Crewing on deliveries is, I feel, the best way for a green sailor to get good blue water experience. There are deliveries all over the world, and as short as an overnight from BVI to SXM, or across the planet from Toronto to Australia. Some passages you can expect to be rough, some will be a milk run, but every delivery will have something to offer. The next big trip, get a plastic sextant and learn to use it, or a book of bread recipes and try to make each recipe at least once.
As a crew you will initially earn very little, in-fact you may just get most of your travel covered the first trip or two. I’m not about to debate whether this is right or wrong, its just a fact. Owners having 82′ Oysters or 60′ Swans are certainly using a reliable and experienced crew who are paid accordingly, however most of the delivery world is new boats going to boat shows and charter companies. The bottom line is very tight and crews don’t usually get paid. What you would receive as crew, is a solid exposure to deliveries and a great learning opportunity.
I found two kinds of crew, people who were keen to learn during the ride, and people who were keen for a ride and willing to work a little. I hope, that each crew strives to improve themselves as a professional mariner, and it begins with learning the ropes. If you feel you’re above that and don’t want to work for free, then skip the unpaid deliveries. However, if you don’t have your navigation sorted out, haven’t provisioned for long trips, bubble wrapped a boat and know how to keep it looking new, then relish the opportunity to learn and improve. I feel a first mate worth paying for is one who can replace the Captain, and a crew worth paying for is one who can replace the first mate. In the commercial world, it is part of the job description to be able to replace your superior in an emergency.
How does delivering boats differ from long distance cruising? Firstly, you don’t own the boat, though the the crew is expected to baby it as it were their own. Delivery crew are doing the owner a service, but should respectful of how much effort it takes to afford and maintain a vessel for that owner, and how much that vessel is a part of someones family. Treat it like a privilege to be chosen to be entrusted with the job, and they’ll likely ask you back for the next delivery.
A private boat being delivered may be quite well equipped with every safety device carried by West Marine, or if you’re delivering a charter boat expect nothing on it except the bare minimum safety equipment. You’ll have a life raft and minimum flares but there won’t be half a dozen flashlights, MOB poles, rescue slings, Jordan drogues etc… There may or may not be a satellite phone , either. I had my own, but it was rare to be provided one for a trip.
Aside from safety stuff, the boat may not even have a single cup or plate on it. When I delivered a new boat, the first stop was usually the second hand store for pots, pan, etc…Buying this stuff comes out of the skipper’s earnings, so don’t expect the galley to be equipped like a Swiss chalet. Bringing your favourite cup and a camping set of cutlery is a good idea.
A few thoughts that may be useful. In no particular order.
1.No Denim Jeans allowed, most jeans have rivets in the fabric, the little copper ones that keep the corners from tearing, well the rivets are very damaging to counter trim and gel coat and on a boat people are often leaning on something for balance.
2.Same for life jacket clips and harness inside the boat, I’ve seen a few cases of the buckle clips, when gathered on the life jacket scratching up what ever the person is leaning onto, or even just swishing across the edge of chart table when sitting, be aware not to cause any damage.
3.Bring a good insulated warm drink cup for on deck. Something with a wide base that has a foam bottom, so doesn’t slip or a narrow bottom cup that can stand inside a roll of duct tape. Wipe any tea or coffee spills right way, since they do stain if not cleaned immediately and will then need acetone or similar to remove.
4.Your warm gear and foul weather gear is your PPE, (personal protection equipment) it may have to serve to save your life. Don’t skimp out, do some research, seek advice. Do not expect the boat to have what you need. Have your own quality flashlight, pocket knife with blunt tip, marlin spike, a whistle on a lanyard tied to pocket.
5.Have a few simple recipes that you can prepare, if you can bake a few simple things, then everyone will be happy and the skipper is sure to ask you back. Here for example is my SIMPLE BREAD.
6. A delivery isn’t a cruise, you will sail in weather that is not comfortable and isn’t ideal. You have to trust the Captain’s experience to decide when too much is too much, by all means, voice any concerns, but respect the Captain’s decision. If it were an easy trip to do, then they probably wouldn’t have hired a delivery Captain to do it.
7.Bring books, I prefer crew to read on watch instead of listening to music in ear phones. Too many close calls where I’ve seen near misses because someone was too engaged in their music and their mind had drifted to another realm. At least with reading, every paragraph you can look up and look around and your ears are always open.
8.New boats usually have the mattresses covered in plastic, and the company expects them to stay that way to protect from spills and dirt. So, bring a few bed sheets or buy a blanket from a second hand store to sleep on under your sleeping bag. This will help you sweat less and ensure a better seep when off watch.
If you read this far; I hope something was useful to you.
Please leave a comment of anything you’d like to contribute, there’s lots of us, and lots of experience worth sharing.