May 31, 2024 5 min read

Sail the World on a Shoestring in 7 Easy Steps

Have you ever fancied sailing off into the sunset for months on end with nothing but freedom, serenity, and a taste of adventure on the horizon? If yes, well, read on.

Sail the World on a Shoestring in 7 Easy Steps
Hitchhiking across the Atlantic. What a blast!

I’ve always had an inexplicable urge to sail the high seas. For years, though, I assumed cruising on a yacht was purely a travel option for the very wealthy or retired folks. So, when I found out there was a way to sail around the world on a shoestring, I didn’t waste a second! 

By simply signing up on a crewing platform meant I could hitch a ride on someone else’s yacht for little or no money! Expansive oceans and far-flung destinations suddenly became accessible, and all kinds of exotic adventures hovered at my fingertips.

Before I knew it, I was sailing and exploring the Caribbean, the east coast of the USA and Australia! I have met countless welcoming, fun and adventurous kindred spirits during a stint aboard their yachts and count those cruising experiences among my best travel memories. 

Here are seven simple steps to help you on your way to an equally fun and memorable experience crewing onboard a yacht.  

1.     Set up your profile on a crewing website. 
There are many sites but two reputable ones I’d recommend are and While you need to make sure your profile is professional, it doesn’t need to read like a resume. Your profile is your online snapshot and as much as you want to get a first impression of the skipper’s profile, they also want to know about you. 

Choose your image carefully; I’d suggest a headshot and, if you have one, an image showing you on a boat or doing an outdoor activity. 

Some profiles (like allow you to tick a box declaring whether you’re interested in romance. This is a great feature to clarify intentions early on and avoid awkward advances, or allow people to find that extra connection, if they so wish. 

2.     Choose a boat that is safe and sound and a skipper who is experienced, honest, and respectful.
- Be polite and clear about your expectations – what is your available timeframe to/from ports and what financial contributions are you willing to make. 
- Share what skills may be useful aboard a yacht. Have you sailed before? Can you cook? Are you handy on the tools or are you a nanny, diver, etc.? 
- Ask the boat owner how long they have had the yacht. What length/build/year is it? How far have they sailed on it, or on other boats? Do they regularly take crew?

What kind and how much of maintenance and boat work do they expect from you when the boat is stationary? Do they usually dock in a marina or anchor in a bay (this is important for getting on/off the boat)? How many people will be on board for the cruising time or passage? What are the sleeping arrangements on board? What watch/cooking roster do they use? 

Asking plenty of questions will give you a good idea of how the skipper runs his boat. Once you throw off those bowlines and sail away from safe harbour, as Mark Twain quoted all those years ago, you don’t wish to put yourself in harm’s way. A boat of any size is small once you are out on the ocean and unfortunately things can go pear-shaped quickly!

3.     Ask for references.
Don’t be shy to ask the skipper for references from previous crew. Most websites now have the review feature embedded and if not get them to send you a few email addresses from recent crew and follow up with them. Generally, a happy crew member is much more likely to reply quickly and favourably (unless they are at sea and out of range…). And, please, listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right but the boat or trip schedule sound amazing, leave it anyway. There will always be another opportunity. 

4.     Exchange documentation.
Once you have settled on a boat you are entitled to ask your skipper for a copy of his passport, and he may request the same from you, as well as the boat name and country of registration. You can deposit this information along with rough boat schedule with someone at home. 

5.     Get on board and get familiar.
Make sure you are boarding a boat in a marina or port that is easily accessible. I would be reluctant to join a boat in an isolated location. Once aboard, give yourself a few days to settle in and don’t agree to a boat schedule that has you boarding and leaving port on the same day. If after a few days you feel comfortable, fantastic! Good days lie ahead!

If you still feel off or uncomfortable, ask yourself if it’s because you are sharing quarters with someone unfamiliar. Is it initial awkwardness or are boundaries being blurred? The first will likely settle in a few days, whereas the second will potentially worsen over time and may be an indicator that you need to step off the yacht. 

6.     Take enough money.
If you find yourself on a boat in a foreign country and you are just not getting the right vibes, it may be time to jump ship. It is crucial to travel with sufficient funds so you can allow yourself to stay in shore-based accommodation until you have the next boat adventure figured out. And of course, you will want plenty of spending money to explore the amazing destinations!

7.     Give yourself some extra time.
Sailing is often a waiting game and for those of you used to the fast life, prepare to slow right down. Boats are fickle things. They are filled with complicated parts and float on salt water which means things break down all the time. This doesn’t mean the boat’s old or not sufficiently maintained; it just means it’s a boat. Sometimes parts are hard to source and need to be ordered from far away.

Sailing is obviously heavily reliant on weather, and it is common for a skipper to delay a trip for a week or two until a favourable weather window appears. After all, it is not in your best interest to sail into a storm… If you can add extra time to your vacation, it will allow you the freedom to relax and go-with-the-flow.

So, what are you waiting for… sign up and prepare to explore an exotic new world where dreams really do turn into reality. You’ll be sailing deep blue oceans, cruising stunning coastlines and weaving amidst tropical islands in no time. 

The world is your oyster!

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