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Old 18-04-2009, 08:01   #1
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Crew Backgroud Checks

I was wondering if folks did any form of background check on potential crew after posting on craigslist or crew finder sites. If so what do you do and if not why?
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Old 18-04-2009, 08:43   #2
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I've had 7 different people join me from crew finder sites over the years. I never do background checks or references but prefer to spend more time talking to them and maybe send out a crew questionnaire to be sure they are a good fit. Doing this and listening to my gut have most always yielded good results.

The reasons I don't get references etc are:

1. I think anyone can find, pay or create a reference to say nice things about them. There is no reason to believe this is representational.

2. I personally need fit more than skills. I know how to sail the boat and am happy to teach. Teaching technical skills is easy if people care to learn. What is hard to teach is getting along with other people in a small space and living without the conveniences of normal city life. I find I get the best feel for this through talking to them and maybe a questionnaire. I also think that compatibility comes from common lifestyles - Do you want to anchor out or stay at marinas? Do you want to walk secluded beaches and snorkel or spend your time shopping at all the quaint towns? So you like large groups or one on one? Again, I think the answers to these things come from talking more than background checks.

3. Someone's background may not relate to their competence, willingness to learn, helpfullness or problem solving skills. I've know people who have "crewed" for months, but all they know or care to do is sit on the high rail with a fancy drink in their hands. I've met people with little sailing experience who are adaptable, quick learners, respectful and aware of their surroundings. I'd pick the later anytime.

That's what I do and my reasoning, but everyone's situation and needs are different. What works for me may not be the best solution for you, but hope this helps.

- Dave

P.S. - While it's not really a part of your question, I'll add that the hardest part for me is the communications in trying to line people up. So many people these days just stop communicating rather than just say they are no longer interested. Spending a lot of time communicating with someone who is excited but realizing they are a bad fit can be hard to deal with. The other issue I deal with is the juggeling act. The person with the best fit is slow to commit, so how long do you wait as you slowly loose the potential to work with everyone else who responded?
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Old 18-04-2009, 15:43   #3
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Do you have a written up questionnaire you could share?
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Old 18-04-2009, 15:57   #4
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I did my own interviews the one time I did this. Talking with each of them, asking them questions, listening to the responses -- all that goes a long way.
Email address is: b-cf "at" hallmont "dot" com

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Old 19-04-2009, 10:18   #5
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Mingatt. First version I used:

Crew Questionnaire.

Name _________________________________________

Please respond to all of the following honestly. There are no right or wrong answers. This is designed to get a feeling of what you are like, match you with the most compatible time and location and address issues common to cruising.

Section 1: Select all the apply:

1. My previous sailing experience is:
_____ None
_____ Day sailing
_____ weekend cruising
_____ coastal cruising up to ______ days
_____ blue water cruising up to _______ days

2. Other expedition type activities I’ve done include:
_____ None
_____ RV Camping up to ______ days
_____ wilderness backpacking of _____ days
_____ canoe or kayak trips of up to ______ days
_____ other ______________________________

3. Food restrictions include:
____ No red meat
____ No meat of any kind
____ No dairy
____ Other __________________________________________________ _

4. My musical tastes are:
_____ Country _____ Rock _____ Pop ______Jazz ______Classical
_____ Rap _____Other ___________________________
_____ I’d prefer no music when cruising

Section 2. Rate the following on a scale of 1-5. 1 means disagree, 3 is neutral and 5 is strongly agree. Write N/A if it doesn’t apply or you have no idea.

