We met the crewmember in West Palm Beach, Florida. He touted and boasted of his sailing prowess to no end and with such vigor that you would think he was a world cruiser. He was a true "single handed sailor" as a hit and run accident by a fleeing vehicle left him with a paralyzed right arm. The crewmember, who was originally right handed, had to learn everything with his left hand, and he didn't stop there!
He single handed his 27 foot sailboat which usually didn't have a working motor. He would anchor, moor, and navigate the ICW waters of Florida with only his sails! On top of all of this, he was also an amazing cook!
He bragged about being first mate on a mega yacht for a few years before the accident happened. And boasted about how he had sailed from New York to Florida on multiple occasions doing delivery trips.
Hearing all of this, and listening to him go on and on about his adventures, I jumped the gun and offered him a position as third crew member on our boat without properly discussing the option with Maddie. I will never make that mistake again!
Well, he joined our boat the night we were leaving for the Bahamas, so there wasn't time to really discuss sailing tactics or go over the boats systems. I figured that we would do that in the Bahamas since we would be there the next day. We quickly went over the rules of the boat, and he acted very optimistic and promising at this point.
One of the rules that he said he understood was that I am captain, Maddie is Admiral, and he is crew. Maddie and I make decisions about where we are going and I make decisions on when we are going based on weather and conditions. He doesn't get a say in the final decision since this is our boat and not his.
Another rule that kind of backfired on us was with food. We will pay for any and all food that comes onto the boat, but meals ashore are on his dime. The problem was he would cook amazing meals, and so much food! Maddie and I would have a cheap meal on shore while he walked around town. When we got back, he would cook a huge meal for "all of us" even though we just ate. He didn't buy a single meal on shore and instead feasted on the boat. Our fridge has been plagued by always being full. No matter how much we eat, we can never seem to get it low on food. Somehow, in under two weeks, the fridge was empty! All our provisions that were supposed to last us crossing the Atlantic had been consumed between Florida and the Berry Islands of the Bahamas. Maddie and I have become experienced in the rate we consume food, as we have been cruising and eating for the past 7 months on board. We knew food would go a little quicker with a third person eating, but nowhere near this pace!
Anyways, when someone is lying to you, the first time you hear a story it sounds amazing. The second time you hear the story, you start to notice small differences from the first time. After the tenth time of hearing the same story, you can now piece together the truth!
It turns out that the mega-yacht in Palm Beach that he was 1st mate on was a boat that was for sale. He was part of the skeleton crew that maintained the boat. He and the Captain simply had to wash the boat and keep everything on it working. When a potential buyer came to see the boat, they were in charge of showing the boat and answering any questions the buyer might have. The boat never left the pier, so he had no real yachting experience from being 1st mate. This would be the same as claiming that a person who works at a Ferrari Dealership has experience racing cars; no, he is not an expert on driving fast, he merely makes them look pretty so that other people will buy them.
As for his offshore experiences from New York to Florida on delivery trips, these were all done in the ICW where they would stop every night and go to shore. He was also not the captain of these deliveries, so he didn't really understand what was going on. All of these boats had powerful diesel motors, so they could make great time and get there as quickly as possible. Any offshore passages were made in settled weather and as quickly as possible, meaning that he had no experience with actual storm conditions on a moving sailboat.
This became obvious when it was time to reef and he boasted about how his boat has only one reef point in it and he has never used it! I was going to go forward to the mast and left him at the helm, I told him to keep us on a broad reach so that we don't accidentally jibe. He responded with "Good copy" and I went forward.
While up there, I noticed that the wind was coming from a different angle. I looked at the wind gauge and noticed that he was sailing by the lee! I rushed back to the cockpit and turned the helm hard to avoid an accidental jibe and to question him on what he had just done. He responded with something mind boggling "I don't know what these sailing terms mean."
Well, if you don't know what the command means, why did you say "good copy" and act like you understood?! If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask!!
At this point, I realized that I had made a horrible mistake. The crewmember was just a bloated show boat who was good at talking the talk without knowing what he was actually talking about.
