There´s no way to sail a ship without a crew! And there are thousands of yachts sailing around and between the most amazing destinations of the world: Asia, Tahiti, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.
The average yacht is about 35-50 feet long and the crew is comprised of two people out on a vacation of a lifetime. What some cruisers don´t realize is that ships have to be driven 24 hours per day, so volunteers and other crew members play an essential role in making living the dream dreamy. Keeping watch on deck, trimming the sails, cooking, cleaning and help with navigation all need attending to most of the time. That´s where you come in.
Become a Chef or a Nanny
There are myriad ways of making yourself useful on a boat. Some sailors love to have people around who can play instruments, tell great stories and make everyone laugh at just the right moment.
Others sailors have children that also need entertaining and caring for, and would appreciate a break from constant childcare themselves. If you could work as a teacher or nanny, you could fill this position perfectly.
Working as a chef to supply the rest of the crew with delicious meals is another job that´s extremely valuable to skippers and makes everyone´s time aboard all the more enjoyable.
To be fair, you don´t need any specific skills to be a great crew member—but you´ll be more popular if you add some juice to the crew mix.
Get on a Research Ship
Lots of environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have research vessels out on the water for months at a time (see below for handy websites). They gather marine samples and conduct experiments. These guys often need deck hands, admin staff, scientists and lab technicians. The opportunities are often voluntary.
Private yachts in the 25-70ft range regularly engage delivery crew for longer passages. Some companies provide a fully-qualified crew to deliver a yacht to any destination in the world. It often saves the owner a lot of money on shipping and makes for an enjoyable experience for the crew.
Once you have enough experience and training, you could even market yourself as a qualified, trained and experienced captain and hire your own crew. Until then, there are lots of delivery service companies who could hire you.
Cruising rallies involve groups of boats that travel together. The pace is more relaxed than a race, of course, and there are the accompanying social benefits like BBQs on the beach and other enjoyable group activities. Often, rally organizers help crew find boats to travel and work on. Check out the magazine Latitude 38, who have an online crew database for their Baja Ha-Ha rally and sponsor an annual captain/crew meet and greet in both San Francisco and San Diego. Contact your local sailing school, publication and clubs to find opportunities through the sailing community.
Check out Part 2 for volunteering, how to get the experience you need to work as crew and some very useful websites to get you onto a boat ASAP.