Want to be crew? Cool. I’m usually looking for awesome people to do awesome things with – somewhere, at some time. Read on, carefully…
It’s time for a reality check.
The truth about cruising on a small boat across big oceans is that it’s much like a roommate situation, without having any previous experience with your roommates. Except it’s a small space, and you can’t just walk out the door to the nearest coffee shop when you need your space.
That is to say – it can be challenging.
Add in the occasional moment of terror, rough weather, the nature of sailing (some things need to be done right now), things are always breaking, varying levels of experience, and a large variance in personalities…
Needless to say, sailing this way isn’t for everyone.
Sailing, this way, isn’t a vacation. It’s not always relaxing, you won’t have people serving you, and you’ll have responsibilities onboard. If you want a sailing vacation, with people serving you and minimal responsibilities – you need to charter a catamaran. I can do that too, but it’s very different and much more costly (10X-15X).
If you are willing to work hard when required, are proactive, and can handle (with grace) the authority of the captain – maybe you’re a candidate.
You also need to keep in mind that I accept crew in order to make my life easier – so if you don’t do that or, God forbid, you add to the inherent challenges onboard: you’ll find yourself dockside with your luggage booking a last-minute flight. That’s not cool for anyone. That has happened, and in order for everyone to avoid that – please keep everything you read here in mind.
Think about this like camping, for extended periods of time, with strangers, sometimes in stressful situations. Good news: it’s usually in very beautiful places.
The ideal candidate (onboard NOMAD) possesses the following:
- a sense of humor
- honesty, trustworthiness, tact, an understanding of when to speak and when not to
- a thick skin (ie – when someone yells “grab that line, now!” you don’t take it personally)
- a keen understanding of your role onboard (e.g. you are welcome to share this experience for a tiny fraction of the cost of chartering or owning your own boat – but that is because you are here to help)
- the ability to cook well, no problem cleaning up after others
- some experience in the working world (ie – you are financially stable, you understand how money works, you have experience being a subordinate in stressful situations)
- zero drama/emotional baggage
- experience onboard boats, in the ocean, and sailing
- an adventurous attitude/spirit
- the ability to be unattached from the outside world for extended periods of time (limited internet, limited phone conversations, etc)
- low maintenance (no hair dryers, limited 110V, no Starbucks, limited freshwater, no hot water)
In addition to all of that, there are some things, specific to sailing on NOMAD that you should be aware of:
- in order to support this, I write (and read quite a bit), this is one of my jobs onboard. Often I need peace and quiet and you will need to take care of things by yourself (and entertain yourself)
- in order to keep food on the table (and provide exercise, recreation) I freedive/spearfish often. That is part of my job, most of my recreation, all of my exercise, and a large reason I am out here, doing this. Helping or taking part in this is very welcome.
- captains that sail this way are typically strong personalities (obviously… they must be to give up everything, put all of their money in a depreciating asset and a mechanical liability, give up many creature comforts, and put themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature). I am no exception.
- the captain has a long list of concerns onboard: safety, security, the anchor, weather, boat condition, provisioning, people, schedules, freshwater, electricity, propane, boat maintenance, parts-sourcing, boat maintenance, weather, weather, weather, money, etc … you don’t have most of those concerns, so give the captain (me) a break from time to time
- your primary job is cooking and cleaning
- your secondary job is capturing things via photo/video
If all of this is truly understood, and you’re still interested, there is the money-thing.
I do not pay crew to be onboard. That is ridiculous. This is not a professional position, though you can gain some professional skills.
This is a cost-sharing, experience-sharing position.
Simply put, I have no trust fund and so, I cannot support you. Every cent I spend shortens my trip.
The good news is that your habitation, your transportation, your water, your electricity, your gas, and your meals are all paid for onboard – with a daily rate that is typically less than the cost of a hostel alone. As far as traveling and getting to enjoy the ocean – this is a very cost-effective way of doing so (as crew).
Getting to and from the boat (ie flights, shore excursions, etc): your responsibility. Vice (alcohol, tobacco) is your responsibility. Your visas are your responsibility.
