Selecting and Prepping Crew

June 26, 2023 in Passage planning, Safety - No Comments

Full disclosure, Felicità is set up primarily to be a two-person boat. Resources are limited, as is space. So we’ve learned to think deeply about how and when we bring crew aboard.

Over our first seven months cruising full-time we determined that three is the optimal number of people when we want to bring on crew. More than that, and our systems get taxed. We had four people on our trip down the Baja, which worked out fine (and was great during midnight, downwind jibes!). But, with one composting head and multiple devices, our electrics and waste systems were tested.

Later in the season, we had one friend join us for 2.5 weeks and we did not notice much impact to the systems. With that said, we were not passage making on that trip, so not sure if we would have seen an issue on overnights.

When to Take on Crew

Some skippers love to share the experience and are happy to have people join them to ‘check out the experience.’ While others need to take on crew to handle the boat. We don’t fall into either of those camps.

Our boat is rigged to be handled by two people, so unless we are doing a big passage, we can comfortably handle the whole she-bang. When it comes to sharing the experience, we thought deeply and planned for a long time to make this life happen, so having people on board who are not ‘digging it’ is tough and just not how we want to spend our precious days on the water. But, it’s on us to make sure that that doesn’t happen. If someone joins us, and is miserable, that’s our fault for not doing a good job in selection and prepping.

Obviously, when you take on crew is a deeply personal decision. For us, we tend to limit bringing crew along to help us move the boat from point A to point B on longer passages. And, occasionally, we’ll invite someone to join us for cruising legs where we are covering less ground and anchoring most nights.

Lots of people will be excited to visit and, from afar, living on a sailboat seems really chill and fun. And while it’s fun, it’s very rarely chill. After seven months of cruising full time, we’ve learned it’s preferable for us to meet friends and family in specific places where they can stay in accommodations on land and join us for day sails.

There’s no doubt about it, spending prolonged time on a 42 foot sailboat with other humans requires a certain set of personality traits, and it’s not for everyone. It’s totally okay and understandable that it’s not. But, as the captain of your vessel, it’s on you to make sure you are vetting and prepping your crew well. We’ve heard horror stories and you don’t want to be in the middle of your own bad experience with days to go on a passage and nowhere to run. Here are some things we’ve learned.


Have a verbal heart-to-heart with each person in a one-on-one conversation (that way each person can make their own choice, versus having a group-think situation). In that conversation, cover: expectations (your’s and their’s), the realities, financial agreements, and safety.

Expectations. What are you expecting them to do? What to you expect them to know how to do before they arrive? What are the things you will explicitly not ask crew to do? On passages, we expect crew to stand night watch and like to have a one-person watch system so everyone gets good stretches of sleep. Tim does most of the cooking onboard and I am his relief. We don’t ask crew to cook as it complicates provisions-management. But, we do expect crew to do dishes.

We don’t ask crew to know anything specific as Tim and I can handle the boat. But, if people are coming on passage, we do want them to take an active role in working the boat. We have a few knots we encourage people to learn and everyone needs to learn the how to use the instruments since they’ll be in charge of monitoring during their night watch.

The realities. I would say something like this, “There is very little privacy on the boat. People will know you are in the head. People will hear you snoring. You might see someone brushing their teeth at the galley sink. If someone is awake and moving around the boat, you will likely hear them — day or night. Depending on where the wind is coming from, the motion of the boat may be uncomfortable — and it could be that way for hours our days. You’ll be able to sleep, but it won’t be great sleep. So, if all that sounds okay to you, come on aboard!”

Financial agreements. Make it clear ahead of time what you, as the captain, are paying for and what expenses you expect your crew to cover. On passages when crew is coming to help us move the boat, we buy the provisions and ask crew to buy their own liquor and cover their shore onshore costs. Then, if the crew expresses that they want to pitch in for provisions, we just say, “if you want to do something more, you can pick up an onshore meal or two for us.”

When people come to vacation, we split the cost of provisions and liquor, per person. And then, same thing, if they express they want to do more because we are providing the boat, we suggest they pick up a meal or two onshore.

And in all cases, we split onshore transportation costs (e.g., taxis/Ubers). And everyone covers their own entertainment costs (e.g., tours, water parks, etc.).

Safety. We do a safety briefing once everyone is onboard, but find its useful to share a few things ahead of time. We share our point of view about when we insist crew wear PFDs and tethers. For passage making and coastal cruising trips, we insist that crew come with an inflatable harness and their own tether. We also talk about alcohol (limited to one drink at sundown when underway) and no smoking–anything. And make the point that if Tim or Gretchen give a command or make a request, we ask the crew comply (unless, of course, they do not feel comfortable or able).

I think, if you cover these sorts of things, you’ll paint the picture that this is not going to be a Carnival cruise and, that while it will be fun and memorable, it’s won’t be a typical, relaxing vacation. I also put most of this in writing and send ahead of time. But, not everyone reads, so I think the one-on-one conversation is important.


Then, once our crew arrives, we have a list of training items we cover in the first 24 hours. We try to break it up so as not to overwhelm. And, if people can come be on the boat for a night or two before you start moving, that gives everyone a chance to settle in.

We cover safety, consumption/conservation, Felicità’s eccentricities, toilet training, and things to know while we are sailing. Here’s a letter we put in their cabin and then we discuss most of this (and more) as we go.


