I read your intro and the comments posted earlier by others. I think you have a good plan (formal training) and it is also good to get experience crewing
for others (as suggested by others above). I wish you the best of luck and smooth sailing adventures!
"Beer Can Races" are more informal races usually held by sailing clubs or yacht clubs. They can be competitive, but are intended to be fun.
My POV: You should not need to pay anything IF you are crewing
for a skipper
or boat owner.
You asked about how you get picked up for crewing. I started by putting notices on bulletin boards at the yacht clubs. Once started, and once you have proved you can be a good shipmate (crew doing what is asked) you should have no problem getting boat time on the water
. Just be honest about your experience and skills, dependable, and ready to lend a hand at any time.
Steady's Tips for Beginning and Novice Crew:
1. Buy some fingerless sailing gloves before you go crewing.
Why? It is common for crew on racing
boats to have cuts to hands, and handling lines as crew can be risky too for abrasion burns. Sailing gloves are a good idea. Novices are not used to the speed of running lines and even things like lifelines
on a boat can have what are called "meathooks" that can cut instantly and are almost invisible. I have seen many drops of blood spilled on sail boats.
2. Purchase a comfortable PFD and wear it, even if others on the boat do not wear PFDs.
Why? Newbies on boats are more likely to go overboard
(due to lack of experience with boat motion) but it is a good idea for everyone to have a PFD
on. I have seen very experienced sailors die after going overboard
. Inflatables PFDs are easy to wear and effective. When you get used to wearing one, it is no more uncomfortable than wearing a hat or pants. Unfortunately, there is a common aversion to wearing the cheap
, blocky PFDs generally offered to guests (and newbies) on boats, so many people avoid wearing a PFD for comfort or appearances sake (they don't want to be seen in the "dorky" blocky orange PFDs). I suggest you get one (a design) you feel comfortable wearing at all times while on a boat underway.
3. Buy some good boat shoes with "sticky" siped (razor cut) soles.
Good footing is essential on slippery decks and docks. I test the soles by trying to run my finger across the sole while in the shoe store. Sticky soles will stop a finger from any sliding. Look for shoes that resist having your finger move across the sole. Some are much "sticker" than others. Good boat shoes with siped or "razor cut" soles are much better than typical running shoes or typical "trainers."
4. Buy a small sailing log book or a small journal you can keep in a pocket while you are on the boat. Ask each skipper to sign off that you sailed with them that day and to put any comment they wish on your log.
My Advanced Tip: Indicate the weather
and type of boat and what you did on the boat. Carry your log book with you and be able to present it to other skippers when discussing your experience. If you learn anything new during that sail (it is hard not to learn something every time), note it in the log (e.g. "Today I learned how to change oil
on Perkins engine
.."). During your time on the water
, you may hear unfamiliar terms. Write them in the log book. Learn their meaning then or later. Later, your log book can be used as documentation
of your time on the water, if in the future you desire to get a USCG license
5. Always arrive at the boat ON TIME or a little EARLY.
There is always work to be done to prepare a boat for sailing and no skipper wants his crew to show up late. Be on time or a little early, and if early ask if you can do anything to help (e.g. transfer food/drinks to boat etc.).
6. Understand Seasickness
If you are not yet used to the motion of sailing in a sea (with waves and swells), it is a good idea to consider seasickness potential (understand it and consider ways to deal with it prior to getting on the boat). While this was not a problem for me, I have been on boats where novice
AND even experienced sailors were seasick to the point of being useless or incapacitated in their bunks for a long time. It happens.
Good luck and have fun sailing!