You might be wondering how we didn't pick up on his ineptitude during the interview process. Well, the interview was rather detailed and he answered everything perfectly! It turns out that one of his friends is a delivery captain and has told the crewmemberthe questions he asks potential crew. The crewmember knew all the words to the answers without knowing what the answers meant.
For example: When should you get me to put in a reef?
As soon as you feel the air get a little cooler or if white caps are starting to form.
He knew the answer to reefing, but he didn't know what reefing was!
Once I figured out that he was completely green and knew nothing of sailing, navigating, or boat handling, I was ok with it because I could teach him everything he needs to know. As he learns, he can cook us delicious meals and by the time we made it to the Azores, he would be a very capable third crew member! The only problem was his ego was so big, that he couldn't admit that he didn't know what he was talking about and was not willing to learn any of it. Instead he would try to act like he knew what was going on by pointing at things he doesn't understand and tell me it's done wrong.
My favorite was when he was telling me that the wheel adapter of our Monitor windvane was setup wrong. "It has too many wraps on it, I need to take it apart and do it right." I had to repeatedly tell him that I set it up following the manual and that it has worked flawlessly since the day I installed it. He kept insisting and insisting, trying to wear me down to let him redo something that is fine until I put him in his place and told him that he is not to touch it!
He then diverted his attention to the stop knots in the running rigging. I have stop knots set in places that may not seem obvious, but they are there for a purpose. For example, the jib sheets have a stop knot about 20 feet from the bitter end. This is so that if the sheet gets away from you, the knot will stop it at the block and still allow you to get three wraps on the winch to bring it back in. He took it upon himself to untie all of these stop knots that "shouldn't be there."
The final straw came when we got a real taste of ocean sailing. No, I don't mean actually sailing, but instead being stuck on the boat for an extended period of time. We had to tuck into the Berry Islands to avoid a strong easterly wind that came through. The wind lasted for 5 days, and we were trapped on the boat at anchor. On day 4, he went stir crazy.
He proclaimed that I chose the worst possible anchorage and that I don't know how to navigate. He demanded that I move the boat to someplace new and that we resume cruising. The anchorage I chose had perfect protection from the easterly wind and swell, as we were hiding in the wind shadow of a rather tall island with wonderful protection. The problem was that the islands surrounding us were private so we couldn't go to shore. We were trapped on the boat. The inlet to this anchorage was narrow and surrounded by large rocks where 8 foot waves were smashing against and turning into spray. Trying to transit that passage was more than reckless! The safest thing to do was to wait for the storm to pass and stay in the boat where it was safe.
He did not agree with this and instead took our dinghy for a little joy ride. The nearest island with civilization was 5 miles away and it took him 3.5 hours to make the journey. When he got there, he quickly became acquainted with the locals, the same locals we would meet in a few days when the storm let up and we moved on.
It didn't take long for the locals to form an opinion of him. When we came ashore, the other boaters that had met him kept asking us "How can you stand this guy?" It seems that he has a talent for bragging and rubbing real cruisers the wrong way. I confided in one cruiser and told him that he was not going to be crew with us for much longer and that cruiser's response was "Please don't leave him on this island while we are still here!"
Well, it turns out that the crewmember had figured out that ocean sailing is hard. Not being able to go to shore to get drunk and high can be quite a drag when the boat you are on doesn't allow drugs or alcohol. Light airs and long distances can make you feel trapped on a small sailboat, and his mind couldn't withstand it anymore. I also think he didn't like it when people figure out how incompetent he is, as he would rather brag about being great to a new face.
So the crewmember told us that he was going to stay on this island when we moved on, as this island had an airport and flights to Florida. We left the crewmember on the beach with flight money to get him home and sailed out of that harbor as fast as we could in case he changed his mind; the other cruiser we met left the very next day!
The crewmember was a very good actor, playing the part of an experienced sailor, but the truth is he was an excellent talker without an ounce of experience. When faced with the challenge of actually doing what he talks about, he turns and runs because he doesn't have the drive or desire to actually do what he brags so heavily about.