WHAT: Sail The World For Free

Imagine your office overlooked the ocean. Imagine the commute was as easy as waking up, stepping on deck, saluting the rising sun, and pondering what life on the open seas has in-store today. Every day brings a brand new horizon, a deep connection with the planet, and a sense of freedom absent from life on land.  Now, imagine you could sail the world for free.

For most people, the thought of sailing the world and the words ‘cheap’ or even ‘free’ rarely go together. So how do you sail the world for free when you have no boat,  cash, or sailing experience?

Unless you’re a professional sailor or mega-rich, then the real question is, “how do I get a job working on a boat?” Jobs working on boats come in all shapes and sizes. Consequently, if you’re happy to listen, learn, tell a decent joke, and roll up your sleeves with a positive attitude, then it really is entirely possible to sail the world for free.


Photo Credit: Nikola Belopitov. Pixabay

From backpackers, retirees, and those just looking for a rewarding challenge, more people are exchanging volunteer work for food, lodging, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail the planet without spending a dime. Sailing the world is a life-changing journey that opens doors you never knew existed. Sailing the world for free is even better. But first, you’ll need to find a ride.

At any given moment, there are hundreds of thousands of fishing boats, yachts, charter vessels, liners, and transport ships sailing the world’s oceans. And each one of them needs to be crewed. These require all types of sailors. And, if you know where to look, hitching a ride isn’t too difficult.


Sailing the World for Free Often Begins Online

The sailing community is all about connections. Making them requires being in the right place at the right time. The internet contains plenty of online recruiters advertising jobs working on boats. Competition can be fierce. However, there’s plenty of positions on offer. Check out the websites Crewbay, Ocean Crew Links, and Sailing Networks. All these sites offer free registration.

Search Locally

A great place to look for a job working on a boat is your local sailing club. The more exclusive clubs may require you to be a member. However, grassroots clubs are often friendly and casual. Maybe the first person you should consider buying a beer is the bartender. These guys are information gold mines and can point out any skippers planning long trips and looking for extra hands.

Sell Yourself

The first thing skippers look for in prospective recruits is a personality they won’t mind spending long periods with without flinging them overboard. They also want someone willing and able to work. Firstly, be friendly, enthusiastic, and polite. Secondly, convince them that what you lack in experience, you make up for with a willingness to learn. Often, skippers prefer those they can teach to do things their own way, meaning your lack of experience may be a bonus.


Jobs working on boats include deck hand
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Be a Jack of all Trades

To sail the world for free means starting at the bottom of the food chain. Your first sailing position will likely be a ‘deckhand,’ which is the polite way of saying ‘gofer.’ Deckhands are the worker bees of the sailing world. Jobs include supply restocking,  cooking, washing up, cleaning, scrubbing, and various boat maintenance tasks both at sea and in port. You’ll likely be sharing watch shifts, a room, and possibly a bed with other crew members between shifts. When you swap shifts, they jump out of bed, and you jump in.


Get a job on a boat and sail the world for free
Photo Credit: Creative Commons













Sailing the World for Free ain’t “Free”

Sailing the world for “free” is a bit misleading. In fact, you’ll be permanently bogged down by a never-decreasing to-do list of tasks and chores. Do them carefully, thoroughly, and remember boats have lots of moving parts and limited medical facilities.

Be ready to work your butt off. Slothful sailors may pull it off once, maybe even twice. However, soon enough, a  reputation as ‘dead weight’ will get you blackballed by the sailing community.


Get a job on a boat and sail the world for free
Photo Credit: Samuel Schwendener. Unsplash

Travel light

Most boats, even the larger ones, have limited storage space. Consequently, your packing list will be limited to essentials. If you’re not told, inquire beforehand whether there are any things you’ve overlooked. Many travelers begin their voyage while backpacking. If you’ve picked up any non-essentials along the way, now is the time to ship them home.

People Skills

Friction among veteran crew members, especially on smaller boats, is common. So too are conflict resolution skills and the ability to work it out, move on, and remember you’re stuck with each other. If irritation, combined with a diet of dry crackers and canned food makes you think about cannibalizing your crewmates, then you may wish to rethink your travel plans.


As time goes by, your experience and contact list will grow, opening up different opportunities, positions, and destinations. In the meantime, expect to go anywhere and everywhere.


Photo Credit: Markos Mant. Unsplash
  • There’s plenty of legitimate reasons to romanticize sailing the world for free. However, don’t let romance obscure reality.  If you get seasick, homesick, or claustrophobic, you’ll encounter problems.  Similarly, if you dislike deferring to a no-nonsense captain or anyone higher up the command chain (which is everyone), your sailing dream could become a Moby Dick-sized nightmare.
  • Eager first-timers may jump at the chance to board the first vessel that offers them a position. It’s natural to be excited. However, if that boat is heading for the politically unstable, pirate-infested waters of Somalia, Nigeria, or certain parts of South America or Indonesia, then pause for a moment, and ask yourself whether that’s the kind of potential misadventure you’re really looking for.


Photo Credit: Youssef Jheir. Pixabay
  • Sailing around the world is an unbeatable opportunity to discover new places,  bond with interesting people, and get healthier, happier, and fitter. Sailing experience also looks great on any resume.
  • If you decide that a sailor’s life is for you, sailing the world for free as an unpaid volunteer is the perfect stepping-off point. As you move further up the ladder,  the sailing industry offers plenty of rewarding, well-paid positions. If you ever want to land that dream job on a gazillion-dollar megayacht, volunteer experience will significantly improve your standing.





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