As I Sea It: Most unpredictable elements are people and weather

As I Sea It: Most unpredictable elements are people and weather


What is the most challenging aspect of your business? My guess — dealing with people (i.e., employees, vendors and/or clients). Sailing Red Witch requires focus upon an additional challenging element — weather.

Quite often, midway through a private or public sail, passengers will recognize that the First Mate and Second Mate are extremely busy while the captain seems to be doing … well, virtually nothing.

Deckhands simultaneously monitor the needs of up to 49 passengers, raise sails, trim sails, ballantine spilled lines on deck (so the lines will neatly return up the masts), observe nearby boat traffic, maintain the vessel’s systems, clean and comply with the captain’s commands.

In contrast, the captain appears simply to handle steering (for approximately 60 seconds, then his hands are off the wheel/helm) and, sporadically, handles one line (the mainsail sheet). In truth the deckhand position is a multi-tasking nightmare — as there are only two deckhands, this is not a simple task.

And, yes, the captain typically does externally appear to be doing virtually nothing — as renowned naval architect John G. Alden designed Red Witch such that she takes care of herself (and her sailors) — as she steers herself (without mechanical or electric self-steering gear) in virtually any wind and sea conditions (she’s truly amazing in this regard).

Yet, internally, the captain is continuously focused on the macro-level … observing passengers, weather and calculating sailing strategy (sail combinations, when to adjust sail trim, when to tack/gybe (return), appropriate sail load considering imminent wind conditions, etc.) — in other words, the captain is perpetually monitoring and maintaining the safety of passengers, vessel and crew by focusing upon the two most unpredictable elements in life and business … namely, people and weather.

Deckhands not atypically joke with passengers — affirming their observation that it’s true they do all the work and the guy back at the helm, wearing four stripes, does nothing. Yet, whereas most people are well-behaved, on occasion passengers can be frail, young and restless, a bit too curious, or, you guessed it, a bit tipsy (inebriated).

Of course, weather is somewhat predictable (understatement); as an example, a severe thunderstorm can be birthed from blue sky in 30 minutes on days when ambient temperature rises above 90 degrees.

To this avail the captain quietly simultaneously monitors crew, passengers, radar, NOAA forecasts and, more so, apparent (and true) wind direction and wind speed, as this is the best predictor of pending weather patterns (as weather patterns are somewhat predictable as they are oftentimes cyclonic (circular) with counter-clockwise winds preceding storms). In fact, I love when we explain real-time wind patterns to passengers, and show them how to forecast weather shifts to the minute!

People and weather … unpredictable elements. All part of the fun and challenge of working aboard Red Witch!

We will be sailing from May 27 to Sept. 20 – join us for a memorable private event or public sail!

Capt. Andrew R. Sadock is president of Tall Ship Red Witch;


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