• Mobile App For Android Now Online!

    Download it here. The app is searchable in the Google Play Store under Sailboat Owners.

    Sorry iPhone/iPad users, we are still waiting on Apple. :(

    Click the X in the upper right corner to make this go away

Dealing with difficult guests

Oct 29, 2005
2,108
Hunter Marine 326 303 Singapore
Never had a problem until I let a teacher from the sailing school come on a week long voyage. She had been teaching sailing on small sailboats for 15 years but had never been on anything larger. The combination of thinking it was the same thing on a 39 footer and thinking she should tell me how to do things... never again.
I had one of that "sailing teacher" onboard once. Keeps teaching all about dinghy tactic trimming....I told her off. Big boats are not dinghy. The only common stuff is Points of Sail. That's all. Period.
 
Oct 22, 2014
13,454
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Being for the most part a Solo Sailor, I often conduct a discussion with myself as I walk down the dock concerning rules and punishment once a trend among Naval Sailing Ships. When you think about how crew were sometimes Shanghaied!
"Shanghaied...
William Davis, a cabinet-maker, left his home near Great Salt Lake in the Utah Territory in the mid-1870s and headed for Northern California, a fast-growing region where he hoped to earn up to six dollars a day by adapting his expertise to ship carpentry. He made the eight-hundred-mile trek with his wife, Isabelle, and three small children, the youngest of whom was just six weeks old.​
After working briefly at the Mare Island Navy Yard, north of San Francisco, Davis left his family in nearby Vallejo while he made a brief trip into San Francisco in search of an even better job. Unfortunately he chose to quench his thirst after the journey at a waterfront saloon in the area known as the Barbary Coast. His family didn’t see him again for nearly eight years.​
People familiar with the dangers along the wharves speculated on his probable fate, but it wasn’t confirmed until he reappeared several years later. After passing out from either liquor or a drug, he had awakened aboard a ship bound for Europe by way of Cape Horn.​
William Davis had been shanghaied. His nightmare was intensified by a shipwreck and what he found at the end of his long struggle to get home: After having taken in washings to support her family for several years, Isabelle had moved back to Utah, had her husband declared dead, and remarried.​
Davis’s ordeal was longer than most, but it was by no means an isolated incident. Thousands of hapless victims fell prey to crimps along the waterfronts of port cities on both coasts during the last half of the nineteenth century and even into the early 1900s. William M. Coffman, an Underwood Corporation executive and founder of the East-West Shrine Football Game, describes in his autobiography being drugged, beaten, and shanghaied out of San Francisco in 1902, when he was nineteen."​

Taken aboard ship and forced to work it is easy to imagine some crew were resistant to following orders. I have felt that way at times. Sometimes my orders feel uncomfortable and perhaps capricious. Then I remember the dock walk...

Fortunately I have not had to Keelhaul myself... But there have been times when I wondered if it was not deserved....


Royal and US Naval Punishments for infractions at sea.
From the 1700's

Continuous dousing with sea water.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, dousing someone continuously with sea water was used on delinquents and those who showed insubordination as an alternative to flogging. Sounds a bit like waterboarding.

Log-carrying to the point of exhaustion.
1603759902679.png


Bucking and gagging.
During the Civil War, discipline was a huge problem among the soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon. In order to set unruly soldiers straight, some commanding officers chose the humiliating and painful route of “bucking and gagging.” Under this penalty, the mischief maker would have to sit for long periods bent forward with his hands tied at his shins, his feet tied together at the ankles, and to top it all off — a rod or stick was shoved over the arms and under the knees, and he was gagged with a cloth. The worst part? Minor offenses — like insubordination — earned a troop this unusual punishment.

Keelhauling
1603760108826.png

This was possibly the worst punishment during the Age of Sail. Never officially sanctioned by the Royal Navy due to its barbaric cruelty to the condemned, keelhauling was still carried out on numerous occasions before being banned around the year 1720.
The victim would be stripped naked on the deck of a ship in full sight of the rest of the crew. He would have two ropes tied to him. One of them ran underneath the bottom of the ship (the “keel”).
The man would then be hung over the side of the ship, pulled underwater, and hauled along the keel by the second rope until he emerged on the other side.

