Travel the World Like Greta Thunberg: Tips on Crewing and Boat Hitchhiking
Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental activist, is due to arrive in New York today for the Climate Action Conference, after battling the Atlantic waves for two weeks. Thunberg had committed herself to carbon-neutral travel, following her train tour around Europe this summer. The yacht is state of the art, with underwater turbines and solar power; the emergency engine has been sealed off to ensure complete carbon neutrality. However, Thunberg has attracted a lot of criticism for her efforts to find greener forms of travel, from the trip’s lack of practicality through to personal attacks calling Thunberg ‘deeply disturbed.’
While the ethical debate rages on as to whether Thunberg should try and achieve as much as she can as an individual or showcase accessible but imperfect solutions for all (bearing in mind that perhaps we shouldn’t hold a 16 year old girl with autism to such a high standard, or take her actions as gospel). We suggest that Greta’s journey, although not entirely explicable, highlights how sailing can be a simple, sustainable and ultimately adventurous way to travel.
Boat hitchhiking, boat-hiking, or crewing, is a great way to travel while reducing your carbon footprint. Sailing is not perfect – fuel reserves are always needed to account for changeable weather conditions and safety – but some of its downfalls can become its greatest gifts. Slower travel allows you to enjoy the wonder of the journey itself, as much as the destination. You learn a new sport, as well as test your team working skills with people who come from all walks of life. You can take a job that is just a day, a few days, or even a transatlantic passage. The world is your oyster!
Nonetheless, here are a few things to consider before you embark on your crewing adventure:
Get the WHY clear
- Do you want to crew to improve your sailing skills? To travel the world and get from A to B? To experience something new and a different way of life? Or to simply relax in beautiful bays? Search accordingly and be clear about what you want.
Be confident or start small
- Sailing requires trust and confidence, and you need to be honest with yourself, your captain and your fellow crew as to whether you are ready to complete an ocean passage. There are many other smaller opportunities out there as well – at Reliance we regularly conduct deliveries between France and Greece, Croatia and Turkey. There are even smaller jobs available sometimes just along the coast: France to Antwerp; Kent to Poole. Keep your eye out for something you are completely confident on.
Research and learn
- At Reliance we do not turn away crew if they don’t have formal qualifications; experience is preferred above all else and beyond. Nonetheless, it is always the captain’s decision whether they decide to take you aboard. You may not know how to sail but learning about the specific passage you would like to take, the seasons, weather and the basic parts of a boat will not only make you a more competent crew member but will help you feel more confident and safe on board.
Be flexible with time, money, and place
- Unlike hitching on a car or a ferry, crewing is not simply an easy way to get from A to B. Sailboats deal with seasons, routes, weather, breakage, people, all sorts of variables. You must be flexible on time and place – go where the wind takes you so to speak! For example, currently in August, and through to September, its hurricane season so yacht delivery is quite quiet, while the end of the summer, October time, tends to be the busiest time for transatlantic and American-centric deliveries. In the Med, charter companies like to have everything in place by Spring. Nonetheless, Reliance is largely moving yachts all year round, responding to clients and whenever boats are ready out of the factory. Unlike private boat hitchhiking, crewing with Reliance does give you more certainty about where exactly you will land, nonetheless, we cannot guarantee that it’ll be exactly next to the airport.
Be 100% happy with the people onboard
- It is always hard to foresee but sometimes captains and crew do not get along, its one of the many hazards of working with people. At Reliance we provide space for our captains to find crew but ultimately it is up to them who they choose to sail with. Once you are in touch with a captain, message them and communicate clearly; ask lots of questions and leave nothing to presumption. Don’t let your eagerness to sail override your instinct and judgement; do not get on a boat that you are 100% happy about. At Reliance we guarantee the professionalism of our captains and your safety. However, that does not mean that friction and disagreements are completely avoidable.
Be clear on intentions, expectations and agreements
- Crewing for Reliance means delivering a yacht for a client, it means getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible. It does not mean cruising or having a holiday. If you would like a more relaxed experience, then please look at the many crew websites that are available online. Be clear of your intentions and what you expect from a crewing experience before embarking upon one. It will make it easier for you to plan, anticipate and avoid misunderstandings.
Pack light and thoughtful (personal safety gear)
- Ask your captain what you might need, and they will give you a list based upon the expected weather conditions and the equipment already aboard. With yacht delivery we are often working from a blank canvas, while it is the captain’s job to source equipment, it is your job to provide your safety gear. Pack lightly and don’t forget a sleeping bag!
Make it meaningful
- While a crewing experience can help build up your nautical miles and experience, it is important to look at how your journey can benefit this world beyond yourself. When we plan, prepare and make conscious decisions, we can minimize our negative footprint and maximize the benefits for the places we visit and for the planet as a whole. Find out how you can make a more climate-conscious yacht delivery.
Don’t buy a return ticket
- Although yacht deliveries aim to be as efficient as possible, they rarely go to plan. Avoid stressing the captain and don’t book a return flight. While Reliance can sometimes cover your travel costs, we recommend you follow that newly caught travel bug and keep going.
While there are many forums, websites and agencies that specialize in boat-hiking and crewing opportunities, these are not your only or even best option. Forums and private messaging can lead to scams, and travel companies often require an upfront fee. At Reliance, you will be taking part in a professional delivery so there are no upfront or hidden fees. Your captain will be transparent with terms, and Reliance will cover onboard and often travel expenses. While it will feel less like a holiday, you will work hard and become fully immersed in boat life. You will gain invaluable skills in sailing, seamanship, teamwork and communication, besides memories to last a lifetime.
While Thunberg’s carbon-neutral journey is awe-inspiring, consider crewing and sailing as a practical alternative. If you are well prepared and informed, sailing can not only be an alternative form of travel but a wondrous journey in and of itself.