The Captain’s Responsibility During a Haulout


Ralph Naranjo

My previous blog posts on cruising rallies and how they affect decision-making raised a number of insightful comments from readers. I think every skipper realizes that, ultimately, he or she is the one responsible for the safety of the ship and crew. Their fate depends on his decisions. But how frequently do we examine how we come to those decisions?

Anyone interested in ship-board command and responsibility aboard a sailing ship should read a couple of fascinating accounts of the last sail of the Bounty, a replica of the square-rigger famously comandeered by its mutinous crew in 1789. The famous tall ship replica was lost in seas spawned by Hurricane Sandy, along with the captain and one of the crew.

Id recommend first reading the excellent three-part, multi-media production, The Last Voyage of the Bounty, put together by a team at the Tampa Bay Times, featuring video, illustrations, and interviews with crew members and eyewitnesses. This is an excellent example of what a reporting team can do when they integrate good story-telling with a wide range of web-based tools.

The second report is a professional analysis of the onboard decision-making that was featured in Wooden Boat Magazine. The article was written by Capt. Andy Chase, a seasoned ship captain and professor of marine transportation at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) in Castine, Maine. Id be interested in hearing what readers have to say about the findings in each of these reports.

Ultimately, a ships fortune is built upon trust. You must trust your ship, your crew, and your own good judgment. That trust can come through experience as well as through the counsel of others who know from experience. The latter is where Practical Sailor comes in. I truly believe that the volume of good, hard, experience-based information that we squeeze into our pages regarding boats and marine gear is unequaled in the industry. Although our readership includes some of the highest-level professional sailors, we recognize not everyone has years of experience. The main thrust of our information is geared to the do-it-yourself sailors, but we also provide a fair share of articles aimed at people who don't have the background, time, or confidence to do some jobs themselves.

Our profile of do-it-for-me boatyards in the December issue is not for everyone. If you think your do-it-yourself yard bill is through the roof, then you certainly don't want to schedule a refit in one of Hinckleys growing list of yards. For you, we have a list of goodDIY yards recommend by our readers.

We are fortunate enough to have Ralph Naranjo, a former boatyard manager, circumnavigator, and safety expert as our technical editor. When Ralph tells me that Boatyard X is a place I can trust to care for my boat as if it were their own, I believe him. In the December article, he revisits some of the top eastern yards.

But, as the experience of the Bounty revealed, good advice doesnt help if it isn’t followed (yard workers reported that the skipper chose not to address rotting frames) , nor does it absolve the skipper of ulitimate responsibility. Choosing a do-it-for-me boatyard is a little like containing nuclear proliferation-trust but verify.

I look forward to hearing from readers about other do-it-for-me yards in the U.S. or around the world. Post your recommendations below or send them to me at

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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