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Support Fired Hawaiian Chieftain Crew

The following is not an IWW campaign.  It is posted in solidarity.  An injury to one is an injury to all! 

A few weeks ago the entire crew (including the captain and officers)  of the Hawaiian Chieftain (a historic "tall ship") were fired.

The ship was grossly understaffed, lacking several licenced crew and  an education coordinator.  The ship's income relies on providing  educational sail training programs to paying customers. The crew who  were present were expected to perform multiple duties outside of their  stated job descriptions. They were overworked and underpaid.  They  were also expected to sail with a group of new inexperienced paying  trainees.  This was felt to be unsafe because the ship did not have  the necessary compliment of experienced crew.

Last weekend the captain decided to stand the crew down from their  educational sails to focus on making necessary repairs and training  the new (paying) crew.

The office/seaport did not support this action and chose to fire the  captain and the crew for insubordination. The captain was the first to  be fired, followed by officers and remaining crew.

Included is the letter and demands that they crew delivered to the Seaport.

Please take some time to write a letter or make a phone call in  support of the crew of the Hawaiian Chieftain.

Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority (Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington) Phone: 1-800-200-5239 Fax: 360-533-9384

Executive Director Les Bolton

Volunteer Crew Coordinator/ Vessel Operations Manager Inez Wall


Hello All,

We, the core crew of the Hawaiian Chieftain, are writing to inform you  that we wholeheartedly support Captain Michael Kellick's decision to  stand down the boat from education and purser duties from May  9th-12th. We feel that the negative impacts of this decision are far  outweighed by the immediate and long term benefits to both the  Hawaiian Chieftain and the Gray's Harbor Seaport Authority as a whole.

This decision addresses an issue that has been on our minds for a very  long time. We each have our individual viewpoints, experiences, and  reasons for supporting our captain. After discussion of those reasons,  we have found ourselves in agreement with the following statements:

1. The Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority has a history of  under staffing and failing to plan ahead for crew rotation which  continues to the present.

2. The process of compensating for missing crew members puts a heavy  strain on the crew.

3. Without a full complement of officer crew, we do not function fully  as a boat.

4. The recurring lack of core crew on the Hawaiian Chieftain is an  immediate hazard to the boat and a long term hazard to the very  stability and existence of our organization, and needs to be addressed.

5. The benefits we gain in recognizing and correcting this problem now  are immediate and concrete.

6. We as a crew have set upon this course of action only because we  feel we have no other recourse. We do this out of a sense of affection  and care for our boat, our crew, our organization, and our mission.

In closing, we would like to state that it is not our intention to  impugn the hard work and dedication of any individual or faction of  the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority. There has historically  been a level of alienation and animosity between the boats and the  office which we wish to do away with. Things have gotten pretty awful  here on the Chieftain recently, and this is the only way we could  think of to effectively express the level of dysfunction we are  experiencing. Our hope is that through this action we successfully  express our need for our crew recruitment practices to change. We  recognize that this responsibility lies with each and every one of us.  This is an organization-wide dysfunction that needs to be addressed on  an organization-wide level. We as a crew commit ourselves to doing  whatever is necessary to support the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport  Authority, our boat, each other, the communities we interact with, and  our mission as an organization. We regard this action as a painful and  necessary step to honor those commitments.


Jesse Loge, Chief Mate Elizabeth Foretek, Bosun Nick Williams, Engineer Lee Newberry, Steward Sarah Cosper, Cook


Full explanation of above concerns:

Having made those statements, we wish for there to be no confusion as  to our intentions or our reasons for supporting this action. We  therefore provide the supporting logic and reasoning for each point  below:

1. The Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority has a history of  understaffing and failing to plan ahead for crew rotation which  continues to the present.

-For the past several years, it has been regular to experience gaps in  staffing between the end of one crewmember's contract and the  beginning of their replacement's. It has frequently been the case that  the search for a new member of the core crew has not begun until the  previous crewmember has left the boat.

-Our organization also has a history of filling positions in a stopgap  fashion by hiring crewmembers for two weeks or a month at a time, at  which point the process begins again.

-The Hawaiian Chieftain requires eight core crew plus three deckhands  to fill all positions on an education sail and allow for crewmembers  to get regular days off. In the past twelve weeks, the vessel has at  no time operated with all eight core crew and three or more volunteers.

-On April 15th, the Education Coordinator ended his contracted time on  the vessel and left. On April 23 rd, the Purser's contract extension  ended and she left. This was forseen months in advance. As of today,  the Hawaiian Chieftain is still without a Purser or Education  Coordinator.

