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post #1 of 24 Old 04-05-2017 Thread Starter
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7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

I scoured the internet for a good primer on how to get offshore sailing experience and came up short. To try and fill that gap I wrote this post comparing and contrasting 7 ways to get offshore sailing experience.

I really hope this post turns out like my last one and my effort to teach sailors inspires the more experienced sailors in this forum to chime in; I learned a ton last time! This would be even more helpful in this case because it's a lot easier to edit this article than it was that video. Even if that doesn't work out I found some good resources here and figured I should give a bit back.



Speaking of learning: @SVAuspicious I came across your crew list while researching this article and I think I managed to join even though it has been years since I subscribed to a listserv (;
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post #2 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

You forgot the time old method of pounding the docks and hitching a ride...plenty of folks out here doing it this way


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post #3 of 24 Old 04-05-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

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You forgot the time old method of pounding the docks and hitching a ride...plenty of folks out here doing it this way
I tried to address "in person networking" in the introduction:

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Before we start, are you sure you don’t know a skipper you trust who’d like to take you offshore with them. You’re NOT sure? Be more vocal about your interest in sailing offshore; especially around sailors and skippers you trust! After all the extensive research I did into finding the best offshore passages it has been word of mouth has brought me my best offshore sailing experiences. Don’t be shy: talk to sailors you trust and listen to what they have to say!
I really meant the post as an orientation for experienced sailors that don't have the network to find offshore opportunities on their own; the article was inspired by people starting with me to network to find offshore sailing experience. If you find yourself on the docks in Bermuda regularly I expect you know well enough what to do to get offshore. Flying to a "walk the docks" location also exceeded my $200 limit for finding a ride.
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post #4 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

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I scoured the internet for a good primer on how to get offshore sailing experience and came up short. To try and fill that gap I wrote this post comparing and contrasting 7 ways to get offshore sailing experience.
A good article, and the article you link to is pretty good also. B+ <- I crack myself up.

I followed all the links and read both articles and the video and took notes. Then I found most of what I had to offer I'd already put in the other thread. *sigh*

I do suggest people follow the link to your previous thread, watch the video, and read all the comments. Good stuff. Especially mine. *grin*

Some thoughts from comments @SavvySalt made in the article:

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I found a majority of the delivery skippers I sail with because of problems such as “the autopilot doesn’t work so we’ll be hand steering for four days offshore” or “we have to get this boat to the boat show by Wednesday but there is a gale in our way.”
Schedule is always an issue. I don't leave the dock without an autopilot for a trip of more than a few hours. That isn't to say we haven't lost an autopilot and had to hand steer, but I don't leave the dock knowing that is a problem.

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Learning is not the priority
It may not be the priority but it should be a priority. Crew need to be nurtured and mentored.

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One tool owners use to make difficult passages is a cruising rally.
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For inexperienced crew the organizer is a safety net.
It is clear that both owners and crew see rallies as safety nets. What is not clear is whether that belief has any merit. I suggest it does not. The parties are fun but the reality is that there is little safety to be gained by being part of a rally. People do silly things whether they are part of a rally or not. Remember Rule 42. You can make a case for the AICW rallies but I don't think you can offshore.

The parties are great.

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The skipper grumbled that we should have tacked well clear of the rocks but didn’t return to plotting a position. Instead he threw up in a mug, handed it up to the cockpit to be disposed of and then disappeared into his bunk; to be fair he and I were technically off watch.
This gets me bent out of shape. The skipper is never off watch. Unacceptable behavior.

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Solo watch
This is something I feel very strongly about. If crew can't stand a solo watch why do I need them? How does putting two people together who can't stand a watch alone make anything better? In my experience it means they talk incessantly and I get called later than I would be with a solo watchstander. Not good.

