It is with a certain embarrassment and not a little concern that, as one wanders the streets of Antibes and other harbours, you become aware of the various stages of deterioration in the standards of dress and personal standards amongst the British yacht crews.
As a mark of ones maturity and professional standards, SOME crews are quite happy, no, even eager, to don the informal "uniform" of the boats that they are working on emblazoned with the name of the vessel; the bigger the vessel the bigger the ego of the said crew. Yet, with the same breath, as soon as it is "stand down time", the said crews hang around the vessels and go ashore in the most rag tag clothing imaginable.
What is the problem here? In such a sensitive and highly image conscious industry such as ours, one would think that a formal dress code would be observed. Alas, no! If any one is to blame for this situation then it should be firmly laid at the door of the Captainsâ€¦ and not the owners.
There is this curious anomaly of wanting to carry the rank of Captain of a vessel, and yet, not wanting to make any outward signs of being the said person carrying the final responsibility of that vessel.
It is time to air one or two myths here. The "dress down" code that is in force in the boating industry owes it origins to two world wars.
When, due to a crisis of manning within the Naval and Marine services, officers of the Royal and Merchant Navy would scour every harbour and brook looking for anyone who could man and operate a vessel; no matter how small and insignificant the vessel was,
that he was in charge of.
It took only a few weeks of this before many a rich owner and not a few Britains of "heroic" strains quickly adopted the clothing of"stoker third class" thus escaping the eagle eye of the said officers who were looking for leadership material. This situation lasted well into the sixties because memories were long and bitter; a time when most of todayÂ´s Captains were being forged.
Myth number 2.
What is a Captain and what is a Skipper? Let us deal with the skipper first. A man in charge of a fishing, harbour, or sailing vessel who has had no formal training but has been exercising this occupation for most of his working life. Ergo,in this enlightened societyâ€¦.What is a Captain? A man who has received formal training in the use of, handling of, and command of any vessel to which he is assigned. This training being recognized by the issue of formal documentation with the approval of and seal of a recognized official body. From that moment on, this person is an officially recognized Captain both privately and officially and should exercise this authority and responsibility accordingly.
Gentlemenâ€¦. how many of you are in possession of the said documentation that has been issued by the said authorities? And yet, some of you slink around the vessels and harbour bars not sure as to what you are; dreading the day that the owner comes on board and you are required to look smart in a uniform. Is it not true that most of you do not wear uniforms and apply a dress code on your vessels, because you are afraid to look silly in front of your colleagues? Is it also not true that many of you do not apply a dress code because you do not want to be seen by those who might be asking for money orâ€¦answers? Is it not true that many of you are just too lazy to even bother with the effort of trying to look smart. In which case one is bound to ask the question if, all of the above is true then why are you Captain of a Million $ vessel? Why go to the effort of all that training and experience, minimum of 10 years, to then deny the responsibilities of that rank that you have earned?
The Captain is the ranking officer on board any vessel and as such that vessel lives and dies according to the standards that he sets.
If the Captain and crew are seen to work around the vessel and go ashore in a shambolic state then that applies a stigma to the said vessel. A tight crew means a tight vessel; and that reflects itself in the respect and increased status that serving on that vessel brings to every member of the crew. So, gentlemen. It is time that we took more pride in that which we have achieved and accept the trappings of apparel that such recognition brings with it. If not for the fact that our esteem in the eyes of our hosts would rise
Instead of looking like a rag tag navy of the Dieppe beaches, we could begin to look like the professionals that we are supposed to be!
Captain G.D.Dawson - Ocean Master Charters and Yacht Management .