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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey folks,

So I'm not trying to be too cliché with my post, but I'm afraid that it may be unavoidable, because we all share the same feeling of adventure, spontaneity, desire for the unknown, and outright desire to learn more. The topic of my thread is pretty self-explanatory. I'm an energetic, young, college-aged guy who is seeking wisdom, and hopefully an opportunity to crew for a passage (Pacific, Atlantic, or wherever). I realize that a lot of these threads lack information, detail, and passion about the person. Thus, I will give you a little information about myself and my availability, and a few questions about life decisions. I not only am writing this for a potential crewing opportunity, but also for a chance to learn from you. I hope that you will be able to give me advice on a few things I list below. :)

First off, I'm finishing up graduate school studying wildlife and fisheries biology. I have an innate interest and passion for nature, the wild, and the unknown. Maybe that's why I decided science? But I've reached a dilemma approaching graduation (this May). I have realized that I have four basic options after I graduate: 1) go home and live on my parents' couch, 2) find a job, make money, work 9am-5pm every day, 3) apply for PhD programs and spend another 4-5 years in school, or 4) seek out adventure (at least for the short term) and crew for a passage or similar opportunity. What do you suggest? As a graduate student, we are essentially indentured servants, doing what our masters ask of us, with minimal pay. Therefore, I'm not made of money (haha). I realize that crewing for long periods can require significant funds, so that is a factor for me.

Overall, I'm an energetic, athletic person. I frequently race on J-24s and similar-size boats, but I have never done blue water sailing, which is where I really want to expand my knowledge and experience.

I know this is quite a broad post, but I look forward to your responses and potential crewing opportunities!

Cheers,

Chris
 

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Any thoughts on what you want to do to support yourself at some point? Everyone sets a balance between freedom and work, but being self sufficient is the minimum. Self sufficient includes food, shelter, medical care and transportation. One can choose whatever level of each they like. The answer to your question lies within how you plan to live on your own resources. Parents couch shouldn't be an option for anyone, unless desperate.

Unfortunately, no one is going to take crew on an ocean passage that has never sailed on bluewater. No one, including you, can know how you will take to it. Seasickness for starters, but even the emotional impact of being cooped up or in survival seas at night is risky with unknown crew.

I would suggest getting a gig as a second hand with a local coastal delivery skipper, build your sea miles, maybe get a USCG license and first figure out where you will become self sufficient. I would suggest getting a small cruiser and living aboard, but that gets back to having your own resources.

Best of luck. The world needs biologists, it has plenty of cruisers. Both is a winner.
 

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Captain Obvious
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Good advice.

I advise my own sons this - to take a year after graduation for adventuring/travel/enrichment. The career, husband, father thing is like going from indentured servant to plantation slave. Sorry for the hyperbole. I think that when you leave the science behind for a little while, you gain some perspective on it. That will ultimately inform your career decisions.


I graduated architorture school and jumped straight into a career. Well, first a loading dock, then a career. Having come from a poor background I had a ton of debt and obligations and I worked like a dog. But I still remember that summer 25 years ago when I had just graduated and dreams of adventure still seemed possible. First thing I did was buy a hardcover book "Designed to Cruise". I still have it.


What I am saying is --If you can, son - Go! Find some adventure. It might change more than you can imagine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thanks for the responses thus far! It is a weird time transitioning from grad school, 2-3 years of focusing on a specific subject, and now considering the next step. So I appreciate your input!

findrichard: thanks for the advice. I have been reading a lot of racing-related books, but am going to start reading more cruising books. Good call! Thanks for the link as well.

Minnewaska: you make some excellent points. For the short term, I can be self-sufficient. The nice thing about my skill-set is I can work temporary technician jobs for the forest service, USGS, USFWS etc. Or I could simply be a bartender, or some equivalent. I totally agree that resources are essential. I like your idea of getting a license/living aboard. Given the amount of $$$ spent on rent, it almost makes more sense to invest in a little cruiser. Thanks!

