There’s no better way to work as a team on a boat than to get in each other’s deck shoes for a day.  A day of running through different boating skills will give you both lots of practice and lots of laughs.  Look at it as a fun excursion, and plan activities for your partner to practice and learn.  Preparing for your “Trade Day” will also bring the opportunity to create a checklist or update the one you have.  Every pilot uses one for every flight—you should, too.

You will obviously want to cover the most important aspects of safety and emergency abilities–like the First Mate being able to calmly take over if something happens to the Captain–but fun and unexpected things can also be learned by switching roles, too.  As Captain, you may not realize how much preparation and planning goes into getting all the needed gear to the boat in the first place, or what it feels like to stand by nervously while you wait for an order to be barked your direction.  As a First Mate, you may not realize all the things the Captain must consider as they approach a dock, or deal with an engine problem.

It will be important to start the day with a clear agreement that this is to be a FUN learning experience, and there is no reason to be impatient or frustrated with each other.  You are both in it to listen and learn.  Your partner might have good questions that cause you to reconsider how something is to be done—be open to new and better ways if they are discovered.  Remember—the point of the exercise is to be a better team.  Some people feel timid to ask questions or make suggestions in the heat of a moment, so this can be an easy-going day of exploration and fun.

A good article to read before setting your plans, and creating your list, is in the January 2018 issue of Sea Magazine, where they have a wonderful article for all boaters—”Smarter By Summer,” with 12 ways you can improve your skills for this season’s boating.  #12 is “Become A Better First Mate.”

Things to consider adding to your list:

  • Preparation of boat and supplies for an outing
  • Lines and knots
  • Depth-finder and other electronics
  • Operation of the radio—especially in an emergency
  • Vessel operation
  • Docking
  • Communication and hand signals
  • Anchoring
  • Dinghy loading and driving


According to an “Island Jane” blog by Lynnzie Diaz Titled “First Mate Training 101, one of the most important things for a First Mate to do is keep calm, and not add to the stress or bruised ego when the Captain makes a mistake.  Knowing what the Captain is doing, and why, will help you plan ahead for what is needed.

To keep the focus on achieving great teamwork, make sure to include a celebration when you are done.  Raise a toast or treat yourselves to a special restaurant dinner as a reward for completing your tasks without conflict, and for having the courage to find your own best path to happy excursions.  For an elegant dinner within a short stroll from Semiahmoo Marina, visit .If you prefer an easy-going, relaxed meal and hang-out with a bottle of wine or some local craft beer, don’t forget the Semiahmoo Marina Cafe Friday Happy Hour special–15% off alcohol sales!
The strongest rewards will become evident over the season, as your communication will be easy, your empathy and appreciation for each role increased, and both of your skills stronger.  Perhaps you will be motivated to set a mid-season “Trade Day” to re-visit the roles and see if any improvements can be made to your methods–or just a boating skills practice outing– to see if you both remember what you learned.  If you boat with family or friends—make them part of the exercises, too.  Everyone should know what to do in an emergency, and having a plan keeps everyone calm.

Create a Social Event!

Share your experiences with other boaters and offer to share the fun.  You can help your friends muster the courage to have a “Trade Day,” and laugh and learn from each other.  Emergency drills are always a good idea—consider making one part of a group outing, to make it more fun.  How about taking the idea to your Yacht Club?  Whatever methods you use to accomplish your goals of being prepared and safer boaters doesn’t matter—just do it—you’ll be glad you did.



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