Tall Ship Crew

In the boating community, we're always talking about how much we love Boat People. My friend Christy, aboard her and her partner's new-ish Caliber 40' cruising cutter, is one of the friendliest, most generous people I have ever met, and has sailed fiberglass sloops since childhood. She has hung out with many of my friends from different sides of the maritime world; diesel engineers, fisheries researchers, cooks, wooden boat sailors, engineless sailors, research vessel crew, etc. etc. She often says out loud and in a fond tone; "I love boat people!" 

I feel the same, though I know there's bad apples in every bunch (I'm a little rotten myself sometimes) and the boating community may be more varied in it's types of members than just about any group of folks with a common interest. There exists elitism in the boating world like any other. Engineless sailors vs. aux. engine sailors, sailing "yachts" vs everyone else, motor yachts vs. sailboats, wooden boats vs. fiberglass boats, working mariners vs. cruisers, and then there's tall ship sailors vs. everyone else. 

Liveaboard tall ship crew are unique compared to most liveaboard pleasure and merchant vessels. They volunteer to endure a strict schedule and long days of work on someone else's boat in return the experience and seamanship skills gained, community and camaraderie, sea time, and almost NO PAY. Most sign up for a minimum four month contract that rarely includes benefits. When I first boarded the Lady Washington in 2003, I volunteered for two weeks before landing an $800 per month stipend as steward (good pay for that boat), and got my first day off three months later. The point is that merchant mariners work hard for decent money, and pleasure cruisers own their boats and can usually do what they want, when they want, while tall ship sailors have volunteered to give their strength and love to the tall ship experience and furthering maritime culture. Why, then, am I hearing so often from non-tall ship crew or alumni crew that when they go to visit a tall ship, they are ignored and even snubbed by crew?  

Tall ship crew are there to foster interest in maritime culture by all of those who visit. Dealing with the public isn't always fun, but the catch is that if they don't engage visitors in a positive way, this way of life that they/we enjoy will continue to lose funding and disappear

Bryce wrote a great piece about this in the last issue of JT and I will post that later, but I'd love to hear some thoughts on why some of the boat crew act a little more elitist and/or unfriendly than they should...


  1. Good question. All serious endeavours foster an elitism to those prone to wear that mantle. It's the same with climbers, brokers, insurance salesman and artists. It's a choice about how to meet the world. For the most, boat people, like potters, tend to open and friendly, and eager to communicate. But one will inevitably encounter the other sorts on occasion.

  2. i am incredibly excited that you have brought this topic to your publication. i have been ruminating on the subject since i began serving the tall ship industry in a hospitality capacity. truth be told-it sucks to answer the same question over and over again-i understand this. my first experience on board a tall ship as a passenger (over ten years ago) provided me with a first hand experience of the unpleasant side of deck tours and crew interaction.
    when asked, and at the risk of setting up my milk carton, i wax loquacious on the subject to anyone who will stand still for 10 minutes. i hope the topic remains alive and fruitful in the watery world.

  3. According to Winston Churchill, with tall ship sailors, "It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash."