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 we hitched a ride across the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Mazatlan we started to receive a lot of messages asking us how we did it. To be honest our experience is limited but here are a few things we learned from our search for a boat.
What is the best way to catch a ride?
The best way to catch a ride is simply be in the location you would like to depart from.
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 is hope for you too. There are lots of websites out there that connect crew looking for boats such as Find a Crew and Crew Seekers . One of the best free sites we have come across is 7knots.
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 many 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.