For those of us that are somehow lucky enough to have that one uncle in the family that owns a yacht that brings everybody in the family together, there is a lot of unrecognized work that happens behind the scenes. Even a little 12-foot family skiff requires a significant amount of effort not only to keep the vessel in shape. But also in coordinating and planning family outings – and most importantly, keeping everyone safe. From refilling expensive fuel and making sure the cooler is stocked to shuttling family members out to the sandbar, tying up at the dock, and all of the loading and unloading – the truth of the matter is that boating it can also be exhausting. Especially if you don’t have the proper support of a good team or crew, here are some tips for how to maximize your boating experience as a family – no matter who owns the actual boat.
Regardless of whether or not you are the official “captain” in your family, responsibilities need to be explicitly delegated if you expect others to chip in and do their part. Often, especially within a family dynamic, people tend to make this awkward or dramatic when it really doesn’t need to be. In fact, many of the principles and psychology behind delegation in the workplace can easily be applied to the world of boating. Perhaps Grandpa Frank isn’t so great at letting everyone know what he expects of them. Instead of waiting for him to start screaming in a panic for somebody to untie the bowline, be proactive and ask how you can help before you embark on your journey. If you know what needs to be done, help commission tasks ahead of time to family members. Children will love getting the chance to be in charge of something on the boat, and it will also help teach them responsibility and teamwork.
We all know that assigning tasks to others is useless if they don’t possess the knowledge or skill set required to complete them. Boating and sailing are the types of proficiencies that tend to be well learned in a familial setting, and what better way to build bonds between family members than during a glorious day spent out on the water? However, while learning while doing works for many, it can create a “high pressure” situation for novice boaters who may prefer quiet one-on-one instruction before taking to the sea. There’s also the reality that not all boaters are great teachers – and some are more willing to admit this than others. Whether it’s leaving the education part up to the more patient family members or soliciting help from an outside school, investing in your family’s boating skills can be well worth your while. It will make your job easier as captain in the long run.
Nobody can read minds, no matter how much we might want them to. If you expect your first mate to get those fenders on the starboard side before you pull up to the marina, you’ll need to actually verbalize it (even if he is your brother). Proper communication is vital to the successful functioning of both your family and your crew. Taking the time to listen is a huge part of this, making sure the knowledgeable boaters in your group are readily available for questions. For those nervous or apprehensive boaters, or perhaps the ones most prone to seasickness, showing empathy can go a long way in getting them both excited about the idea of boating and building their confidence along the way.
Perhaps the kids had their hearts set on getting out into the ocean. Still, if the weather isn’t cooperating, or maybe the sandbar you’ve had your eye on for a beach day ends up being in too shallow of water to approach, or perhaps the prized affordable city marina right in the heart of downtown is already sold out for the night. Boating can be very unpredictable, so we need to be prepared to adjust to the constantly changing conditions. Having unrealistic expectations or demands, especially in a familial context, is a sure recipe for disappointment. Being flexible, both as captain and passengers, can help take the pressure off and build rapport among your crew. One great thing about having a boat in the family is that there will always be a next time.
Nothing says “I’m using you for your boat” quite like showing up empty-handed and sunning on the deck while your brother does all the grunt work and heavy lifting related to your splendid Saturday family cruise. It’s always in good taste to bring along some drinks and snacks for the group, perhaps gear to contribute to the outing (fishing rod, boogie boards, games for the kids, etc.), and maybe even a little gift for the host. Sometimes (ok, a LOT of times), we take our family members for granted, and a day out on the water can be the perfect chance to show them that they are indeed appreciated. We can also display our gratitude by asking how we can help (more than once) and working together to keep the family vessel in ship shape.