Boat Hitchhiking: How to get a ride on a sailboat
From sailing the seven seas to crossing oceans to day trippin’ there’s a great way to earn your sea legs, boat hitchhiking! You don’t need to be a sailing superstar but you do need to be patient, persistent and willing to put some time and effort into your search.
After Antonio and I hitched a ride across the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Mazatlan I received a lot of messages asking how we did it. To be honest my experience is limited but here are a few things I learned along the search for a boat.
What is the best way to catch a ride? Being there!
While not possible for everyone to be in the location that you would like to leave from this is the best way to catch a ride.
Go to the marina in the morning and ask if there are announcements on the radio for crew seeking boats. If there is great! If not ask if you can make an announcement after they have read the morning reports.
If there is a common area post a note giving a little bit of info about yourself and where you would like to go. Keep it short and sweet, captains aren’t interested in reading your autobiography.
Sailors tend to be social so don’t just post your note and get lost. Take time to hang out to chat with captains, the manager of the yacht club, and other boat hitchhikers. Like most things in life, catching a ride is about connections.
Can’t be there? Cyber hitchhike!
If you are landlocked and dreaming of sailing there’s hope for you too. There are lots of websites out there for crew looking for boats such as Find a Crew and Crew Seekers but unfortunately most of these websites charge for membership. Luckily, there are some alternatives.
Couchsurfing Groups: Join these groups and write in the forum where you would like to go or read posts from captains. While often there are more crew than captains on these forums it’s possible to get a ride. My friend caught a ride from New Zealand to Tahiti on Couchsurfing.
There are two main Couchsurfing groups that provide a forum for boat hitchhikers.
- Meet the captain and look at the boat at least a few days before leaving. While it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding a ride don’t forget that you are going to possibly spend days, weeks or months on the boat. Is the captain a jerk? Is the boat duct taped together?
- Don’t be shy, ask questions! What is the captain’s experience? What are the captains expectations of you? How does he or she manage night shift rotations?
- Consider the Seasons. Don’t expect a ride during hurricane season.
- Exploit your skills. Captains know how to sail and now a days most boats have automatic navigation so they aren’t looking for sailing superstars. They are looking for someone who is friendly, polite, willing to help with tasks and to cover the night watch. Most people fall into this category so what will set you apart? Your skills of course. Do you cook? Speak other languages? Know fun card games? Put that in your note and work your skills!
Read one captain’s perspective on hitchhikers. It’s a rant letting off some steam on hitchhikers however they do make some points worth considering while searching for a boat. Also, after the rant they have a section on how to increase your chances of catching a ride. This represents one extreme of type of captain, they clearly don’t want crew. To see the other side of the spectrum read Antonio’s post on our experience boat hitchhiking.
Have you ever hitched a ride on a boat before? How did it go? Share your experiences and tips by leaving a comment.