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Old 29-07-2008, 08:50   #46
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Originally Posted by Fishspearit View Post
In my mind 'seamanship' is the practice of old shipboard traditons which help to keep one out of trouble, not the problem solving to get one out of trouble.

And I agree with this. In my little "black box" analogy, the "chips" are just that - prudent things to practice and/or know and/or do that *keep one out of trouble*.

Interesting thread. I enjoy philosophical threads like this one.
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Old 29-07-2008, 14:53   #47
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I agree with all that has been said about the physical aspect of seamanship. All the physucal skills can be learned and the repetitive tasks, quickly become second nature.

The skills related to decision making are more complex. I agree that decision making strategies can be taught and improved. And like physical skills are improved with repetitive use. For example, reading and interpreting weather charts and then taking appropriate action based on what is predicted, intended course, destination, boat capabilities and so on.

In all cases of a new problem, decision makers search the mental archives for similar experiences, maybe drawing on multiple experiences, they analyze differences to see if the available solutions are usable as is, need to be modified, combined or invented.

So maybe I am talking myself into a reversal that says that the decision making process can be taught.

However, my vast experience in other endeavors and in managing professional people for 25+ years tells me that some people just may require too much coaching to ever build a useful set of decision making skills at the highest levels.

There is an entire field of study based on right brain/left brain thinking that indicates people can be predelicted more towards one or the other.

I think perhaps the best decisions makers are well balanced between divergent and linear thinking. Without both, the idea generation can never converge onto actionable solutions.
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Old 29-07-2008, 18:46   #48
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That’s why, for the sake of this discussion, I early on defined
Seamanship: The study and practice of all things relating to the safe operation and management of any vessel.

Otherwise we would spend our time trying to draw the line between what is and what isn’t.

So accepting that very broad definition and the general consensus that “thinking” (decision making) can be taught, we move on to the actual process of making key decision onboard and see where we differ.

I have observed 3 general types of Captains.
1) Those who seem to worry a lot and make decisions very early on before all the facts are in.
2) Those who never make a decision until it is absolutely forced upon them by some impending crisis
3) Those whose timing always seems right to maximise the boats efficiency and enjoyment, while being aware of any potential downside.

What is it in their decision making process that makes these 3 captains so different?
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Old 29-07-2008, 19:05   #49
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What is it in their decision making process that makes these 3 captains so different?
Fear, time, and urgency.

1. Fear governs first and sometimes the expression any decision is better than none does matter.

2. Why do what you can do later now? That can work as time can favor the unknowing or curse. being lucky still counts.

3. I'll do what ever it takes so long as there is no alternative.

How you perceive people I don't think is a fair analysis. If there were only three captains it would be far easier. I don't think anyone fits in a profile. It becomes desirable to think that they do but it does not make it true. Decision making is a lot more complex.

It comes down to the point of not really knowing what to do. In the face of uncertainty, what do you do? If you already knew you would have done it. Unless you just froze and could not do what you already knew. That can happen too. Shock can inhibit basic learned behavior. In total panic any one will say or do anything.

It all comes down to if you are in control or if you have lost it. Pressure can be far stronger than a person can handle. That level may be unknown for only three captains.

Captain 3 may be lucky or may be controlled. Losing control is a handicap. How one maintains control may be the better aspect. The results are obvious, but not the process.
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Old 29-07-2008, 19:31   #50
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Ok agreed Paul, my examples were pretty simple and stereotypical…(but I had to start somewhere)

From what I understand you state that maintaining Control of your emotions is the key factor in making a better decision.

I sort of agree but the complexity of making a decision in a fluid situation at sea, where conditions are changing fast would seem to also point at timing as an important factor.

What Dan said in his last post makes a lot of sense to me now ; “I think perhaps the best decisions makers are well balanced between divergent and linear thinking. Without both, the idea generation can never converge onto actionable solutions.”

But how do we encourage that balance?
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Old 31-07-2008, 03:55   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishspearit View Post
.... Seamanship is almost the absence of thinking; doing something out of long practiced tradition and experience without forethought....
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelagic View Post
That’s why, for the sake of this discussion, I early on defined
Seamanship: The study and practice of all things relating to the safe operation and management of any vessel.

.....
There many bits of this thread that I could quote but to keep it brief I like the above two the most.

The concept of "seamanship" to me conjures up an idea or concept that can't be taught but can be learnt (or acquired).

