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The top offshore sailing schools

offshore sailing schools


Considering the time and cost to outfit a bluewater boat, an offshore sailing class may be the quickest and cheapest way to get offshore sailing experience. Guest blogger, TJ of Savvy Salt, shares a list of offshore sailing schools and tips for choosing the right one.


Welcome to the rarified air! Only a small percentage of sailing schools run an offshore sailing program. Skippers that manage to charge for offshore passage opportunities are often famous and extremely accomplished sailors.

Whether you want to sail in the British Virgin Islands or Alaska, you can choose from worldwide destinations for your passage. It’s also possible to experience famous offshore race courses, like the Newport Bermuda race or even the Clipper Round the World Race. You’ll be learning a lot on your voyage; your education is the trip’s primary purpose.

You can be very picky about which offshore sailing academy and 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 sailing skills you want to develop (e.g., offshore racing, celestial navigation)?
  • Are there certain regions you want to get experience sailing (e.g. high latitude sailing)?
  • Do you want to learn to sail on a certain size or type of boat (e.g., experience offshore cruising on a catamaran)?
  • Are there certain boat systems or onboard equipment you need experience with (e.g., radar, AIS, windvane)?
  • Are you hoping to earn a certification or build up sea miles for a captain’s license?
  • Do you just want to learn what it’s like to live aboard?

blue water sailing school

How much does offshore sailing school cost?

Offshore sailing schools may charge by day, trip, and even circumnavigation. In general, you can expect to pay between $400-500 USD per person per day. This price usually does not include flights, onshore meals and accommodations, and satellite phone and internet use.


Once you’ve got your goals nailed down, it’s time to read up on the blue water sailing courses you might be interested in. These can be tough to find so here are nine blue water sailing schools and offshore passage opportunities to look into.

  • 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!).

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  • 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.


Take your time and come up with a short list of offshore sailing schools that meet your goals.  Once you’ve got your short list of sailing schools, 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 offshore sailing school instructors 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 opportunities 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 look into these other offshore opportunities.

Good luck!  And see you out there.

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Friday 26th of May 2017

Having sailed with them on their Swan 48 Isbjorn I'd highly recommend Andy and Mia at 59 North. They are young, experienced and enthusiastic. Andy also had a great podcast about offshore sailing at the same site.


Monday 29th of May 2017

Thanks for the recommendation Bruce!

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