The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Having Crew Onboard

Mary Kruger

Fraser 41
February 27th, 2023

Learning and development professionals say that you really know and understand something when you can teach it to others. I was reminded of this when our dear friends Pam and Rick joined us for the trip from San Diego to Mexico. They were both new to sailing and we wanted them to have an enjoyable experience.

It was both Dave’s and my job to introduce our friends to the world of sailing and all Synchronicity’s ins and outs. I didn’t realize the benefits of teaching our friends the ropes on Synchronicity.

Questioning my sailing knowledge and ability is something I do regularly. I knew I could show our friends some basics. For instance, I always feel like I have it together when it comes to provisioning (that’s figuring out what food to buy and prepare for our trip). Yet I think I lack in the sailing category and all things to do with running the boat.

Rick on day watch and Pam’s 0300 night watch

What I learned on this leg is that I really do know more about Synchronicity and all her systems, quirks, and idiosyncrasies than I give myself credit for. I taught Rick and Pam how to use the stove and head; what the different boat names are – like the galley for the kitchen (why is that?), and sheets not ropes; what to be aware of on the 3 hour watches when underway; anchoring, and a lot more. It was definitely a boost to my confidence to show our friends what our life was like sailing. My inner saboteurs once again were quieted as I taught our friends each new thing.

Seeing Pam and Rick experience their firsts sailing reinforced how special this lifestyle is. Sunrises and sunsets reignited my passion for nature’s incredible beauty.

Sunset in San Carlos, Baja, Mexico and moonrise on passage

Watching the antics of pelicans made me laugh. Seeing the stray dogs in the Mexican streets brought back memories from 23 years ago when our daughter Jess wanted to bring every stray back to the boat.

A stray dog and pelicans at Isla Cedros.

Through the eyes of our friends, we saw the humour of our sailing life. Pam would crawl into the aft cabin, remarking the bunk was like a one person sleeping bag for two! She added she felt like she was a butterfly going into its cocoon. After struggling with seasickness in rough conditions, Pam remarked, “I left my stomach in San Diego.” Pam added that the best of sailing was hitting 9.2 kn under a full moon with flat seas. And the worst of sailing? Leaving San Diego harbour and feeling like we were being tossed around in a washing machine.

Watching Pam and Rick share in experiencing our lifestyle firsthand makes me appreciate all over again how fortunate I am to be on this adventure, and how grateful I am to Dave for being my partner in all of this. Oh ya… and I’ve got this!

Planning for Crew

A checklist/communication to give to crew ahead of them joining the boat:

  • Water and power are a limited resource on a sailboat. Showers will be kept to a minimum – maybe once a week. For the female guests, wipes are helpful – just never put them down the head;
  • Internet and data (which you might purchase) may not be available, or if it is, the reception can be limited or spotty;
  • Bring clothing to layer, dependent on where you are sailing – including gloves and toques. Although it may be warm during the day, overnight passages can be chilly;
  • Bring rain pants and a light raincoat for wind, boat spray, and rain;
  • Bring suntan lotion, ball cap and sunglasses for the sun and reflection from the water;
  • Bring water shoes or sandals that can get wet, for surf and beach landing;
  • Discuss any food allergies/ intolerance prior to arriving. Our crew brought their own gluten free pasta – it’s now become our favorite on Pasta Tuesday;
  • No suitcases allowed (use duffels). Discuss the space restrictions on the boat – our sleeping bunks are snug – 4’ at the widest, narrowing to 2’ at the foot;
  • Discuss shared responsibilities – for e.g. everyone helps with cleaning and food prep;
  • Discuss watches – we did 3-hour watches with 2 people on watch. We also explained that watches are like a job to take seriously and be on time for;
  • Try out seasick meds prior to arriving at the boat. Although you may not think you will get seasick, most people do get sick if the conditions are right. We found Cinarizina (Stugeron) and Ondansetron work for different people. Cinarizina is available in most pharmacies in Mexico but is not available in Canada or the US. We obtained Ondansetron by prescription before leaving Canada;
  • Agree ahead of time on expenses. For example, are you splitting things 50% – and what’s included in that? We always asked for separate bills when we ate out and we split the costs in half for food, fuel, moorage, visas, Uber, car rentals etc.


  1. JANE GOUNDREY says:

    Great article, thank you
    We have never had crew on board ( for passage making) but I thought all your thoughtful suggestions were well worth saving in case we ever do.
    We sailed from San Diego to Mazatlan in 2015. Our boat was new to us, thankfully the seas were kinder to us than to you – calm the whole way.
    However, the previous owner had NOT thought to cancel HIS permit to have the boat in Mexico. And we had no way to get ahold of him to confirm it was no longer his boat – just an illegible signature on a piece of paper in a foreign language ( English). Whereas the documents on Mexican official computers clearly proclaimed him as the owner. You can imagine the bureaucratic unhappiness in Ensenada.
    You could say that was when WE hit stormy weather… sorted eventually thanks to the kindness of Mexican strangers.

    Best wishes for your trip,
    Jane Goundrey

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m so glad you found my article helpful. Sorry to hear about your boat challenges. Glad you got it sorted out. Where are you now?

      1. Anonymous says:

        Oh , we are back in Bc.
        Moor at Steveston
        All good !

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