I am a sailor but do not own a sailboat. It’s just not the right time for ownership as work is crazy. But I still sail and I do it for next to nothing. Here is how you can also become a yachty for next to nothing.
First I need to clarify that this is for sailing, on a sailboat – not a motor yacht. Although some of these techniques may work for a motor yacht, sailboats just need more crew so these are the boats I target.
An interesting common denominator I have found across sailboat owners is this; They spent so much time working and making money that most never stopped to make good friends. This is especially true for the men who sail. I can’t tell you how many owners I have in my contact list who have no one else to sail with on their own boat!
The fact is most sailboats are financed like a house (20-year loans), never leave the dock, and are rarely sailed. Most of them are used as a Friday evening drinking spot on the water, or motored around the bay for some scenery. But they want to sail their boat but are too lazy or have no one to help them.
So there a couple techniques I use to get free rides on other peoples boats. I have been all over the Caribbean, the east coast waters and I even participate in a race every Wednesday afternoon. And I pay nearly nothing. The owners love me, invite me constantly to sail with them, and I have a great time!
Costs are minimal. Sometimes I have to pay for my own food and drink but the owners usually pay for everything. Now that may sound like mooching, or freeloading, but I have never met an owner who cared. Besides, if you really feel bad about it pay for dinner while at a restaurant. That also goes a long way and will get you invited back for another trip one day.
Here are some techniques to get on a sailboat:
① Leave a message with an owner. (Works 75% of the time)
Find a marina with a lot of sailboats (an overwhelming amount of masts are a good clue). Ask one of the dock hands which boats rarely sail but the owner is frequently at the docks. Handwrite a note saying that you love the lines of his vessel and you would really appreciate a sail the next time they go out. Include your age, if you live locally, as well as any experience you have sailing.
② Hit the crew forums (Works 50% of the time)
There are some internet forums that specialize in finding crew for sailboats. Some positions are even paid, but most will just accommodate your travel needs. My favorite is the Cruisers Forum. Make sure you do not reply in line when going for a position – private messaging works may better. Also, make yourself seem as professional as possible Don’t tell them you like to party or you just want to get a tan. Make sure they know you can help when needed.
③ Seek out a local sailing club (Works 75% of the time)
Every location with a lot of sailing has a local club. You can ask at the docks if you don’t find one from a google search. Most clubs are desperate for members so don’t shy. Sometimes they charge nothing for a sailing event during the weekend. Make contacts and let it be known you want to sail on some yachts. Word will get out quickly.
Good luck and I’ll see you in the Virgin Islands soon!