I COULD HAVE FLOWN to Europe. I could have hopped a budget long-haul and touched down in Cyprus a day or two after leaving Australia.
Instead I found myself diving the Maldives, dodging pirates off Yemen and sailing up the Suez Canal. Some extreme cruise ship? Nope, this was a yacht delivery.
Sailing the seas beats being crushed into cattle-class airline seats every time, especially if you’ve got some time up your sleeve and an eye for adventure.
But hold on, I hear you say – sailboats, not to mention yachts are freaking expensive.
So here’s a little tip: the best yachts are other people’s yachts. Most private yacht owners prefer to spend their downtime anchored up in the company of wives, husbands, partners or good buddies, or day-hopping along the coast.
But for those grueling trips between continents that make up a large part of circumnavigation, more help is required.
Smaller private yachts in the 25-70ft range regularly engage delivery crew for longer passages to help share the workload and for the savvy traveler, this same voyages represent a fantastic way to put some miles under your belt.
Often you’ll be asked to contribute nothing more than a keen attitude and a willingness to learn.Other captains ask for a donation toward food or fuel, but even this is pretty reasonable when compared to the cost of an airline ticket.
Some more prosperous yacht owners will even fly you to where the yacht is located and home again afterward.
The trick to picking up a trip across the ocean is to locate yourself where yachties embark from. Several destinations around the world are established jumping off points for cruising sailors, such as Panama, Phuket, Gibraltar, Fremantle, St Maarten, San Diego, Cape Town, Auckland and Darwin.
If you find yourself in such a location, head down to the local yacht club office. Each spot has established seasons each year when sailors depart, depending on the weather and they can often put you in contact with boats seeking crew.
The key to landing a successful delivery position is to make yourself a desirable crew member.
Don’t know how to sail? Yacht clubs around the world offer introductory classes and are often thrilled to have new members join their weekend races.
There’s no quicker way to learn sailing than having a captain screaming at you from the cockpit while you slip about on the bow. A couple months of racing will have you jibing the spinnaker pole like an old salt.
At the very least, learn the basics of boating online or at the library, including how to tie real knots.
Yep, your life will occasionally depend on the quality of your knots. Learn‘em.
Alternatively, offer your new crew a unique skill. Mechanics, chefs, electricians, dive instructors, masseuses, carpenters, heck, even hairdressers, will always find themselves welcome on board.
As delivery crew you’ll almost certainly be expected to knock up some meals in the galley too, so learn a few specialties.
On board, crew can expect to help out with day-to-day sailing tasks such as maintenance, navigation, cleaning, cooking and sooner or later, unblocking toilets.
Sailing’s not always pretty and those anticipating daiquiris in the cockpit at sundown everyday might be disappointed.
But what a way to travel. Riding the wind into bays you could never access overland.Diving hidden reefs, catching your dinner, navigating across entire oceans. Watching the sunrise after a night-watch with the best tea you’ve ever tasted warming your hands.
To ensure a good time is had by all, it’s important to check out your crew, because they’ll certainly be wondering about you.
Crew harmony comes above everything else on board, particularly on smaller boats. There aren’t many spots to hide on 15m of yacht when folks don’t get along.
Almost every captain would gladly hire an inexperienced sailor with a positive attitude over a know-it-all whom no one can stand to be around.
The best piece of advice I have for anyone considering a yacht delivery is just learn how to get on with people.
Throw in a handful of herbal seasickness remedies and you’re away.
Get on board.
For available crew positions, check: