Thursday, July 2, 2015

Whitsundays 2015: Finding the Crew

In my last post I mentioned that I planned to take Dreamagic south for a couple of months. Since then I have been busy getting a crew together to make that plan a reality.

The itinerary is to leave Cairns on the 18th July, and take until the 30th of July to get to Hamilton Island. Then sail around the Whitsundays for a month before making our way back to Cairns for mid September. One of the problems encountered early in the planning is where crew can embark and disembark. After Cairns, there is Townsville, perhaps Bowen, and then Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. I know from experience it is much easier to move crew to the boat rather than the boat to the crew, so this became the skeleton for the trip.

I posted my plan on Facebook and also used word of mouth to see who amongst my friends were interested in coming along. Whitsunday Sailing at $50 per day for the boat, accommodation, food, fuel, marina fees, in fact everything except grog, I thought it was a good deal. My plan was a slow trip down, stopping at the islands outside the charter boat cruising grounds. Sundowners and fires on the beaches, swimming, snorkeling, reading, listening to music, playing guitar, (which is not the same thing if I am involved), swapping stories, meeting other adventurers living the same life. Somewhere fit in watching the Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, and Magnetic Island regattas, and drop in on the SICYC Rendezvous as well. Alas, although a few people showed initial interest, either timing was poor or it didn't seem sufficiently exciting to attract a crew.

Next step was Gumtree. I put an advert on that for people interested in joining for all or part of the trip and got several replies. I had no preconceived ideas of who would be interested but I assumed backpackers would make up the majority. I was very wrong. I had multi national company executives, business owners, a farming couple and a couple of experienced cruisers. I had inquiries from New Zealand and even the USA wanting to join. Of course I also got a lot of inquiries from dreamers who had watched Pirates of the Caribbean once too often, or who who were looking for more than was being offered. I replied to all, and as an initial selection criteria gave them the Website and Facebook addresses to look at Dreamagic, and me, make a decision and come back if they were still interested.

Interestingly, the younger demographic were very keen initially and writing to me constantly with questions, queries etc, but then as the departure dates got closer the calls got fewer until they finally disappeared off the radar. I suppose there are always some people who want to keep their options open, and I suppose there are some who are full of intention but lack the courage or whatever to make that first step. The “I would like to but...” brigade. However it is difficult from a skippers point of view to commit a berth to someone if they can’t commit to the boat.

I was at a loss as to how to be able to select who was coming and who I had to turn away.  The most important qualification to get on board is not an ability to sail, but an ability to get along with everyone else. If there are 5 people on board then there are 25 relationships going on. Only one needs to break down for there to be problems aboard, and a yacht is a very small place to be. Like locking 5 people in a 40 foot container for a couple of weeks. Shake well, and see who is still talking to each other when you open the doors.

I found an unlikely ally in Facebook. I know all recruiters already know this but looking up someone's Facebook page gives you a good idea of what sort of person they are. What they share indicates what they are passionate about, what they post shows what is important to them. Its not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Taking into account people's preferences for where to get on and off, I made the offers and assembled the crew. And I think Dreamagic has a great crew lined up!  I have at least two people for each part of the journey, as many as four for some. and we even have a professional chef! Some people are doing one leg, some are staying on for two. The pick up and drop off dates are finalised, commitments are now made, travel plans are in place, first leg crew are flying in on the 17th by which time the boat will be provisioned and fuelled. We will push off on the 18th, first stop will probably be Fitzroy Island, then wherever the whim takes us. 
More as the trip progresses.

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