Welcome to Felicità and GnT Sailing!

We are beyond excited to share our floating home with you! Boat living is a little (or maybe a lot) different than land-based living. Hence, here are some things that we want to make sure you are “in the know” about.


    1. One hand for you, and one hand for the boat (meaning, hold on or know where you’ll grab).
    1. Note to the dudes: Many a sailor has fallen off boats peeing off the side. Pee at your own risk.
    1. If you fall off the boat while on anchor, make your way to the stern of the boat where it will be easiest to pull yourself up. You can also look for the dinghy if it is in the water and grab on to that.
  2. Move slowly and mindfully. Things happen quickly on a boat and can cause injury.
    1. Remember, you are in an ever-moving environment. No need to rush.Times of transition are when you are most vulnerable for a fall (e.g., moving from dinghy to boat, from cockpit to deck, from cockpit to downstairs, getting out of bed)
    1. Even on anchor or a mooring ball in a seemingly calm sea state, be ready for the boat to move unexpectedly. We get big wake motion from passing ships and boats.
  3. There is a fire extinguisher in every cabin and a fire blanket to the right of the refrigerator that can be used to throw over/smother a small fire.
  4. There are two exits to get out of every cabin—the door and a hatch. Make sure you know how to open the hatch handles (the red tabs/locks slide and then the handles twist). Also make sure you understand how to open the companionway (the door that goes up into the cockpit). Feel free to ask for a demonstration.
  5. Stay hydrated. There is always a water jug in the fridge.
  6. Take care in the sun. The cool, ocean air can make you forget to apply sunblock.


  • Our electricity and water resources are limited.
  • Water:
    • We have 131 gallons of capacity in our tanks.Always, always turn off water mid-task. (e.g. when brushing teeth, washing hands, shampooing hair)Water is potable, but we have purified water for drinking.
    • We have specific dish washing practices that we’ll share, if needed.
  • Power:
    • We have a large solar array which means we have lots of power during the daylight hours.Once the sun starts to set, we are only consuming, and no charge is going into the batteries. That means it’s best to charge all your devices during the day. Charge away! GnT will flag if we’re collectively consuming too much and need to adjust.Unplug devices once they are fully charged. Unplug devices once the sun sets unless you really need to charge (e.g., you need enough juice in your phone to listen to a podcast as you fall asleep).Our goal is to go into the night with 70% or above (even better) in the batteries. We’d be happy to show you where to look for the charge level if you are curious.
    • Want to take a shower? We have a hot water heater, but it takes some planning (and power) to get things heated up. Let GnT know that you’d like to take a shower at some point during the day and we’re happy to make it happen!

Felicita’s eccentricities:

  • Please turn handles up or down when opening and closing doors, don’t just slam. It’s easier on the springs inside the handle mechanisms.
  • The fridge opens from the top and the front. Engage the handle on the front when closing, otherwise you’ll think the door is closed, but it’s not.
  • Be gentle with the enclosure zippers and snaps. If a zipper is jammed, ask GnT for help. Don’t pull the snaps from far away. Rather, unsnap each snap by sliding your hand close to the snap and then un-snap one-at-a-time (ask GnT if this does not make sense).
  • Communication is required. The shower stall is kind of small for drying off without getting your towel all wet from the actual shower. We like to step into the main living space to dry off, but that means everyone on the boat needs to know that there is an impending birthday suit situation and make themselves scarce for a few minutes.

Toilet training

We’ll give you a tutorial (not a demonstration), but here’s the skinny:

  • ALL PAPER goes into the trash can.
  • Dudes sit. ALWAYS. No exceptions—it’s all about the angle into the pee tank.
  • When you do a #2, open the poop hole. Do your business. Close the poop hole (best not to look). Crank the handle 15-20 times (only crank after the poop hole is closed).
  • After #1 (always) and #2 (if needed), spray the bowl with the diluted vinegar solution (only with poop door closed—no vinegar solution into the composting compound, please).
  • GnT will take care of disposal. However, if you see liquid in the pee tank window, please flag for G or T.

While sailing:

  • Again, stay on the boat. We are all responsible for our personal safety.
  • We’ll do a safety briefing to match whatever amount of sailing we are doing. But, at the very least:
    • We’ll tell you where life jackets are or where to store your’s for easy access at all timesIntroduce you to the electrics panel in case you are asked to flip a switch
    • Talk about how we would handle a person overboard situation
  • If you ever wonder if the person at the helm sees an obstruction, please say something. There are a lot of blind spots on a boat and all information is useful. That said, the person at the helm has the final say (and G or T have the right to take the helm at any moment).
  • While we try to avoid situations where this next point is necessary, Gretchen and Tim are the co-captains. Should we find ourselves in a situation and a request is made by either, we ask that the crew comply (unless it does not feel personally safe—in which case you have every right, and we encourage you, to speak up). We will debrief situations after the situation has passed so that we can all learn—including us.

We are happy to teach and share about anything to the degree to which you want to learn. And, if you are just along for the ride, that’s okay too! We won’t assume you want to know all the ins and outs, but we welcome any question along the way.

Thanks for sharing in our adventure! We’re delighted that you are here.


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Meet Gretchen & Tim

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