Content and Editorial Director
It was April, 2020. Covid hit, and I was a casualty. I had just gotten laid off from my job as writer at an ad agency, and made a decision that would profoundly and positively affect my life in ways I never could have foreseen.
I decided to crew on a sailboat.
Now, perhaps you’re picturing a seasoned sailor getting paid for ocean passages. Or maybe a sailing stewardess (or more uncharitably, a “boat bimbo”) serving canapés to guests on a motor yacht. But I was neither. I was simply a woman with very limited sailing skills who wanted to add a heapin’ helpin’ of excitement into her life, and knew exactly how to do it. I logged onto findacrew.net. Findacrew is where people with boats find people without boats who want to be on boats. It’s as simple as that.
I spent five minutes flinging up a free profile, and it was like chum in the water.
I heard from boat owners all over the world, with all kinds of vessels. A huge wooden sailboat in Portugal, basically a “hostel on water” where people of all ages and nationalities learned to sail. Shrimp trawlers out of Louisiana. Luxury yachts in Italy. But one in particular caught my eye. A 42-foot Catalina sailboat captained by a Dutch man that was currently in French Polynesia. Bingo.
I zeroed in on that boat for several reasons. First and most important, the captain had been sailing his whole life, and was circumnavigating the globe. Solid sailing experience was what this landlubber was looking for. Also, my family has a Dutch barge in France, so I felt very comfortable with all things Holland-related. And I’d be lying if I said location wasn’t a major draw. The South Pacific! The highlight, I later learned, of most sailors’ lives.
I communicated with the captain via email, and we both decided it would be a good fit. Were friends and family concerned that I was embarking on this unusual adventure during Covid? With a total stranger, no less? Some were. But, I assured them, I was flying to a part of the world with, at the time, no recorded cases. And, I was required to have a Covid test 72 hours before my departure, and another three days after my arrival. I had no qualms. And when the borders to French Polynesia opened, I was on the first flight out of the States, negative Covid results clutched in my hand like a Wonka golden ticket.
I flew to Tahiti, and met the boat and the captain there. And I admit, I wasn’t entirely without trepidation. Was I worried for my safety, being with a stranger? Nope. Was I concerned about the close proximity and high likelihood of irritation? You bet. But neither turned out not to be an issue. The boat was roomy, I had my own little cabin, and the captain felt like an old friend from day one. I spent five weeks on the sailboat, and together, we ventured to Bora Bora, Moorea and other lesser-known islands within this dazzling archipelago.
In no time, I was in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically. And perhaps most important, I proved to myself that I could turn what could have been wasted time into a wonderful, life-altering experience. You can, too. Perhaps even in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the Pacific, on a stranger’s sailboat.
Interested in jumping aboard? Though I’m personally very partial to Findacrew, here are a few more crew sites to peruse:
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