 
Oct 6, 2007
747
Hunter H30c 1982 Chicago IL
I only invite people who I enjoy being with, never had a problem.
Good approach. I can think of four difficult or annoying guests I’ve had on my boat in the last 16 years and each one of them has been someone I had never met who I allowed to come along with an invited guest. “Can I bring my friend/neighbor/co-worker/in-law?” is now a yellow flag question to me. I no longer allow people on my boat who I don’t know.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: Boomer54

dLj

.
Mar 23, 2017
1,295
Hunter 30 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
Keelhauling
View attachment 186589
This was possibly the worst punishment during the Age of Sail. Never officially sanctioned by the Royal Navy due to its barbaric cruelty to the condemned, keelhauling was still carried out on numerous occasions before being banned around the year 1720.
The victim would be stripped naked on the deck of a ship in full sight of the rest of the crew. He would have two ropes tied to him. One of them ran underneath the bottom of the ship (the “keel”).
The man would then be hung over the side of the ship, pulled underwater, and hauled along the keel by the second rope until he emerged on the other side.
This was typically a death sentence. If you didn't drown as you were pulled around, then all the barnacles on the hull would tear your skin to shreds. You would then die a slow agonizing death through infection. Think about how easily infection sets in on any open cut when you are on the ocean. Now think about half your body, even places you'd never normally have a cut, covered in cuts festering into sores and finally systemic infection. There were a few individuals that did survive this, but not many...

dj
 
  • Like
Likes: jssailem

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
4,054
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Over the last 4 years we have been extremely lucky and only had two moderately difficult charters. One was a couple (especially the man) who was furious because he'd booked a cat and they'd put him on our mono. He called the company and complained for hours, but it was either us or a hotel. Not a fun way to start a charter. He acted like it was our fault, but we bent over backwards to accommodate him, to the point of tying the dinghy alongside and telling him, "Look. We're now a catamaran." He laughed and in the end said nice things to our faces and even tipped us well, but went back to the agent and lied his ass of until he got a reduced rate on his next vacation.
The other was a woman who expected a Greek or Turkish type charter on a caique, with maybe a dozen guests and a bar and dining room. For some reason our 50 footer with she and her husband only being catered to just wasn't going to make her happy, no matter what we did., but her husband had a blast.
But I must admit that over the years the bigger the boat and the more expensive (as in us$20k to $40k a day bareboat [boat and crew only, add fuel, food, etc] back in the '80s, there have been some tough charters. But I have my foolproof ways of making them fun for all and very restful for the difficult one, so it almost always works out well.
 
Dec 30, 2018
18
O'Day 26 Onset, MA
Oh man, this is something I'm learning. My last guest brought a bluetooth speaker (no big deal, I like tunes) and BLARED house music! What dude?? Seriously, you're bringing frigging house music on a sail? That's LITERALLY the only thing worse than Jimi Buffet. I'm not normally one to tell you your taste in music sucks, but, I had to do it. In as nice a way possible.

I have another buddy who likes to fish a LOT. I'm totally cool with it, I usually troll a line anyways. BUT, his first time out he wasn't thinking and left his tackle box on the bare cockpit. I didn't' think of it either, but the second we started heeling that thing moved and scraped the gelcoat a little. I asked him to bring it down below, and every time he's come out with me since, he makes a point to stow it down below in a secure spot.

Otherwise, my issue is with the drinking. Don't get me wrong, I'm no mormon, but holy smokes people bring a full bar on board! Which leads them to drink more than normal, which leads them to have to use the head more, which leads them to not wearing sunscreen and getting drunk and tired, which leads me to operating a vessel with 3 or 4 intoxicated and sunburned sloths who realize they are supposed to get into a car in a few hours.
 
  • Like
Likes: Br3nt

CarlN

.
Jan 4, 2009
505
Ketch 55 Bristol, RI
A few rules I've picked up over the years

No alcohol underway. Solves a lot of problems.

No guest's for more than 4 nights (5 days).

No sleeping in. Breakfast at 8. Anchor comes up at 9. Everyone on deck.

No hard suitcases. Don't bring any clothes or shoes that you mind getting salt water on. No hairdryers.

Guests must protect from sunburn (since it screws up everyone's trip). Everyone puts on suntan block right after breakfast. Hats required. Shirts required for first two days.

Guests to pick up any restaurant tabs as their contribution
 
Last edited:
Aug 28, 2006
424
Bavaria 35E seattle
At one time I had a safety sheet I'd pass out before a social sail with the location of fire extinguishers, etc and at the end, it said something like, "for everyone's enjoyment no talking about your failed marriage, stock market losses, kids in jail or rehab, your medical problems or those of your friends and family." I suppose it did leave room for politics and religion. I did pick those particular subjects though because I had suffered through those conversations.
 
  • Like
Likes: Boomer54
Oct 26, 2010
1,231
Hunter 40.5 Beaufort, SC
But I have my foolproof ways of making them fun for all and very restful for the difficult one, so it almost always works out well.
Okay @capta - you can't drop a bomb like that and leave us hanging. :huh: Come on man! We might not be Charter Captains but most of us have guests on board at one time or another and could use your tips.
 
  • Like
Likes: Mikem
Dec 25, 2000
4,565
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
Several years ago our little flotilla of four boats (Bob-Mariposa, John-Friehet, Colin-Wassail, Terry-Belle-Vie) made a anchorage stop in Port Browning for the night on our way north for an extended cruise to the Broughtons. After visiting with an old sailing friend on Pender, we returned to Belle-Vie for skipper's night before retiring. I had a bottle of Brandy on board that John began working on. This was one of those nights that our discussions lasted into the wee hours of the morning and no topic off limits.

