The Captain’s Responsibility During a Haulout


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 doesn’t 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

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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