How to get taken for a ride

I am a decent sailor, and this discussion presumes you are, too. But it also presumes that you're not a pro or anything close to it. I want to respond to the recurring question of how to get a ride on a 'big' boat, because I personally have had a lot of success in that regard, despite the fact that I am not a superstar (except in the galley, but that's another matter). This is for my fellow passionate amateurs. Fortunately, most of the skippers are just slightly more affluent versions of us, and need us to make their boats go fast. If you get known in your local sailing community as the kind of person who does the following things, and you are at least a competent sailor, then I believe you will be welcomed aboard and invited back at all but the highest level of our sport.

Getting aboard

  • Walk before you run. Don't expect to do races before you've done deliveries.

  • Network yourself like it's a job.

  • Show up. Example - my ride for MHOR isn't a sure thing, yet. If I don't get it, I'll get my ass up to Marblehead a day early and ask around. Someone will nab me. Same thing for deliveries/returns - there must have been 20 boats leaving from Bermuda last July after the Newport race who would have paid for crew had any been available.

  • Leverage who you know already - if the big boat at your local club is full, ask the skipper about his competition and if they need anyone - unless he's a jerk, he will want to get his class up to full strength and will help you get a ride.

  • The Sailing Anarchy crew board is probably the best generic one, but don't overlook the race web site. Not everyone reads SA.

Getting invited back

  • Do the dirty jobs before you're asked.

  • Unless you walk on water and have been brought on board because no one trims downwind like you, be humble. (Of course, if you're that good, then you don't need my advice - I need yours!) Don't talk about how good you are, no matter how good you are, until after you've done some sailing with the crew and they know you're not an asshat. I have found it's better to patiently wait for the chance to demonstrate your skills than talk about them ahead of time.

  • Don't get too friendly with any one person until you learn the dynamics of the boat.

  • Don't talk trash about anyone or anything until you know who you're sailing with, and who their sisters are dating.

  • Age matters. If you're young and a great sailor, expect to be treated like you're young. You won't be treated like a great sailor until you've bled a little.

  • If you're an oldster, watch out that someone isn't giving you more responsibility than you're ready for. You'll embarrass yourself and potentially endanger the boat if you don't fess up and something goes wrong (don't ask me how I know this).

  • Act like someone who deserves to be entrusted with the owner's most prized possession, as well as his life and that of his family's.

  • Don't goof off until you know you're 'in'.

  • Prepare as if someone had asked you to. Know the weather, local conditions, SIs, etc. If you are a local, then you might have some great intel on the competition, and should be ready to share it - if someone always leaves too much mark room, let the skipper know that.

  • Buy the first round at the bar (unless you're a poor student, in which case no one will expect you to).

  • Ask someone how to use the head and the galley as soon as possible. Your mates will appreciate not being woken up when you need to take your first crap, and they will embrace you as one of their own if you're the guy who brings them a hot cuppa as you come on watch.

  • Save something for later. On a new boat, I hang back a little at first, because every one is different. As an observational learner, I pick things up by watching others. The regular crew will be fired up at the start and they know everything better than you anyway. So watch what they do and keep an eye out for a-holes, lines in the water, foul traffic, etc. Then, when they're grabbing a sandwich, offer to grab the sheet, man the winch, backstay, whatever. This goes for later, too. Be the guy who got rest when he could so when it really hits the fan you have the energy to deliver.

OK, I've opened the discussion. What else ya got?

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i have one comment - i'll save it for NY... otherwise, having been on both sides of the coin, everything you said is right. however, i would add, dont be the jackass that brings 200lbs worth of gear on the boat - unless the conditions do warrant it...If its 75degrees, sunny, and the forecast says its supposed to be like that for the rest of the regatta - you dont need to bring enough shit to cross the north atlantic. that always drove me nuts. gloves and glasses, if you race in either. leave your streetshoes on the dock (assuming you';re not an idjit like me who can never find their boat shoes anyway), jeans in the car, etc.

Thanks, Mustang.

