This is Part II in a series of articles on getting offshore sailing experience from guest blogger TJ of Savvy Salt. It discuss and links to sailing schools that offer offshore sailing courses along with vessels and skippers that, for a fee, will take other sailors offshore and teach them the ways of the ocean.
Welcome to the rarified air! Only a small percentage of sailing schools run an offshore sailing program. Skippers that manage to charge for offshore voyage opportunities are often famous and extremely accomplished sailors. You can choose from opportunities worldwide for your passage. You’ll be learning a lot on your voyage; your education is the trip’s primary purpose.
You can be very picky about which passage you choose. They cost a lot of money and time so you should make sure the passage is the best one based on your goals. Perhaps start by defining your goals. Are there certain regions you want to get experience sailing? Certain sizes or types of boats? Certain onboard equipment you need experience with? A few more examples:
Getting offshore sailing experience on a 35’ (45’ 55’) ketch
Experience an offshore passage on a catamaran
Learn to use radar, AIS, windvane or etc
Sail high latitudes aboard a boat with an aluminum hull
Get your feet wet offshore (2-3 nights) to epic adventure (2-3 weeks)!!
Qualifications offered by the program that will help you accomplish your goals
Once you’ve got your goals nailed down read up on the courses you might take and voyages you might embark upon. These can be tough to find so here are a bunch of links:
At the time of writing there were 18 schools that offer ASA’s Offshore Passagemaking course and they are all linked to here
US Sailing has a list of schools but not listed by offshore classes. You can reach out to US Sailing about their offshore class here
The US Sailing based confusingly named Offshore Sailing School doesn’t list offshore sailing courses
John Kretschmer Offshore Passages: John Kretschmer is a successful sailing author with hundreds of thousands of sea miles. You can get a sense of what sailing with John would be like as well as learn a lot by reading Sailing a Serious Ocean. There is a waiting list though; as of April 2017 all of John’s 2017 and 2018 passages are booked.
Skip Novak’s Expeditions: Another prolific offshore sailor who spun his sailing and skippering career into a business running sailing expeditions in the southern ocean. If you really want to get into high latitudes you’ll want to consider a passage with Skip. If swimming is a requirement you’ll look elsewhere.
Rubicon 3 Expeditions: Go on a voyage aboard a 57’ or 60’ ocean going yacht in the North Atlantic. Just gain experience or work toward your RYA credentials.
Mahina Expeditions: Mahina expeditions comes highly recommended in the cruising community; you get the opportunity to join a world cruising couple for a part of their journey. They strike me as a bit old fashioned: “Out of courtesy to others, we ask that iPads, tablets, computers, phones and other personal electronic devices not be used aboard.” Here you can learn about passages aboard Mahina.
Ocean Racers: If you’d like to sail faster you can apply to join Ocean Racers for a race or an ocean passage. The accommodations are going to be more spartan and they definitely have a younger vibe. Ocean racers have the most affordable pay to play opportunities I could find (less than $1000!). Check out their YouTube channel to get a better sense of what they do.
Clipper Round the World Race: The clipper round the world race is definitely the veteran of paid offshore racing opportunities. You pay for a crew spot on one ($6,000) to all of ($60,000) the legs of a circumnavigation via the southern ocean. The Clipper race is expensive but they’re the only pay to play circumnavigation.
There is a lot to peruse. Take your time and come up with a short list of options that meet your goals. Once you’ve got your short list you should reach out to the skipper or organizer and ask any specific questions your have. Be picky, you have options and you’ll be paying a lot so make sure you’re getting what you need. You can probably talk to the skipper of your specific trip directly if you’re willing to wait till they are not at sea. Some schools or skippers will even work out semi-custom arrangements with students.
One of the best things about pay to play offshore opportunities is that you don’t have to spend much time considering the safety of the voyage: these opportunities are built around setting a good safety example for sailors just like you and if they were unsafe they would quickly become notorious within the sailing community. These are the only types of opportunities where a google search can act as the primary resource for your safety evaluation.
If a pay to play offshore passage seems like a good fit for you then go forth and conquer; if you’re headed for one of the high latitudes expeditions I’m quite jealous and would love to hear about your experience! If pay to play doesn’t seem like a good fit you can compare and contrast the other types of offshore opportunities or jump right in and:
Or find and evaluate a crew spot at an offshore rally, race or race return delivery
Good luck! And see you out there.