Why do sailors shout?

by Chris Kameen on April 14, 2013

If the captain of a plane regularly screamed and shouted at his crew, would you fly again?!!

I have a theory about why sailors raise their voices, and seemingly mild mannered people become monsters!

Now as somebody who is keen to get more people into the sport, this aggressive behaviour is a problem, especially for new people. I think it is well understood that it is to do with stress, but I hypothesis that it is to with acting in an un-seamanlike manner or having lost control of their boat, which is causing the stress.

Let’s explore this for a moment, in the absence of other boats we will sometimes hear skippers raise their voices:

“get the spinnaker down!”

“Ease the main!”

These are the polite versions! Normally the reason for this is that they are carrying too much sail for the wind/weather and their ability in the prevailing conditions or they are in the proximity of another boat or land. In both these situations if we were being safe we could have had a calm conversation much earlier before we became unseamanlike!

Is gybing a spinnaker in 30 knots of wind at night crossing bass strait a good example of exemplary seamanship or good boat handling?

Now when we are racing we push ourselves and the boats to the limits and in doing so I would argue we exercise less seamanship.. now most people will try and cover up their un-seamanlike behaviour as competitiveness… which is a load of rubbish, essentially they have lost control. If you think about this, this is a bit frightening as you have put your life in the hands of somebody who has lost control of the boat or crew… imagine if you were on a plane and the captain started screaming at the crew – do you think you would fly again

So if you are one of those skippers that has a tendency to raise their voice a tad… myself included then perhaps think about how you could do stuff a bit seamanlike, lower the volume, increase the safety of your crew, and more importantly make the sport more attractive to others!

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