Intoxication of crewmembers is a serious matter and unfortunately has been attributed to the recent fatality of a crewmember in Antibes (reported on Here, in a preview of an article in issue 65 of The Crew Report, two superyacht captains – one who runs a wet boat and one teetotal who runs a dry boat – enter into a dialogue on the subject of alcohol and its limits on board.

Anonymous captain

Alcohol (its availability and restriction) would be alongside salary and leave terms as the most decisive factors for crew in the yachting community. There are those who believe that alongside salary and leave, access to yacht-supplied alcohol is a right of the crew. This argument will present the position that there is no way for alcohol to be provided on a yacht without an unacceptable risk and breach of the captain’s legal responsibilities.
The timeless counter-argument is that yachts are manned by “responsible adults doing responsible jobs”. I do not disagree with this statement, though I am hoping readers can be honest with themselves and accept this position as flawed when applied to alcohol. When two beers are just touching the sides, your friend joins you for a third and the laughs are just beginning as you are offered a fourth – tell me I am wrong.

Experienced captains are clear on the laws, but also are clear on the fine balance it takes to keep their crews motivated. One approach that has been provided by a senior captain canvassed for this debate is:

“Booze – it’s a persistent issue and one for which it is so difficult to get the balance right between a beer for morale and atmosphere, and the excessive abuse so often seen. Despite SMS and alcohol policies I am yet to see anyone adhere to the rules, unless at sea when dry-ship is imposed. In port it is down to a responsible attitude and action only taken after the event, which of course can lead to fatal consequences – or you would have to have someone standing by on the gangway to breathalyse suspicious crew on their return.”

We wouldn’t put up with a pilot or bus driver drinking on the job. It’s time to crack down on drunken sailors.

Captain Herbert Magney, At Last

There is a really simple premise to this: I run a wet boat because I do what I am told by the owner and charterers of the boat – very straightforward. (As a matter of fact, many more folks would charter and own boats longer and sell them less often if more crew simply followed this premise.) I understand my position as the master of a yacht is to operate it to the legal and social standards put forth and provide the opportunity for the dreams and aspirations of those who are paying the tab to come true. We know and follow all laws and policies provided by international convention, flag state, port state, our insurers and local laws.

When it comes to the guests, we serve adult beverages to all those who are allowed when requested; when it comes to the crew, they follow the posted guidelines from our operations handbook. It is about reason, and I do not have a good reason to run anything other than a wet boat.

We have policies in place to inform our crew as to the consequences for committing to duty with any type of limitation or incapacity. We have chosen to adopt an alcoholic beverage policy in keeping with the concerns for and the risks associated with alcohol use: alcoholic beverages shall not be served or used on the boat without the knowledge and approval of the master; alcoholic beverages shall not be used in conjunction with performance of duties; crewmembers who may be allowed to have a drink with the owners or guests by their request are “taken out of the game”, so to speak – they would not be called upon to be ready for emergency situations nor regular duties. We have taken turns doing this many times and we advise our requesting owners and guests beforehand that for some of the crew to have a drink during regular hours on board is a special situation and the balance of the crew necessitates who will be called upon to maintain safety and service.

Find the full article in issue 65 of The Crew Report.

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