25 September 2014

Sailing On Other People’s Boats

Panhandle Marina on Lake Coeur d'Alene in North Idaho
What’s a boy to do when he doesn’t have a sailboat of his own? 

A - Pout.

B - Look longingly on YachtWorld every morning at all the pretty sailboats for sale and pout some more.

C - Con someone into letting you sail on their boat. 

D - All of the above.

We’re currently between sailboats, so Scott has been doing A and B a lot lately. Fortunately, he also has been doing C – conning other people into letting him sail on their boats. That’s actually how he got into this whole sailing thing in the first place. Years ago, while we were living in Scotland, Scott emailed a friend about an archaeology conference and his friend emailed back saying he couldn't go because he was helping another friend move his boat from Mallorca to the Algarve. Scott emailed back saying "bon voyage" and mentioned that if his friend ever needed more crew to let him know. As luck would have it, one of the guys had to pull out and they had an extra ticket, so Scott jumped at the chance to go.

After that trip, all Scott could dream about was owning his own sailboat one day. My dreams were a little different - eating cookies and playing with cute little kittens. Scott began a brainwashing campaign to convince me that I too wanted to own and live on a sailboat. But as anyone who has tried to brainwash their partner before knows, these things take time. So in the meantime, Scott has managed to con various people into letting him go cruising and racing on their boats. It has been great experience for him and he’s learned so much about sailing which sure has come in handy when we owned our own boat in New Zealand. 

It’s actually easier then you might think to go sailing on other people’s boats, whether it is helping someone move their cruising boat or crewing on a racing boat. Here are a few thoughts from Scott in case you too want to sail on other people’s boats. 

1 - Search the internet for local yacht clubs. 

Don't be shy. Go ahead and contact local yacht clubs, ideally by phone rather than email, and ask about opportunities to crew on other people's boats. Even if that particular yacht club can't help you out, they may be able to give you tips about who else might be looking for crew. 

2 - Show up at racing.

Even if you aren't on a boat, show up before racing starts and chances are that you'll get picked up. Generally, people are always looking for crew and they'll give you a chance.

3 - Be a team player.

Show up early for racing and stay late. Pitch in and help out. Bring a snack and/or drink with you to share. If you're a team player, chances are you'll get asked back to race next time.

4 - Be humble.

One of the key benefits of sailing on other people’s boats is to learn from them. Scott would be the first person to admit that he has tons to learn about sailing and boats and he is constantly picking up tips and tricks from other people. Even when it is what not to do. 

5 - Take a chance. 

In addition to racing on other people's boats, Scott has also helped move other people's boats. In addition to his first experience moving a boat from Mallorca to the Algarve, Scott has also helped move boats from Symi, Greece to Sardinia and from the Algarve to Madeira. He looked for crewing opportunities on the internet and just took a chance. One of his trips wasn't the greatest due to the skipper being what you might call a "jerk" (Scott might have another term for it). It got so bad that most of the crew abandoned the trip early, but Scott and another guy stuck through the end in order to honor their commitment. His other trip was a much better experience. Sometimes, you just have to take a chance. It might not always work out, but you'll learn a lot regardless, even if it just what kind of skipper you don't want to be!


  1. Great post and totally agree! I run the crew list at our local yacht club and yes it is true - skippers are always on the look out for keen new crew members. Experience isn't always necessary either - as Ellen says, if you turn up with a box of beer, and a big pizza, and are happy to help do boat jobs - then no skipper will ever let you go! The other thing is to follow up - if you enjoyed sailing with that person, email them the following week to say thanks for taking you out and that you are keen to go again. In my book that also almost guarantees a return invitation. This is how I learnt to sail, and I enjoy taking new people out with me on my boat now. Lots of fun!

    1. Thanks Viki! Great point about following up with the skipper as well to say thank you.

  2. I wish sailing didn't make me seasick :( My dad, grandpa and uncles used to be fisherman in Alaska and I love the ocean BUT I hate vomiting. Soooo, there probably won't be much sailing in my future. Unless I'm drugged up on dramamine and sleeping :)

    1. Knock on wood that I never get seasick. So far, I've been very lucky :-)

  3. You are so right. There are always people out there with boats looking for crew. Sailing on as many boats as possible is one of the best ways to help your own sailing. You meet good skippers (and bad) and learn from them. It is a way of learning about different boats, different sailing areas and meeting new friends. It gives your more confidence when sailing your own boat.

  4. Great idea of sailing on other's boat!

    I love sailing and its my profession too. I always suggest people to go for sailing with skipper that can make sea journey more exciting and enjoyable. I chose Croatia for sailing profession as it is the country of more than thousand islands that make it a place like heaven.

    Keep posting such valuable stuff!


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