What astounds me is the patience and willingness to help of those sailors in the Zodiacs. Could it be an acknowledgement that "they've all been there", or simply that the presence of the charter fleet and their sometimes woefully inexperienced crews is part of the price for "another day in Paradise"? I find their forbearance inspiring, anyway. Maybe while they were helping, spouses and crew were dialling 1-800-UHITMEE.
Some European sailors are critical (and rightly so, in my opinion) that North American recreational sailors, and particularly Americans from certain underregulated states, are not required to have much, if anything, in the way of licencing or boater education in order to operate a boat.
Clearly, a landlubber or daysailer handed the keys to a Sun Odyssey 42 or an equivalent large cruiser is not likely to be the smoothest operator in a crowded anchorage. Most sailors I've met in Canada and the States seem to exhibit a prudent attitude and a willingness to learn, if not in a regulated fashion, but the official qualifications absent or minimal (like Canada's PCOC) are only part of the story.
A basic grasp of physics as it pertains to objects in motion comes into play, and without that, you can get into trouble quickly. The fellow I share my 33 footer with is a long-time passenger jet co-pilot: his docking is a thing of beauty to watch because he is very used to the idea of incremental applications of power to relatively heavy moving objects. Ergo, he docks with the snooker-expert finesse that took me, a non-driver of everything but boats and bicycles, some time to acquire, and I still have to buff out the odd graze on the topsides.
By way of contrast and comparison, here's an example of great helming in extreme conditions. Note particularly that the skipper has aimed for the seawall, knowing he'll be slewed sideways by a big wave, which will allow him to pass into his basin.
The counter-argument against licensing and certification of boaters is that even in places with more onerous licensing regimes than in North America, you can get idiotic behaviour on, in this case, the roads:
The short form of this is "you can't fix stupid, but you can give it a licence." I've been informed that most of the really bad stuff here is from Eastern Europe, which may play into the stereotype of the fatalistic Slav...I'll leave that to others to determine. I don't even own a car (although I can drive) and have no current road licence.
It is true, however, that the lack of educational qualifications to drive a boat in much of the Caribbean is what makes credit-card captains (a great term, by the way) makes the charter business possible.
And the charter insurance business. Man, talk about a job for life. I hope that the rising rates that industry must have to impose doesn't kill chartering. What I do hope is that it helps to drive a higher bar for the sort of training required to leave the dock in the first place. The bleating from certain quarters about "over-regulation" and "freedom" aside, there is an element of responsibility and safety awareness in working a multi-ton boat, and I do not find it unreasonable that people doing so, particularly on the casual basis of a winter charter holiday, should be exempt.
The charter industry won't like it, though.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Just a few personal notes about your excellent post on credit card captains.Good information! As is probably apparent, I posted that Cielo video primarily for the grim humour value of seeing what appears to be hapless charter crew out of their depth (so to speak). It's "horrible warning" stuff.. But the issue of non-standard sailing qualifications being required to get on charter boats persists, because requiring everyone to have an ICC would be seen as a drag on business. So dragging on anchor rodes and the crunching sound of low-speed collisions that may or may not "buff out" should be part of Paradise for a little while yet, unfortunately.
The video is by Rick Moore, a Torontonian who now lives in Grenada. He’s a professional videographer and charter skipper who probably helped the bungling beginners because he did not want to see more havoc wreaked in the anchorage and because of a seafarer’s duty to assist (although it could be argued that neither boat nor crew were in any real danger).The larger chartering companies with newer boats now require their customers to have some formal training and experience. See this from Sunsail: http://www.sunsail.com/experience-required/experience-levels. Note the sentence: If we feel that you may need assistance, we reserve the right to add an instructional skipper to your charter. We are chartering two Bavarias from Horizon with my family at Christmas, they were satisfied with my credentials but they would not let my children skipper their own boat until they showed their US Sailing Bareboat Certification.The boat in the video, Cielo de Dios, a 1996 Beneteau 505, has been shifted from top-tier TUI (Moorings-Sunsail) further down the quality line as she got older. I’ve seen her a few times in the BVI; she has a bad reputation and those in the know keep well clear of her, if at all possible. When I was anchored off Jost last year, her crew dropped anchor on top of another boat’s anchor and then she drifted within a couple of feet of our bow. Typical Cielo crew. So It’s the lower tier chartering companies that are less demanding. Old boats, not in great condition, such as the one on the video. And yes, the insurers must love them.About qualifications, many European countries now require some proof of competence from operators, although most have not adopted the UNECE’s Resolution 40. Country regulations are confusing and even vary from port to port, particularly in the southern European countries. Normally, a vessel that complies with her flag’s regs is accepted “as is” in other countries. But it seems it’s not always the case.