Many people who are considering going off cruising wonder how they can gain offshore sailing experience and credentials. Whether your dream is to sail your own boat offshore, to do deliveries, or to captain for others, how do you get the background you need?
First off, try to get on a crew. Most boat owners, sooner or later, are desperate for crew. The biggest thing is to find them. Get your name out there. Visit the Caribbean 1500 rally’s website (www.carib1500.com). Get signs up at popular marinas on either end of your passage route. Know that in the spring, and again in the fall, there are many opportunities. Let us know that you are looking. Talk to brokerages. These days, social networking will get you where you want to go.
If you have enough sailing experience, consider a USCG license. There are a number of ways to prepare for one, including sailing schools. I did it by reading a book, floundering mightily the first time I took the test, then being advised by the Coast Guard on how to study, what to know and what I had to memorize. I passed the next time.
Consider this as well. The ideal crew for a passage includes 1. a captain, 2. a cook, 3. a mechanic, and 4. a monkey (someone young and crazy who will climb things, etc). Figure out your best strength, hone it, and your desirability as a crewman will be much improved.
Take at look at a sailing school and see if it fits your need. Here is a list of just some sailing schools and opportunities out there:
Offshore Passages Opportunities in Huntington NY (matches crew with boats) – www.sailopo.com
Blue Water Sailing School (does offshore courses) – www.bwss.com
Offshore Sailing School (Doris & Steve Colgate run several offshore and live aboard courses) – www.offshoresailing.com
San Francisco’s Modern Sailing Academy (runs several long courses in monohulls) - www.modernsailing.com
John and Amanda Neal’s Mahina expeditions (a highly respected learn as you go offshore sailing program) – www.mahina.com
ASA (Great instruction with a certificate at the end) – www.american-sailing.com