The following is a list of all the main generic crew in the game, their point costs, and abilities:
Captain - 3 points; This ship may move and hsoot using the same move action
Musketeer - 3 points; This ship gains one 3S cannon that can't have its range or cannon roll increased. It can shoot from any mast (even an eliminated mast).
Cannoneer - 2 Points; Once per turn, one of this ship's cannons can shoot again if it misses.
Helmsman - 2 Points: This ship gets +S to her base move
Navigator - When this ship is given a move action, instead of moving her, you may roll a d6. On a result of 3-6, put a trade current within S of any friendly ship.
Shipwright - 2 points; This ship may repair at sea or any island.
Explorer - 1 point; This ship can dock and explore a wild island using the same move action.
Oarsman - 1 point; This ship is not derelict when all her masts are eliminated; she gains a base move of S, but can't ram other ships. This crew takes up no cargo space.
There are several other generic crew (such as Specialists and Tribal Chieftains), but the are the ones that you will use most often. Each one has its uses. Here, I will help show you how you can use each crew.
The Captain essentially offers you a first strike in combat, by allowing you to shoot at your target as soon as you move in range. Without a Captain, you would have to move in, potentially take a salvo from the enemy, and then shoot back on your next turn. Not ideal. For this purpose, the Captain is generally seen as an offensive crew, and is typically placed on ships intended for combat.
However, the Captain can also be used defensively. By placing one on a gold-runner, the ship will have a slightly better chance at surviving. This can come as a surprise to the attacker when suddenly their weak prey turns around and unleashes their cannonballs with a defensive Captain.
Definitely one of the more offensive crew. It provides an extra cannon for your ship. There are many situations where you would want to have a Musketeer, such as when your opponent adds the unique treasure Wolves to the mx, which prevents anyone from loading treasure from the island until it is eliminated by a shot from either a Marine or a Musketeer crew.
Cannoneers are also best used on a gunship. These ships will be constantly firing their cannons, trying to land as many hits as possible. It's inevitable for you to miss, so a Cannonner will provide a second chance with your cannons, particularly higher ranked cannons. Just remember, this is not a reroll, but an entirely new shot, so certain abilities won't take effect.
The Helmsman is probably my favorite generic crew, simply because it's useful on most any ship. Regardless of the ship's purpose, speed is always a great thing to have. You could throw it on a gold-runner to get to the islands faster, or allow your gunship to catch its prey. Speed is probably the most important element of this game.
Complementing the Helmsman, the Navigator can drop speed-increasing terrain called trade currents. A ship sailing over one will get an additional +S to its base move for the turn (though this only works once per turn per ship, regardless of how many they sail over). The beautiful thing about trade currents is they can cut back on the need for Helmsmen, saving you a few points. For just 2 two points, any ship in your fleet has a potential +S, especially if you have a lot of them in play. I like to put this crew on a cheaper ship, as it does take up its ship's move action to do this.
Honestly, I don't see this one used very much, but it is quite useful to repair anywhere instead of just at home. The problem with this crew is you're better off either running or just shooting back instead of wasting a turn putting back a mast that's just going to get blown down again next turn. The Shipwright is most useful when you can get out of range of your opponent. They are best assigned to gunships, which will inevitably lose masts.
The Explorer sees its most use on gold-runners, and for good reason. It makes gold collection that much faster by saving you an extra turn. It gives you an advantage against other gold-runners without Explorers: the other ship may dock first, but if you can get there the turn after, tyou get the best coins because you can explore first. You won't see Explorers on too many warships, simply because they won't be ut exploring islands.
One fun little trick you could try with an Explorer is place it on a fast, cheap ship, and send it out to the wild islands. Because you can explore and island you have previously explored, you can dock, explore, and leave to visit another island while your slower runners catch up. They will be able to explore for free, so you will only need to get one or two Explorers for your fleet.
Ah, the humble Oarsman. This crew is often overlooked because of how useless it seems on the surface. However, it takes up no cargo space and prevents the capture of your ships. The Oarsman is especially useful on ships with the Eternal keyword, because people are more likely to try to capture those than sink them. It's also useful on ships who cannons can't be eliminated. Imagine completely dismasting a ship, only to have it fire back at you again. If used correctly, it can be a powerful trump.