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Published on 12.07.2022

Crew briefing by the skipper before leaving port

Written by Christina Pitter-Fürbass
Crew briefing by the skipper before leaving port

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The check-in is already done and the trip will start soon. Everyone wants to experience a relaxed sailing holiday. We all know the situation: the last cruise was some time ago, the ship has to be familiarized with, there may be a new crew or crew members with less experience on board.

Therefore, a proper crew and safety briefing should not be missing on any trip and is the start of every sailing trip for all crew members, regardless of whether they are experienced sailors, sailing newcomers or children. For relaxed life on board, it is therefore very important that the skipper briefs his crew on every trip, no matter how experienced the crew is with a sailing trip. The skipper takes responsibility for the yacht and the safety on board for his crew.

The safety briefing is an important part of the crew briefing

It's not about the skipper simply "working through" the following list. No, it's more about giving the entire crew a safe feeling on board, because the sailing holiday should be relaxed. We don't want to scare off sailing newcomers with this list, but it's better to be safe than sorry. These are often worst-case scenarios, but it is better to be aware of them should an emergency situation arise. These exceptional cases can be avoided by being careful. If you don't do a safety briefing, you are acting with gross negligence according to the judgments of the Maritime Court!

Depending on the experience of your crew, some areas can be discussed less precisely, but don't forget: the better life on board is organized and the crew knows everything, the more vacation it means for you as a skipper.

The instruction of the crew is often neglected, which often means that the skipper is responsible for everything. Therefore, give each crew member a task based on their age and experience. Of course, that doesn't mean that the crew member has to be solely responsible for it, but there is structure. For example, a small child can be responsible for ensuring that there are no flip-flops scattered across the cockpit (trip hazards). It's often the little things and hints during a crew briefing or the morning meeting of the day that contribute most to safety on board and make an uncomplicated trip. A morning discussion of where to go and what's on the program should therefore not be missing, nor should a thorough discussion of each maneuver. Before each docking, take the time to explain to each crew member exactly what their role is during the manoeuvre. If everyone knows what to do, it just works better.

Especially for new sailors and children, you should address the things that sailors take for granted as follows and explain why they are important, because these sources of danger are unknown to them.

  • Fender: why necessary and the dangers involved. Please also explain that you are never allowed to dodge with bare hands or feet.
  • Gangway: Before entering, always check whether it is secure on land or on board so that you don't fall into the water.
  • Hatches, cleats and hole point slides: risk of injury, broken toes and tripping hazards - watch out, shoes! The hatches must be properly closed when sailing (risk of breakage from lines).
  • Descent: Hold on tight and go backwards down. Danger of stumbling, especially when there are waves, always have one hand free to stop! Especially on the forecastle, even the smallest wave can trigger a fall.
  • Switch panel: Which switches for lights and co.
  • Explain power management on board: Like water, electricity is a scarce commodity. If the battery is deeply discharged, the engine cannot be started either! Therefore, all devices cannot be plugged in and charged at any time without the knowledge of the skipper.

The crew briefing and safety briefing are important: Even the most experienced sailor should familiarize himself with everything on a charter yacht. This applies to crew and skipper. Where are the seacocks; where is the gas tap on the stove; where is the fire extinguisher or fire blanket in an emergency; how to use the toilet, all these things are a must for everyone.

A safety and crew briefing does not have to follow strict rules. As a skipper, prepare a small guide for your crew so that nothing is forgotten. In summary, the points listed below should be discussed with the crew.

What does the skipper have to pass on to the crew on every trip?

Safety equipment on board

  • Have life jackets distributed and put on
  • Lifebelt and signal light
  • Explain Rescue Sling/Life Sling, extension rope
  • Show fire extinguishers and fire blankets
  • Explain pyrotechnics (parachute rockets, hand flare, smoke pot)
  • emergency tiller
  • Bilge pumps (electric/manual)
  • tools and spare parts
  • Shroud cutter, axe

Handling of the ship

  • Set sail, reef, salvage
  • Start engine, engage gear
  • Handling mooring lines and fenders
  • show cleat hit
  • Gas system and shut-off valve (do not let it burn out!)
  • seacocks
  • hatches

On deck 

  • Hold on, stretch ropes, lifeline
  • clothing and footwear
  • Anchor operation, markings
  • Dangers with winches, sheets, clamps
  • "Person Overboard" roles
  • node

Below deck

  • explain logbook
  • Battery main switch, switch panel, refrigerator
  • toilets, water system
  • engine oil, gear oil, impeller
  • Tanks (water, diesel, black water)

Behaviour on board

  • willingness to help
  • consideration, noise
  • seasickness
  • Provide safety (heeling, storm)
  • Night drive and preparation

If you would like to know more about life on board and useful tips about power management, fresh water on board, operating the on-board toilet, etc., then we recommend to read our blog article Using resources on board correctly. Did you know that you can book a skipper for any of our yachts? All information can be found in the Sailing with Skipper section.

We wish you a relaxed sailing trip with your crew.

© Mile Joca
Christina Pitter-Fürbass
Christina Pitter-Fürbass
Author of the article


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