Concerns for Offshore Crewing

Continuing to enjoy and absorb the Encyclopedia…that photo just inside the front cover of BEOWULF (it must be BEOWULF because of the unpainted hull) rafted up with what looks like another Deerfoot is quite striking…what is the other vessel please? Just curious…Also, would like your advice on what precautions I should take as a prospective crewman on a new 47-footer leaving NYC on 12/1 for the BVI, possibly by way of Bermuda…what would you want to know from the skipper before taking on this crew slot and before actually embarking? I already know he wants to share food expenses and I am responsible for any personal expenses…and he has already said the vessel will meet solas standards for safety by time of departure, and has said he has bluewater experience in and around the Bahamas and Puerto Rico…What other concerns would you want clearly understood before embarking?Thanks, Richard

Hi Richard: Thanks for the kind comments. Re the boat rafted, the bare alu. hull is Sundeer. The other is a Deerfoot 74. As to your question on if you should go or not, and what to look for, that is a very tough one to answer in less than a couple of books. Leaving aside the issue of boat preparation for the moment, we feel that most important is the crew’s ability to assess and deal with the weather. You will be passaging during the fall (equinoctial) gale season–potentially the worst time of year for weather. Crossing the Gulf Stream makes the situation trickier. You can be almost certain to encounter a gale or storm (or possibly worse) before you are into the tropics. The folks in charge of the driving need to have a clear understanding of weather forecasting and tactics. Outside “experts” won’t fully get the job done. Next, the skipper and crew need to understand about heavy weather tactics, and be properly set up for serious weather in terms of vessel structure, maintenance, storm canvas, drogues, etc. This gear must be practiced with before passaging, so everyone knows what he or she has to do in a variety of circumstances. You say you will be leaving NYC Dec. 1. I hope this is a target date. The actual date should be chosen after carefully monitoring the weather–in particular the 500 mb activity over the Midwest. Going offshore is always an adventure, and there is risk in everything to do with living. But you need to be aware that when you leave the East Coast to cross the Gulf Stream, until you are south of the fall storm tracks, the risks will be higher than on almost any other passage. I don’t say this to scare you out of going (on the contrary, if things are satisfactory, even if you do get caught in heavy weather it can be a great learning experience). But you, the boat, and the rest of the crew need to be prepared for the worst. Good luck! Steve Dashew

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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