Not really a silly suggestion, rather, trying to show that the acquistion of "seamanship" is something that comes from within, rather than the imposed from the outside.

Apart from that, I don't know that much about "seamanship" although I am familar with its sister "airmanship" and I suspect they have very much in common.
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Old 31-07-2008, 05:22   #52
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I sort of agree but the complexity of making a decision in a fluid situation at sea, where conditions are changing fast would seem to also point at timing as an important factor.
Time is clearly a factor, but it is also beyond your ability to control. You can not control time and decisions are almost never linear while actions almost always are and totally subjected to time. Decisions to do something when they can not be completed on time are untimely and are poor decisions.

I think we all understand the consequences of "not deciding" unlike politics where the question of "if we really have to decide anything at all" can be a legitimate topic. It's not usually related to seamanship. Seamanship clearly is poor if you run out of time. It may indicate a pattern of poor seamanship since running out of time may indicate you failed to use time well in the past and are prone to poor decisions.

The best decision makers are judged after they do something that turns out well. "best" implies the outcome before the decision and anticipates future results only on past performance. It all feels good and helps appearances but somehow seems to come up lacking at the moment you are making decision. It is not part of the decision thinking. You think you are the best decision maker or someone telling you so does not aid in the decision. Decisions can seem automatic. They can often be simple decisions arrived at with difficulty but if properly timed will get the proper result. You can sometimes do things the hard way and be on time. efficency is clearly good seamanship. Since time is managed well.

I'm not sure I want to combine leadership and seamanship. Leadership is far more than seamanship. Leadership is a good thing in it's own right and extends beyond seamanship. All crew on board require seamanship qualities.

The crew of a ship prefer a leader with seamanship qualities though it is not uncommon to have that lacking in a leader and probably not required. Leading a herd of cows does not require a great deal of seamanship on the part of the cows but does require the ability to lead. In the extreme we can have a total lack of seamanship yet still have leadership. Training the cows regularly to herd would be good leadership since future success has been managed with respect to future time. Training seamanship without having those qualities seems a more diffcult task though often attempted.
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Old 31-07-2008, 06:08   #53
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The way I was thinking of “timing” Paul is that you see a situation unfolding that either presents a possible opportunity or a danger. You wait a bit to confirm that the odds of making a good decision are in your favour before acting, or take a defensive and conservative route to minimise danger.

I have discussed that very thing socially with employers (large superyacht owners) who pretty much are world leaders in whatever industry they make.

The general answer I got was that they just “know” when to take action and then do everything they can to assure success.

They sort of attribute it to a sixth sense which is why I asked that question before.
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Old 31-07-2008, 07:23   #54
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Quote:
The general answer I got was that they just “know” when to take action and then do everything they can to assure success.
Knowing when to take action might be better stated as how quickly can you gather information to either make a conclusion based on a trend or calculate the process to a conclusion. The illusion of just knowing can be from the speed of the decision. Some decisions are easy. Many people agonize over decisions. You know the answer but waste time reconsidering or require a calculator to add 2 plus 2. You are always running the clock out on top of over stressing.

Doing everything to assure success isn't something you know. It is the outcome of good decisions. It's a conclusion after the fact about how good it was. Your intent was never anything else so the outcome was expected. It would be a mistake to assume everything was done to assure success just because there was success. Most of us would however accept the victory and move on.

Things can have a good outcome in spite of poor decision making this is called often called instinct. The process of claiming credit for brilliance when none was exercised. Being lucky still counts but it's still a failure in decision making. The outcome can be poor if there was insufficient information. This could be the mates poor seamanship if required. Perception of the outcome shapes the conclusion concerning the quality of the decision. So on the one hand we have instinct and the other poor seamanship but in both cases no decisions were ever made and a seaman loses a ration of grog.
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Old 31-07-2008, 17:02   #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
Time is clearly a factor, but it is also beyond your ability to control. You can not control time and decisions are almost never linear while actions almost always are and totally subjected to time.

<snip>


I'm not sure I want to combine leadership and seamanship. Leadership is far more than seamanship. Leadership is a good thing in it's own right and extends beyond seamanship. All crew on board require seamanship qualities.
I love this train of thought because it leads into the concept of tasking and task overload. It is highly relevant to single handing.

When a situation develops tasks start to acrue. Imagine a building storm. Good time to reef the sails. Probably get the companionway closed up and the hatches secured.

