Congratulations to your selection as a deckhand, the next level of the safety team that operates our vessels. The primary commitment of Shoreline Sightseeing is the health and safety of its passengers and employees - and you are an important part of our safety plan. All managers, captains and deckhands are responsible for their personal safety, the safety of their fellow employees and the safety of our passengers. This attention begins at the top and extends to every one of us. This responsibility cannot be delegated and needs the participation of all employees to provide a safe work environment.


    This training manual contains operational, safety and emergency related information as it pertains to your new position. You should use this manual throughout your orientation, training and employment as general reference. You will use it to accompany the hands-on training you’ll receive aboard the boats. If you have any questions regarding any info you find here or while training onboard don’t hesitate to ask a captain or manager.  




    Your uniform not only informs the passengers that you are a crew member, but also gives you immediate authority in times of emergency. Keep your uniform neat and clean because of the several messages that it conveys. During those times, passengers will find you because of your uniform; however, your uniform affords you only a short period of time to seize the attention of the passengers and ability to have them heed you. If your uniform is soiled or torn, the passengers will not listen to you as readily as a crew member wearing a neat and clean one. As a matter of real safety, the uniform is an inexpensive, yet practical method of overall vessel safe practices. The neatness of your uniform also tells the passengers a lot about the type of vessel that they are sailing upon. Immaculate uniforms worn by neat and clean-cut crew members will give passengers a better first and overall impression of Shoreline as well as allow them to recognize, listen and respond to you in times of emergency. Specifics regarding Shoreline’s uniform policy can be found in the Employee Handbook.


    As a deckhand you will become the eyes and ears of the captain operating the vessel and your primary role is assuring passenger safety at all times. You should be professional and courteous to all guests. Do not carry on extraneous conversation with other crew or dock personnel in the presence of passengers- It is not only rude but distracts you from ensuring their safety. Text messaging and cell phone use is strictly prohibited while at the dock or onboard the vessel. Ipods and other personal listening devices should never be used while working. Consult the Employee Handbook for further policy relating to employee expectations.





    At the start of your shift you will report to the ticket booth specified by your manager and asked to be “swiped” or clocked in. There you will find a daily brief which provides a detailed list of all vessels in operation that day along with what personnel is assigned to each boat. Once aboard your boat you will meet with the captain and the rest of the crew for a brief shift meeting. The captain will assign cleaning duties as well as discuss any safety related issues or drills to be done that day.


    Before any cleaning begins all safety equipment needs to be checked and set-up. This usually includes fire extinguishers, life rings, ship’s flag, ship’s bell and rolling up/ down canvas windows. Fresh water may be needed and waste water may need to be removed. You will learn these procedures in the coming days.




    The morning set-up time is basically the only time in the shift to get major cleaning done. It is important that you know what tasks have been assigned to you. If you don’t know what to do or have completed your task ask the captain what else needs to be done. Morning start-up procedures vary by boat but the following is a list of common pre-cruise tasks:


    Clean the heads (bathrooms)


              -Scrub (with hard bristle brush & cleaning agent) or mop the floors

              -Wipe down all surfaces including mirrors, sinks, partitions,

                handrails, toilets, urinals, garbage cans with 409.

              -Restock all toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap


    Scrub the decks


              -Sweep deck/ pick up any trash before you scrub

              -Check with captain before you energize fire hose for scrubbing

              -Scrub using approved soap (ask the captain) and water

              -Use hard bristle brushes for decks


    Scrub bulkheads (walls), bulwarks (half walls), overheads, benches


    -Anything painted white should be scrubbed with soft bristle brushes


    Eliminate cobwebs on all surfaces with broom and/or rag- lower deck overheads, rails, upper deck overhead framework, seating areas etc


    Polish Ship’s Bell with Brasso


    “Pledge” or wipe down woodwork – benches, handrails, bar


    Wipe down trash cans/ trash can lids, window canvas, stainless steel surfaces, chairs and all seating surfaces


    Clean/ wash windows


    Organize all storage areas




    You will be required to participate in drills which test the proficiency of the crew in emergency procedures such as MAN OVERBOARD, FIRE, ABANDON SHIP, FLOODING and SECURITY. All the details relating to these procedures will be discussed later in this manual. It is critical that you know what is expected of you before the tours begin for the day. Drills are typically conducted in the morning while underway with no passengers. In the coming weeks you will have ample opportunity to participate in drills. The captain should outline in the shift meeting what each deckhand’s role is in an emergency. If you don’t know what is expected of you simply ask the captain.




    Once all assigned cleaning is done the crew begins readying the vessel for passengers. This includes:


    Squeegee/ Shammy all decks, benches and chairs making sure no standing water is on the deck


    Removing shore power upon the captain’s orders and stowing it properly


    “Singling- Up”- Upon captain’s orders remove all overnight lines and stow properly. (To be discussed later).


    Setting the ramp/ gangway 


    All crew is dressed in uniform and ready to board




    On most of our tours we begin boarding passengers 15 minutes prior to departure but the decision to commence boarding is always made by the captain. All deckhands must be on deck while boarding unless otherwise instructed. Boarding procedures are as follows:


    Deckhand #1: At the bottom of the boarding ramp greeting passengers and taking tickets. Make sure tickets are for the correct boat (Architecture, Skyline, Taxi). Make sure customers have the correct time of departure on their tickets if applicable. Shoreline uses multiple styles of printed tickets. You will be taught to recognize the difference between boarding passes, print-at home tickets, comps and third party tickets. If a customer does not have the proper ticket politely refer them to the nearest ticket booth to check in.  Be friendly and courteous to every guest. Tell them to mind their step and ensure they get on the boat safely. Always situate yourself adjacent to the end of the ramp. Make sure passengers ascend the ramp in a single- file, orderly fashion. If there are people needing extra assistance to get on or for some reason are having problems getting on notify the captain. Extra vigilance is required for wheelchairs and strollers. It is at the captain’s discretion to allow strollers onboard. Typically on busy days strollers must be left dockside near the ramp.


