Getting your first crew gig

Ok so after deciding the cruising thing is for you,

Testing it out and finding you like it

And deciding that you, for starters at least, will grab a ride with a costal cruiser

You’re oh so patiently waiting for us to tell you how to find your first freaking boat!

Ah, but if you’ve done everything we suggested so far you already have started looking!

Yeah, how’s that for a little sailor-Yodaism?

Once you decide the type of ride you’re looking for, it’s time to find a ship!


Online crew boards

Many popular cruising ports have a local sailing magazine that caters to their crowd.  In the American Pacific Northwest, “48 North” is the cruisers magazine, and “Latitude 38” covers everything from sailing in their home base of the San Francisco Bay to Mexico and Tahiti.  They are free to pick up at your local boat shop and can be accessed online.  They also have online volunteer crew lists.  Crew lists are where people who want to sail can post where they would like to go and boats can post their crew wanted ads saying where they’re going.  A simple google search will bring up lots.

Be aware that there are many crew lists out there that are “professional” crew lists.  These will often be for paid positions and will have licensing & training requirements.    The ones you are looking for focus on connecting yachts with willing volunteers.

Just because we got so many questions about this, we created a page on our blog with all the hyperlinks to all the websites we use to find volunteer crew positions.  All the links for the websites we use are there.  If there are any others that we haven’t listed, please let us know.

Be aware that there are typically a lot more crew asking for positions on these sites than there are positions to be had.  Being flexible with your dates, embarkation ports and destination ports will greatly increase your chances, as will all that sailing experience and good recommendations you garnished as a result of the sailing with the local yacht club racing team.  Speaking of which…

Get Around!

So you’ve spent some time in your local area getting a taste for boats, right?  Well, who would know more about the local community than the people who make it up?  We found all of our initial information from the sailing schools Tiffany worked with and the racing team she was a member of.  So while we’re passing that info onto you via this blog, nothing comes close to getting the straight gouge from the people with their feet on the deck in your area.

Or better yet, a reference to a ship owned by your racing teammate’s friend.

If you took a class, ask your teacher where you should look to find captains looking for crew.  If you joined a racing team, ask your boat captain if they know of any longer-distance races or rallies you can join up with.


Additionally, start getting social!  If you haven’t started participating in the local sailing community then now is the time to start.  Go to get-togethers, join a yacht club (no boat required) and begin to meet people who own boats and who know other people who own boats through the yacht club events.  We’ll go into this more in our next article.

As for how we found our first ride –

Tiffany heard about the online Latitude 38 crewlist from the other captains at the sailing school she worked with.  She was also told about an annual “captain & crew party” but unfortunately we heard about it after the fact.

Tiffany had also heard about a sailing rally to Baja California that was coming up in about a month.  We started posting on the crew list for this particular event and that’s how we got our foot in the door: A sailboat took us on for a trip from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas after their first crew backed out on them.

What we have given you so far are the easy things that you can do from home without a whole lot of effort in order to “get your feet wet” in the community (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun there).  Though the crew board gave us our “in” and local yacht clubs are a great way to get started, they don’t get you directly face to face with lots of people who want you to crew for them.  That takes a little more effort but the rewards are far greater.  The internet may have gotten us to Cabo, but what we’ll tell you in the next article is what took us to Tahiti and beyond!


For links to races, rallies and crew lists you can use to find rides check out our “races & rallies” page

Return to how to crew main page

About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagullsopening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!

This entry was posted in Boats, budget travel, Sailing, travel, world travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Getting your first crew gig

  1. silver price says:

    What a great article! I grew up volunteering on boats, even got to Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. Kimberly and I met volunteer sailing, got married, bought a small boat and sailed off into the sunset (yes, it really was very romantic frequently taking on volunteer crew. Now we’re involved in sailing commercially, we never forget our roots and love helping people get out on the water. Let us know if you get to New Zealand, we’d be happy to help.

    • Tiffany says:

      That’s fantastic! We’ve been able to see some amazing places doing both volunteer and paid crewing. It’s been a great ride, and we’re excited to see where else we can get too :)

      What sort of commercial sailing are you into?

Comments are closed.