Bluewater Crew Rating

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The Bluewater Crew Rating was implemented to provide an educational opportunity to sailors at MIT who are interested in learning more about coastal sailing. A sailor who has attained the Bluewater Crew Rating has demonstrated that he or she is familiar with the boat and can assist the skipper in its safe operation.

The Bluewater Crew rating is a proof of competence that the holder can serve in a position of responsibility, such as a first mate, on Mashnee. While you are not expected yet to have the skills to skipper an entire sail on your own, as Mashnee's Bluewater Crew you must be confident to act, should the captain ever become incapacitated. For example, you must know how to call for help on the VHF radio, how to keep the rest of the crew safe and the boat afloat until help arrives, etc. Think of this rating as a vote of confidence rather than "certification", and take all the time you need to complete the requirements. There is no specific time schedule that fits all in building the necessary skills and experience. For reference, without substantial prior experience in charge of a large keelboat, completing the course often takes a full summer.

NOTE: this page contains up to date information on the Bluewater Crew Rating, which has evolved over the years. It supersedes any other prior descriptions of the rating. If you notice discrepancies between this page and other published materials, please notify the bluewater skippers.

The core competencies expected of a bluewater crew are on the Bluewater Crew Rating Checklist, with full descriptions available on the bluewater crew syllabus .


To become Bluewater Crew, the typical procedure is as follows:

  • (mandatory) obtain the Provisional rating before taking a bluewater crew class
  • successfully complete the curriculum of the Bluewater Crew Class on Mashnee
  • crew on Mashnee for five or more harbor sails, one of which may be the bluewater crew class
  • obtain endorsements by two skippers (one of whom may be the class instructor) for every skill on the bluewater crew checklist

NOTE: the above requirements are designed for sailors who are learning bluewater skills primarily through the MIT Bluewater program. Except for first obtaining the Provisional, which is mandatory, individual requirements may be waived for new MITNA members with substantial prior sailing experience in coastal, offshore, and/or ocean waters. If you are an experienced sailor who would like to be considered for the bluewater crew rating, please speak directly with one of the captains or with the sailing master.

Process recommendation for new or inexperienced sailors learning through our program: obtain the Provisional rating, crew on Mashnee five or more times, then take the bluewater crew class. Then continue crewing, while checking off one by one all items on the bluewater crew checklist.

Process recommendation for sailors with substantial prior experience: obtain the Provisional rating, then register for harbor sails and notify the skippers of your prior experience and your interest in the bluewater crew rating. Evaluation for experienced sailors is on a per case basis.

Bluewater Crew Class

The Bluewater Crew Class will be taught on Mashnee, MIT's Buzzards Bay 30, usually over the course of a full day. To maximize opportunities for students to learn and practice new skills, the class is limited in size: typically, three to five students, who have met all prerequisites and have been confirmed by the instructor.

Before taking the class, students must complete the following:

For more background, any of these books may be used:

In the class, sailors will be expected to learn and demonstrate understanding of:

  • Basic operation of our 47-foot cruising vessel
    • Mooring approach and departure
    • Raising and lowering the mainsail
    • Unfurling and furling the foresail
    • Reefing the mainsail
    • Basic mainsail and foresail trim
    • Tacking/jibing a large vessel
    • Assisting with docking
      • Tying fenders (round turn and two half hitches)
      • Preparing bow, stern, and spring lines
      • Safely stepping off boat at shrouds
      • Handling bow, stern and spring lines on dock
      • Leaving the dock
    • Proper use of the head
    • Dinghy driving
      • Tying dinghy to stern or to mooring
    • Tying and using at least the following knots:
      • bowline
      • cleat hitch
      • figure-eight knot (stopper knot)
      • clove hitch
      • sail tie slip knot
      • rolling hitch
      • round turn and two half hitches
    • Coiling and heaving a line
    • Using the diesel engine
      • Checking oil and coolant
      • Checking gauges
      • Starting the engine
      • Checking for exhaust water
      • Stopping the engine
      • Safe use of the engine (lines/people in the water)
  • Safety information
    • Familiarity with the inland navigation rules
    • VHF radio operation and distress call procedure
    • Safe line handling including safe use of winches
    • Location and proper use of navigation lights for sailing and motoring
    • Location and proper use of fire extinguishers on board
    • Location and proper use of personal flotation devices (PFD)
      • Repacking and rearming of inflatable PFDs
    • Location and proper use of visual distress signals
    • Location and proper use of sound devices: danger and low visibility signals
    • Location and proper use of bilge pumps, checking and emptying the bilge
    • Assisting the skipper with crew overboard maneuvers
    • Knowledge of boat's draft (5'4" centerboard up, 8'4" centerboard down)
    • Location and proper use of the depth meter
    • Working with new sailors unfamiliar with the above
    • Winch operation
    • Running Backs
  • Navigational skills
    • Familiarity with layout of Boston Harbor
    • Familiarity with aids to navigation (ATONs) in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay
    • Visual harbor piloting using ATONs and following all rules of the road
    • Coastal piloting using the nautical paper charts on board
    • Using the GPS chartplotter and other electronic charts
    • Knowledge of the boat's draft