August 2014 on the Great Barrier Reef

Skippers Are Human Too
Captain Trevor Jackson

Myself and Peter Conlon are the full time Skippers on board Spoilsport. We work ‘week about’, and despite the obvious glamour and appeal of being the boss on the country’s best dive boat….our job is a serious one. The working week starts on a Thursday morning, a few hours after the boat has docked. We do a formal handover which consists of a meeting where we discuss the current issues of the vessel and its crew…this discussion includes matters like engineering problems, dive procedures, moorings and of course the crew; how they are going, what needs addressing, etc. The rest of the day is spent preparing the ship for departure that evening, which is usually around 1830 if everything is proceeding as normal.

Once we’ve left, the responsibility of the vessel and its entire compliment rests with us. People often talk about the job of skippering and refer to things like maneuvering, navigating and watch-keeping. It’s true that these things are important, and they have to be done with a high level of competency; but what a skipper really does is make decisions. Big decisions only come by every once in a while and they usually involve something unpopular. Things like having to cancel a scheduled activity because of weather, or deciding whether a particular crew person needs a ‘chat’, in the wheelhouse. This type of thing can be thankless and tough to do, but because the integrity of the ship and its safety is priority one…it doesn’t have to be popular. As a result, Peter and I are seen as the ‘serious’ ones on board, sometimes indeed we can seem ‘a little impersonable’, as one guest recently put it.
It’s probably not so strange then that both Peter and I have approached the problem of trying to seem more human to the folks on board with the same solution…at the end of each trip we reveal our inner rocker. Perhaps it’s all those long nights on the wheel or just coincidence, but I’ve always found that the incidence of sailors also being musicians is disproportionately high. Maybe it’s because we are out there in the deep blue yonder where no one can tell us to shut up! Maybe we just love the sound of our own voices! Whatever the reason, on any given final night on board Spoilsport, you can bear witness to this phenomenon in all its glory (or lack of glory) as we stumble and bash our way through just about any 70’s tune you’d care to mention. Some people love it, some people sit inside a read books! But we do it anyway…after all, Skippers are human too.

Rogues Gallery:

Photos of the Month:

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