Cruising boats looking for crew look for the following attributes:
1 Contribute work
2 Contribute to expenses (typically: berthing, provisions, drink, fuel)
3 Pleasant, interesting company, because you're essentially having a vacation
4 Eager, energetic, cheerful, can-do, and willing to pitch
in and do anything attitude
and skills contribution need not be sailing, necessary. Sailing skills are good, but other skills very much in demand include the following:
2. Fixing things
, taking care of sails
, deck gear
6. Speak languages spoken in the countries to be visited, and/or know the area and its culture
So if you can do any one or better a few of those things, then you'll be fine with Criterion 1. Being able to cook underway (it means you have to be highly resistant to seasickness) is a particularly prized skill -- you may have boats fighting over you if you can do that.
The text of your post already gives an impression that you meet Criterion 4, which may be the most important one!
As for Criterion 2 -- if it's a cruise
, then expect to contribute, in most cases, to all of the categories mentioned. If it's more of a delivery
, then maybe the owner will be covering more of these things, or even all of them. Usually you cover at least your share of food
and drink, even if it's a delivery
As to Criterion 3 -- it's good to tell a little about yourself, your interests, etc.
If you fulfill the Criteria 1-4, more or less, nearly all owners/skippers are happy to teach you more about sailing. You should try to learn enough to stand a decent watch. But if you are a great cook and/or are great at fixing things, even that might not be demanded. The main thing is just to pitch
in -- there's always a TON of work to do on a cruising boat
. We enjoy the work, otherwise we wouldn't be cruisers, but it's always nice to have someone helping out.
OK, so much for how you meet expectations of skippers or owners. Now, how to choose a boat
which is desirable to be on?
You are looking, first of all, for a "happy ship", which is a boat run by a skipper
who knows how to create a good atmosphere on board, is able to organize things without being a control freak, who knows how to have fun but without taking unreasonable risks, and how to do some good sailing. A good skipper
is a social animal -- beware of lone wolves.
The next question is -- how comfortable is the boat? The boat should, ideally, be as comfortable, or uncomfortable, as you are comfortable with, keeping in mind that a cruising boat can be everything from totally spartan (no shower
, cook over an alcohol burner, everyone sleeps in sleeping bags on the floor, no refrigeration
, toilet is a bucket!), to total luxury with air conditioning
, central heat, fully equipped galley
, washer/dryer on board, private cabins for everyone, every modcon, etc.. And everything in between. You should understand how important or unimportant these things are to you and be sure to ask how the potential boat is equipped, and what kind of condition it's in. Size and age of the boat is a good start, but by no means will give you a definitive picture. (For example, our boat leans to the side of being newer, larger and relatively more luxurious, with several private cabins, various mod cons, etc.).
Next question you should ask: How hard or easy will the sailing be? Will there by multi-day passages in rough weather
? Or is it going to be a milk run, with a couple of hours of sailing every other day when the weather
is benign, and otherwise hanging out on the beach? Or something in between? (For example, our boat leans to harder sailing, rough weather not avoided, overnight passages common, etc. -- we do have fun port calls, but not too much lolling on the beach).
Next question: Is this a smoking and/or drinking boat? And to what extent? (For example: Our boat is nonsmoking always, nondrinking when at sea, but freely drinking at anchor
or in port, so not really a good boat for either alcoholics, or for teetotalers, and would not be a good boat for a cigarette smoker).
Lastly: Some boats are kept so neat that not a single
pin is ever out of place, and you would be uncomfortable setting anything down; others are extremely messy, and there is everything in between. Worth asking what type, in this regard, potential boats are, to avoid ending up in an uncomfortable to you environment
, either uncomfortably obsessively neat, or too messy (for example, our boat leans pretty far toward being messy, and could drive a real neatnik crazy).
As others have said, spend some time on Skype or on the phone
with potential skippers before making a choice. If it's practical, its a great idea to meet in person and, best of all, see the boat, before making a final decision.