To become a good skipper you need
A good knowledge of the river
There is a route of 18 kms of water that needs to be learned. The way it flows through the rapids changing over time makes it an ever-changing route. During spring, the water is very high and therefore very fast. In order to become a good skipper, I had to understand the river and learned its tricks.
“I know all the stones of the river by name because I have been stuck on every single one of them”
Momir, Skipper instructor on the Neretva
Some parts of the river are safe to jump, and swim. Depending on your crew and their motivation you can lead them to hidden gems of the river, tell stories about the surrounding nature, the history of the place or the experiences you had in the past with other crews, boats, weather.
To lead your crew and your boat
Your ability to create a team spirit and a connection with your guests at the beginning of their adventure is the single most important step that will determine the atmosphere of the rest of the trip.
Tell your crew how you intend to drive around such obstacle and offer them to be part of the solution:
Ex: “Guys, in 50 metres we have a sharp turn on the right and the current will push us on the left wall. When I say so, you will need to paddle very strongly to get us away from that current.”
Doing so has multiple advantages: your crew will know you are doing your best, they know what to expect, and if it does not go according to plan, they are more likely to listen to your commands the next time.
I started my training in June 2019 when the water was still high and fast. Not that many rocks were visible on the surface that early in the summer.
At the beginning I have sat on the front of the raft, wrapped my legs around the safety rope and recorded the reaction of the guest as they were rafting for their first time. Together we jumped from the highest possible rocks and drifted feet first in the current to learn how to stay safe if we fell out of the boat. We explored all the caves, and beaches along our route.
After a month, I have spent so much time on the Neretva river that I have become an informal skipper known by the locals. They offered me food from their barbecues and gave me drinks as I literally jumped from boat to boat. I swam through the most dangerous rapids to get the best videos of our boats and played the ocarina through the beautiful canyons.
Some extra tips from captain Charly
Jump in the river (when it is safe to do so) and say that the first rule of a good skipper is to never leave its ship. It will dazzle them for a second before understanding that is is all right. I have abandoned my boat many times in the hands of capable passenger who were exceedingly proud to steer their family or friends during a short time.
If we see a boat stuck on rocks, I will explain what is the best course of action to take in order to safely advance with our boat without getting stuck. As we pass successfully, I can feel a rush of pride bursting through my crew and myself. We did it !!!