How to create a successful crew skipper relationship?

June 22, 2023
Team Coboaters

Create successful crew skipper relationship?

A comprehensive guide for Crew and Skippers to have good relationship.

Sailing and boating is fun when it is shared with friends, family, partners and fellow sailors or boaters. But we all know that it is not always easy to create successful crew skipper relationship. There are a few basic rules and good practice to follow for both crew and skippers. So the question is: How to create and maintain a successful, enjoyable crew skipper relationship? We share here some of recommendations put together by Captain Deb Marlor of Sailing and Boating. Everything is based on years of experiences on the water with powerboats and sailboats.

What are the basics to create good relationships on board?

The outline begin with your sailing profile:

  • The importance of your sailing resume,

  • Skills, capabilities, experience,

  • What are your attributes? Giving a clear and accurate description of yourself and how others have seen you perform.

  • Where can you be counted on.

  • What are your expectations? Crew – Skipper

  • Honesty

  • Safety First : Remember that the objective is always for the boat and for the crew to arrive safely!

Getting to know each other and then maintain your relationship

As per Captain Deb, this part is probably the most important. People need to know each other to start creating healthy relationship. So, there should be an open discussion and interviews prior to sail together. Posting a sailing resume online helps and describing your boat if you are a skipper is important too.

an image of a sail with blue sky. A saying "Your autopilot may be your best crew but it will never become your best friend?"
A crew is better than and autopilot. Learn how to maintain good relationship between crew and skipper is key!

The Crew Interview: Essential to create a successful relationship

You need to know what you can do on board, what you can bring to the table as a sailor but also as a person and a team member. Sailing and Boating is not only about getting the boat going. It is also about living together on board in a very limited space. Consequently, we advise you to think about the following:

  1. Is this a good fit?

  2. What skill(s)set do you bring to the Crew?

  3. Expectations & Responsibilities

  4. Honesty and realities

  5. What is the Goal to be achieved?

  6. Questions that you want to ask the Captain

  7. What has been the most difficult situation you have had at sea? Can you share the situation and how you handled it.

  8. What should I know about you?

The Skipper Interview: Understand if the crew can perform what you expect

thre men on a sailboat. one man is at the helm while the two others are sitting and smiling
Happy skipper and happy crew!


  1. Is this a good fit?

  2. What skills do I need on my boat?

  3. Expectations & Responsibilities

  4. Honesty and realities

  5. Experience to date and why I should choose you?

  6. What do you do when you see a possible situation and you are concerned?

Staying true North!

A captain looking through a sextant. Looking forward and keep the same direction is important to create good relationship
Consistency In your relationship: Looking forward and keep the same direction is important.
Once you talked to the other party, you must think about what was said and ask yourself a few questions. This what Captain Deb calls “Staying true North”. If you think something needs to be clarified, get in touch again and talk about it.
  1. Do I like this person?

  2. Do I respect and trust this person?

  3. Do I feel confident that this is the person I want to have for this position?

  4. Do I feel like the person is responding honestly and with integrity?

  5. Can I see this person with me for (x) period of time?

Do not settle, if you have that feeling in your gut, do not do it. Remember that you can be friend with everybody.

Rules to live-by to keep an healthy and successful crew skipper relationship.

On board or on shore during the cruise, follow some rules. Maintain consistency with your team and friends.

  • I show up being the person that I said I was, and I do what I say

  • I am respectful and accountable?

  • I am prepared and on time for my duties, shift/watch

  • If I do not know, I ask

  • If I need help, I ask.

  • Have fun!

The boat Ground Rules

Each skipper will define its own rules on board. As a crew you must understand and follow those rules. More and more skippers will ask you to sign a contract especially if you are going away for a long time or for on off-shore voyage.

  • Complete a contract between Captain and Crew

  • No alcohol or drugs at sea, and that you are in good condition when ready to leave.

  • Be willing to take direction and not take things personally

  • Be respectful, be honest, take initiative

  • Anticipate and get input from your Captain

  • Make the boat a better place than when you got there.

Learn how to sail.

One last piece of advise is to actively and constantly improve your sailing skills. Sailing with others will help you gain experience and acquire confidence. We always learn something new when we are on the water. However, taking formal classes with a professional organization is key to learn more and faster. Visit our resource page to find out a list of organization that can help you.

Captain Deborah Marlor: Sailing Life Coach

Captain deb picture.
Captain Deb helped us writing this article about crew and skipper relationship.

Her mission is to to expand knowledge and safety to experience and create joy on the water.

She lives full time on her boat, a Beneteau Oceanis 38 called Simplicity with her husband Hugh. They sailed more than 25,000 miles along the West Coast, the Carribeans and more.

She is a US Coast Guard (USCG) Licensed Captain and an instructor with Cruiser University, and hold International Proficiency Certification.

She teaches sailing and boating basics from a true and current prospective. Whether you are learning to sail or drive a boat or finding the right boat for you, you will begin to take action and gain experience.


How to find a crew or a skipper?

There are many ways to find a crew or a skipper. You can check our article 12 best ways to find people to sail with . One easy way is to subscribe to Coboaters, the North America Crew Finder Club and to create your free sailing resume.

June 22, 2023
Team Coboaters

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