of EPIRBs, SARTs, life rafts.
Toilets!

Not how to operate these, though. This decision must be up to crew.

We normally also do a MOB drill within a day of departure.

The thing is if too much is said, nothing is remembered, so keeping it simple is important.

Do not forget the toilets!
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Old 22-05-2019, 00:53   #14
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

There are only 2 off us - on leaving we discuss wind direction and which way I will head out and which line to cast off first and last -


coming into an anchorage - we discuss where taking into account wind, shallows, tide if any, swing room ect then when we get to where we want I go forward and drop the hook and all is done with hand signals


the same coming off an anchorage - I pull the hook unless extreme conditions and again all hand signals


coming into a dock or marina we discuss wind and current if any and make sure all lines are ready to go - and the speed I may have to come in at - ie if big wind on the beam when I turn into a slip or dock I tell her I am coming in hot and we have one chance at this


if we take guests we tell them about head issues and put a plastic bag in the head -- we also tell just stay out of the way -- Our helm is on the starboard bulk help so it really helps as they are usually behind me -
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Old 22-05-2019, 01:30   #15
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Re: What is your initial crew briefing?

We are, of course, but amateurs.

When family came to visit, I told them to keep their lifejackets at the bottom of the bunk, so they'd know where they were at all times. We told them, if we ever tell you to put them on, just go do it, and await instructions; the reason would be serious, and we could talk about it later." "Mainly, just stay out of the way, and let us get on with it. We will ask you for help if it is appropriate. Do not "help" without knowing, because it might get in our way."

"All toilet blockages will cleared by whoever made it, under instruction from the skipper."

We also told them other stuff, like overuse of *stuff* means we have to go back and re-provision. But they have been backpacking, so they understood about water and wine conservation.

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