In the first in a new series on free and cheap ways of travelling around the world, we look at crewing a ship as a way of earning your passage
How does it work?
You can’t sail a ship without a crew, and these days finding a crew takes a little more time than simply walking into a coastal pub, slamming your pint of mead on a barrel and requesting all able seamen to step forward. Nowadays, adverts for crew are posted online, giving an opportunity for landlubbers to sail the seven seas on the cheap, provided they are willing to scrub the decks every so often.
Do you need experience?
It depends on what the skipper is looking for. Some trips, especially longer trans-ocean ones, will require the crew to have previous sailing experience. However, there are many opportunities for complete beginners to get on board, muck in with the chores and pick up sailing skills along the way.
What will I do?
If you have no previous experience, you are likely to be helping with the basic tasks, such as keeping watch on deck, trimming the sails, cooking and cleaning. More experienced crew may be left to watch the deck on their own, or help with navigation and the overall sailing of the boat.
How much does it cost?
Again, this can vary depending on the voyage. Sometimes travel expenses are covered by the boat owner, sometimes the crew will be expected to pay their own, but this should not be more than between £15-25 a day. If you are paying more than what is necessary to maintain basic food and supplies on the boat, then you are no longer a crew member and should be classed as a passenger, which would mean different laws and regulations apply to your trip.
Some crew members receive recompense for their work on board; this could be in the form of a free trip, a return ticket home, or a bonus on completion of the voyage. More experienced crew could be paid for their work, which can be between £200-500 per week. (Superyacht crewing has its own requirements.) Some sites also charge a registration fee before you can contact the skippers.
When can I do it?
There are voyages all year round, but spring is the busiest time of the year, when boats from northern Europe and beyond sail to the Mediterranean. In the winter, boats sail across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and there are always plenty of other opportunities, such as deliveries to Norway or short trips around the UK. The length of the trip can range from one day to over a year.
Advice for a first timer
For Iain Barbour, director of Crewseekers, first impressions are important. “If you turn up to see the boat and it’s dirty and hasn’t been well maintained then that’s not going to make a good start for a trans-Atlantic trip,” he says. “Make sure the person you are travelling with is qualified – the skipper should be proud of his boat and assured of his own ability.”
Where do I sign up?
Crewseekers International has been running since 1990 and has a huge range of listings. Registration starts at £70 for six months, or £95 for a year.
Find A Crew is an Australian company that has active members in over 135 countries and is the world’s largest international online marine crew and boat network. It is free to register and look at the listings, but you need to become a premium member in order to exchange contact details. Premium membership starts at £43 for 30 days.
Crewbay also has a large number of crewing opportunities and registration is free.
Sailing Networks is a social and business networking site for the sailing and marine industry. Among the services they offer is a boat-and-crew-finding noticeboard and you can create an account for free.
Ocean Crew Link has a database of crewing opportunities around the world and is World Cruising Club’s preferred crew matching service. The service is free to use.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/33d6aac5/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ctravel0C20A130Cnov0C190Ccrew0Eship0Esee0Ethe0Eworld0Efree/story01.htm