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HomeMembership and Crew Guidelines

Member and Crew Guidelines

rev. 9/23/2014

This document outlines general participation etiquette for both crew and skippers. Please read this document completely - it is important for the functioning of the club.

Skippers should additionally be aware of Skipper Expectations (a separate document).

Protocol for Visiting Reciprocal PICYA Clubs

Many yacht clubs in the area belong to PICYA and, out of generosity, allow ‘paper clubs’ such as SSA to visit. As a paper club, we cannot offer cruise-in facilities to these yacht clubs. It is very important to behave courteously so that we remain welcome. All it takes is one individual - one incident - and the club may find we are not welcome there.

You should only enter a yacht club under PICYA reciprocal privilege by invitation from a member of the host yacht club, or granted permission upon each entry. You should know and abide by all rules of the host yacht club, including signing the guest log and wearing a name badge, and conduct yourself in a manner consistent with being a guest of the club.

Note that any conflict or complaint arising out of your visit that is reported by a yacht club representative or other SSA member may be reviewed by the SSA Board of Directors whereby a determination of inappropriate action may result in revocation of your PICYA membership and/or SSA membership.

Pets and Yacht Clubs

Our host yacht club, Ballena Bay Yacht Club, does not embrace pets in the clubhouse. Please do not bring any animal for any reason to the meetings. This policy should be observed for all other yacht clubs at all times.

Understanding Access to Boats

It should be understood by crew members of SSA that joining does NOT guarantee access to a boat. Each boat is independently owned and maintained by the various Skippers. Do not confuse SSA with clubs such as Club Nautique, Trade Winds or OCSC, which guarantee you access to boats by paying dues and monthly fees (after certification). Note that fees in those clubs can be substantial amounting to thousands of dollars per year.

Access to SSA boats is only through the generosity of the various Skippers. It is up to each member to contact the various Skippers and request to be crew on their boats, unless there is a designated host for a sailing day who is coordinating the sailing. Each Skipper makes their own decision as to who they wish to accept as crew. Skippers typically give preference to those with good sailing abilities and who exhibit good crew manners (outlined in this document)

Reading Email and Attending Meetings

Skippers will typically announce opportunities to go out on their boats through the website email broadcast and/or at our monthly membership meeting. Club events are announced in the same manner. It is incumbent for each crew member to read email and/or check the website for events and respond to the skipper or event organizer.

Logging Into The Website

You should know how to log onto the website in order to check a skipper profile, respond to discussion topics, and to keep your profile information up to date. If you don’t know how to log onto the website, then ask.

In your member profile on the website, you can categorize your sailing ability in your profile. Click on “Profile” by hovering over your name, then “Additional Member Data”. Use the following criteria and do not over-estimate yourself:

  • Novice – I have little experience crewing a boat.

  • Crew – I have a foundation of experience sailing a boat through some prior instruction or experience. With some direction, I can operate a winch, handle dock lines, trim sails, and/or steer a course.

  • Advanced Crew – I have significant prior instruction and experience. I have owned a boat or have crewed on boats dozens of times. I know how to help dock a boat and how to help reef. I have my own PFD, foul weather gear, and sail rain or shine in winds that can be severe. I can steer the boat on a bearing or by the wind. I know how to trim sails and use winches. I know at least three knots.

  • Skipper – I meet “Advanced Crew” status and own or have owned a boat and am familiar with all major aspects of sailing in San Francisco Bay. I could act as a guide for an inexperienced or out-of-area skipper, and take over the helm when needed.

Club Participation

In order for the club to work, SSA members need to take an active approach to the club. This includes reading e-mails, website information, and attending meetings, so that you know when the skippers need crew. In the past, skippers have left the club citing lack of crew participation. Make a commitment to at least two events per year.

Responding to the Club Organizers

It is important that you respond to event invitations, surveys, and other communication - either yes, no, or maybe. When members don’t respond, it is very discouraging to those who are trying to organize events.


  • Call the skipper to confirm you have been notified you were selected as crew

  • Make sure you know how to get to the dock or meeting location.

  • Ask any questions about directions before the day of the sail when the skipper will be busy getting the boat ready.

  • Respond to phone calls and check email regularly prior to your trip

Following Skipper's Rules

Following the rules and requirements of each Skipper is important for safety as well as taking care of the mechanicals of the boat. If you have not owned a boat before, some of the rules may seem excessive. Keep in mind that if you violate a rule, the Skipper may make a mental note, and you may have lost the ability to get a ride on that boat permanently. Skippers work hard to maintain and pay for their boats, and tend to have a long memory when it comes to damage or dangerous situations being created by not following their rules.

