Friday, March 04, 2005

Commandments at Sea?

Bill's Log

Some people may be aware of the Ten Commandments as outlined in Exodus 20; the first four are about the relationship between God and man and the others are about the conduct of mankind. The Bible informs us that only God gives Commandments with a capital ‘C’, but those created in His image, such as admirals, captains, lieutenants and petty officers make commands, which ostensibly are given for the successful running of a ship or a fleet of ships.

Lesser mortals such as yacht skippers sometimes undergo a Jekyll and Hyde transformation once they step aboard their yacht. From being sober, docile, gentile individuals they are transformed into monsters who issue commands in a domineering voice - giving orders which must be obeyed instantly and to the letter! On the other hand, there are some who become so overawed with the responsibility of being in charge; they scurry away to the bilge like frightened ship’s mice. In no way could they make a command, but would rather ask politely, “Would you mind hauling in the mainsheet?” or “Do you think we should bear away?”, and “What should we do?”

The perfect skipper should never be domineering and insensitive to the needs of his crew; he should warrant their respect because of his competence and character. He should be clear-headed, calm, fair and considerate, while demonstrating exemplary qualities of leadership. (Note that we are describing the ‘perfect skipper’.)

His fundamental concerns should be for the safety of his crew and the integrity of his ship. Therefore for a successful outcome he should be satisfied that the experience and strength of his crew is appropriate. He should also ensure his vessel is well maintained, equipped and provisioned for the proposed voyage. He should not put to sea without first preparing a practical voyage plan with provision for alternative strategies. Before leaving harbour he should brief his crew on the voyage plan, and while at sea keep them informed of progress and tactics. His general demeanor should be one of encouragement and support, always with a sense of humour, while tempering all things with wisdom.

A good crew will work together as a team, being cooperative and supportive of their skipper. They should be attentive and make sure they understand what is required of him. Crew members should seek the well-being of the skipper and one another while conducting themselves so as to achieve a successful outcome to the mission. They should respond to sensible requests by the skipper or watch officer while never grumbling or shirking their duties. Like the skipper, they should not drink alcohol while at sea, and as far as possible keep themselves in good shape by consuming nourishing food and doing whatever is required to maintain peak physical condition so as to be efficient. While on passage they should maintain good watch-keeping, report hazards, including adverse sea and weather conditions. If in doubt they should always consult the watch leader or the skipper before taking action.

Bearing these things in mind, what four commandments would you devise to govern how a crew should treat their skipper, and what six commandments would you recommend for the conduct of a crew?

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