Fast Tips…by Dana Sims…Capable Crew

F.A.S.T = For A Safer Trip

What are the factors I should consider as I select crew for a trip?

Whether you are planning to sail a few hours on an Interlake, a week in the North Channel, or a take a trip to the Lake Erie Islands, one of your most important considerations is “Capable Crew”. A “Capable Crew” for a short trip may be different since weather and conditions are usually more predictable. On a longer trip, however, weather, navigation conditions, and proximately to help can dramatically change. Determining a crew’s capability lies with the Captain – after all, the Captain is responsible at all times for the welfare and safety of the crew and boat. This could also include the possibility of the Captain becoming incapacitated and members of his crew not being ASI rated. So, the Captain’s choice of the first mate is important . . . he/she assumes responsibility for that choice, just as he/she assumes responsibility for the rest of the crew.

For L4 sails to the North Channel, the ASI Leadership Team has developed a Sailing Checklist for potential first mates. A non-L4 rated member or non-member must fill out the checklist, identifying if they are competent in the listed skills, not competent, or if they need a refresher on a particular skill(s). This accomplishes three things; it identifies, for the proposed first mate, what skills ASI deems they need in an emergency situation; it identifies, for the Captain, just what the first mate thinks they are capable of; and it identifies, for the L4 Manager, what skills the proposed first mate has. If the first mate lacks the required skills, for the safety of the crew; the boat; and the Level 4 program, the L4 Manager will not approve the timeshare until a capable first mate is chosen.

This list of skills is a good reference for any sail.
Minimum skills/factors to consider:
1. Ability to drop sails
2. Ability to set/retrieve an anchor
3. Ability to start and stop the engine, and steer in forward and reverse
4. Ability to operate VHF radio and know how to send and receive a MAYDAY call
5. Ability to set a course and safely get the boat to a marina/port
6. Ability to dock the boat
7. Have a plan to handle recovery of a Man-Over-Board

It should be noted that a non-ASI rated first mate, in an emergency situation (incapacitated captain), is only authorized to operate the boat until it is safely anchored or moved safely to the nearest port where they can receive help. They are not authorized to continue the cruise with the captain in an incapacitated condition. Any ASI boat must have a properly rated ASI person as Captain to continue after an emergency situation has passed.

Thanks to Jack Townsend, Marilyn Leech, and Paula Merideth for their input on this topic.

Any question, comment, or future suggested topic can be sent to

FT15-01 — FAST Tips are written by ASI members for the ASI membership, and apply to the operation of ASI vessels. While the contributing members may not be experts in a particular sailing field they are experienced members who have developed some “best practices” and wish to share them with their fellow members.

FAST Tip – “Capable Crew” Dana Sims

webmaster, L1 manager,mentor director.

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