    Deckhand #2: At the top of the ramp greeting our guests and ensuring they get on the boat safely. Depending on the number of crew this deckhand may also be the one to take a clicker count of every passenger as they board. This is required by the Coast Guard and an accurate count is critical. The count must include infants. Upon departure this clicker count must be recorded dockside on a passenger count sheet and onboard on the engine check sheet. The clicker should always be returned to the pilothouse.  


    Click here to watch the boarding procedure for the Architecture Tour


    Remember, you should never be engaged in extraneous conversation with other crew or be distracted from your main purpose which is passenger safety. You are the first impression our customers have of their cruise – The goal is to provide great experiences for them and ensure their safety at all times. Personal cell phone use and texting is NEVER permitted while boarding. If you need to take or make an emergency phone call notify the captain. Always be friendly, courteous and professional while boarding and underway.


    More info on gangway responsibilities will be described later.




    The captain will make a final check for passengers then inform you when it is time to prepare to depart. Deckhand #1 who is at the bottom of the ramp taking tickets will:


    1. Make sure everyone is safely aboard and no one is running to get on at the last minute.


    2. Close the gate at the end of the ramp.


    3. Don a work vest


    4. Record the final passenger count dockside


    5. Remove ramp/gangway from vessel with the other deckhand making sure gates are closed. ALWAYS TEAM LIFT ANY RAMP OR GANGWAY.


    6. Remove safety line


    7. Inform captain that the boat is “on one” line


    8. As the captain takes the boat out of gear remove the spring line


    9. Climb aboard the boat- Once you are safely aboard indicate to the captain that you are “CLEAR”.


    The deckhand #2 who was at the top of the ramp should assist with removing it and ensure the gate is closed. He/she will remain on the upper deck near the boarding gate until deckhand #1 has successfully taken the line off and climbed aboard the vessel. Once deckhand #1 is “Clear”, #2 will relay the message to the captain. Deckhand #2 should also record the passenger count on the engine check sheet.


    Departure procedures vary among our vessels and docks. The lake boats that leave from Navy Pier typically have a dock master assisting with lines. Water taxis use multiple docks where procedures vary. Our smaller taxis only require one crew member. Always remember to wear a life jacket and follow the captain’s orders. Whenever giving or receiving commands always confirm it is understood. Never untie or take off a line until the captain gives the order to do so.




    Once the tour or taxi is underway there should always be a deckhand on each deck. Your job is to patrol the decks and keep a watchful eye on passengers. Make sure no one stands on benches or leans over the rails. Watch for passengers blocking aisles or stairwells. Avoid excessive conversation with other crew that may distract people trying to hear the tour provided by the docent. You may enter the pilothouse but should not linger there for the entire tour unless instructed by the captain.




    The Coast Guard requires we do engine checks once every tour. Engine check sheets are located on a clipboard in the pilothouse. Typically these checks are done near the middle of the cruise. The engine room door remains locked throughout the day for security so you will need the captain’s key to enter. A senior deckhand will show you how to conduct an engine room check. Generally you will be checking pressure and temperature gauges of engines and visually inspecting certain areas like shafts or stuffing boxes for leaks. The importance of a thorough, proper engine check cannot be overemphasized. Many potential emergencies (fires, flooding, loss of power) are avoided time and again by vigilant deckhands doing engine room checks. When doing an engine check you should always:


              1. Inform the captain when you are going to go into the engine room

              2. Close the door behind you upon entering the engine room

              3. Wear ear protection while in the engine room

              4. Lock the door after the check

              5. Always report back to the captain after an engine check






    Upon the approach back to the dock deckhands should be on stand-by at the boarding gate and prepared to handle lines for mooring. Never leave a boarding gate open and unattended. On some boats you will be required to “jump” from the boat to the dock. Always do so wearing a work vest. Do not jump from the boat until it is along side the dock. On EVERY boat the line/ gangway procedure will always occur in the following order:


    1.     Secure the spring line and inform captain.

    2.     Secure safety line and inform captain.

    3.     Wait for boat to settle in gear along side dock.

    4.     Team lift gangway in place.

    5.     Disembark passengers with one deckhand at top and one at bottom of ramp.




    After you have ensured all passengers have safely disembarked the vessel it is time to ready the boat for the next tour or taxi run. This includes a security sweep (discussed later) and general clean-up. Straighten chairs, pick up trash, sweep up debris, mop-up any spills, check trash cans and heads, and take out trash if necessary.




    When tours are done for the day and all passengers have disembarked waste water should be pumped off the boat. You will be shown the procedure for pump out. Overnight lines should be put on as well as shore power. All safety equipment- fire extinguishers, life rings, ship’s flag, and ship’s bell should be stowed properly. Never begin stacking chairs or setting out lines with passengers still onboard.


    The boat should be left in the condition you’d like to find it at the start of your shift. All garbage cans should be emptied and trash liners replaced. The decks and heads should also be free of trash. After busy days or charters the decks and heads may need to be hosed down with the fire hoses.  




    After the captain has shut down the boat the entire crew will report to the ticket booth or to a manager to “swipe” out. It is important all crew are accounted for so they can accurately get paid for the shift. There also might be important notes or schedule changes to be communicated. Do not rely on other crew to swipe you out. If you are working a late charter or otherwise finish your shift when the ticket booth is closed you must ask for the “Write-In Hours” binder on your next shift and record your swipe out time in it.


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