Forgot one - bring an extra knife. If you lose yours you're not screwed, and if someone else loses theirs you're a hero. But make sure it's a crappy one, since anyone who loses one knife......

does anyone know any good websites to find boats to race on?
do a search on that topic. I believe you'll find I either authored it or contributed.

Oh, and while you're searching for that, search 'newbie' so you can understand this....

Fuck off, newbie

Another suggestion. Make a sailing resume. You won't need it after the first year or so, but it shows you're serious. Here's a snip from mine....

v 2008

Ø Gearbuster: AmericanGirl (3rd in class).

Ø StamfordAmerican Girl, an X-37 (3rdin class).

Ø Around Long Island Regatta: Foredeck& helm on Jouster, a Frers 36 (3rdin class).

Ø Member of Offshore Sailing Club,racing Colgate 26s in NY Harbor.

v 2007

Ø Club racing aboard Impromptu, a J/35 based in Stamford.


v Deckhand on Shooting Star, Beneteau 36.7, delivery from City Island, NY toAnnapolis, MD (June 2009)

v Mate on Thistle, a Hinckley 48' ketch; shorthanded delivery from Oxford, MD to Newport, RI(June, 2008).

v Deckhand on Owl, a 42' Rhodes Reliant ketch; cruising delivery from Halifax, NS to Bar Harbor, ME(August, 2007).

Classes & Certifications

v Racing Rules of Sailing, 2009 - 2011

v US Sailing certified throughBareboat Charter

v Attended Safety At Sea seminar(April, 2008)

v First Aid/CPR/AED

v New Jersey Safe Boating

v SCUBA certified

v Ocean Lifeguard and Water SafetyInstructor (expired)



Super Anarchist
SF Bay
From Sailing the Bay by Kimball Livingston [amazon]




As a skipper, I would have probably put 'loyalty' in there a few more times.

BWS makes some great points above, prospective crew should take them to heart. Make sure the skipper knows you will do the delivery associated with the race when you first are invited.

And when you are pinged or invited to go on a race, respond promptly with a definitive answer, either yes or no. Don't leave the skipper hanging, if the answer is no, tell him and let him get on with finding someone else.

Also, bring ice.

And a few don'ts:

As new crew, don't necessarily point out every little thing that is wrong or non-optimum about the boat, rigging, condition of the sails, etc. Chances are the owner already knows about 99% of the things you are observing.

Don't spend too much time slagging other boats and owners as conversation fodder. Sure, funny anecdotes are funny, but later people wonder what you are saying about them when they are not around.



New member
a piece of great advice i have to a new sailor that wants to get on boats in general, go in with an open mind and get ready to learn, its a steep learning curve your not going to be an expert first time around the cans. On the bigger boats I have worked on, you would be surprised when I have had a green decky lash out at me because they think they now at all... aka yelling at me that she took a firefighter course (we all had our bst's so kinda stupid to say that) when we were doing a deck wash and she knew what she was doing yet when she was done there was a still sand and crap all over the deck, the chief mate busted my balls for it.

also don't to be the drunk kid at the crew party, you don't know who will be there it could really mess up your career, I will admit a few years ago I was this kid luckily it didn't hurt me to bad but it really came back to haunt me almost 3 years later and had to clear it up this summer

also also persistance is key, I have had dozens of kids come up to trying to break into the scene, I give them my card and mostly always they never email me but when they do and I get to know you more then I will help you find a job

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Pogen - thank you for taking this and running with it. I love the last line, "a rookie who stays alert and aggressive and keeps a simple job under control is a rookie who is on the way to better job".

Fact is, every weekend there are good boats who can't find crew and good crew who can't find boats. As far as I can tell, the situation has not changed one iota since I got into this in 2006. When I found SA, I thought it would be the perfect filter - only the real nuts like us make it to SA and hang around. But now, I think it's too good. Having actually had conversations with a few skippers who fit the profile I had in mind when I posted yesterday, a lot of them find SA to be too rough and tumble for their tastes (can you imagine?). Which takes me back to race specific sites and also yacht club sites. http://forums.sailin...opic=40774&st=0



I looked pretty hard and could not find the thread I contributed to where we listed a whole bunch of other sites. Hope someone else can dig it up.



