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Skippers – what makes good crew?

Good crew chilling at sunset

When planning a passage it helps to have good crew, but what does this constitute? This can vary according to the length of passage and what you want from a sailing trip. Let’s now look at what skippers seek in their crew for different passages. 

The ‘perfect crew member’

The perfect crew member would have thousands of miles of sailing under their belt and can do everything required of them in any given situation. At the most basic, they can hand, reef and steer but yachting is so much more than that. 

A perfect crew member will have a VHF license, a high grade First Aid qualification, know their way around a diesel engine for all scenarios, and has high level navigation skills. Why? On a longer passage the skipper needs to sleep sometimes and that means they need someone who can sail the boat without them worrying at all. 

A good knowledge of the collision regulations, lights and shapes is important too, so the skipper doesn’t get called on deck to be told a fisherman with gear down is refusing to stand off and a collision is imminent for example! (Fishermen with gear down are almost the apex of vessels in terms of right of way). 

On almost any passage something will go wrong. The skipper will be on deck if something is very serious, but the good crew will be of use to them and may have experience in something similar. To that extent the crew can act as a team to resolve the problem. Has the dog gone over the side when relieving itself? Man overboard kicks in!

Good crew – good people skills

One of the most important factors to consider when looking for good crew is to ask oneself whether they are good to have around? Even on a 15 metre yacht you can’t hide from one another except when your eyes are closed in sleep. 

Are they fun to have about even on a dreary, foggy night? What are they like in the bar or over dinner? These are important factors to consider as a miserable git doesn’t help with morale, and personality clashes can make a difficult trip intolerable. 

How are they as a team player? The solo skipper wannabe who knows every inch of a boat yet can’t work with his mother when she washes the dishes is less desirable than the guy who happily does what they are told and gets on with it yet knows a lot less. 


You have people with great technical sailing skills who are frankly either personality free or complete arseholes. These people aren’t as desirable on a crew list as a cheerful yet less competent person who might not know the first thing about engine maintenance but can make you laugh like drains when the thing blows up on you. 

In short, perfection in humanity is a rare thing. A good mix of people with different skills is a compromise that you would want among 2-3 crew. They must gel as a team. Ultimately you’re only rarely on a balls out race to get where you’re going (unless there’s some weather coming!) and sailing is after all, all about the fun you have afloat. 

Where can you find these people? Go over to Onboard Space to find the people you not only need afloat with you but positively want!