2. The process of compensating for missing crewmembers puts a heavy  strain on the crew.

-We do this by either dividing up the job, or asking one crewmember to  pull double duty. For instance, if the Steward is missing, the  Education Coordinator may handle tours and press interaction while the  Purser handles ticket sales, sail bookings, and passenger  interactions. Alternatively, the Purser may be assigned all Steward  duties until a new Steward is hired. The decision is made based upon  the position needing to be compensated for, the experience and skill  level of the other crewmembers, and the length of time that the  position will remain unfilled.

-Each of the core crew positions demand a considerable amount of skill  and personal resources to be carried out well. They require  experience, specialized training, and sustained dedication on the part  of the officer. They are not lightly taken up.

-In addition to the specialized duties of the officer positions, every  member of the core crew must bear a certain amount of the workload  associated with the general operations of the boat. Maintenance, sail  handling, teaching, public interaction and crew training constitute an  enormous workload that requires a team effort to manage.

-Between the specialized and general duties, each of the core crew  jobs produces enough work to keep an individual occupied for twelve  hours a day, every day.

-When the crew compensates for an unfilled position, each individual  crewmember must necessarily choose between fulfilling every task given  to them or caring for themselves. For instance, an Education  Coordinator who is filling in for the Purser must spend a certain  amount of time after evening muster doing the paperwork associated  with both positions instead of taking a shower or doing laundry.

-By putting their personal needs on hold, a crew can compensate for an  unfilled position for brief periods of time. After a period of weeks  or even months, however, individual crewmembers begin to burn out as  the effects of their self-neglect become apparent. Crewmembers become  visibly weary, pessimistic in their outlook, cynical in their  opinions, unkempt in their personal effects. A crewmember with a  significant work related injury may have to fulfill sail handling  duties instead of convalescing, because there was is crewmember left  to cover for them.

-Eventually burned out crewmembers leave the boat feeling badly about  the Gray's Harbor organization as a whole, and speak badly of it on  other boats. This diminishes our reputation and hurts our organization  in the long run.

3. Without a full complement of officer crew, we do not function fully  as a boat.

-While compensating for an unfilled position, crewmembers are also  forced to choose between fulfilling their contracted duties and  fulfilling their temporary duties. For instance, an Engineer who is  also Mate must choose between organizing the crew in their daily  routine and changing oil filters on schedule.

-Each officer will prioritize their duties and choose the least  pressing of them to leave unfinished. As time goes on, however, the  unfinished duties begin to compound themselves and become pressing  issues. For instance, a torn bit of chafe gear that is left unattended  will allow a critical line to wear through, compromising the rig.

-As the days and weeks wear on, the boat begins to break down in many  small ways. The deficiencies begin to interact and create a hazardous  work environment. For example, loose gear and personal effects clutter  the hold, creating an unstable compartment underway.

-In addition, the officers who have been given additional specific  duties have less time and energy to devote to general crew tasks. The  sail handlers on public sails become slower to react to commands.  Fewer crewmembers are available to do necessary maintenance. Those who  make themselves available become more likely to make simple mistakes.  The rigorous habits that make shipboard life clean and safe get laid  by the wayside. This creates an environment ripe for accidents.

4. The recurring lack of core crew on the Hawaiian Chieftain is an  immediate hazard to the boat and a long term hazard to the very  stability and existence of our organization, and needs to be addressed.

-If the boat goes without core crewmembers for a short period of time,  small things get missed and are attended to when the crew roster is  filled. When the crew positions go unfilled for a long period of time,  critical systems begin to break down. The rig goes untuned for several  months. The bilge pumps are not maintained properly. Scaling rust  forms on the hull where the paint has been scraped. A critical piece  of standing rig breaks and is replaced by a quick fix that is kept in  the rig through multiple transits. New crew members are not fully  trained in emergency procedures.

-These breakdowns are not noticed on an organizational level because  they do not interfere with the business of the boat on paper.  Education programs, public tours, and sails all happen as scheduled.

-Boat life is unpredictable. At any point, a crewmember may experience  a family emergency, or a pipe may break in the engine room, or a spar  may crack, or the boat may encounter fierce, unexpected weather. Part  of what makes boat life safe is the buffer that is put in place for  unforeseen emergencies. Compartments are cleaned rigorously, crew  members are trained to handle the rig with incredible speed and  efficiency, and every boat system is kept in meticulous order.

-When core crew positions are left unfilled, this buffer goes away. If  the crew is pushing hard just to sail the boat, nobody is available to  help a passenger who suffers heatstroke. If a crewmember experiences a  family emergency, the boat cannot spare him a day off to attend to it.  If he takes the day regardless, the boat may find itself with too few  crew to sail safely. A good example came up in the battle sail on May  5th. The crew member who was tending the Mizzen sail had to leave his  post in order to instruct new volunteers on how to handle the braces  during the middle of a tack. They had not been previously trained due  to lack of available crew. Meanwhile, the Mizzen boom was swinging  over the heads of passengers that no one was able to pay attention to.  The Hawaiian Chieftain has a very tight and interdependent rig. When  the core crew is reduced to six, situations like this become  commonplace.