Sal Paradise: I imagine your sons have learned to appreciate that advice. I am already a little burned out from grad school, so I can see the value in taking time off, for many reasons. With that being said, I finish what I start - so I'm going to make sure my thesis project is completely wrapped up and I get that special piece of paper. Luckily, I have minimal debt (a little on a credit card, but that's it). So I am financially free, which is a big deal. I could essentially go anywhere and not be held to debt. I made it my goal in undergrad to apply for every scholarship I could, coupled with in-state tuition - I got scot-free from student loans. I am about to go invest in some cruising books! Any suggestions???
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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I agree you need to build experience. So how?

1. There are many boating forums like Sailnet. You need to find the ones where people actually move their boats around and are looking for crew. One suggestion is http://forums.ssca.org
2. There are crew exchange web sites. They are a lot like dating sites. Their value is that there are a lot of people and a lot of boats. One suggestion: http://www.findacrew.net
3. There are a lot of terrible skippers and miserable boats out there. Competent Captains will not be put off by your questions. Is the boat ready to go? Are the heads in working order? Does the autopilot work? One strategy for less than honest owners is to advertise for crew for a "passage." You arrive and find that the boat needs months of work to become seaworthy. Per Monty Python and the Holy Grail "Run away, run away."
4. There are "horses for courses" and places for experience. Spring and fall in the US are high demand times for crew as the "snow birders" move their boats north and south. Winter and summer it is harder to find a crew job. Transiting boats is a great way to build experience and get a few 5 or 6 day offshore passages under your belt.
5. Women and men have different problems finding crew jobs. Women of course can be a sexual target. For men the problem is the "captain syndrome." Over the years I have had crew of both sexes on my boat. The biggest problem with men is that they want to be in charge. My normal response is "buy my boat and you can be Captain." Then I throw them off the boat.
6. Plan on spending a few days on a boat before you actually leave. Go have a beer with the Captain and crew. Being on a boat with the wrong people is a punishment equivalent to Dante's 8th circle of hell. If it doesn't feel right "Run Away, Run Away."
7. Expect to pay a reasonable amount for food. Expect to pay for your own drinks and entertainment. This should be about $10 to $15 per day. If a boat asks much more find another boat.
8. Expect to pay for your transportation to and from the boat. The reason is simple, most cruisers can't afford to pay your airfare. Some can and will. ALWAYS make sure you have enough money for airfare home if it doesn't work out.
9. If you go to the links section of my web site you will find documents I use to screen crew (potential crew questionnaire and standing orders.) I hope they help.

Fair winds and following seas.
 

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A lot of good points made here. Boats will pick you up as crew for ocean passages if you put your name out there and you are flexible. You absolutely don't want to try to cross an ocean with your level of experience and there I agree with Minne, no one in their right mind would take such a green crew on a passage like that. But like svzephyr said, since you are on the east coast you are in prime position for the spring and fall migration. Those boats typically do a combination of ICW and offshore, depending on the boat, weather and the skipper/crew. A lot of these boats post crew wanted ads on this site, Cruisers Forums, and the other sites listed. Shoot, in S. Carolina, you're about at the 1/2 way point where boats often exchange crew (who either didn't work out or are out of vacation time, etc.). If you want to do it the old fashioned way, make your way up to Beaufort/Morehead City NC and walk the docks and hang out at the bars near the public docks. There's often somebody looking for an extra hand around there so that can continue their trip north/south. There probably some places around there where you could find marine Bio-tech work while you look for your ride.

