“If I’d had to work for a chief officer like the one I am now, I’d have told myself to go get fucked. Straight up.” Says chief officer Dirk – ‘The Jerk’ as his junior crew confessed to calling him – Carroway. “That’s the unvarnished truth. And I know varnish.”
A recent survey of chief officers and mates on vessels around the world, conducted by The General Alarm, indicates that the majority of participants agree; they just wouldn’t have stood for themselves.
“I ask a lot of my crew, and not a whole lot of myself.” Admits Dom Juan, first officer on a 73m motor yacht. “I’m usually the last one up in the morning, first one to knock off in the afternoon, and am fond of parcelling out lengthy job lists just before departing in the crew car at 10:00 a.m. for the rest of the day.” Asked for a specific example of a task or situation in which he asks more of his current crew than he would have been willing to give when he was a deckhand, Dom readily describes what he’d have done to a mate who requested that the tender be detailed after the mate had used it to go wakeboarding. Suffice to say the description of his likely actions, while detailed, did not involve the tender – or cleaning – in any way. “But not the kids these days, oh no. If I ask them to do something silly or annoying they just stare into space for a couple of seconds, take a breath, and then get stuck in. And I’m alright with that. I don’t mind long looks of defeat and self-doubt as to why they are here in this place with me. As long as I get a clean tender to go wakeboarding in.”
In the survey, 86% of respondents indicated they would have never taken a job working for themselves in the first place, were this hypothetical situation actually possible and they had known in advance they would be working for an older, lazier, more jaded version of themselves.
“If I know anything, I know myself.” States Shannon O’Shannon, mate on a large sailing vessel. “And I’m a real dick to work for. I don’t know how these guys do it. My work lists are so counter-productive and poorly thought out that sometimes they annoy even me, and I’m not the one doing the jobs.” Asked later to verify this claim of ill-conceived tasking, Mr. O’Shannon’s deck crew readily agreed that this was indeed the case.
In a follow up question at the end of the survey, the respondents were asked if they found their answers revealing. “I absolutely do,” Says Dirk (you know the rest) Carroway, nodding vigorously. “Knowing how much of a pain in the ass I am as a CO serves as a useful reminder that I never, ever, want to be a deckhand again. Really, when I think about it, that’s always been my motivation to keep climbing the career ladder. I guess you could say I’m trying to get out from under myself.”