Here are some of the obvious sailboat travel basics, but maybe not so obvious for the novice sailor. Which elements are good to realize as a newbie looking to travel by sail?
Sailboat travel is slow
First of all, sailboats travel slow. Depending on the size of the vessel, the weather, the sails, the sail setup, an average speed of a sailing vessel is around 5 knots. And 5 knots means 5 nautical miles per hour. This is about 9 kilometers an hour, which is between walking and cycling speed. So if you are on a schedule or in a hurry, inpatient, or not comfortable with the thought, not really knowing when to arrive, then traveling by sailboat may not be the best. For example an Atlantic crossing ranges somewhere between two and four weeks of sailing.
Joining as crew on a sailboat requires a fair amount of adaptation
The next thing that’s important to realize, if not essential, is adaptation. Adaptation is key when joining someone else’s sailboat. When on a boat, you need to adapt to the situation on board. Firstly, you are entering someone else’s home, but a boat doesn’t operate like a home does on the land. There will be limited resources like water and power, and this requires some resourcefulness and adaptation.
No voyage goes as planned
Secondly, sailing hardly ever goes as planned. There are so many variables, of which the main one is the weather and captains make their plans accordingly. Therefore it’s so important that you make agreements and communicate clear from the start. Consider and be aware about alternative travel scenarios in advance to be able to deal with a change of course: stress free and with peace of mind.
You have little privacy when joining a boat
Being on a sailboat also requires adaptation in terms of privacy. Boats are enclosed and small spaces and privacy can be little. You are sharing with others, so it’s also important to have a nice team, and the captain is in charge, whether you like it or not.
And all these elements require a certain level of adaptation. An example. I would have loved to film this course on a sailboat. But with so many variables, it’s hard to do that on someone else’s boat. Unless you are fully aligned with how you would like to go about the day. And then still, you have the weather to deal with.
The weather decides on the sailing schedule
Which brings me to the next point. With sailing, you don’t just live with the weather. You are ruled by it. This in turn brings experience that makes you surrender, observe, learn, adapt and accept.
The weather also greatly determines the route that sailing boats take. Sailing boats don’t just go from A to B like a cargo vessel or a ferry. And therefore, you have to adjust your travel plans to the boat and to the weather. You can’t have the boat adjust their travel plans for you.
Sailboats deal with seasons, with routes, with weather, with breakage, and with all sorts of variables. For example, you can’t just find a boat going from Spain to Mexico in August. First of all, it’s not a common route. And second, it’s hurricane season.
Maximize your crewing opportunities
You have to be flexible with time and destination when looking to travel by sail. When you want to join a sailing adventure, your sailing crew opportunities generally come down to your flexibility with time, money and your desire for adventure. How much time do you have? How much money can you and do you want to contribute to this adventure? Are you looking for a crossing, passage or more an island hopping sail adventure? When do you need to be where, or even better, not having the need to be anywhere. Especially when you don’t have sailing experience yet, the more flexible your are, the more sailing crew opportunities you’ll have. Last but not least, it’s good to be flexible if the current sailing trip doesn’t work out as planned.
Travelling by sail is hard work
It is also good to realize sailing can be hard work. It’s not always sunny days, perfect breeze and jumping in the ocean. There’s always some work to be done, maintenance to be done. And especially when preparing for a bigger trip, like sailing the Atlantic or an offshore passage, it’s a lot of work.
And as crew, most likely the skipper takes boat crew members on board to share the workload as well as the fun, especially when being volunteer sailing crew. And the captain is in command. So whether you like it or not, you got to follow the orders.
We want you to be aware about these very basics of sailboat crewing, so your first sailing experience is a good one!
When you’re ready to take travelling by sailboat serious, navigate to our brand new Sailboat Travel Discovery Crew Course where we prepare you for all you need to be a happy, safe and eco minded sailboat crew.
The Ocean Nomads Toolkit
TRIBE | Join the network, meet your tribe and expand your action orientated sailing and ocean people network. Whether you’re 18 or 88, a total newbie or a seasoned sailor, welcome to join! It’s the mix that makes us thrive. Are you a boat owner or captain and looking for sailing crew? We have a database full of enthusiastic adventure and ocean minded crew determined to become sailors. We have mostly volunteer crew available but also lots of members are captain and experienced sailors happy to lend a hand for boat deliveries, boat fixing, or simply sharing the fun and voyage.
TIPS | Newbie in sailing and curious to learn more about sailboat travel? Check out our free mini-course by our founder Suzy Introducing you to Sailboat Travel.
TOOLS + TIPS + TRIBE Go all in and enroll into our brand new Sailboat Travel Crew Discovery Course (+ Ocean Nomads community) covering everything we wish we knew when we started learning about the sailboat lifestyle. Be the best prepared crew member by joining this course. + you get full ocean nomads network access for more personalized tips and advice from experienced sailors.