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Hitch-hiking the Seas

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Crewing on a Yacht


If you can't afford the airfare to the Caribbean or the Med, but haven't yet given up hope of reaching your destination, you may wish to consider spending part of your vacation in a space the size of your living room

Working a passage by sea is an age old method of seeing the world on a shoestring, but the days of hopping on board a tramp steamer and sailing to the orient are long gone. Now container ships ply the seaways, but union regulations would prevent the captain from taking you on as an extra hand; even if he wanted to. However no union can prevent a private yacht owner taking you on as a working passenger.

Experience is useful but not essential. A lack of experience will increase the length of time you spend walking the marina and the number of captains that will knock you back. Keep walking and talking and eventually you will find a skipper willing to offer a berth.

The ideal crew is congenial, enthusiastic and a good work sharer; nothing destroys morale on boat a boat than one person who moans or shirks their share of shipboard duties. And remember you will living in a confined space with others and their habits; and they with yours.

To find your crewing position use one, or all, of three methods: use the services of an agency, place notices at marina noticeboards or on the internet, or take the direct route and approach skippers direct at a Marina appropriate to your destination. If accepted as a crew member, the captain will let you know what your share of the expenses will be. It will usually be enough to cover the cost of your food.

The boat's captain may wish to make a short test voyage before he makes a final decision. Now is the time to show you can tie a few knots, or impress with your cooking skills, and not the time to puke over the side. 

If you prove yourself able you can begin your adventure, seeing the world for free and fulfilling your dreams. Or nightmares. One story recounted recently tells of the mast breaking in a storm, and the crew being rescued by an American warship. Another regards a captain who navigates his way around the British Isles with a road map, frequently requiring the assistance of the coast guard.

Finally don't expect luxury on board. That tiny shelf on which you placed your bag may not just be a shelf - it may also be your bed.

The Float Plan
Elite Crew International
Yachting net Crew Wanted forum

Further Reading
Living Aboard