How can I get a job sailing?
Mark Matthews responds:
Anywhere there is a boat, there is work to be done. The question is what kind of work are you interested in, and what are you qualified to do? If your dream job is steering other people's boats over the horizon to distant locales, well, you'd better have the credentials and abilities for someone to give you the keys to their pride and joy.
Basically, the more time spent around boats, the better. If you don't know how to sail, the first step would be to get that out of the way. Any mid-size coastal town is likely to have a way to do that, whether through a sailing school or a yacht club instruction program, and we can give you a bit of head start in ourLearning to Sail section of the site on the theory part and some of the skills it would be worthwhile to be familiar with.
After that, many people begin racing. Luckily, race boats need crews, and all skippers are looking for crew at one point or another. This is a great way to hone your boat handling skills. The best way to find crew boats needing crew is to hit the marina on any race day with a smile and a good attitude. Odds are the planets are aligned in your favor and you'll be able to hitch a ride out. If that doesn't work, hit the marina any sunny day and you're guaranteed to see people at work on their vessels. It's too bad that our work lives and our sailing lives aren't exactly complementary—boats need work and time is usually at a premium, leaving many owner's frenzied weekends of boat maintenance. Since, many jobs require two people—whether it's pulling wires, changing oil, or folding a sail—you're likely to learn a lot in such sessions. If you're thinking about skippering cruising boats for a living, a thorough knowledge of diesel, mechanical, electrical, plumping, as well as sails and rigging will be required.
With your skills up to snuff, you may consider teaching sailing. It's a rewarding experience anytime a student of yours makes it out and back on his or her own with the skills you've passed along. With enough time, you can then volunteer to crew on offshore passages with delivery skippers as you get your own sea time, qualify for a Coast Guard license, and go on to do the job you dream of. In advance, though, know that the idea of sailing over the horizon to distant lands and actually doing it aren't exactly the same. And that sailing someone else's boat on their time schedule can also be a bit trying. That said, it's likely to be a spectrum-expanding experience—the good will seem really good and the trying times will also be equally trying. Experience in the offshore capacity will serve you well and likely challenge you as you never have been challenged before.
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