What if I wait? The jib rips in the building gale. I have a need to do sail change. The main still needs to be reefed and I have lost some boat speed. The sea is now driving the boat instead of the wind. What to do first? Gotta control the boat. Following sea. Low boat speed. The rudder gets stressed and fails. The boat is getting pooped and water is flowing into the cabin.

If I am single handed I am probably well beyond task overload. Reefing early could have saved me a lot of grief. Bad seamanship? Bad decision making. Unlucky?

If I am multi-handed I am approaching task overload. I need good leadership to prioritize and delegate tasks. The airlines call this crew (or cockpit) resource management.

I posted elsewhere that there can still be a tendency in sailing to hold all the answers in the skipper and therefore maybe not make best use of resources. Was the crew empowered to say, "Skipper I think we should get the reefs in early and get the boat secured." Or do they have to wait for the skipper to figure it out?

And what does that have to do with seamanship?

So Pauls point that seldom are tasks linear may have foundation in prioritizing and sequencing tasks.

Get the reef in now, secure the hatches now. The rudder still may fail but then you only have one problem to deal with...
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Old 31-07-2008, 19:59   #56
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Task overload is when you can't anticipate the needs in time. You know what to do but you can't complete in time. The clock can defeat you and sometimes it's the calendar. You miss a checkpoint and it's too late. Reefing too late is of course too late. Reefing too early maybe costs a little time.

You need to make time on your side not against you. Rushing to make up time is perhaps the most critical mistake of all. It increases expectations to the edge. No one can sail on the edge for a long time. A slip or a slight error and you lose control and no extra time.

Is it seamanship or luck? Being lucky still counts and information is often subtle and easily overlooked if you are too weak from lack of sleep or too cold or hungry.

A good example is the river pilots on the upper Mississippi are pushing barges. They make a mistake and realize in 20 minutes they will slam into a bridge abutment and they can't stop it. Imagine knowing you can't do anything in time. Decisions in time matter.

You fail to hold off the departure one extra day and a storm slams you silly. Your mistake was maybe days ago and it took that long to show itself.

Good seamanship saves an extra minute or and hour or waits an extra day. If you can't know everything then having some extra time, water, fuel, food, or current on your side is never a bad thing. Sometimes you can hedge a little bit. You are working a lea shore and you pinch just a little when you can not because you need to now but because you might have to later. It's small decisions made over time. They often cost a little performance but gain a little comfort. If you feel better you might have a little more left if it turns against you. You keep the crew in shape since it may matter latter. You don't need to know why just now but you can hedge a little bit with no loss or extraordinary effort. The extra thinking costs you nothing because it is constant. You always look to cheat a little.

You plot a course but you also plot 3 alternates in case you need one. You prefer the course with more alternates when it serves the main objective. You don't expect to need them but you might. The less linear you make your plans the more chance you have of an out, a hedge or a diversion. It all seems to flow linearly but the process was anything but.

The will to do something is more limited than most people think. You can't do anything just because you want to. But you can want to do something enough to plan it and think it through. There is no more than a 100% effort.
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Old 31-07-2008, 21:19   #57
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What Paul talks about so elegantly is the “Dynamics of Seamanship”, which is what I feel gives us the purest form of satisfaction in our chosen sport……and also our worst nightmares!
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Old 31-07-2008, 21:42   #58
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As an addendum to what Paul said is the importance of being “selfish” when you are the captain.

As weird as that might sound, many skippers get into trouble when they make rushed decision trying to fulfill a promise or keep people from waiting as it is getting near dinnertime.

My advice to new skippers is to remind them that the buck stops with you, so be selfish in your decisions to assure you have the best chance for success.

For example, even though I might have given orders that the ship is ready to depart: at 08:00h and everyone is on standby, if for some reason my morning ablutions did not happen till 15 minutes later, everyone waited.

Morning Coffee is a wonderful catalyst!
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Old 01-08-2008, 04:26   #59
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"Seamanship" simply put... to get you,crew and boat between too points in the safest possible manner and NOT to mess up on the approach to the marina when every one is watching you manoeuvre. as every one knows, the best close quarter manoeuvre's you will ever do..nobody is watching.. when you mess up, chances are theirs a regatta on with 100'S watching. (touch wood ) never messed up yet....
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Old 08-08-2008, 17:32   #60
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An example of Seamanship:

The Little Boat that Could. See middle of the page at:

Latitude 38 - The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine
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