With so many sounds and tasks happening at once, communication can sometimes be difficult for crewmembers. But the importance of it can’t be understated, especially when caught up in an unexpected gale or during a man overboard.


Here are three communication essentials every sailor should know.


Body Language


With 70-93 percent of communication being nonverbal, if we relied solely on words, we’d be missing most of what’s going on. Part of this is just natural awareness, being familiar enough with your crew to know when they’re confident or worried about what’s happening. But you can also improve your communication even more by studying up, at least a little, on body language. You don’t have to be an expert; just familiarizing yourself with common nonverbal behavior like pacifiers or shielding can give you a leg-up in communicating with your crew.


Clear, Kind, and Concise


To keep your language clear, say exactly what you mean. Hinting or even passive aggressiveness has no place on a sailboat where, in some circumstances, communication can mean the difference between life and death. That being said, to be clear doesn’t mean being blunt and rude. Everyone is doing their best, so be kind. Hurt feelings don’t help people work effectively either. Finally, keep your words concise. Don’t use excessive slang, jargon, or codes, especially when speaking over the radio. The more background noise you have to communicate through, the more important it is only to say what needs to be said. Keep fluff to a minimum.


Closed-Loop Communication


This communication skill is both vital and straightforward. When the captain or crew member tells you to do something, repeat back to them what you heard and what you plan on doing. “I need you to trim the jib and then make sure Alex is keeping us on our heading.” “OK, I’ll trim the jib and check on Alex to make sure we’re keeping our heading.” It sounds annoying, and it may be for a little bit, but this ensures that everyone is on the same page. This is less important in just day-to-day tasks and exponentially more important in extreme weather or emergencies.


It may seem trivial or unnecessary, but ensuring good communication between you and your crew can be the difference between smooth sailing or capsizing.