Years ago, after airlines went through a number of accidents involving improper crew coordination, a new system was developed. In Coast Guard Aviation it is called Crew Resource Management.
It is a simple system that trains aircrews to use all of their available abilities, both physical and mental, in carrying out the functions of flying an airplane.
What does that have to do with boating? Well, there is a great similarity between boating and flying, with the exception that boating is two-dimensional and flying is three.
Boating has captains, crews and passengers, just like in flying. Crew coordination seeks to use all available assets to complete the cruise. There can be but one captain. The smart captain uses everything and everyone available to come to the right decision and to execute a maneuver.
My wife Jane and I solved the captaining situation early in our boating experience. Recognizing that all tasks have several ways to complete them efficiently and effectively and, further, recognizing that we always differed in method, we arrived at our captain-of-the-day rule. On even-numbered days Jane is captain, and on odd days I am.
On days that Jane is captain, she gets to make all the decisions. However, all the crew members get to have their say. After all has been discussed, she makes her decision and everyone pitches in to help, with no objections.
Another advantage of this is that we always have a Plan B (in this case, my plan, which is different than Jane's) if A doesn't work. (This works best if you can leave your ego on the dock.)
For crew coordination to work well, all of the crew should know how to do all of the functions in operating a boat. In flying, we have what is known as the "pinch hitter" course. It teaches the non-flying partner what to do if the pilot is incapacitated. In the Coast Guard, it is called "Suddenly in Command."
For most of us, our crew consists of husband, wife and possibly some children. Start from the premise that not everyone can do everything equally well but everyone can do everything if trained and coached.
For instance, I do most of the anchoring because I have more upper body strength than Jane, but she can do it and does it enough to keep her skills active. She, on the other hand, does a better job with lines than I do, so she does most of that.
We never know what situations on the water will turn drastic enough for one of us to have to do it all by ourself or for the entire crew to pitch in to stabilize a dangerous situation. It always pays to be ready with a well-trained, all-purpose crew that can snap to when called upon.
The next U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course will be held Aug. 2 at the Thurmond Dam Visitors Center. For details and to enroll call me, or contact Jay Weidman at (864) 391-2170.
John L. VanOsdol is commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, CSRA Flotilla. He can be reached at (864) 391-2170, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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