1. _____. I would love to do some snorkeling on this cruise
2. _____. I would love to do some scuba diving on this cruise.
3. _____. I would love to spend some time at the beaches swimming.
4. _____. I’d love to spend time in the larger resorts – going to nightclubs, etc.
5. _____. I’d prefer many nights at a marina with shower facilities, etc.
6. _____. I dream of spending most nights at deserted anchorages.
7. _____. I’d like to anchor off small villages or with other cruisers.
8. _____. I expect cruising to be like having a small house that sails.
9. _____. I expect cruising to be like glorified camping where one can sail.
10. _____. I’d like to change locations frequently and see new places.
11. _____. I would prefer to spend several days or more in one location.
12. _____. I prefer to prepare simple meals on the boat most often.
13. _____. I prefer to eat out occasionally.
14. _____. I’d prefer to eat out frequently
15. _____. I can get by with a sun shower and dip overboard most days.
16. _____. I’d really like a real shower at least every other day.
17. _____. I’m reasonably athletic/active and physically able.
18. _____. I’m not very physical, that’s why I’m interested in sailing.
19. _____. I prefer to have my own space most of the time. I’m very private.
20. _____. I’m happy around people, but like my own space from time to time
21. _____ I’m fairly modest.
22. _____. It wouldn’t bother me too much if I was seen changing or bathing.
23. _____. I’d skinny-dip at night with someone(s) I’m comfortable with
24. _____. I dream of getting a nice all-over tan on a deserted beach or anchorage.
25. _____. I’d love to meet a captain/boat I could sail with again sometime.
26. _____. I’m looking at this as a one-time opportunity to go cruising.
27. _____. I’m hoping to learn more about sailing and cruising.
28. _____. I see this as a relaxing carefree way to just hang out someplace warm.
29. N/A I’d love to cross the Gulf Stream and sail out of site of land.
30. _____. I’d prefer most of my sailing to be easy days in mostly protected waters.
31. _____. I smoke
31. _____. I drink occasionally
32. _____. I like to drink regularly
33. _____. I generally travel light. – a few changes of clothing are all I need.
34. _____. I see myself as a partner and want to be involved in decision making.
35. _____. I’m just along for the ride and up for anything.
36. _____. I hope the captain is somebody I really connect with and relate to.
37. _____. As long as we don’t fight, I don’t care about interpersonal relationships.
38. _____. I’m prone to motion sickness.
39. _____. I hope to spend a lot of time socializing with cruisers (not on this boat)
40. _____. I hope to have some quiet time to read and write.
41. _____. It’s important that I can make phone calls at least every few days.
42. _____. I’m a good swimmer

Section 3: Please finish the following statements in 1-5 sentences:

My main reason for wanting to go on this cruise is:

When it comes to my relationship and communication with the captain, I hope:

Any other comments or follow up on the above:

I've also used more general questions:

Crew Questions
1. Experience: What cruising or sailing experience to you have and what other outdoor experiences such kayaking, canoeing, backpacking, etc. do you have?

2 Activities: In addition to sailing, there are many other activities that can take place on this cruise. Some of these include: easy snorkeling, long snorkel swimming, beach walking, exploring small communities, hanging out in isolated places, time along to read, write, etc. Tell me which of these are most important and least important to you along with any other activities that come to mind.

3. Food & Drink: Some people like to go out and enjoy communities; some people prefer to cook on board. Some people like to drink alcoholic beverages much of the day, some only in the evenings, some rarely or not at all. Where do you fall in these spectrums and what food & drink needs/desires to you have?

4. Privacy Issues: A boat is a small space in which people will be living close to one another. Some people need to find alone time, some people thrive being close to others most of the time. How about you? People also react differently to this in terms of body acceptance. Some people live in swim suits, some are more modest. Some people will go to extremes to have privacy when showering in the cockpit; others think group skinny-dipping at night is the answer. Some think this is the opportunity to get an all over tan. Where do you fall in this spectrum? What are your views about dealing with someone else who is either more conservative or more liberal with these issues?
5. Human interactions: For some people cruising is a time to get away from the internet, phones, and have time to themselves. Other feel a need to stay connected constantly. Some want to keep the focus of a cruise with those on the boat while others prefer more time to meet other people at restaurants, etc. Where do you fall on these issues? Also what combination of music and quiet do you like and if a music person, what kinds of music to you prefer?

6. When you think about this cruise, what do you imagine?

7. Tell me any other questions or concerns you may have.
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Old 19-04-2009, 10:43   #6
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What few people I've met I've met in person. I meet them somewhere half way from where we both live, and meet with them over coffee or lunch so we can relax and talk. Only once did I not invite the person back (a lady), because at docking I found out she wasn't sure footed (she didn't tell me that), and was afraid to step from the boat to the dock until the boat was tied up.
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Old 19-04-2009, 13:12   #7
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Originally Posted by nautical62 View Post
First version I used ...
Good job! Mind if I use that?


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Old 19-04-2009, 13:33   #8
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Please use, adapt or what ever works for you.