-While we, as employees of the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport, recognize the need to keep revenue programs running, we feel that we are putting  ourselves and our organization to be in real danger by continuing in  this fashion. All it takes is one lawsuit by a seriously injured  passenger to jeopardize our entire operation. If a critical part of  our rig breaks after months of neglect, we may lose tens of thousands  of dollars in revenue as well as the cost associated with repair. A  crewmember who has not had a day off in nine weeks or adequate sleep  in two may make life threatening mistakes while climbing aloft.

-If we are interested in the safety and health of our boats and our  organization, we cannot continue as we are.

-The specific situation we find ourselves in on the Hawaiian Chieftain  is as follows: We have three crewmembers on board who have previously  served on the vessel. They are the Captain, Mate and Steward. The  Engineer, Bosun, and Cook all have previous experience in their jobs,  but are still learning the specifics of this boat. We have no long  term volunteers. There are additionally six volunteers from the  Evergreen State College who are training as deckhands while engaging  in their own scholastic program. Of these twelve crewmembers, four are  well versed in the education program, including the Captain and Mate.  The rest are somewhat familiar with it, but need training and  attention to carry it out to the level of quality that schools have  come to expect from Gray's Harbor tallships. The Captain is the only  individual aboard who is trained to do the Purser's paperwork. The  current Bosun is faced with catching up on months' worth of neglect in  the rig. The decision, therefore, to stop education programs in favor  of training the new crewmembers and attending to our badly neglected  rig is a natural one.

5. The benefits we gain in recognizing and correcting this problem now  are immediate and concrete.

-A full roster of eight core crew plus at least three volunteer  deckhands allows the crew to:

-Receive regular days off

-Train new crew effectively

-Do preventative maintenance on the rig and engineering systems

-Practice and prepare for emergencies

-Study for endorsements, such as AB Sail and Captain's licenses

-Regularly attend to personal health and hygiene, emotional and physical

-Communicate regularly and fully with the office

-Respond quickly and effectively to emergencies

-Step aboard other boats with words of praise and recommendation for  Gray's Harbor tallships.

-A regular, seasonal rotation of crew will lend an immeasurable amount  of stability to our organization. We will save many man-hours of work  training new officers to their duties. We will eliminate the  insecurity associated with taking dock jumpers aboard as essential  crew. We will be able to undertake significant, necessary maintenance  projects on board knowing that we will have to crew to finish them. We  will rid ourselves of much of the pessimism and cynicism that pervades  the crew's attitude toward the office. We will have a crew that feels  supported, energetic, and able to manage their duties effectively.

-This goal is well within reach. All we need to do is change a few of  our assumptions and habits. It is not easy, but it is necessary.

-This is not a process that cannot happen without good communication  between every level of our organization. Our inter-organization  communications have gotten noticeably better over the past few years.  Let us not forget this.

6. We as a crew have set upon this course of action only because we  feel we have no other recourse. We do this out of a sense of affection  and care for our boat, our crew, our organization, and our mission.

-We understand fully that by leaving the Education Coordinator and  Purser duties unfulfilled we are doing an immediate disservice to the  schools we have contracted with and our mission as a boat. We feel  that the short term ramifications of this are far outweighed by the  disservice we do to our passengers when we sail with a poorly  maintained boat and a fatigued crew.

-We believe sincerely that if the Education coordinator and Purser  duties are carried out as usual in this port that this problem will  cease to be addressed on an organizational level.

-It is important to note that the crewmembers currently aboard have  not chosen to stop or fail in their duties. We have simply chosen to  focus on the duties we have neglected over the past several weeks  instead of the duties that we have taken up to cover for missing  crewmembers. The Mate is still organizing the crew, the Bosun is still  maintaining the rig, the Engineer is still attending to the ship's  systems, the Steward is still greeting the community and introducing  people to the boat, and the Cook is still nourishing the crew.

-The time for immediate stopgap fixes to recurring problems is past.  We need to mature as an organization and look forward to the long term  stability and well-being of our organization.

- We must recognize our current problems as symptoms of a systemic  dysfunction. Rather than simply attend to the symptoms, me must  address the issue as a whole, looking toward the long term benefit  rather than the short term obstacle. If we fail to so this, we will  find ourselves in this predicament again and again.

- If we successfully institute a new, healthy model of crew  recruitment, the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority as an  organization and the Hawaiian Chieftain as a boat will function  significantly better. This will allow us to focus our energies on our  core mission of education and community outreach.