Dec 212011

One of the thoughts I had when creating this blog was to make it a resource for people who are captivated by the idea of an adventuring lifestyle on the sea, and want to know how to make it happen. I did not grow up on the water, and until I was 20 had never myself experienced what has now become the predominant force in my life: the thrill of being driven through a frothy chop, sails tight against a steady breeze, with the sun happily bearing witness to this greatest of partnerships between man and nature.

And yet, HERE I AM, preparing to embark on another boat-based journey, once again following this passion to a new part of the globe. I’m not saying that this life is easy, comfortable or lucrative (although parts of the industry certainly are). It is, however, doable…if you truly want it.

I’m going to start a section called “Methodology” to address this topic. Please email me at or just comment on this post if you have any specific questions along these lines. Otherwise, I will answer questions that I’ve been asked in the past. Starting with…

This could be you! Photo by Matt Millar

Can I get a job on a boat without experience?

The answer, as you might expect, is absolutely yes! I got my start on Traditional Tall-Ships, and for people without any experience on the water at all, I think that this is a great place to get your start. It’s definitely not for everybody, but as a launch pad, it has a lot of advantages. Since it’s where I have almost all of my experience, I’m going to start here.

The goods: Tall ships are a great place to learn, and are a relatively easy industry in which to find work. Many are operated by non-profits that specialize in education, and thus are perfectly suited to train newbies. Plus, they often can’t pay very much, so they’re always looking for enthusiastic new recruits! Camaraderie is the name of the game on these traditional boats, not only because of the serious teamwork required to make them go, but because of the hardships you’ll certainly have to endure together. So if you’re looking for a “professional” community to welcome you with open arms, this is it.

The questionables: The pay, as mentioned, is often pretty low, although room and board is almost always covered. The culture, to some, can seem quite base (best not to be easily offended by swears or bodily functions), and, ironically, also stuck-up (try to tell a tall-ship sailor the right way to do anything!). The most important caveat that I would give anyone getting their start on tall-ships is: Don’t think that being able to crew a tall-ship means that you know how to sail. To really understand sailing, you’ll eventually have to find your way to a small boat, and sail it yourself.

The connections: Here are some websites that have become a standard part of my seasonal tall-ship job-search. My best advice at this point is to explore, inquire and check back often!

Tall Ships America Billet Bank: This is the best resource I’ve found for hunting jobs on tall-ships. When you’re in the heat of the search, check this daily!

Maine Windjammer Association: This website contains links to 13 of the almost 20 schooners (and one ketch!) that operate in mid-coast Maine June-September. Apply in January. Spring outfit usually starts in April. The Maine coast is one of the most beautiful and interesting places to sail in the world.

Sail Training International: I’ve never actually followed up on a lead from this one, but they do seem to have an active billet bank. Most of the postings are for Captains or mates, but on occasion there will be openings for volunteers with less experience. Mostly it’s just fun to imagine sailing off to exotic places…

So, that’s all I have for now. Other sailors: any thoughts to add?