Trip from hell

Aboard an Island Packet 40!

What started out for me and Lesley as a trip helping a couple move their boat from Burnt Store Marina to the Chesapeake Bay became me and Lesley serving as Captain and First Mate – without compensation – on an ill-equipped vessel with the owners aboard.  That’s the nicest way we can describe what happened.  To be brutally honest about it, we feel that we were taken advantage of by people we thought were friends.

First and foremost, we would never do another delivery with the owners aboard.  We now understand why this could have been a problem when we took all those sailing classes with Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship on our boat.  However, Lesley and I always treated every instructor/captain and student aboard with respect and we were careful to ensure that the environment was pleasant.

Many of the problems we experienced on this boat could have been avoided had the owners taken a coastal navigation course.  We discussed this with the owners a year before the trip and they assured us they would do it.  However, they both decided their social commitments were more important than preparing for this trip so they didn’t take the class.  As a consequence, the owner and his wife were not prepared for any of the conditions we experienced on the trip.

Every time we’ve been on our boat, we’ve looked at it as a learning experience.  This was especially true when we had an instructor and other students on the boat.  But even when it’s just Lesley and I, the conditions presented by the wind and water make every dock departure and arrival, every tack and jibe, every outing on the boat, unique.  When we’re settled for the day or night, whether it’s in a slip or at anchor, we take the time to talk about what happened:  what we did right, what we did wrong, what we’ll do differently next time, and so on.  If the owners ever had those types of conversations while we were aboard their boat, we didn’t see or hear it.  At the beginning of the trip Lesley and I tried to use things that happened to us or activities that had to be done as learning opportunities for the owners.  Looking back at the last few days on the boat – the continued problems with currents, downloading the wrong weather forecasts, the “deer in the headlights” look when the unexpected happened – we don’t think they learned anything from having us aboard.

However, we can’t blame everything on the owners.  There should have been some discussion or understanding before we ever left the dock about individual responsibilities, meal planning and preparation, navigation, who’s in charge and under what circumstances, and who is ultimately responsible for the boat and crew when there’s a conflict between an experienced helmsman or crew member and an inexperienced owner.  I don’t know if that would have made any difference; if anything, it might have kept us on the dock waving goodbye as the owners left on their great adventure!

Bottom line, these people let us assume responsibility for them and their boat while underway.

I’ve attached the narrative discussion that I recorded while we were prepping their boat and while underway.  The story may be long, perhaps boring, hopefully it’s informative, but it’s here in .pdf format.
Trip From Hell