Once place where I disagree with Zephyr is on the concept that you should expect to pay for your food on board. Some skippers require that and maybe for your first delivery it might be reasonable for you to pay for your own on board food, since you are an unknown quantity. Maybe you'll get seasick and be down below with a bucket the whole time, the skipper just doesn't know until you have some experience offshore. But, IMO, once you establish that you can competently stand watch while the skipper and the rest of the crew are getting some sleep, then at that point you are a valuable asset to the boat. If the skipper doesn't think that the extra sleep and extra hand in an emergency isn't worth extra $10-15 a day then it's probably best he sail with one fewer crew. (That and what else has he cheaped out on?) So, on your first delivery, I can sort of see paying a bit for on board food, but not after that (unless that's cool with you, then go for it.)

Food and drinks ashore are always up to you as are travel expenses until you get quite a bit of experience under your belt.

My ultimate advice is if it's is something you want to try, go, get out there. You will learn tonnes on your first passage. Right now is the right time to be looking for crew spots. Young, eager, healthy and with a flexible schedule is reason enough for a whole lot of boats to take a chance on you. You'll get your ride.

-Argyle
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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Once place where I disagree with Zephyr is on the concept that you should expect to pay for your food on board.
-Argyle
You are welcome to your point of view re paying for food. This is an area that has been discussed many times on these and other forums. I was more concerned warning about those that charge large amounts to "crew." I have seen boats that want to charge $100 per day or more. I don't think that begins to be fair.

Fair winds and following seas. :)
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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At the risk of hijacking this thread and getting into a long discussion about who pays what let me share my point of view and remind you that it is a function of my age, my culture, and my upbringing. It is neither right or wrong. It is what I do and what I explain to people who want to crew with me.

  1. I would not go to dinner even at a close friend's house without bringing a bottle of wine. For a sit down dinner (rather than a barbecue) I would also bring a hostess gift - usually some inexpensive flowers. That is how I was brought up, that is how I am.
  2. When a guest on another boat I will do something - bring beer, pick up the tab for after sailing drinks, whatever as a thank you to the owner. Ditto the above.
  3. For crew there are three factors:
    1. Sailing time vs. in port time
    2. Destination
    3. The market
If I am taking crew on board a day or two before a transit and they are leaving right after the transit I would most likely pick up the food bill. If they are going to spend a considerable amount of time on board in port then I think the quid pro quo is they get to enjoy the destination and have a free place to live while they do. We aren't sailing, they aren't standing watch, and they are getting to enjoy some (usually fun) destination like Key West or the Caribbean. If I am taking them from Europe to the Caribbean or the US to Europe I don't think asking for a contribution of $250ish for food is a big deal considering that the value of the airfare alone for such a trip is $1000+. I consider that we are doing each other a favor
Finally - the market. First, I don't participate. However an inexperienced person can buy their way on board. When I left the Canary Islands for Sint Maarten the asking price was $1000 euro to crew on a boat. Why? Because there were 600 more people looking for crew slots to cross the Atlantic then there were boats. In addition most of the 600 were woefully inexperienced.

You can decide what you want to do. If you get to know some delivery Captains they may offer to take you along and pay for your food. They are getting paid to move the boat, you are essentially donating your services. Bad deal? Not necessarily if your primary objective is to get sea time.

What ever else you do if you spend time sailing on someone's boat get it documented. For the US one source of the form is found at http://www.maritimeinstitute.com/Publications/SeaServiceWorkSheet.pdf Even if you never apply for a Captain's License these forms are valuable if you want to charter a boat or document your experience to a future Captain or employer. On sites like Find a Crew ask the Captain to write a recommendation (usually its best if you give him/her a draft.) Get it done before you leave the boat or it will most likely not happen. Also do the same for the Captain/boat - give them the benefit of your recommendation as crew (if appropriate.)

