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A private crew is a crew that does not recruit new members nor permits the invitation of new members either entirely or except under certain circumstances. This appears to be an uncommon practice.
Why Make a Crew Private?
While making a crew private seems to be an easy choice, it is not one to be made without thought. Making a crew private means that no active recruiting by anyone may take place, however it is not without its advantages.
Many private crews are small crews that wish to remain small. The difficulty of crew management is directly proportional to its size and the knowledge and abilities of the Captain and higher-ranking officers. As such, limiting a crew's size by forbidding recruitment may be a good choice.
Other crews that have had difficulty recruiting or retaining new members - due in part to the ever-present allure of larger crews running high-yielding pillages and sea monster hunts - may decide to go entirely private to remove the implied need of recruiting members. While this does not appear to be a factor in why a crew becomes private, it is an observation that is difficult to ignore.
Some crews are set up by a small group of friends who wish to keep the crew just to themselves. Other crews that have developed into a group of friends may wish to make the crew private and forbid new recruitment to preserve the harmony.
Instead of being entirely private, a crew may instead have requirements for joining the crew, or if they allow officers to invite whomever they wish, have very strict promotion requirements. Strict promotion requirements tend to act as a deterrent to recruitment and retention, but also help preserve the crew's ranking and integrity through strict mandates.
Making a Private Crew
Making your crew private requires nothing more than just declaring such in the crew's public statement and stipulating a rule that invitations to join may not be made except under certain circumstances. This should not be done without a conference with the Officers of the crew to garner feedback, otherwise your now-private crew may get suddenly smaller, possibly much smaller.
It should be noted that many who ask to join a crew do not read the crew's page to learn it is a private crew. If someone requests to join the crew, it should be politely pointed out that the crew is private.