December 7, 2023

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Good Captains and Great Captains

By John Crupi

Do you motivate and manage those around you? Do you inspire others to care and take pride in their work? Do you lead by example?

I believe one of my greatest accomplishments and rewards is seeing those that have worked under me move forward and thrive in what is becoming an increasingly competitive industry. I would never take credit for their achievements, but I hope that my leadership and mentorship played a role in their path to success.

As a captain, there are many ways to operate and maintain your vessel, manage contractors, communicate with crew and tackle the barrage of daily obligations that you have. However, it’s how you deal with each and every one of these demands that will set you apart.

Experience and Training

There is no substitute for experience and training when it comes to being the captain. Others will respect you for your achievements knowing that you earned them through hard work and dedication. Encourage others to further their training, proficiency and skills so that they can become well-rounded crew members prepared to move up the ladder. Be a good teacher, but challenge your students. I am always willing to “teach,” but only if the individual puts forth initial effort on their part. If you want to learn about the generator, air handler, ice machine and  anything else to do with the boat, read the manuals, watch videos and then let’s have a discussion about what you do and don’t understand.

Lead by Example

If you expect excellence then demonstrate excellence—in character, work ethic and responsibility. Communicate well and be approachable. Are your crew comfortable coming to you with a problem? Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. You must be willing to assist when help is needed. Be supportive and give guidance on ways to improve. Show those around you how and why you made it up the ladder. You’ve earned your place at the helm, but don’t forget what it took to get there.

Manage Expectations

It is important to establish expectations in all aspects of management. What do you expect from your crew? Your contractors? What does the owner of the vessel expect from you? When people have clear direction they have a better chance for success. How do you keep everyone informed and accountable for their responsibilities? Do you have weekly meetings and an open line of communication? Set yourself, and your crew, up for victory on a daily basis, not just on the tournament scales.

Planning and Execution

Preparation for a passage or tournament starts long before the day arrives. As captain you should be anticipating the challenges and ways in which to tackle them. Other people’s safety depends on your preparedness. Be proactive rather than reactive. Consider the obvious, such as weather, time, vessel safety and crew ability, but also the not-so-obvious, such as crew moral, food and entertainment, adequate rest and the benefits of going ashore or time off. Everyone’s definition of a “great captain” will vary, but leadership skills like effective communication, knowledge and expertise, along with courage, a bit of humility and a sense of humor, will serve them all well.

Captain John Crupi | Rubicon Maritime | Instagram @rubiconmaritime

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