Fair winds and following seas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hey guys, I really like where this thread is going. I enjoy a good discussion on these topics, and it is really starting to help me get a handle on some basic preparations.

findrichard: thanks for the book title. I will do some perusing online.

svzephyr: I really appreciate your input. I completely agree with you about contributions. I was also raised to show appreciation. I always bring beer/wine in the aforementioned situations. You bring up a great point about jumping on boats going along the east coast. Being in Clemson allows me to make quick trips to the coast for this situation, so that makes sense to me. It will also "get my foot in the door" so to speak. I suppose my original plan to just "hop on a boat" crossing the pond is quite impractical and probably ill-advised as you say. I have been in contact with a captain looking for crew from BVI to Turks and Caicos on his Lagoon 50+ft cat. this December. The sail is only about 5 days, but I think it will really give me some good fundamental experience. It will also be a downwind leg, so I'll get a chance to work with the spinnaker, etc. He said he will cover all food and drinks during the sail, I just need to cover travel expenses to/from the location. I may start another thread concerning that opportunity, but it is still a long ways off.

Argyle: thanks a ton! You make a great point about going up to the Beaufort/Morehead City area. I did my MS research in New Bern, and would take day trips to that area, it's beautiful. I could definitely see myself working/living there at least temporarily. I am going to keep attempting to find crew opportunities (right now searching for the summer time, because I may begin school in the fall). I never considered spring/fall migration, which also seems like a great way to build my experience. Thanks!
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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It sounds like you're doing and have done all the right things, and are seeking sound advice. Go while you're young and unencumbered, then decide what you want to do with your career. As one biologist to another, not all jobs involve pushing paper around every day. You'll find your niche. Fair winds and following seas to you!
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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Well - New Bern. Strange how these things work out. I am currently in New Bern - hope to leave this coming Wednesday and head south. First hop - sail/motor to Morehead - then decided in/out depending on weather. I would prefer out but there have been a lot of late night gales off the coast, so most likely ICW till I get further south. My contact information is on my web site. If you want to tag along for a couple of days give me a phone call.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey svzephyr,

It's great that you are currently in New Bern. Thank you for the invite to hop aboard for a couple days. Right now, I am about to defend my thesis here in Clemson (defend on the 15th of April). So timing is difficult for the next couple weeks. Where do you suspect you will be in May? I graduate on May 9th, but will be free afterward if you are looking for crew! I look forward to chatting with you more about this.
 

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Sailboat Reboot
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This gets stranger still. Actually I have to be at Fort Bragg on May 7th. Not sure where the boat will be. Stay in touch
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Very cool how things can line up sometimes, I will definitely touch base with you as time approaches. I will also have a better idea of what my availability will be. Cheers and best of luck with your initial legs along the coast, whether they be ICW or further out. I will be following your progress
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Gamayun,

Thank you for the note, I agree that this is probably the best time to go do something, while still unencumbered. What specifically do you do with biology? My focus is more wildlife conservation and management.
Cheers
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Gamayun,

Thank you for the note, I agree that this is probably the best time to go do something, while still unencumbered. What specifically do you do with biology? My focus is more wildlife conservation and management.
Cheers
Probably not very helpful to you right now, but my work is mostly marine environmental policy and regulation. I became an independent consultant about 7 years ago. It's the kind of job that keeps me at a "desk," but as long as I have a laptop and internet connection, then I can bring that desk wherever I go. My office hours are whenever I feel like working. This has been great for me though it isn't something that I could have done early in my career (I graduated about 25 years ago) and it wasn't anything that I foresaw until the opportunity presented itself.

Good luck with your thesis and sailing adventures! Keep us posted on what you decide to do and where you go.
 

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Biologist...

Congrats on obtaining your MS in Biology and I imagine you're burnt out and would like to take a break... sailing would be an appropriate break indeed... it will clear your mind and make you focus on your next goals.

My son just graduated with a BS in Microbiology (Biology) and is pursuing the same track you're on (MS, PHD, etc.) but is focused and has the means to continue forth. We have a boat already so there is no need for him to dream about sailing.

I hope you find the means and vessel to sail in... crewing on a vessel is the best thing you can do as it leaves you the benefit of not having the expense of buying a boat, maintenance, insurance, etc. Also if you're doing distant education you may find more time to focus on learning rather than the time involved in taking care of a boat.

Good luck on your career.
 
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