One thing these using these questionnaires taught me is no matter how much you tell people, they sometimes hear what they want. I'm personally more of a wilderness sailor, but have had a few times where this questionnaire, brings out that even though I've been over, they feel cruising is staying at marinas every night, enjoying the night life. Thinking sailing is much more luxurious is another related theme that often comes out. Responses to issues of privacy can also be interesting, because many people feel strongly in different directions on that one and are often not tolerant of opposing views. I've had some that are offended I even ask about such things! In the end it gives a better idea of compatible lifestyle - Most all the questions really come down to that and in the end I find that matters most. I'd rather teach someone with a similar lifestyle everything about sailing from the ground up, than have someone who knows everything about sailing, but wants something totally different out of the trip.

What have other people learned when having crew they previously have not known join them? Good experiences, bad experiences?
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Old 19-04-2009, 14:42   #9
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Originally Posted by nautical62 View Post
One thing these using these questionnaires taught me is no matter how much you tell people, they sometimes hear what they want.
Yes, it looks like a great thing to have the new crew fill out. Then when there is a problem you can bring it out and review it together.

Some may think the privacy part needs to be rewritten. You could make it a smaller paragraph so it doesnt look so intimidating.
I wouldnt be telling someone I don't know about my compunction to group skinny-dipping!
Some people are quite content to go with the flow in these things and when sailing with the God Squad are quite able to be un-nakid for a considerable time. When in Rome - or more pointedly when clearing into a Muslim country one doesn't wear the same as clearing out of Brasil!

As an aside the question about food: Food restrictions include:
There is no 'NORMAL' box! Soy Latte Decaf's need not apply

Notes on a Circumnavigation.

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Old 19-04-2009, 17:21   #10
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Here's an interesting reference/safety situation:

Sometimes when I'm looking for crew, they'd like to know more about me including a reference or two. I'm fine with that. So on my last crew search I had a couple people who were friends (They were, friends, I didn't know them.) who were interested in joining me. They had considered signing up for an outdoor venture through a commercial organization, but thought this might be a fun, less expensive and less structured experience. The concern they could never get over however, was committing to go on a trip with someone they didn't previously know. It just seemed too weird and too much of a safety concern so in the end they decided on a commercial program instead.

Now here's the irony I see: I've worked for a couple commercial organizations as a trip leader. I'm currently an ASA instructor and run an outdoor program. People have signed up for many trips I've led without knowing anything about me, not even my name and knowing nothing about who the other participants would be. These commercial activities never match people for compatibility but just take who ever signs up and throw them together. One of the things I specifically like about having crew or freinds join me, is I'm not stuck with that. I can invite people based on compatibility and knowing something about each other.

So in the end these two passed by a cheaper opportunity because they didn't feel they knew the captain (me) well enough despite knowing who he is and talking to him directly but they feel fine paying more for another option in which they know nothing about the participants or the instructor, an instructor who could potentially even be me. (Even more ironic, this has actually happened.)

As someone who works with risk management all the time, I find people's perceptions and behaviors regarding risk very interesting to look at. It would be an interesting study to offer the same experience, but package it one time as "Looking for Crew $20/day", one time as a trip offered by a sailing club $50/day and one time as a trip led by an outdoor organization at $120/day and see how people's perceptions change based on that.

What differences would you perceive?
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Old 10-05-2009, 19:45   #11
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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post

...Some may think the privacy part needs to be rewritten. You could make it a smaller paragraph so it doesnt look so intimidating.
I wouldnt be telling someone I don't know about my compunction to group skinny-dipping!]
So I'm about to send version #1 out again, and Mark's comments have been on my mind. I've always been of the mindset it's best to bring up anything and everything that may be of issue on a boat, and I see issues of privacy and nudity being among those. I've had crew who have been from one extreme to the other on this issue, which reinforces my thought it's good to bring it up ahead of time.

Yet, I see Mark's point. I've also had potential crew who have been insulted I should ask about such things.

What do more of you who have either crewed or had crew join you think? Is it better to just lay everything out there from the beginning or is it better leave some issues untouched until the cruise itself?
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Old 20-05-2009, 04:59   #12
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I think everyone has their own approach.

But if I am going to be stuck on a boat for 4 weeks with someone (which I am going to be doing here in 2 weeks when we shove off for a transAtlantic), my approach is to get it all out on the table early in the process! So bringing up the nudity (for example) and observing the applicant's response to it canl help you, as the captain, determine whether that person will really fit into the crew profile.
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