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Cruising Tales: How to Train Your Charter Crew

Young charter crew have an abundance of energy,  so it is best to exercise them, i.e., work them so hard, on and off charter, that they beg you to let them sleep just a little – like three hours a night. Here are some suggestions for keeping your crew busy 20 hours a day:

Shining all the bright work inside and out, especially on the engine/generators while they are running. Cleaning all parts of the crystal chandeliers. Polishing all the teak and mahogany furniture, decks, soles, windows, etc. Polishing the stainless steel anchors, each chain link of each rode, the bronze prop, shafts, couplings, etc. Restitching, washing, and ironing all sails, Biminis, awnings, weather cloths, etc.

If none of the above wears them out, consider intimidation (which may sometimes be unplanned.) For example: David Sturrock, our fifteen-year old nephew, who had never been aboard a sailboat, joined us at St. Thomas from Vancouver, B.C. for a few weeks one summer. Mike "introduced" David to charter work at once by sending him immediately up the mast of Avenir II upon boarding. Around 2 a.m. Mike accidentally threw ice water on David while he slept and he didn’t even wake up! We decided that more drastic measures were needed. (A frightened crew is more malleable.)

During a charter with one couple at Trellis Bay on Beef Island in the BVI, we snorkeled for the small but beautiful, bright orange West Indian Fighting Conch (Strombus pugilis). In the 1970s these conch were quite abundant on the grassy, sandy bottom. We were all collecting them when Mike and I noticed our charter couple hurriedly clambering up the swim ladder with David already on the deck helping them up. We were further perplexed when Wheatcliff, a young Tortolan, with his wife who had been swimming nearby, also charged up the ladder.

What was going on? Wheatcliff shouted to Mike. "There’s a big Bull shark behind you!” By then, only Mike and I were still in the water. At first I thought Wheatcliff was kidding us. I didn’t see a shark but climbed up the ladder anyway.

YIKES! Wheatcliff was right! A beeeegg 20-foot—no, actually about an eight-footer although it seemed much bigger—Bull shark swam VERY closely underneath Mike. I slipped quietly back into the water. After all, I couldn’t leave Mike alone with that shark, for he was by far the juiciest item on the shark’s menu! But then the shark came to me. When you see a monster that close to you, there’s no way you’re going to shoo it away. Its mouth was so close and wide that I might have easily tickled its tonsils, but there were a lot of big jagged teeth in the way!

Mike yelled at me to get out of the water as he swam for the ladder. Getting up it was never easy with fins on, but Mike took care of that problem by putting his hand under my bottom and flinging me right onto the deck sans ladder. In seconds he was aboard too. David, looking pale with his eyes wide with shock, asked Mike how he had gone up the ladder so fast with his huge size 13 swim fins.

"It was easy," Mike said. "I just didn’t use the steps!" Moments later, we all watched the menacing dark shadow move silently away. David had been scared to death. Intimidation by the shark had certainly worked on him!

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