Again, I'm going to rely on what others have said to answer this question and hope that helps connect the dots for you.
The article in question that Kelsey is referring to is here: click. I went back through that article and couldn't see any reference to a "non-crew member." But I understand you're confusion. Here's a quote from the article:
"One of the last pieces that really will make this game a hit is the idea of collecting your pirate crew. The KingsIsle team has come up with very colorful characters join your ranks. From Goat Monks, to Bonnie Anne the Highlander Fox who is the best sharpshooter in the skies, there are lots of wild characters who you can choose from. The crew is yet another extention of your character and will fight beside you to the end. There are going to be hundreds of different and unique crew members for you to find and recruit throughout the game, and the ones available to a Buccaneer will be different than the ones available to a Witchdoctor and so forth. It's highly unlikely that any two players will have the same crew, and you can even assign them ranks on your ship!"
With that in mind, I'm going to juxtapose that with the nice overview of combat from the Pirate101 website: click. Here are the paragraphs I want to point you to directly:
"Battles begin with a planning phase, where you choose actions for your Pirate and Companions. Before executing your move, you can review information about characters and objects on the board by mousing over their portraits.
•Characters and Companions are under your control
•Other players’ Characters and Companions will have colors unique to them
•Inanimate objects have a brown background
•Enemies always have a red background""When you’re defeated in combat, you’ll be returned to the last Life Fountain you visited – unless you’re currently in a Crew with other players. If all of your crewmates have been defeated as well, you’ll all return to your own Life Fountains. However, if any crewmates are still alive, you’ll all stay where you are."
So, as you can see "crew" has a couple of different meanings:
1- "unless you’re currently in a Crew with other players"
2- "There are going to be hundreds of different and unique crew members for you to find and recruit throughout the game"And then also:
"•Characters and Companions are under your control
•Other players’ Characters and Companions will have colors unique to them"So your crew is made up of you and companions. Other players' crews are made up of themselves and their companions. You and your crew can join a crew with other players and their crews.
Clear as mud? Don't worry it'll all make sense once you start playing the game. In fact, it'll make sense so quickly that you'll see there was nothing to worry about and life is awesome.