What are the Captain’s responsibilities towards his crew?
What is the duty of the captain of a boat toward the rest of the crew who set sail with him voluntarily?
A skipper’s duties questioned
A skipper’s duty to his crew was called into question this week. Charles Sturrock appeared at Southampton Crown Court to answer charges under the Merchant Shipping Act. He had set sail from Southampton on a 41 foot sailing yacht, Liquid Vortex, with a crew of relatively inexperienced sailors who had paid to sail on her. They were all students at the sailing school run by Hot Liquid Sailing Limited, a Hampshire firm which owned the yacht.
They were bound for London but got as far as Dungeness when they ran into trouble. Much to the annoyance of the skipper, the RNLI lifeboat was launched to assist and was joined by an RAF helicopter, As they arrived in horrendous seas, a wave struck the yacht, injuring the helmsman and damaging the steering.
The Daily Echo has reported details on the event itself as it emerged in court, talking of the bravery of a a voluntary life boat crew meember, Gary Clark:
“A SILVER medal for gallantry was awarded to a lifeboat volunteer who rescued novice sailors from a Southampton boat caught in force ten weather conditions, a court heard. Jurors at Southampton Crown Court heard that Garry Clark leapt from the Dungeness lifeboat in order to rescue seven crew members on board the Liquid Vortex which had sailed into 15mph winds in the early hours of January 3. The court has previously heard how the skipper Charles Sturrock had set sail the previous day despite adverse weather forecasts and the lifeboat was dispatched after a distress signal was made.”
The Judge has now ordered not guilty verdict in respect of four charges against the skipper and the director of the company which owns of the boat. Three further charges are still under consideration.
Clearly risk cannot be eliminated from this type of sport. However the skipper owes a duty of care to his crew. In this case the crew were relatively novice, and were all students of the sailing school.
The case continues. It will be interesting to see whether the jury reach the conclusion that he was in breach of his duty to them under the Act