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Gene Miller, a tall, lanky economist who looks more like the Marlboro man than a Washington, D. A few years ago, Gene bought a yellow-hulled CC racing boat, called Stinger, once renowned in the Annapolis area for being a sleek runner. The brass plaques that testify to her three wins in the Annapolis-to-Bermuda race are still screwed into her teak cabin wall.
That was in the s. Now, the plaques are time-tarnished and barely readable. The only automatic equipment on this boat is the GPS . That makes sailing Stinger solo a lot like bronco riding. Gene braces his feet in a solid position with knees controlling the helm a huge steering wheel and a line what sailors call rope to the jib the front sail in each hand for tacking turning the boat.
His knees are pressed against the wheel spokes as he guides the boat across the wind. The entire boat rocks to an opposite tilt. We have a lot in common. Getting crew is an age-old problem. In modern days, captains usually start by asking friends. None wanted to sail as much as he did. He got tired of asking and sold his boat. Jim Ritter keeps a foot sloop in Deale, Maryland, about a 20 minute drive south of Annapolis. Captains carefully guard their lists of potential crew and rarely share if asked.
Michael was seeking crew at a Listing Party in Eastport, an historic neighborhood on an Annapolis peninsula surrounded by water and marinas. A listing party is similar to a lawn cocktail party but skippers walk through the crowd looking for likely crew. Some are looking for racing crew and will ask for weight, height and experience to see if you fit their needs. Others want to simply cruise around the Bay and need people to keep their boat from bumping into things when necessary, maybe pull a line or two when told.
The Chesapeake Bay boating magazine Spin Sheet hosts listing parties on a regular basis. Blue names bring together the calmer cruising boats. Then, to make it flow better, everyone gets a plastic cup for beer or a rum drink provided by Spin Sheet as a courtesy. Various marinas host similar parties, usually in the Spring. For a time, listing parties were a prime source of crew, but attendance has been dying down for several years.
Experienced sailors told me that I could simply walk to the end of a pier on a summer weekend and introduce myself. What person who owns an expensive boat would want me — a stranger — to crew with them. I tried it at my neighborhood pier on the Severn River. Sure enough. I was invited on a boat. Gene tried advertising for crew in the classified section of a boating magazine, another traditional way of getting crew, especially for longer sails or transporting boats to the ocean or Gulf of Mexico.
Skippers, like Gene, are always looking for a new, better or different way to connect with people who can help get the boat in and out of the slip. Until the past couple years, the Internet had been used mainly as a posting board — to issue notices, advertise events, or search for crew. Yacht Clubs and Annapolis-area neighborhoods have websites where members can post their crew needs. It was similar to the pin-up board at a small town grocery store. Gene, wearing his traditional starched, buttoned-down long-sleeved shirt, comfortably worn blue jeans and scruffy raw-hide leather boat-shoes, speaks thoughtfully in a measured voice, with the stub of a lit cigarette waiving in one hand as he punctuates his point when explaining how he set out to learn about social networking.
He came across Meetup. The social networking website, Meetup, connects people who organize stuff with people who want to do stuff. It has almost 17 million members and has been ing up between 15, and 20, people every day. Jon also went online, but not through his own group, he connected with the online version of the Baltimore-Annapolis Sailing Club, started in , which also has a MeetUp. He sends out an crew call for a Wednesday night race. At the beginning of the summer, response was lukewarm. Jones now maintains a crew list with anywhere from 20 to 50 people on it and has a waiting list of people who want to crew weekends on his boat.
Despite their success, the search continues. The ASC group began in April By the end of May the group had reached members and got a note from Meetup. In other words, you never really know what kind of person is really going to show up.
Gene finally put together a crew , using his social media network, and decided to host an afternoon training sail from his dock just off of the Annapolis harbor. I was waiting with him as his crew arrived. He was nervous. He wanted a strong First Mate with experience so he could keep an eye on the other crew members. A woman on the upper side of middle-aged walked down the dock dressed for a boat party in stylish white pants and a big bag slung over one arm, while the other hand held a leash leading a small, white dog wearing a bright yellow life jacket with a handle and happily wagging its tail.
Here was the First Mate. Pulling himself together, Gene asked her to help him get the boat ready by hooking a new sail on the mast rings while he pulled it up the rigging. Setting the dog aside on the boat, the First Mate climbed on top of the cabin to grab the mast. Gene pulled her aside and asked her to leave his boat. She walked down the pier toward her car, tears forming in her eyes as she towed the dog behind.
A few minutes later, the rest of the crew came bouncing down the pier — two men and a woman, international economists from the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. None of them had sailed before but they followed directions. Stinger went into the Chesapeake Bay under sail. It showed us what sailing can be; the thrill of riding the edge in a knot wind. Predicted bad weather never materialized. Gene supplied jokes, snacks and beverages while Gene told sailing stories.
He finally had a crew that pulled lines, held the wheel while he took a break, and experienced the inner-joy of sailing along with him. Realizing this, Gene grinned and squinted toward the horizon, silently enjoying the wind of a sailboat cutting across the Annapolis harbor entrance. Cynthia is a former radio reporter, turned TV producer, who started covering local politics in Missouri, then state politics, then national politics in Washington, DC.
Writing about the Chesapeake Bay region is a breath of fresh-air. Cynthia Reuter has 13 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Reuter. Features Sailing. May 9, December 1, Cynthia Reuter 0 Comments Chesapeake Bay sailing , sailboat crew , sailing crew , sailors looking for crew. Cruising a mid-sized sailboat is like driving a small city bus without breaks on ro without curbs.
It requires extreme concentration and physical stamina as well as skill, and you can still really bang-up the boat. Gene Miller That makes sailing Stinger solo a lot like bronco riding. A typical busy weekend day sailing on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River by Annapolis Jim Ritter keeps a foot sloop in Deale, Maryland, about a 20 minute drive south of Annapolis. Boats registered in Maryland for Courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources Captains carefully guard their lists of potential crew and rarely share if asked. Anne Arundel County has about 10, boat slips.
Sailing Hits on Social Media Skippers, like Gene, are always looking for a new, better or different way to connect with people who can help get the boat in and out of the slip. They went online. Then came social networking. Gene Miller on Stinger He came across Meetup. How to find sailing crew. Cynthia Reuter Cynthia is a former radio reporter, turned TV producer, who started covering local politics in Missouri, then state politics, then national politics in Washington, DC.
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