John had been hitting the Brandy pretty hard before it was time to return to our own boats on a pitch dark moonless night. Before leaving John had to relieve himself and did so in the aft cabin head. Soon there was a loud thud of a commotion coming from the head. It seemed that as he was finishing up he leaned back a bit thinking the shower curtain was a bulkhead, but instead fell back landing butt first in the deep sit tub. My only regret is I have no picture of it. After much hooting, hollering and grunting, I manage to extract him from the tub and helped him teeter his way up the companionway to the deck so he can board his dinghy all while trying to convince him to stay on Belle-Vie for the night.

As John stepped over the cockpit coaming he tripped over one of the genoa sheets and down he went banging his head on a stanchion and cutting his forehead. Sheesh. Not a deep cut, but some bleeding, so I dashed for the first aid kit and got him bandaged. Then, after using my spotlight to help escort the other skippers back to their boats, John agreed to spend the night aboard. Needless to say he suffered a headache the next morning, more so from too much Brandy, but this little incident has been played back many times in our following skipper's nights with much laughter and knee slapping.
 
  • Ha
Likes: jssailem

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
4,054
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Okay @capta - you can't drop a bomb like that and leave us hanging. :huh: Come on man! We might not be Charter Captains but most of us have guests on board at one time or another and could use your tips.
I'm sorry, but that one will remain a secret.
I find the list and rules interesting, since we can basically not refuse any of those things except the guests picking up a restaurant tab (not that I would, except they often consider it part of the tip, and most restaurants we frequent, the crew eats free, anyway) should we go out to eat together.
We can only suggest that they cover up or use sunblock (especially the northern Europeans) once or twice, as they are adults and we have no business telling them what to do.
Those charters where alcohol is included, we rarely have a problem, but when it is not, we have had only one guest who was inebriated for the whole trip, drinking a case of beer a day! However, as a newlywed, he didn't cause us any problems. They only made rare appearances on deck.
One really interesting thing, because 90% of our guests have been Europeans, politics is not only not prohibited, it is encouraged. We have had guests who grew up in East Germany, West Germany, the USSR and a couple who were teens when the Allies got to Berlin! All the interesting stories of those places that all we got was propaganda about. The elderly German couple, obviously in their 80s though still cognizant and spry, still thought of the Allies as the invaders and even recommended a book by a Jew that proposed that the Holocaust was a myth! I did check it out, but did no read it.
The European views on trump were very illuminating.
So, for any of you who may be considering chartering as income, be aware that the pleasure boat rules do not apply (especially the nice one about weather windows) and you have basically relinquished your boat to the whims of your guests, within the realm of safety. That's where my degree in psychology comes to be helpful.
 
Jun 3, 2004
34
Catalina 34MKII 1717 Merritt Island, FL
I tend to be choosy when inviting people aboard. I make sure they know what they are getting into. if they do have too much to drink, I keep a supply of non-alcoholic beverages (O'doul's, ect). I will then switch their beverage with a non alcoholic type. They never seem to know the difference.
 
  • Like
Likes: tfox2069
Oct 22, 2014
13,454
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I will then switch their beverage with a non alcoholic type. They never seem to know the difference.
A very old bartender trick. Often the altered drinks are on the house if the customer has been a frequent and nice customer. :biggrin:
 
Oct 26, 2010
1,231
Hunter 40.5 Beaufort, SC
I will then switch their beverage with a non alcoholic type. They never seem to know the difference.
Good thought but for the beer drinkers either you have to pour the beer out of the can, they have to not recognize the non-alcoholic brand, or be so plastered they can't read. Would work great for fru-fru drinks where you don't taste the alcohol anyway. Good idea to try though.

I've been lucky enough with guests onboard that its not been a problem with alcohol but there is always a first time.
 

Tom J

.
Sep 30, 2008
1,711
Catalina 310 Quincy, MA
I have learned to consider sea state when guests are aboard. We once sailed out of Osterville Cut on Cape Cod into some chop that had a wave or two come over the bow. We settled into a brisk sail in the 3' chop, and I thought our guests would be enjoying the experience. It wasn't long, however, before they politely asked if maybe we would consider heading back to shore. Upon closer inspection, it did appear that they were indeed somewhat green about the gills. Lesson learned.
 
  • Like
Likes: jssailem
Dec 29, 2008
762
Treworgy 65' Custom Steel Pilothouse Staysail Ketch St. Croix, Virgin Islands
This list was on a boat we purchased several decades ago. An easy way to remember to show a guest what/where/how to behave, before the boat leaves the dock.
Great document. I'm borrowing this and adapting it to our needs. I always give a safety briefing for any new guests, and this will be a great supplement. I'm going to print it double sided and have it laminated. Thanks for the idea.