My husband and I lived on Dolce Vento for over a year. Nine months of that time we had a full time crew member, who was hired as our marine mechanic and sailing mate. She wanted the sailing experience and boating hours for a license. We wanted her help. Our three personalities meshed well most of the time. We shared chores, respected each others’ skills and listened to each other. We likes each other (and still do). However, for three adults with strong opinions, two who were very used to getting their own way, and one who attacked work with boisterous outbursts of out loud thinking, living in less than 450 square feet for nine months would be challenging for anyone.
Lesson Learned: The crew becomes a family and all that implies
Our first month together before we left the dock was one of adjustments. We started with weekly debriefings to identify what worked well and not so well the past week, and what could we do to improve on things in the coming week. That led to shared and rotating cooking, cleaning up, shopping, at helm duties, acceptance of each others roles, and when our expertise should be applied. We ate together, planned our journey together, but gave each other space in evenings and during the days to be alone whether at a marina, underway or at anchorage. We learned to be sensitive to each other needs and concerns. We negotiated non-disruptive language and tone we could all live with. We learned that we depended each other if the journey was to be successful.
Lesson Learned: Captain’s decisions final, but she better have crew trust
In all situations where decisions might put a boat or crew at risk, it is the captain who is responsible and must make final decisions. On our boat, that meant I needed to understand my own expertise or lack of it, and be able to listen to everyone’s input before making decisions. I needed to know each person’s expertise and trust their views. Sometimes we took weeks before I made a decision. Sometime it was minutes.
We wanted to sail around Cape Hatteras on the last leg of our journey, but none of us had the expertise or experience to do that so I hired a professional captain to guide us. We were coastal sailing from New Brunswick GA north perhaps stopping in Morehead City NC to refuel before heading around Hatteras. The weather in that area could get unstable so the sooner we got there the better However, we were experiencing intermittent electronics and engine issues again, but all seemed fine for the last four hours. Then our autopilot failed again. Not a disaster, except it would require manual steering for 10-12 hours – easy under sail, but almost impossible under power due to the torque wash over the keel.
We had two choices — head for Charleston, SC for another round of diagnosis and repairs or push onto Morehead City, NC to get repairs there. My husband said Charleston. My marine mechanic crew member said Morehead City. She had the expertise to keep futzing with the engine fuel line blockages that could be blown out if it happened again. Our professional captain Morehead City. I was sleep deprived and nervous unable to recover fully from the two previous times this happened so I decided on Charleston. That is where my husband and I ended our journey. I trusted the professional captain and marine mechanic crew to bring Dolce Vento home after repairs, but it was not easy for them. Bad weather combined with a date certain to return forced the captain to take risks that, with his experience, he could handle and did handle. I could not have done what he did. I made the right decision.