There are a number of useful websites but I first made my profile on Find a Crew a few years before I was actually ready to go sailing so I could see how the site operated and the type of people who were requesting crew. There are families listed, couples who are wanting assistance with passages but mainly it is lone male sailors. Some are wanting intimate relationships, some permanent and some casual, but mostly they are requiring assistance for a passage or some intellectual company along the way. Interest in romantic liaisons is an option to tick in your profile if so desired. This wasn’t an option when I first joined. It’s a good idea to make this point clear from the beginning. I was just looking for sailing experience so I could decide if I wanted to make a career or life plan out of it. There are some paid jobs listed but official tickets are often requested. You need to decide your purpose for joining so you get matched to the right skippers.
Without premium membership, you can only contact boats that have it as at least one of the parties needs to have paid membership for email addresses to be exchanged. Once you have made contact successfully, it’s a good idea to meet or have a Skype interview before arriving at the boat. This gives you an opportunity to see your living quarters and negotiate if there is to be an exchange of finances.
When I really wanted to pin down times, I became a premium member as this gave me access to the skipper’s email addresses and I could contact them directly. Otherwise they were wading through a lot of automated requests which required them to look through each of the profiles. Sometimes they have up to 60 requests a day. I wanted to line up some concrete sailing experiences for the Mediterranean in a particular time frame and the premium membership seemed the only way to get serious. If you have more time, you may be able to be more flexible.
The first boat I crewed on also had a young family crewing who had previously joined this skipper twice in other years. The journey was from Olbia, Italy to the west coast of Greece. The French skipper was calm and carefully explained his expectations and maneuverers in detail. We shared the cost of food and the designated cook didn’t pay. Everyone took turns on dishes duty. I had a small bunk room to myself and a share bathroom. We sailed via the volcanic island of Volcano where I walked the rim and went down into the crater to mark my name temporarily in the ash. We swam, read and sailed. It was a wonderful introduction to sailing in the Med.
When it came time to change to another boat on the other side of Greece, the captain walked me to the bus station and helped me make all my travel arrangements. The crew of the next boat met me at the bus stop and gave me a huge welcome. This boat had an Italian skipper. There were four Italians who were all friends and one other member of Find a Crew, a young American from Wisconsin on board. We traveled through the Greek islands for five weeks. I didn’t have a cabin and was required to sleep in the saloon which meant my bed was packed up each morning and I couldn’t go to sleep before everyone else went to bed. We shared the cost of food, fuel and paid an extra 50 Euro a week to help cover costs. It worked out at about 150 Euro a week. Not bad for cruising the Med. We also went on excursions together or had time by ourselves on the islands. We took turns in pairs being on duty for a day every three days where we cooked and cleaned. It was great company and I got to see some wonderful sights.
I was heading towards Turkey for a land tour when I decided that I was enjoying the sailing so much and didn’t want to have to deal with the summer heat on land. I tried to find a boat in Turkey but didn’t seem to get any responses quickly enough for me to make my plans. I began looking at Croatia and even considered helping an Irish family move their boat from England when I noticed a new chat feature on the web site for premium members. Thomas, my now husband, was the only skipper in the Med on line at that moment with his chat turned on. We began chatting and then Skyped. His boat looked great and we had a good laugh together. We clicked immediately. He told me that he needed crew to get to Malta from Mallorca, Spain. I had just had a friend ask me to visit her in Malta so I checked out the prices of the air fares and they were reasonable. I decided to put off my trip to Turkey and join Thomas. There was going to be other crew on board but they had received a job offer on a super yacht and had left by the time I’d got there. That meant I got my own cabin. Thomas was also expecting more crew in Malta so I had the option to leave the boat and stay with my friend. By the time we arrived in Malta, Thomas had already asked me to keep sailing around the world with him and the other crew had decided not to come. We’d had no expectations of each other but were open to possibilities once we’d meet. So I found my niche’ and I continue to be happy sailing around the world with my wonderful captain.
A few handy hints:
- Ensure you have a water supply that you are confident with and keep your hydration up. (Sometimes the boat’s water tanks taste a bit odd because of the condition of the tanks. We keep a separate tank for our drinking water).
- Be flexible with times as much as you can be as sailing yachts are influenced greatly by the weather and won’t leave harbour until the winds are favourable.
- Make sure you have soft luggage such as a backpack or a duffle bag. Suitcases don’t store well on a boat.
- Take a fresh sheet with you and perhaps a sleeping bag depending on the climate.
- Keep clothes to the minimum. In warm climates you will mainly wear your swimming costume.
- Be prepared to conserve water, power, gas and food. Many boats don’t have the luxury of a fresh water shower for daily use. Become accustom to bird baths and swims in the ocean to maintain personal hygiene.
- Be prepared to follow the skipper’s instructions. He or she is responsible for yours and the boats safety.
- Take your watches very seriously. Everyone on board is relying on you while they sleep.
- If you need to be shown something – ask. Even it takes fifty times.
- Learn some basic knots especially the bow line and the clove hitch.
- Make sure you know how to tie the lines on the cleats when at dock.
- If you have special dietary needs, be prepared to cater for yourself without having to use up much space in the refrigerator or without using much gas.
- If you do not feel safe on a boat contact someone immediately and then depart as soon as possible. Your safety is your first priority and a skipper is letting you down if he or she has not maintained the boat to an appropriate standard. (Although be prepared for some breakdowns as they are almost inevitable on a boat).