Sailing rite of passage
January 18, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I need to prove myself a man. Help me plan a sailing rite-of-passage/adventure.

I would like to have a sailing adventure this summer. This is 1/4 for fun/travel, 1/4 for sailing experience, and 1/2 as a personal rite-of-passage.

My main criterion is that I want to feel challenged, tested, and (hopefully), accomplished by the completion of the trip. To that end, I would like to travel somewhere by boat, not pleasure cruise about a pleasant area.

I have extensive small boat sailing experience, have done a couple of two week live-aboard cruises, but have no blue water sailing experience. I've been studying the blue-book through the winter, and have a reasonable amount of theoretical knowledge.

I am open to crewing with an experienced yachtsman, buying a small coastal sloop (there is some family interest in acquiring a yacht), running a coast, and selling it near the end, or (pay) crewing on a larger-length boat delivery.

I have roughly from May-September, a fair sized travel budget (though not enough to say, buy a ticket on the Picton Castle), and am currently on the east coast of North America, though I can travel. I imagine this being more solitary than group-trip, but am flexible in that regard.

Does anyone have any advice or experience they could offer to help me plan this? Is this idea complete bunk?
posted by mjewkes to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I certainly support the idea of buying your own, but my cousin who races (in Montana of all places) tells me there is always demand for crew. Might be a little different vis a vis racing and coastal, so I'm just throwing this out there.

Thanks for the tip on Picton Castle btw!
posted by rhizome at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: I have heard very good things about the Picton Castle.

Aside from the (reasonable for what it is, but quite high) cost, though, it is more training/group-experience focused than what i am looking for.

There is also the Alvei, a co-op tall ship with lower prices, though I have not heard anything first-hand about it.
posted by mjewkes at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2009

Best answer: Friends of mine are good friends with the Alvei's captain and know the boat well. We have often spoken about it. And from my understanding of your question, the Alvei is not what you are seeking. It will be too tame. However, many other smaller boats leave out of Port Vila, Vanuatu, heading almost everywhere and are frequently seeking crew.

Or come on down under and you will find many sea going adventures. There is always crewing work available out of Cairns or Airlie Beach or one of the other Great Barrier Reef ports on boats heading up through the equator to places like Vanuatu and Noumea, or around Papua New Guinea, the top end of Australia and Indonesia (arrhh, pirates!). Alternatively for a really manly experience, work on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Carpentaria or a prawn trawler out near the Reef. Or you could do it hard (colder, more blustery, roaring-forties) and crew for a yacht heading around the bottom half of Tasmania. New Zealand may offer some good hard experiences also.

The thing is, it will be difficult to arrange any of these manliness-inducing experiences from a distance. You need to be in port to score these rides/jobs. So I reckon you should come to Aus in May, head up to Cairns (perfect weather season) and take it from there. You won't know where you'll be in September but I figure that uncertainty part of the point.
posted by Kerasia at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Acquiring and outfitting a blue water sailboat is a significant effort. A longer coastal cruise taking the outside might do something. Crewing on PHRF races is pretty easy to arrange, a berth on one of the Bermuda racers is probably tougher but seems possible. Then if you have time do the return 'upwind' delivery. If you found the right training vessel, being sent aloft in a gale should cover the manhood issue, but I think the training ships spend a lot of time in port.

Heck, find a small seaworthy boat, head east for a week, then return.

Have stores and passports so that you can just keep going if it seems the right direction.
posted by sammyo at 8:14 PM on January 18, 2009

It has changed somewhat since the 1950's, when my father served on board....but the Christian Radich still accepts trainees, and is a gorgeous vessel.
posted by kaseijin at 9:19 AM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: Having spent the last 3 years traversing the coast from Portland, OR to Homer, AK in a 36ft steel cutter - with plans to continue farther west - and like you having had extensive small boat and some other experience when I started, I can tell you that just going is the best thing you can do.

There is a significant difference between being crew and being captain. And while there is a lot of validity to the mellow pace of sailing, there is also something to be said for having to get someplace.

So I say get a stout, simple, small boat and go someplace. It will be one of the best things you will ever do.

Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by Fuzzy Dog at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: You say you don't want to pleasure cruise, but I'm going to suggest that for your first solo cruising you will find plenty of challenge gunkholing in a part of the world where nature isn't really actively trying to kill you. Hurricane season in the Caribbean starts in July so you could sail the BVIs or the Leeward Islands in May and June, and then sign onto a delivery up the coast as the NE warms up.

You don't have bareboat certification (ICC, US Sailing, or ASA) so you'd have trouble renting a larger boat but I can suggest this: JetBlue to St. Martin and rent the Beneteau First 21'7 (glossy brochure w pics) from at Orient Beach (it's on the hard now with a broken backstay - I was there yesterday! - but will be back in the water shortly) for one week for about USD 1000. They don't require certification, and it's a perfect boat for one sailor to take up to Anguilla (just 6nm) and down to St Barths (12nm or so). Buy Chris Doyle's Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands and the US Sailing Bareboat Cruising certification guide and know them cold. Buy and bring a handheld VHF and a backup GPS, and if you don't own binoculars these are a colossal bargain.

This will build your confidence as a sailor, test your taste for cruising, and give you the practical experience you need to sail longer passages. Most importantly, you will meet the sailors and form the relationships that will get you invited on as crew for a delivery or a charter.

And, let me just say that you should absolutely do this now; I'm pretty much exactly like you, 20 years later, still an experienced small-boat sailor in the NE of the US, still short on blue-water cruising experience — but now with no long vacations to spend on the water! If wou want to hear a really heartbreaking story in which I crewed the delivery of an Open 60 from Maine all the way into a rock about a mile from the marina, MeFiMail me.
posted by nicwolff at 12:42 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

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