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Old 05-02-2013, 20:59   #1
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A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Hello Cruisers,

I wanted to share a lesson from our first "significant" sea passage, the journey involved in bringing our recently purchased Swanson 42 from Westernport in Victoria, Australia, around to Adelaide, in South Australia, a journey of almost exactly 500 nautical miles, most of if within site of land, and through a fair bit of Bass Strait, one of the more challenging waterways of the world, I think.

I spent a lot of time preparing for the trip. At the practical level I spent nearly two weeks on the boat itself, checking existing systems, adding safety equipment and on shakedown trips to iron out bugs. On the more theoretical side I spent a lot of time just reading, a lot from this forum, trying to understand what we would face on the journey and how people managed the challenges.

I think I am a pretty good sailor, not at the race winning level but at the getting the boat safely from a to b level, even when something goes wrong. I've seen my fair share of rigging failures, engine problems and general nautical stuffups and I'm still alive, so I can't be doing it all wrong.

So after a month and half of preparation I really thought I had it all worked out.

But it turns out the bit I had not given nearly enough thought to was the crew.

I started with a crew of six people. Between them there was a bit of sailing experience, a bit of deep ocean going ship experience and plenty of good old fashioned hands-on practical engineering experience. I was worried by the fact that the only serious sailor was me, so I planned the trip around frequent stops to wait for better weather if needed, there are harbours every 120 miles or so on the journey so that was pretty easy to arrange.

The thing that I had not expected, and the bit that is really important to me now is that I had not expected people to be so incredibly determined.

Although two of the crew had to leave us after the first leg due to sea sickness, the attitude of everyone on board has left me speechless with gratitude and amazement.

Despite horrid weather and rough seas, despite the stink of diesel in the boat and electrical problems that kept us from using the autopilot a lot of the time, they all just got on with it. Never a grumble, always a smiling face, even at 3am when the watch changed. I can understand that I was getting my boat delivered to my home port, so that kept me going, but I will never understand what drove the crew. I certainly know that without their attitude I would have probably have given up half way.

So if you are planning a journey like mine, give special thought to the crew, they may bring a lot more to the journey than just a set of hands to hold the wheel or pull on the sheets.

And to the crews of the world, I salute you.

Matt
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Old 05-02-2013, 23:05   #2
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Mate, you are either really lucky or you have a great set of friends.

Considering the horror stories one hears about crews... well done!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 06-02-2013, 01:01   #3
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Not always but often enough to notice is that well chosen crews tend reflect the attitude of the skipper so good on ya GIlow
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:10   #4
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Yes, congratulations on a successful journey with a lot of the success, it would appear, due to an excellent job of picking the right crew. I certainly agree that the right group, with the right attitude, makes all the difference in the world.

So just curious, are these people that you knew already? Or did you pick up some strangers here and there and just do a good job of finding the right people? I'm curious how you put together this intrepid crew.
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:37   #5
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pirate Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Hi GIlow... Welcome to CF..
Unknown crew from far away are a conundrum... experience claimed.. and reality are often miles apart... as in my crew that joined in Vanuatu... but that was no great hardship... they were nice guys and good fun... just made sure I was awake for the Torres Straits...
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Old 06-02-2013, 12:09   #6
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Well done on what I am guessing was a pretty choppy beat to weather.

Aside from the gratitude you have for your crew, did you have any significant gear or "method" failures that could have been avoided? I like to learn from other people's errors as I am too familiar with my own....
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Old 06-02-2013, 12:20   #7
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Good job. Thanks for passing the experience along here. Can you add more about the diesel smell etc?
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Old 06-02-2013, 13:04   #8
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

In no particular order here...

The crew were all people I knew, though I can't claim any great insight into their personalities, and I certainly know them a lot better now than I did before we set off. They ranged from the father of my brother in law, to work mates to clients of my business, so I kind of straddled the range of contacts. But they were all brilliant in their own way.

Technical difficulties...? Well the boat was built in 1978, owned for over 20 years by someone who really knew their stuff, and the last 10 or so by someone who thought a caulking gun was a sophisticated maintenance tool, so there were problems. We lost charging from the 12v alternator very early on (though thankfully the 24v engine alternator kept going), and were dependent on solar and wind generator, the inspection hatches of the main water tank started leaking like a sieve where all the silicon the previous owner had gooped on let go, which flooded the bilges and the nightmare plumbing on the diesel header tank which I THOUGHT I had fixed (including removing bits of rock hard GARDEN hose) had some kind of odd leak that started to drip diesel in the rough weather, not a lot, probably a cup or so every few hours, but enough to stink as it was dripping onto the hot engine.

The weather was quite frankly, crap, and chop, oh the chop. Even I got seasick, and I had a pretty good track record till now.

But this is not about the boat or the hardships of the journey, there's plenty of good stuff written about that sort of thing.

I just want people who, like me, read these forums for the terric insight and shared experiences to think more about the crew, and in a different way to how I did. I think I just saw them as a sort of necessary extra to the journey, something you had to bring along, I never saw them as bringing along the real spirit and resillience of the journey. Choose your crew carefully, but be prepared for them to dazzel you.

Matt
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Old 06-02-2013, 13:44   #9
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Now, if the same crew would want to sail again with you, is another story... I'm glad that you safely made it to your destination. To the novice/would be sailor, there is much more to sailing than just harnessing the wind. Mauritz
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Old 06-02-2013, 13:48   #10
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Thanks for sharing this. As a crew member and now an owner who will be choosing a delivery crew, I have experienced wonderful owners and hope to match their excellence. It is obvious you would be one of them I would be proud to serve.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:05   #11
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Thank you for the write-up. When you get all the dodgy maintenance redone the right way, you should take everyone out for a moonlit cruise and warm winds at 12 knots...
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:27   #12
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

Quote:
Originally Posted by GILow View Post
I just want people who, like me, read these forums for the terric insight and shared experiences to think more about the crew, and in a different way to how I did. I think I just saw them as a sort of necessary extra to the journey, something you had to bring along, I never saw them as bringing along the real spirit and resillience of the journey. Choose your crew carefully, but be prepared for them to dazzel you.
Matt
Hi Matt
I think the bottom line is that most Aussies just aren't quitters .

I was crewing once on a rough passage where the mainsail trimmer was sick as a dog, throwing up every five or ten minutes with not one murmur of complaint. In fact no one complained, not even the ones down below with buckets.

You must have a knack for bringing out the best in people though. Good skippers do that. Happy sailing on your new boat .
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:46   #13
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
Thank you for the write-up. When you get all the dodgy maintenance redone the right way, you should take everyone out for a moonlit cruise and warm winds at 12 knots...

Now THAT is some good advice!
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:56   #14
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

A friend of mine spent six months preparing for a major race that went from the West Coast to Hawaii. His boat was in excellent condition at the start of the race. His weak link was the crew, they were all green horns with almost no ocean experience. A number of incidents occurred onboard because of their inexperience and not because the boat was incapable. They ended up having to abandon the race and turn back.
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Old 07-02-2013, 13:55   #15
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Re: A lesson learned from our first significant sea passage

One thing I dislike are pukers. I don't understand why they even want to go to sea. That is my first requirement, is that they don't get sea sick. What is the use of crew if they can't function.

I've never been sea sick myself. I've crossed the Pacific 4 times with engine room watches, and have been in two typhoons, which I rather enjoyed aboard a 400' ship. To me it's like going on a fair ride.

Anyway, with that and some good common sense I think the experience level is next. Personality is important too, but that is relative.
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