-Show up early-carry shit- scope out the line configuration on deck- ask questions if you are not sure of a placement

-Show up with snacks to share and I dont mean the crumbs in the pocket of your shorts

-No bad weather only bad clothing... make sure you are dressed to be dry if conditions warrant- hypothermia is humbling and no help

-Take fenegren or bonine prior to getting on board if you even have the potential of getting sick... newbies end up in the sewer a lot


Volunteer to unclog the head if needed....


Thank the capt. for taking you out!



Super Anarchist
SF Bay
Hmmm... a few pet peeves

  • Don't put litter into the line bags or cockpit coaming cubbies, especially organic material
  • It's OK to drink too much and pass out AFTER the race. Don't help yourself to the best booze at 1000hrs without asking first.
  • Don't leave stuff on the boat, try to account for hats, gloves, jackets, etc.

I went to a talk by Stan Honey one time, he said that when you are starting out all you can get are rides on the crappier boats where it is always disorganized down below and people were filthy. As you get better and better rides, you find that people take better care of themselves (including hygene) and the boat better, and things run more smoothly. And he has had the best rides in the world.

Stan Honey's takeaways:

  • Never use the head and then wash your hands in the galley sink
  • Corollary: Always wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer in the head
  • Your gear belongs on your hook, on your person, or in your seabag. Period.
  • Plus most of the stuff in the OP I am sure.



Super Anarchist
A few more items to further your sailing career...and not piss off the nut holding the helm and writing checks...

1. When stowing shit below, put it where it came from...if you don't know, ask. if you just shove some item, equipment or part in some pocket without telling the skipper, when there is an emergency the inability to find it quickly could cost time, a life or spilled rum.

2. Do not EVER-EVER, except for broken bones (more than one) or death, bail out the day of or before the race. If you do, you run the risk of the crew and skipper passing the word around the good boats that you are an inconsiderate, unreliable shit-for-brains slacker. Give the skipper at least 3 days notice or send your highly skilled replacement.

3. Do not wear your deck shoes in the parking lot walking through leaked oil, pet shit and vomit. Change shoes on the dock so that slag doesn't wind up ground into the white non-skid.

4. First couple of times, bring a 6-pack of something more expensive than Burgermeister. Its not the beer, its the thought that counts.

5. Be on time. If not, Be early. There is no other alternative.

Happy Sailing mate...

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Super Anarchist
If it is an overnight or longer distance race, even 3 days notice is not enough, so understand the level of commitment involved.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, pay attention and be observant. Be aware that different skippers, crews, and boats each have their own peculiarities and are often very particular about the way things are done (for example, how they coil a line), so even if you learned the "right" way to do something on your previous ride, be ready for the possibility of learning a different "right" way.

In addition to being on time, or early, ready to work; also plan to stay late to help put the boat to bed.

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Grande Mastere Dreade

Snag's spellchecker
5. Be on time. If not, Be early. There is no other alternative.
This should be #1 on everyones list. Being late all the time says lots of things about you, all of them bad.
As a skipper I can say this is very important... For one regatta, one crew shows up at 9:50 for a 10:00 start... she was getting breakfast down at the clubhouse.. needless to say, she doesn't get on the boat anymore..

Another rule, hold your tongue, don't talk incessantly .. nothing worse than having someone who won't shutup..



Most newbies start on the alternate list meaning you get the call to sail later than the established crew. The newer you are the later you get called. If you are in that group drop whatever other plans you might have and go sailing every time you are asked. That can be a pain for you but a godsend to the crew organizer. The more often you show up the higher you will go on the call list pretty soon you will be the first called to fill out a spot. If you do all the other things mentioned by OP's you'll have a full time ride rather quickly.