Crew Skill

Many skippers need at least one crew member capable of helping them sail the boat. If you do not have the experience or physical ability to help operate a boat, make sure the skippers knows that. If you do not have advanced crew skills, you may be able to bribe your way aboard with offers of tasty snacks.

Crew Attitude

Although it may take some time to gain sailing skill, you can decide today to have a good attitude. To be good boat crew, it is important to have good “boat manners”, which are specific to sharing the small spaces on a boat, and having a good outing. It is best to leave laziness, rebellion, and feelings of entitlement at the dock. Here are some prime examples of these principles:

  • Be prompt to move around the boat as needed, to shift weight, allow access for others to move around.

  • Be good at taking ‘orders’. This fading art is still important in the nautical world. Contrary to intuition, the best leaders and highest achievers know how to carry out orders.

  • Do not feel you are entitled to be late, break rules, or get away with contributing as little as possible, or even to be given instruction. .

How To Accept a Skipper Invitation - or- Registering for an Event

  1. If you have a prior engagement that is anytime close to the planned return time, make sure it is stated before you accept. It is upsetting when one crew member cuts the day short for all by announcing in the middle of the sail that they have a dinner date and need to get back to the dock at a certain time.

  2. Let the skipper know of any physical limitations, permanent or temporary. Examples :

    1. Commit to going and do not cancel

    2. Communicate your status (see the section on “Communication”)

    3. Check the Skipper Profile page in the Members section on the website (login required)

    4. Ask any question about departure time, trip details, meeting location, and return time prior to departure day.

    5. Know which gate of the marina to meet at. Some marinas are serviced by different roads - get all that information in advance

    Preparing Your Equipment and Food

    1. Bring enough warm clothing to not be cold (conditions on SF Bay can be winter-like even on the warmest days inland) Consider buying either rain gear or foul weather gear for winter sailing. A cold crew makes mistakes and doesn’t have as much fun as a warm crew does.

    2. Clothing tips: An outer jacket that sheds water will prevent your clothes from getting wet. Wear pants that are quick dry (please, no metal rivets). Bring layers of clothing so you can adjust for warm or cold.

    3. PFD – Although each Skipper will provide you with a PFD, there are large framed and small framed bodies and the Skipper provided PFD may not fit very well or may be just downright uncomfortable.

    4. Bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. Gloves can also be handy.

    5. Generally, limit carry-on to one small bag of clothing, and one small bag of food. Many skippers are very sensitive to excess bags brought aboard due to limited storage space and the hassle.

    6. Any food brought aboard should be in non-breakable containers with a sealed lid, and contained within a bag that latches closed.

    7. Wines – Some Skippers allow red wines, some don’t, so check with each Skipper.

    8. Alcohol - Check the skipper profile or ask them about their rules on alcohol and honor their request. Always drink lightly during a sailing day to prevent accidents and to have your wits about you for mishaps, which are not uncommon and occur regardless of weather and sometimes while at anchor.

    9. Try and bring food and drink that the Skipper enjoys.

    10. No coolers unless previously approved by the Skipper.

    11. No shoes that scuff the deck and leave marks. Check your shoe sole before stepping on board to ensure that no pebbles, wires, nails or screws are stuck in the shoe sole which could scratch the deck.

    12. Bring quality food and drinks. After putting in hard work and time to keep a boat operational, it is insulting when crew brings cheap stuff aboard a boat.

    13. Bring a little extra to share with other crew - and the skipper!

    Sailing Day

    1. Be on time

    2. If you are starting to feel ill, including seasickness. Do not hide the fact.

    3. Ask questions if you are not sure what is expected.

    4. Understand head usage – Each crew member should understand completely how to use the head prior to leaving the dock. This is important, as improper use of the head can fill the cabin with sea water. Also, it is best to put NOTHING solid in the head except marine toilet paper. Keep in mind most Skippers prefer that everyone, including men, sit whenever using the toilet.

    5. Know the hand holds – Have the Skipper point out what is good to grab onto while underway and what should not be grabbed.

    6. Do not go out of the cockpit, except to go below, unless permission requested first. This is especially true of the forward deck.

    7. Keep cell phone use to a minimum while on board.

    8. Wear a PFD while on deck.

    9. Help clean the boat up when the sail is over. Skippers notice who dashes off without helping to put away the boat

    Saying Thanks To The Skipper

    Per Coast Guard Regulations skippers are not allowed to accept direct remuneration for having you aboard their boat unless they hold a Masters License. Some skippers will accept a donation towards fuel, but even that is a gray area. However, there are traditional ways of saying thank you beyond the words themselves. The most common is to buy the skipper a drink the next time you are at a social gathering – go ahead and say “Let me buy you a drink as a thank you for a wonderful sail.” Another, if you dock for a meal, is to split the cost of the skipper's meal amongst the crew.