Relationships are funny onboard, and onboard there is a relationship of some type with every person onboard. It’s a small space. Relationships vary with crew and timing and personalities and they can be anything from professional to very good friends to intimate.
Experience is how you figure out where you fit in that, there is no shortcut. Don’t come with any expectations, and you won’t be disappointed.
Hierarchies exist everywhere and they do change and you’re not always at the top but you can usually work your way up there, if you’re the right kind of person. You’re welcome for that life-lesson.
There is a hierarchy onboard NOMAD. To avoid confusion – the crew with the most experience onboard NOMAD is the person you (the new crew) will be learning from. I’ll teach some things, but most of what you need to know won’t come from me.
The best fits are always people who have spent their lives on the ocean. Salty folks. Surfers, sailors, freedivers, offshore fisherman, etc. Usually in combination with traveling.
After much trial and error, I have a list of no-go’s. If any of the following pertain to you, do not apply:
- Under 25 years of age
- You have not worked in the “real-world” for a couple of years
- Limited experience cooking
- Don’t have some previous experience at sea, with references
- Your commitment is less than a month
- Not financially stable
- Not willing to, or cannot do, a Skype interview
- Your dates and schedule are not flexible
- You are applying as a couple
- You are strongly religious
- You consider yourself sensitive, in any way
- You do smoke cigarettes
- You do not drink alcohol
- You are in mediocre (or worse) physical condition (we are active)
- You are a weak swimmer
- You are not proactive, hardworking
- You have someone/something “back home” which requires attention/connection
- You bring negative stuff onboard: drama, emotional baggage, an alligator-mouth-that-overloads-your-humbug-ass, etc
This is a well-thought-out list. It is exacting. If it doesn’t work for you, there is some good news: you can buy/charter your own boat, put in the time and money, and then make up your own lists for crew. Novel, right?
All that said, don’t let it put you off reaching out if you feel you would really be a good fit but you don’t fit one or two criteria. Nobody is perfect. Especially the captain.
If you honestly (please be honest with yourself for the sake of everyone involved) believe you are a good fit: reach out to me via my Facebook page, give me a summary of yourself, your skills, and your dates.
Then relax and be patient – my access to Internet is sporadic.
What To Bring
Let’s say you are the right candidate and you reach out at the right time. In that case, here’s a list of “bring” and “leave at home.”
- An awesome personality attached to an awesome person
- Cash (more than you’d think)
- Snorkeling/freediving/spearfishing gear (tell me what you have, I’ll tell you what I have – we’ll meet in the middle)
- Gloves for sailing/diving
- A hat and a long-sleeve shirt to shade you (sun protection is important)
- Lycra or wetsuit to keep from burning while diving
- Polarized sunglasses (maybe two pair – Flying Fisherman are cheap/decent)
- A favorite boardgame (we play lots of chess)
- Any special spice or flavor or food you are fond of
- Favorite recipes (or a good cookbook)
- Books (ideally on an iPad, Kindle, etc)
- Movies and music (have these on a harddrive or thumbstick – no Pandora, or other Internet source, even when you download it beforehand, works out here). BitTorrent is your friend, use a VPN.
- Possibly a computer – but make sure it has a long-life battery
Leave at home:
- Shitty, selfish, or unhelpful attitudes
- Your Internet addiction
- Your Starbucks addiction (we do drink excellent French-pressed coffee, though)
- Your shopping addiction
- Your Facebook addiction
- Your reliance on fast-food, delivery, or take-out
- Preconceived notions about this lifestyle or the people in it
- don’t piss off the captain, that should be pretty self-explanatory…
- resolve conflict by talking calmly, rationally, and at the earliest possible convenience
- make life onboard more pleasant and you’ll secure a spot for as long as you want and for any time you would like to come back
- appreciate every day you’re breathing, they all have a silver lining and we all need to be reminded of that
So there it is. That’s it. And if you manage to make it onboard I can promise you three things:
- It will not always be pleasant, but sometimes it will approach perfection – we live for those moments
- For the right person it is an epic, eye-opening experience
- When you are old, you will tell stories about this