Like many boat owners I frequently offer my boat to people who would like to crew. I primary use "Find-a-crew". This is a web site specializing in crew exchange. As a result of several years using crew exchange services - sometimes successfully, sometimes not, I have a few observations to offer:
Web sites ask what role - watch stander, competent crew, inexperienced passenger you intend to fill. I am amazed at the disconnect between desired roles and the people posting. When I see a woman in her 40's posting as a steward/stewardess I don't know what to think. First, stewardesses on megayachts are inevitably "hot" and between 18 and 25 years old. The Captain's of megayachts are not looking on Find-a-Crew for crew either. The Captain/Owner of a sailboat isn't looking for a cook, diver, steward/stewardess, photographer etc. The only roles are: watch stander, crew, and nanny/childcare. We are talking about boats with maybe 4 people on board. There is not a lot of room for specialization.
Understand the benefits you bring:
Most cruisers can do all the things that you think will be reasons to bring you on board. We know how to fix things. Most of us dive - it is a lot cheaper than paying someone each month to scrub the bottom. We know how to take pictures - we spend our life surrounded by beauty. On most ships with a female significant other they can do a pretty good job cooking too. (We solo guys don't do a lot of cooking - at least I don't.) What we need are people who can stay awake, understand if the weather is changing, and apply brute force when necessary to handle the sails. We also need people who don't freak out when the weather turns to poo. Most of us bring crew on board for companionship and to make it possible to get a little bit of sleep.
Understand speed and destinations:
Right now (March) there are a lot of people looking to crew to the Caribbean. No boats are going to the Caribbean, its almost hurricane season! All the boats are going the other way. The second disconnect is people who have a couple of weeks and want to sail thousands of miles. Sailboats don't go that fast!
Expect to pay, but not a lot:
There is a quid pro quo to crewing on a sailboat. Expect to pay for your own food and entertainment. Most boats will set $10 to $15 per day for food. There are lots of people who want to crew. Don't expect me to take you aboard and pay your bills. Also, if someone is asking for a lot of money they are trying to make money on you. Find someone else.
Quite a few young people want to crew. I think they are put off by the fact that most boats are captained by someone in their late 50's to 70's. The fact is that it costs a lot of money to purchase and outfit a boat. Most cruisers are retired - they are fulfilling a lifelong dream to go sailing. Most Captains in their 30's and 40's are weekend sailors with family. They are not normally looking for crew.
Good Captains are first and foremost concerned about the safety of the crew and boat - in that order. Ocean sailing is an experience like no other. No Captain concerned about safety is going to take someone who has never sailed several hundred or thousand miles offshore on a long offshore passage. At a minimum one should have significant experience sailing in coastal conditions. It is actually easy to get experience - every local yacht or boat club has learn to sail opportunities. Most also run sailboat races. Usually there are several racers looking for crew.
Most of us have had bad experiences with teams. It is human nature for a team to take the other team member's side in a dispute. This is not something any Captain wants to deal with.
Fair winds and following seas :)
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