That isn't to say I don't take less experienced people. I do. Most can in fact stand a solo watch with a little supervision, coaching, and me popping up more often. For someone really inexperienced (often owners and owner family) I'll carry a full crew plus the inexperienced person. I put that extra person on a bridge watch, which means running four hour watches 8-12, 12-4, 4-8 I'll put the extra person on 6-10 or 10-2 so they overlap with two crew members plus me. Oh - they do a lot of dish washing and bilge checks. *grin*

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Speaking of learning: @SVAuspicious I came across your crew list while researching this article and I think I managed to join even though it has been years since I subscribed to a listserv (;
Thanks. Offshore Passage Opportunities is another good way to get offshore.
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post #5 of 24 Old 04-05-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

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post #6 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

I'd have to agree with SVAuspicious 100% about solo watches. 4 on and 8 off is our standard w/3 crew. Who in their right mind would want to have a half dozen or more bodies around 24/7 on a crossing in your home? 3 is more than enough for a modern rigged and outfitted sail boat of 60' or less. I might take 4 or 5 on a delivery, but not if their pay comes out of mine.
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post #7 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

Thanks for posting this.

I would have added to the "cons" for deliveries: "may involve lots of motoring" - skippers may have a 5kt or whatever lowest speed to get the boat to the destination on time. I did a doublehanded delivery across the Med and we motored about half of the time, though we only had dead calm one night, to get the boat to Marmaris on time. Actually, if you don't like motoring, it would be a "con" for all types listed, since none would tolerate speeds below a certain limit. I was a bit surprised to learn how much motoring gets done on training passages as opposed to teaching light wind sailing techniques (my source: Maryland Sailing school posts logs of the training trips they've done, which would be of interest to someone interested in doing offshore passages: Cruise Reports | Maryland School of Sailing & Seamanship ).

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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

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I would have added to the "cons" for deliveries: "may involve lots of motoring" - skippers may have a 5kt or whatever lowest speed to get the boat to the destination on time. I did a doublehanded delivery across the Med and we motored about half of the time, though we only had dead calm one night, to get the boat to Marmaris on time.
Thank you for reading this

I did mention this for professionally skippered deliveries:

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You (and the skipper) usually roll the dice on the boat and weather and are on a tight schedule so the sound of the diesel may never cease during the trip.
For owner skippered deliveries I've been on both: owners who motor whenever sailing is the slightest bit inconvenient to owners who only motor if the sails are limp so I didn't go one way or the other. Only on races can you guarantee there will be no motoring.
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post #9 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

I'd guess about 90% of my non-professional offshore sailing trips as crew, have come from walking the docks. A face to face and an offer from me to do work on the boat before departure, has worked the best. It's almost like hitchhiking on a boat.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.

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post #10 of 24 Old 04-05-2017
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Re: 7 Ways to get Offshore Sailing Experience as Crew

The other side of this post is 'how do crew perform!'

Over the last 10 years we have sailed 40,000nm and for the legs over 1,000nm we tend to take crew. Most of the crew have been friends and members of Coconut Grove Sailing Club and they have been good crew and pleasent to have on board. Occasionally if they are inexperienced I sleep in the cockpit so that I can be readily available during their solo watch, but they all know which rope to pull on and most are good bay sailors. We have one on board at the moment who will cross the Pacific with us.

We have also had pick-up crew from sailing forums and crewing sites and for these we try and have a 2-3 day shakedown before crossing oceans. These crew have been more problematic even though we do are best to check them out.

One excellent crew member had a nervous wife who reported us 'overdue' to the Coast Guard when we stayed overnight in the Dry Tortugas delaying our arrival in Key West by 24 hours. We never give family a time schedule beyond the fact that they can expect us to call from French Polynesia sometime in May.

A couple got off after a few hundred miles of shakedown when they discovered that being off-shore in moderate weather is harder than they imagined.

One developed medical problems and got off in the Galapagos.

The biggest problem was a crew member who handled what he perceived as boat problems by becoming frightened and angry and could not understand why the weather at sea never quite coincided with the weather report!

In the future we will only take old friends and Club members who have taken the Club sailing courses because pick-up crew, except for one notable exception, have proved more trouble than they are worth.

Phil
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Last edited by Yorksailor; 04-05-2017 at 03:48 PM.
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